While Madeline Dowd's visual artwork playfully relays adult themes through childlike imagery, her band Crisman swaps the acrylics and spray paint for hazily-filtered vocals gently layered over slowcore arrangements to find yet another medium for masking emotional turmoil with innocence.
In 2011, Dowd left her hometown of Alpharetta, Georgia for Denton, Texas, where she met Dead Sullivan frontperson Boone Patrello. Their chemistry led to 2018's Crisman Tape, which Gold Flake Paint called “a hidden and unhurried gem in the current DIY scene.” For the band's self-titled debut studio album, Dowd and Patrello teamed up with another fellow Denton musician in MAH KEE OH's Grahm Robinson. Contrasted against the childlike playfulness of Dowd's paintings, the band's collective experience is refracted throughout the measured ten-song collection of their debut album.
In December Crisman was featured on Audiotree Live, now available to watch as a full session or individual videos. We wanted to highlight this release with a short interview with the band on their mesmerizing debut full-length. Thanks for being here :-)
Can you tell us a bit about the origin of Crisman?
In 2015, the project began as a bedroom recording project between Maddie and Boone, who met while attending UNT in Denton, TX. We started playing shows in 2017 and put together a live band that now includes Grahm on drums and Jordan on bass, who we met through going to/playing shows in Denton. Over time, the music has become more collaborative with Grahm writing a few parts for this record, and moving forward we hope to write mostly as a group.
Who did your album art? What's the story behind it?
The album cover is one of Maddie's paintings, meant to express the feeling of being emotionally connected and understood by another, while suffering the inevitable distance/confusion inherent to that connection.
What was the biggest difference between the process of recording your early EPs vs recording your full-length? How do you see your earlier releases informing the album?
The process of our previous release the Crisman Tape was a natural collaboration between Boone and I. It was recorded in both of our rooms and was more of a sketching process- meshing ideas together. The biggest difference between the Crisman Tape and our first full length would be in the way it was handled. Going into a studio for our full length and tracking as a full band felt more serious and planned out. The Crisman Tape was a more spontaneous process. Translating the Crisman Tape to a full band was fun and had more people involved. It was definitely a new, and different experience being in a studio and working with Hi-fi equipment, but we still drew inspiration from the original Crisman Tape, and tried to retain some of those unique lo-fi qualities.
What were some inspirations behind Crisman - musical and otherwise, that were especially formative to what ended up on the album?
These songs started coming together about three to four years ago, so there has been a wide variety of inspirations in that time. Listening to other music is what motivates me to start writing the most, especially what people around me are making. Boone and Grahm are always finding new music and showing me their new recordings, so being involved in their projects and playing in their live bands has always been a close source of inspiration.
How do you think your practice as a visual artist informs your process as a musician or vice versa, how does creating in different mediums feel to you?
Not in a direct way, but definitely in the actual process of making something. Creating is a way to get out of my head, so I like to keep an open mind and try not to hold myself to any specific plan or boundaries. When I overthink, it starts to feel wrong and too calculated, which can feel disorderly, but working through that disorder is what makes art therapeutic for me.
What's a stand out moment on the album for you?
I felt most proud of the track ‘Go’ because it's a slower track but it feels heavy and that's something that can be hard to translate sometimes. It's also the most recent written song on the album so it feels most exciting and new to me.
Have you been surprised by anything that’s happened since the release of your record?
Yeah, we are really grateful in general, for all of it. The release with Topshelf was huge for us. And seeing that people have gone and checked it out is really cool. Anyone who has reposted or sent a kind message, it really means so much. It's hard to get people to listen to your music when there is so much out there so really anyone that has taken the time to go listen to just one song is a huge accomplishment. We feel really excited to record new material and to keep making music!