Label: Paper Garden Records
By: Ric Hickey
Peasant is the brainchild of Damian DeRose, an endearing Indie Zen outsider whose music stands alone, outside of time and trends, resonating with a message of sweet defiance.
Though he’s only been a recording artist for a few short years, Peasant’s music brims with confidence and worldly wisdom. Similarly, DeRose has captured the hearts of listeners around the world in a very short span of time. Peasant’s songs have already been featured in a number of network television shows and DeRose is soon to embark on his second tour of Europe.
The new Peasant CD is called Shady Retreat and it’s the perfect springtime soundtrack. Rooted in DeRose’s acoustic guitar, the album’s charmingly sparse production also features quiet layers of electric guitar, percussion, and piano, all gently executed with a delicate, almost minimalist touch. Softly insistent Indie Folk, Shady Retreat is sunny but somber, dreamy yet provocative. Most compelling is DeRose’s vocals and how they polarize the listener with palpable emotion, his plaintive voice cutting right to the core with an inquisitive sense of melancholy. His yearning lyrics light years above and beyond the usual free word association and Indie Rock abstractions, DeRose cops to both confusion and bliss. While kicking around unanswerable questions, his songs call for a truce with their obstinance.
The record is rife with contrast and moody playfulness, conveying the essence of foggy childhood memories and half-forgotten ghost stories. Shady Retreat is also a beautiful and intimate listening experience, its production crystal clear at times and elsewhere a pleasant organic mush. “Well Alright” reminds me of the soft touch and bone-dry poignancy that Phil Spector brought to John Lennon’s Imagine LP. Originally hailing from Doylestown, PA, DeRose dropped out of high school at age 18 and headed for California, daydreaming of sailing down the coast. Shady Retreat is the sound of DeRose’s emotional road trip and spiritual meanderings, his heart an open book set to music both soothing and searching.
DeRose was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the recording of the new record and his upcoming tour.
KNOWSHI: With Shady Retreat you’ve created an interesting dichotomy by juxtaposing light and airy music with lyrics that deal with harsh realities and emotional quandaries. Was this contrast intentional or did the songs develop that way naturally?
DD: I think the songs developed that way naturally, but they were certainly intentionally recorded that way because I liked it. I suppose it’s a reflection of how I view the way we deal with “harsh realities”, I try to not let life get me so down I can’t enjoy it, life itself is a dichotomy isn’t it?
KNOWSHI: Some of your lyrics have an inquisitive and searching tone, as if sung by a melancholy tour guide on a spiritual quest. With deeply personal feelings embedded in the lyrics to your songs, is there catharsis and resolution to be found in the recording process?
DD: Well in some ways I guess it’s great to “let it out”, but my music is not really entirely therapy for me. One of my favorite quotes, paraphrased from Confucius is, “a wise man knows what he does not know”. I do get feelings of resolution from writing these songs but there are often still unanswered questions I have and I guess that comes across to the savvy listener. There’s almost always some type of question or doubt left over in troubling situations, even after they are resolved, some things are never resolved and that’s easy for me to write about.
KNOWSHI: You’re getting ready to embark on a tour of the states and then it’s on to Europe too. What do you enjoy most about touring?
DD: It just feels like I’m doing something I’ve always loved and wanted to do. Traveling to places that seem so far away, seeing them in person, and then going to a place where everyone is there to listen to your songs in theory (doesn’t always work out that way but hey, nothing’s perfect). When I get up in the morning, I get in my car and start driving somewhere else, and I just feel like I’m getting to see the world in person. I love talking to people and getting to know what their town is all about and in the end I come out feeling like I’ve really learned a lot. I think you have to enjoy people and be able to talk to them and have fun if you want to go anywhere being a performing/touring musician, cause that’s the heart and soul of it.