Ez: Hi Danny,
I hope you’re having a whale of a time.
From what I’ve read, you carried Iluka with you for quite a while. At any point did you have concerns about the songs losing their feel?
Danny: At times, yeah, a little. I wrote them in Iluka during 2019 and then, when 2020 happened, they all sat in my notebook in a storage unit while I escaped to Perth for the pandemic. In that year I did a lot of woodwork and acting and didn’t really sing or touch an instrument because I found I didn’t want to. That was worrying at times, it can be hard to let things go. But this album has taught me that large creative projects dictate their own pace and it’s no use forcing them to adhere to my expectations. I knew I’d be ready to return to them when there was a feeling of excitement and lightness around taking the next steps, which eventually happened in 2021. Now I think they actually enjoyed their hibernation – a different Danny was there to continue working on them. Maybe that’s what they were waiting for.
Ez: Following on from that, how did the songs change in meaning / reinforce their initial meaning over their gestation?
Danny: It’s funny how often I’ll write a song and only understand its meaning months or years later. I’m still learning about the themes of the record even now. Lately I’ve been seeing how much of it is about fantasy and what it feels like when dreams come true, how there can be a subtle (or not so subtle) disappointment there. Often reality can never live up to the fantasies we spin. I think “The Ant” is about that. “Over” and “Happy Birthday” are too.
Ez: What is it about the minimal approach that you feel makes Iluka‘s songs work best?
Danny: I think my earlier work used a lot of production techniques and experimentation which was definitely fun to explore at the time. But with this album I wanted to create music that’s sole purpose was to illuminate the story being told, nothing more. I think the instrumental minimalism helps allow the story to stay as the listener’s focal point. At times it was bloody hard to restrain myself though.
Ez: And how did you go about working toward having the vocals match the music?
Danny: I would start by playing around with some shapes on the piano, eventually finding some chord movements that held me, made me feel something. Then I would daydream about what kind of scene these chords might soundtrack. In “Maris”, for example, the opening chords strongly suggested something oceanic and lonely to me. So sailors appeared, then eventually mermaids, becoming tangled in seaweed, finding an underwater kingdom, dying down there, or transforming (or both?). The vocals came from the initial harmonic idea, then led the musical choices afterwards.
Ez: Lastly, what is it that you feel makes these songs work best together as an album?
Danny: I feel there’s a coherence to them that I like. They were all written in one place, on one piano, and during one particularly vibrant chapter of my life, so their themes and energies all spring from that same source.
Ez: Thank you for your time Danny. I hope the album is successful in the way you want it to be.