Dralms gets dark

Half-lit, fully broody // Todd Duym
Half-lit, fully broody // Todd Duym

Sometimes you need to make it up as you go.

Like Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Christopher Smith’s new band: Dralms. What does the name mean?

“It’s totally esthetic—I wanted something that sounded and looked like the music does,” Smith says. “It has a feel quality, a vibe.”

Smith has been performing under his own name for nearly a decade. His solo work is delicate fare with brushed drums and clean acoustic and electric guitar. But the lyrics often skewed sombre, with Smith exploring the dark side of power dynamics over the precious-sounding arrangements. Like the 2012 single “Pillars and Pyre” from the album Earning Keep, with Smith gently singing: “Oh, this is hell for the weak ones / for the strong, this is heaven on Earth” over a dreamy indie slow-burn.

After years of playing and replaying those songs with Shaun Watts and Will Kendrick—his drummer and keyboard player, respectively—Smith said the sound got heavier and broodier, following the subject matter, until the trio found itself in new sonic territory.

“Eventually there was a disconnect between how the album and the live show sounded,” Smith says. “That’s when I decided to make the move, give it a moniker and work with this new sound.”

He’s now got a whole album worth of material which he expects to release in early to mid 2015. The single “Crushed Pleats” and B-side “Divisions of Labour” are dense and broody slabs of spooky synths, bass pulses and Smith’s singing off-balance lines like: “If my heart had its will / kill, kill, kill.”

For Dralms, Smith has retained Watts and Kendrick and added Peter Carruthers on bass and electronic artist Andy Dixon in charge of production. The difference between Smith the solo act and Dralms the band, besides being estranged sonically, is the amount of collaboration.

“I still write the songs at home sitting on the edge of my bed or on my couch,” Smith says. “That remains intact, the integrity of the song shines through. But now when I go to the band we’re way more interested in turning the song on its ass musically, expanding it and messing with [it], versus before I would say ‘this is how I want it.’ It’s the sound of me giving up the reins more.”

For its first mini-tour of Western Canada, Dralms will be playing all original material before its album is even released. That freshness is a great opportunity, Smith says.

“For me, personally, when I see a show versus listen to an album I feel like they’re two totally different experiences—you feel these songs in different ways,” he adds. “I hope they find it intriguing and exciting and that they get excited to have this music for themselves.”

Thu, Dec 18 (8 pm)
With the Belle Game

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