The Mill — Thursday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m.
Gemma Cohen and Miranda Mallard are Dagmar, a band formed in Fairfield, Iowa, that has been called “indie classical,” “hypnotic and ascendant” and a whole slew of other gushing adjectives by Little Village correspondents. Both Cohen and Mallard lend their soft, complimentary vocals to simple, yet intricate instrumentation making their own distinctive genre that is truly a mix of present-day indie and classical music. In anticipation of their upcoming Iowa City concert, Cohen (vocals and bass) made time for a quick interview with us. Dagmar performs at The Mill tonight, following singer-songwriter Josie Overmyer and ambient pop coolness Annalibera.
Your sound is so distinct and you all (including guest musicians who appear on albums) seem to take advantage of harmonizing and looping to create your sound. What inspires that?
We both have an extensive classical music background. We have worked in many choral settings separately and together, including at the University of Iowa, and have been deeply inspired by medieval harmonies and dissonance. Repetition, counterpoint, and arpeggios are also focal points in our music, and using subtle looping enables us to explore these techniques further.
Without revealing too much, what will your set in Iowa City be like? Are there any specific songs you guys love to play live that is a constant in your setlist?
We just released our album, Afterlight on June 6 (visit dagmarsound.bandcamp.com to stream for free) and much of our set will be versions of many songs from our album. We also finished a brand new song last week called ‘Palindrome’ and this will be our first time performing it for a live audience.
What is it like to play your music in the state that you’re from? Is there a different type of connection here than elsewhere?
Performing in Iowa in front of our dear friends helps us understand how we are developing our sound and nurtures our connections with the people we love. It is so refreshing to tour elsewhere, and work on our music quietly and then come back and perform and learn how we are being received by many that are already familiar with our music.
On your website you thank friends who performed on the album. Is that a regular occurrence you guys plan to have on each album?
Yes! We usually play with Dana T and Justin LeDuc. They are truly part of the Dagmar family. We will miss them for this tour because they are such a huge part of our sound. Dana T is about to release his unbelievable album, Tiny Mind Massive Soul and Justin LeDuc is about to go on tour with Koplant No. That’s the thing about playing with amazing people, they are always kicking ass with their own projects and playing in other fabulous groups. Even when we are doing our separate things for a while, it is always so refreshing to come back together and work our new experiences into our collective sound.
What do you hope to achieve ultimately through your music?
Our ultimate music goal is to share our music with as many people as possible and be touring the world throughout much of the year. We want to support other musicians and artists through collaboration and connection. We would also love to be able to support ourselves with our music career alone even though we love our “day” jobs. Miranda is a K-12 music teacher and Gemma is an ICU nurse at UIHC. Both of our jobs have given us a lot of inspiration and our music has also been an outlet for expressing our hardships at work and in our personal lives.