An Evening With…Slowdanger

I love uncovering the inspiration behind any creative work. I am fascinated by why people do the things they do, where their ideas come from and the process that brings them to fruition. That’s why I was dying to lift back the curtain when my roommates introduced me to Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight, the lovely people behind the mesmerizing music and dance duo, Slowdanger. The name Slowdanger doesn’t prepare you for the initial wave of beauty and creative energy you feel after watching Anna and Taylor perform for the first time, there is nothing slow about that. It hits you in a big way. Their experimental yet relatable music resists categorization, because as my roommate, Mario Ashkar says, “You guys are doing new shit, you guys are weird.” But more than being “weird,” Slowdanger makes you feel something and creates a unique atmosphere that you would like to hang out in for awhile. So that’s what we did.

The other night I sat with Anna and Taylor and had a casual discussion about their music, dance and artistic process.

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Name: Anna Thompson & Taylor Knight–> Slowdanger

Age: Anna, 23 & Taylor, 24

Passion: Music and Dance

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

On how Slowdanger came to be:

Anna: We were making work together with separate names and we felt it would just feel more unified and one day we were driving down the street and there were lots of construction signs up and they said “Slow Danger” and I thought those words sounded good together. Our collaboration further merged from there. I like it [the name] being innocuous and not really knowing what it is, could be movement, could be music.

On finding inspiration and the writing process:

Anna: It is different a lot of times, inspiration comes from a number of different ideas and places. I do a lot of free association for the lyrics. I’ll have a page of words and sometimes I’ll make a word collage of what’s in front of me. We both have started trying different roles, he’s doing more vocal and I’m learning the program and the hardware.

Taylor: I record external sounds if I’m in a certain moment that’s interesting and sample myself from songs I’ve made a long time ago.

Anna: We keep it open, so we can allow for experimentation and happenstance. We’ll jam a lot, and maybe we’ll use a part in a song. Or we have a video, dance, or specific performance so that also will shape the process.

Taylor: Sometimes if we are working on a specific idea for a dance piece that’s in silence, later we will explore the idea through music to see what that does.

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On finding their way to music:

Anna: I would always make up songs while doing laundry when I was little, I’d always imagine what could be around it.

Taylor: I always thought about it but never thought I could because I was dancing and the kids focusing on it at school were insane [with their intensity and rigor]. But music and dance have always been the same thing to me. Through electronic music, I found a way to experiment on my own. I could just make beats in my headphones on the bus but really i’m trying to figure shit out. It all snowballs.

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On the relationship between their dance and music:

Anna: I connect with the music in a way where I feel like I’m visually singing, and harnessing that connection. Even when I’m dancing, I’m also singing in my head a little bit. It’s a visceral response. They are both so complimentary.

Taylor: I approach everything in life with the brain waves that have trained my body in dance for so long, so those applications are already there. When you dance you are already listening to music a lot, you begin to have a very discerning ear. We would make music while we danced, sounds with our body.

Anna: I took eight years of voice classes, I started in middle school and went into college. When I started dancing with Pearl (of The Space Upstairs), we did vocal exercises. One day in class, I sang very freely and openly and I felt the expression that I always wanted from sound. It felt like such a perfect thing.

Taylor: It’s experimental but informed.  You have to know about what you do, know what you like and what you don’t like. There’s things I like about the more classical upbringings of myself but I can also shatter part of myself — I want to be open.

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On their next show for Just Cause:

Anna: It is set up like a music show.  I don’t know that we plan [a focus], we plan ideas for sets and what songs we will play but it will still have allow for improvisation and we will dance during our set and Sol Persona’s. It is a chance to share what we do in a very open and loving way. We want to be involved because it is raising awareness for the queer community, something I believe in. I’m glad to be a part of it in this way.

Taylor: We are doing a cover with Avi Diamond, everyone performing is kinda connected which is cool. It’s a safe space, everyone is open with each other already which is nice. It brings awareness of ourselves and of others and issues and causes… just because (laughter ensues..).

On what their fortune cookie would say:

Dance in the rain, man,

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Be sure to check out Slowdanger at Just Cause on Saturday and head over to their website for more information about their backgrounds and mission.

A big thanks to Anna and Taylor for sharing their lovely souls with me!

 

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