Artist of the Week: The Diamond Center

The Diamond Center will be releasing their second full-length album, My Only Companion, on June 9th. The quartet consists of Brandi Harris, Kyle Harris, Alan Brown, and Jana Price. Kyle took a moment and talked about the band!!!!

BTR: How did the band start?

KH: Brandi and I met in Athens, Georgia where we played in a different band together. As that project dwindled for us, we began writing songs together. Both her and I had played supporting roles in previous bands, so this was our fist time taking the lead role. The songwriting process was exciting for both of us. We wrote and recorded Claws & Flaws from about January to June of 2007. We enlisted some friends from Athens and played a couple of shows before relocating to Lubbock, Texas in July of 2007.  We began writing for My Only Companion here in Lubbock with a couple of strong ideas for songs already in our pockets. After trying a couple of different line-ups we recruited Brandi’s sister, Jana (who was living in Lubbock) to play drums with us. She played a major role in the sound that developed for My Only Companion. We just recently recruited another member, Alan Brown, that plays guitar and some aux percussion. Since then we have been playing around Texas pretty regularly.

BTR: Is there a meaning behind your band name?

KH: Basically, it has several meanings. When we first decided to write and perform, we, of course, went through tons of ideas. I used to work at a shop in Athens, Georgia that was formerly a jewelry store called The Diamond Center. Even though the store had been closed for years, the sign was still on the side of the building where I usually sat and ate my lunch. I would just stare at it every day. I always thought it was interesting because you can treat the word “center” as a noun, like a place to buy diamonds, or saying, like having a diamond in your heart or brain – the center of you – not literally, of course. Or, like an adjective describing the center of a Diamond. I don’t know, I think I like it because it’s ambiguous.

BTR:
Wow! That’s a great tour you have lined up! Is this the first tour? Have there been others?

KH:
Thanks! We are really excited! We’re still trying to fill in a few dates. It is our first national tour since forming The Diamond Center, although Brandi and I have previously toured in different bands. The Diamond Center has done some regional touring around Texas, and before leaving Athens regionally around Georgia and North Carolina. We love being on the road!

BTR: We love My Only Companion! Can you tell us a bit about your inspiration for the album and the songs?

KH: Thank you! We’re glad you like it! Much of our music draws from our surroundings. Brandi and I took a road trip to the west before we started recording and that was a huge inspiration for us. The song “Bombay Beach” is about the Salton Sea, a wonderfully creepy place just south of Palm Springs in California. Brandi had become interested in the story of the Sea after watching a documentary The Plagues and Pleasures of the Salton Sea, when we were still living in Athens. When I saw we were going to be in close proximity to it, I knew I had to take her there. After spending a couple of hot and humid hours shooting the area – Brandi is also a photographer – and with the stink of dead fish still on our skin, we drove north and spent the night in the cool air of the Joshua Tree desert. That’s where we wrote “Bombay Beach.” “WTT” is about West Texas. They have these large black birds that live here called grackles, but I guess most people consider them pests. Sometimes there are so many in the sky, it goes black. There are about a billion living in a tree in our front yard, and other than the ever-so-common windshield disaster, we like having them there. “Dos Fridas” was inspired by Frida Kahlo’s painting of that name. Brandi had the opportunity to see the actual painting when she was in San Francisco last summer. It was stunning, and it had a huge emotional pull on her. The heartache she expressed is so personal, but so universal at the same time.

We purposely stopped playing shows in October of 2008 to lock ourselves away and record the album. It took us until Christmas, when we knew we’d be in Georgia to visit and drop it off with Joe McMullen for mastering. There were a few revisions and re-recordings in January. In fact, for 2 tracks – “The Deer Pistol” and “Monsters” – we had some friends over and recorded them live stomping and clapping for the percussion.

Here’s the big secret. It was all recorded at home in Garageband, the free program that comes standard on Mac computers. I recorded everything on our Macbook with  3 microphones. I call it guerilla recording, use anything and everything. I’d tape mics together, hang them from picture frames, mics in the shower, et cetera. We have an old pump organ that was Brandi’s grandmother’s that got used on a couple of tracks. That was fun.  It took a bit to figure out the mic placement to pick up the organ, and not the squeak of the pump pedals. The squeak made it on the record, which actually adds a certain ambience in the first track, “WTT.” The hardest part was keeping the dog and the cat quiet during takes, but they also made it onto the CD.

BTR: What is your creative process like?

KH:
It truly is a collaborative process. We bounce ideas off each other, editing and suggesting without fear. Because of our relationship in and out of the band, we can really let our guards down, and feel free to express our ideas. This band is the first time either of us have been the main songwriters, and we have really enjoyed this ever-changing process.

BTR: Now that you have your 2nd LP under your belts, how do you feel about your debut album?


KH:
I think that the first CD, Claws & Flaws, was a great step for us. It was written and recorded in about 3 months total. We have definitely found a stronger sense of unity in writing with My Only Companion. We are still very proud of Claws & Flaws.

BTR: You started as a duo and now are a quartet. What was the reason for that transition?

KH:
The core of The Diamond Center is still Brandi and I, but bringing in Jana, Brandi’s sister, on the stripped down drum set really helped us find our voice.  It now defines our sound.  By adding our friend Alan Brown on acoustic guitar for the live shows, both Brandi and I were freed up to do more intricate guitar work. Plus, the acoustic guitar keeps our noisy psych sound firmly rooted in the folk realm.

BTR:
What is like being in the Lubbock, Texas scene?

KH:
Lubbock is situated geographically in the middle of the south plains, and is fairly isolated. When bands play, people in Lubbock generally go out to support them. It’s not a huge scene, but it’s pretty solid. There are maybe 10-12 bands that play regularly, and we are all pretty tight. We moved here just about 2 years ago and everyone here has been very supportive. The college station at Texas Tech was recently shut down, after like 47 years or something, and that was kind of at the center of the music scene.  So, it’s been weird. Several of the DJs have started an Internet station called The Llano Idea, and they are doing some great things in Lubbock.

BTR:
What should we expect from you in the upcoming months?

KH:
Well, we are going on tour from May 29 to June 13,  and then doing a few more shows this summer, including our last Lubbock show for a while – which we have dubbed TEXODUS – and then moving to Richmond, Virginia. Brandi was accepted into a graphic design masters program there, so it’s east bound for us. We are excited for the change, although we will definitely miss many good people here in Lubbock, mostly Jana!

BTR:
Any other local  bands you would recommend?

KH: We are big fans of a band from Lubbock called LaPanza. We recently saw a great band called Monahans, from Austin, as well as Red Leaves, who are also from Austin. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. Tons of Athens bands – Madeline, Ham1, Don Chambers & Goat and Ginger Envelope, just to name a few.

Live:

May 16 2009 at Jake’s Backroom w/Oh No Oh My, & Nadia in Lubbock, TX
May 20 2009 at Bash’s w/ Extra Golden in Lubbock, TX
May 22 2009 at Bash’s w/ Pataphysics (Austin) in Lubbock, TX
May 29 2009 at Creekside Lounge in Austin, TX
May 30 2009 at Hi Ho Lounge in New Orleans, LA
Jun 1 2009 at Java Monkey w/ Strezo in Decatur, GA
Jun 2 2009 at Go Bar in Athens, GA

-Lottie

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