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Diners: "Speaking for Myself, Making 'Domino' Felt Healing"

One of last summer's most overlooked pop statements came from Los Angeles-based songwriter Blue Broderick, aka Diners, on her latest album Domino. Released through the legendary Bar/None Records (The Feelies, Pardoner, The Paranoid Style), Diners perfectly balances the earwormy hooks and the jangly warmth of The dB's and Tommy Keene with the true outsider pop energy of R. Stevie Moore and The Toms. Earlier this year, I chatted with Blue through email to discuss the origins of the recording project, her new album, and the inspirations behind it.

Photo by Rachel Lewis

Hi Blue! First tell me what you've been up to lately? What have you been listening to, reading, or spending a lot of time doing?

Blue Broderick: Hello! Lately, I've been practicing the drums a lot. I've never been that happy with my drumming skills so it feels good to get more comfortable behind the kit. Coming off of the holiday season, I was listening to The Nutcracker Suite quite a bit. There's a recording of the Budapest MAV Symphony performing "Nutcracker" and "Swan Lake" that I love very much. And right now I'm reading Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album by Ken Caillat.

Take me through the origins of your recording project Diners. How did it all begin and how has it progressed over the years? 

I started writing Diners songs in 2011 while I was still living with my parents in Mesa, Arizona. Over the years, Diners has had dozens of different lineups. Always friends coming in and out of the band in a way that I felt was fun and exciting, for the most part. It's always been a great excuse for me to play music with a lot of my friends and people I admired. That hasn't really changed. My attitude towards music has changed a lot over the years, but I'm still pretty much committed to a lot of the same concepts I started with and I still try to write the best songs I know how to do.

What has it been like translating these newer songs live? What's the live lineup like? 

Translating the songs for live shows has felt pretty natural. In fact, I think DOMINO has the best live adaptations of any of my records. Gosh, the live lineup is all over the place because there isn't exactly a live lineup. In true Diners fashion, I'll typically agree to a show or a tour and then I'll scramble to figure out who will play what instrument. Shout out to Trever, Bob, Jeff, Ava, Corbin, Aaron, Tony, Elle, Gabi, Logan, and Jacob for all playing in various configurations of the Diners band over 2023. 

I understand the album's sessions took place in Portland, OR. What was the environment or atmosphere like when working on the new album? 

The environment was pretty loose and relaxed considering how much work was cut out for us. You never know what things will be like in the studio. As much as I romanticize the recording process, it's hard work! I always expect to work my ass off because more often than not, it's a difficult process full of problem solving and hiccups and beyond the music, everybody's got high emotions and big egos. But for DOMINO, it was a victorious time. The three of us worked together so well and I thought we had the right attitude and expectations. I genuinely remember my stomach hurting from laughing so hard. Outside of making the record, I think we were all experiencing our own strange and emotional chapters. Speaking for myself, making DOMINO felt healing.

Take me through the recording sessions for this new album. How did it all come together?

I had decided on making a record about a year prior and it seemed like the right time to go for it. But before I went to Portland to record, I demoed a big batch of songs that we whittled down to our ten favorite tracks. Then, I came up to Portland a few days before the first recording session and we ironed out the kinks together. After a couple practices, we were in the studio for three days. Most of the record got made then, but we ended up overdubbing a few things here and there at my home in Oakland. 

My favorite cut from this record is "Someday I'll Go Surfing." How did this track come together and what was the initial vision of it?

Thank you! The initial version of that one was much slower and drearier to reflect the lyrics a bit more. I was listening to a lot of Little Wings and probably had pictured something similar to their most recent album, People. But it never sounded perfect. The day before I went into the studio, I played a version that was sped up and harder and suddenly everything clicked!

I also really like the opening track "Working On My Dreams." What can you tell me about writing and putting this one all together? 

I wrote most of that song in an afternoon. I was pulling tarot cards and sort of interpreting a song out of what I was receiving. This song came together pretty easy for the recording trio. Most of the parts and lyrics I had in the demo made it to the final. Pretty painless experience overall.

Did you draw from any specific inspirations when writing / making the new album?

For me, I wasn't really tuned in to anything too specifically. This project has always been pretty inspired by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Dear Nora. But this time around, I was interested in making a louder rock record. I had specific concepts of what I was wanting out of the guitars and band arrangements, but there wasn't one specific band I was trying to channel. I got into the first dB's record and that got some gears turning. 

Were there any tracks that were laid down or demoed that were ultimately left out from the sessions? If so, are there plans to rehash them and be released in the foreseeable future? 

Sort of! I had a bunch of songs demoed out that I never touched. Maybe some of them will get used or frankensteined, but it's probably for the best that I don't try to resurrect them. 

You did a lot of creative music videos for some of the tracks on this album. What was that like and do you have a particular favorite as well? 

It was important for me to put some effort into making videos for DOMINO. I never really cared about making videos before because I don't really watch music videos of other bands. However, a goal that I had from the start of making the album was to do everything in a way that I had never done before and that extended to making videos. It was challenging at times and a bit ego bruising, but it was also a lot of fun! I loved how "The Power" and "Working On My Dreams" turned out. 

What was it like working with Bar/None Records on the release? 

It's been great working with Bar/None! I pitched DOMINO to them because I was a fan of the label. And of course, I was surprised and honored that they were willing to take me on. Given their legacy, they've got a great perspective on surviving and thriving in the music world.

What were the inspirations behind the artwork? 

I love the cover. Nicollette Dolan made it and I think they did such a great job. I didn't wanna go too camp or on the nose with power pop iconography, but I sent some album covers I liked from The Toms, Wire, Elvis Costello, and maybe even a Pinterest board and they understood exactly what I was going for.

Would you consider yourself part of any of the Los Angeles rock scenes?

I wouldn't say so, but also, I've never known where Diners fits in. I mostly play shows with my friend's bands and most of my friends don't play power pop or intentionally loud music. 

Have you ever run into any of your heroes on the streets of L.A.? If so, what was that experience like? 

I once met Van Dyke Parks at a show and he was everything one would expect him to be. I don't really want to expand on that, but it was perfect.

Lastly, what else is on the horizon for Diners this year? 

Make a new record and do it all over again.

DOMINO is out now on Bar/None Records.


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