Some Life To It | An Interview With Danke Shane

– by Camille Banzon, Music Editor –

As someone who has spent a fair amount of time interviewing and writing about musicians, I consider luck an important force in writing a decent feature. Luck in finding some of the most fascinating strains of sound, luck to be able to pick the musicians’ brains out, and luck to be given such fascinating answers.

When fate brought me to Danke Shane’s Soundcloud page, natural instinct made me click on his song, “Cave In.” Upon hearing his unusual, deep baritone voice, I knew I had to know more about him and his music. So I went through and listened to the rest of his self-titled EP, and I was stunned. The songs are diverse in character, illuminating, and filled with textures that left a nostalgic, sonic snapshot in my brain. I tried to research about him, but there wasn’t a lot about him online (his Facebook page has 151 likes), which made it a more exciting pursuit.

Here’s what I initially found out, at least: Danke Shane, or Andrew Burke from D.C. in paper, is a solo musician with an EP (the German song Danke Schoen coming up a couple of times in Google search) and a bunch of other songs in his page. That’s it. I wrote about “Cave In” for our Song of the Day series and reached out. Upon finally getting his answers, it became evident that there’s so much soul and thought in the kind of indie music he does. It has fire and passion, and most importantly, it has that lovable, old-timey sound.

First questions on your EP: we loved it; the textures, atmospheres, and your vocal treatment, most especially. Will you tell us more about it?

Thanks for the kind words! I worked on it for about a year and half. Unfortunately, my life outside of Danke Shane is really busy, and I never had more than an hour here or there to work on it, so it came together really gradually and in fragments. Despite recording everything myself, I didn’t want it to be like a typical DIY bedroom album. I wanted to use as many real instruments as possible and not take any shortcuts, so there are a lot of strings, brass, acoustic percussion, piano, etc. I wanted the sound to have some life to it, and not just be all samples and synthetic instruments.

What’s the main theme? Will you share certain experiences or moments that triggered the creative process?  Favorite moments while you were creating it?

I wrote most of it in 2016, which was obviously an unsettling and introspective period for just about everyone in the US, I think. Living in DC has also compounded that in some ways because politics plays a direct role many people’s jobs, myself included; everyone’s just constantly talking and thinking about it. As a result, the EP oscillates between being really hopeful and really pessimistic. I tend to be a fairly optimistic person and see things as moving in the right direction, but I also think I sometimes frame things as fact when it’s more hope.

Your favorite song from it, in terms of creation/ composition?

One song that will continue to stick out for me is “Wait for Now.” Leading up to writing and recording it, I was getting really hung up on how restrictive pop music (in the broadest sense of the term) is, especially right now. On the fundamental levels, all pop music basically conforms to the same limitations. Even two artists like Bob Dylan and Taylor Swift or something, who are very different by pop standards, are actually so close they’re almost touching, in the grand scheme of things. But the other issue is that if you try to throw all the norms out the window in pop, you can fairly easily end up sounding self-indulgent and esoteric.

So, I wanted to do a song that felt really honest and sincere, but one that went way against the grain. Then this hymn-like idea just sort of came out of the blue, and I wrote and recorded it really quickly. It felt really good because, for me, the music expresses something outside of what pop normally is supposed to.  I recorded it in the dead of DC summer and we had window unit air-conditioners which I couldn’t keep on during the recording process so (sorry if this is TMI) I had to take all of my clothes off to record it (haha).

Who are your main influences as a listener and as someone making music?

It’s so hard to think objectively about your own influences, because a lot of it happens on a sub-conscious level. I often think of points of influence more as individual albums or songs. One album that pops to mind is maybe Janelle Monae’s The ArchAndroid. It’s been a while since that record came out, but it had a big impact on me. It’s super ambitious and sprawling, but it’s also really catchy. I just love how unrestrained and unconfined and yet accessible it feels. She just created this world that totally draws you in and envelops you. That’s definitely something to aspire to.

If you were to cover one song and make it as a single, what would it be?

I’ve actually covered a few songs in the past! On my Soundcloud, there’s a cover I did a while ago of Grizzly Bear’s “The Knife.” I used to be in a band called The Da Vincis and we recorded and put out a cover of MIA’s “Paper Planes.” Recently, my friend suggested I cover the Frasier theme song, which I think I might have to do at some point.

When did you start getting interested in making music? Do you remember the moment when you said to yourself, “alright, I’m going to do this.”? 

I began taking piano lessons when I was about six, and I started getting quite serious about it when I was like 10, so I’ve been interested in music for basically as long as I can remember. But I didn’t start thinking about starting a band or anything until I was about 12. I didn’t have any friends who played music at the time though, so I would write and record music on my parent’s computer with me playing and layering all the instruments. Because I was doing it all on my own, it was just this amazing period of exploring and doing whatever popped into my 12-year-old brain. There were zero expectations and zero consequences – it was such a blast, and I think it honestly laid the foundation for everything I’ve done since.

Why “Danke Shane?” Is it a play on that German song, Danke Schoen?

Yes, it is! Specifically, it’s an homage to one of my favorite movies, Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, which features that song in several parts. In another part of that movie, Matthew Broderick is dancing to the I Dream of Jeannie theme song which is another retro, kind of cheesy song. I felt like the juxtaposition of this cool, popular high school kid in the eighties dancing to these old songs was hilarious but was also so awesome. Like it’s weird on the surface but it somehow fits so well. It’s just a feature of the movie I really like, and it has honestly probably influenced my entire ethos as a person haha.

 

Have you always made music as a solo musician? Were you a part of a group before?

I used to be in a band called The Da Vincis with a couple of my best friends, Peyton Randolph and Gavin Fields. We were on a small record label and put out an album when we were Juniors in high school, which was a great experience. The guy who produced that album, Misha Hercules, became another one of my best friends, and he actually co-produced “Half the Sky” on the Danke Shane EP. We got a lot of exciting write-ups, and it was getting a lot of independent radio play, but we knew by that point that we were all about to go to college and that our fate was basically sealed as a band. It was a little sad actually. We sort of briefly considered taking a year off to pursue music full time, but I think that would have been a tough sell for our parents, and we also all wanted to go to school.

What other kinds of music did you make in the past? Any other genres that you experimented on?

I actually studied music composition in college, and the work I do in that realm is very different. That’s more “classical” music or “art” music as some call it. The main thing I’m working on right now is actually a series of piano duets/short films. It’s hard to describe, but in a nutshell, each piece looks at a different American city and the socio economic conditions and inequalities of that city. It’s completely different from Danke Shane and won’t be associated with the moniker. I’m actually working on it with my friend Gavin, who was in The Da Vincis and now runs a film company, which has been great.

Were you always drawn to indie?

I remember very distinctly the first time I cracked open an issue of Paste Magazine. I was about 12 years old, and I became completely obsessed. I had always loved music, but I hadn’t really known what all was out there, and I definitely hadn’t known this whole “indie” universe existed. I genuinely disliked music that was on the radio at that time, so up until that point, other than classical music, my favorite albums were the Charlie’s Angels Soundtrack, the Parent Trap Soundtrack, and the Last Days of Disco Soundtrack. Haha I still think all of those are great, by the way! But it was just random stuff that appeared in my house. I didn’t start looking for music until I discovered indie. I guess indie is a nebulous term, but it definitely meant something special to me growing up.

Favorite artists?

It’s always changing but I love Grizzly Bear, João and Astrud Gilberto, Animal Collective, Sufjan Stevens, Dirty Projectors, Janelle Monae, Bill Evans, Vampire Weekend, Perfume Genius, and some other stuff.

If your life had a soundtrack, pick 3 songs from it and tell us why

That is an interesting question. I’m not sure if these songs actually correspond to some sort of narrative in my life, but I would go with these:

  1. Hey Ya by Outkast
  2. Peace Piece by Bill Evans
  3. Come On! Feel the Illinois! by Sufjan Stevens

What usually inspires you?

I’ve always found jazz music really inspiring. My dad played a lot of jazz records growing up, so it evokes a very nostalgic feeling for me. I think nostalgia is a really important source for inspiration. You often hear chefs talk about being super nostalgic for their grandparent’s cooking and stuff like that. I think it inspires all types of creation.

This might sound strange, but I also think that sometimes stuff I really don’t like can be very inspiring. When you hear something bad, all you can think about is everything that you would change about it, and it puts your own tastes and opinions into relief. That is a much more motivating force than just being in awe of something. When you’re totally in awe of something, it can be an overwhelming experience, and you sort of have to sit back and digest it for a long time.

Just a quirky one: If you would be an animal, what would you be, and why?

I would definitely be a fox. I think a lot of people when they very first meet me think I’m quite serious or standoffish, but I’m really not and I’ve got a lot potential for domestication!

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Camille Banzon is the music editor of The Violet Wave. After years of covering music festivals, concerts and reviewing albums, she decided to move to a tropical surf island, where she runs a hostel and lives off of coconuts, bikinis, and streaming. Her writing on music can be seen in FHM Philippines, Clavel Sneaker Magazine, Pacifiqa, Coconuts Manila, 8list, and Amplify.ph. She likes groovy basslines, clean waves, and stinky cheese.

Got a song you want us to feature? E-mail Camille at camille@thevioletwave.com.

Twitter: @thevioletwave

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