The Orchestra of Cardboard are Dan Edelstyn, songwriter and filmmaker from London and the American singer and songwriter Jolie Holland from LA. ‘Black Flag’ is their newest release from the album ‘The Antidote’, in collaboration with Nick Graham Smith, multi-instrumentalist and producer, based in São Paulo and Stevie Weinstein-Foner, again in LA. Storytelling and dark folk, with a dash of electronics are main elements in this combination of minds and sounds, that throw us to a time of fanfare and political topics, at times grotesque. In the era of technology, distance is no longer a hassle, given that their compositions are shared in the ether, where Graham would come up with a sad lo-fi guitar riff and Dan would begin writing spontaneously, it’s the sound of freedom, the pleasure in experimenting beyond current aesthetic canons. “I feel like the record is a dream bardo, a place where it’s possible to imagine changing course.” – Jolie Holland.
A feast for the ears! An unexpected musical journey hard to predict.
YMX: Hey Orchestra of Cardboard, thanks for talking to us. How have these gloomy times been treating you?
ORCHESTRA OF CARDBOARD: It feels like Groundhog Day in some ways but I have travelled inwardly – and the album is an artefact of all those imaginary journeys.
YMX: How did you decide music was something you wanted to pursue? Are there any particular episodes that inspired you in doing so?
ORCHESTRA OF CARDBOARD: Yes – my mum gave me my grandmother’s violin at a very early age, she offered it to me as the prop from an amazing adventure – my grandmother had escaped the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 – came from a wealthy Jewish background, and the violin seemed to encapsulate all that adventure. Throw in an early bereavement of my dad who died when I was three – and music became a place to shelter and re-write reality. I was hooked.
YMX: Here’s a fun game: name 3 artists, or bands, that inspire you and influence your work, and explain why:
ORCHESTRA OF CARDBOARD: Leonard Cohen – there’s something of the dark glittering truth in his songs, I love how he defies any easy categorisation and he has that quality I always look for in an artists, he whispers encouragement to me and gives me faith when I find life hard . Nick Cave – again there’s a dedication to his craft, a sort of life long friendship with someone I never actually have to meet – a life long friendship with an imagination Jimi Hendrix – something about the wildness of Hendrix, there’s something too that draws me to his more melancholic work. He accompanied me through a very nasty boarding school and seemed to say, “Do not worry – this is only one very warped reality – and soon you will be free, and there is much more to life than this cruel place.”
YMX: You recently released your single ‘The Black Flag’. Can you tell us how that project came about?
ORCHESTRA OF CARDBOARD: It came about when my writing partner sent me a sort of stream of consciousness album, he’d written and recorded when going through a personal tragedy. The songs were very sad, and they were also very raw and true. I found myself responding to them with short stories, I just closed my eyes and allowed the music to wash over me and I started to sing – it was all in one take – and those were the bones of the lyrics. I went over them a few times and sharpened them and clarified some of the images. Then I reached out to Jolie Holland in LA, I had seen she was offering writing lessons and, as a life long apprentice of song, and huge fan of her work anyway,
I leaped at the chance. I showed her the demos and she really liked them, and it wasn’t too long before we agreed that she and her partner Stevie would get involved in the project.
YMX: How did the pandemic affect your personal music recording experience? Was it easy adjusting to working remotely?
ORCHESTRA OF CARDBOARD: I had already been collaborating with Nick – who lives and works now in Brazil, so had experience of remote collaboration. But this record took that to a new level. We were all holed up in our respective houses / studios. Usually I would get together with most of the band to record – not this time. On a deeper level, I think the sense of containment and the occasional feeling of total claustrophobia led to me trying to break down barriers in the images of the songs, so there’s a song about being on top of a mountain, and a song where all borders are smashed. The record alternates between politics and love as well. There’s a lot in there about this moment of history – a fight against the forces of Neo Fascism and a hope to wrestle that to the ground and ushering in an era of hope.
YMX: Professional livestreams seem to be really taking over these days. Is it something you would consider doing?
ORCHESTRA OF CARDBOARD: I’m a filmmaker – and we are live streaming a feature documentary we are just finishing off – and a month out we have sold 500 tickets. I would absolutely love to live stream this album – but there are 3 of us in London, 2 in LA and two in Sao Paolo – so I think the logistics of doing the livestream make it hard. That said I have made no secret of
the fact that I want to import all our members from LA & Sao Paolo and play some shows in London.
YMX: Since pandemic began, online music promotion has become crucial for an artist’s growth. How important is that for you, and are there any strategies you are willing to share with our readers?
ORCHESTRA OF CARDBOARD: I have spent 2 years learning everything I can about online growth. I’ve used it to take the band’s Spotify from 0-3500 followers and 13k monthly streams.. I have also used it to build an email list. My plan now is to exponentially increase our email subscribers so we have a decent audience to play live shows to once this public health crisis slides into history.
YMX: Finally, what are your plans for the future? (releases, gigs etc.)
ORCHESTRA OF CARDBOARD: My dream is to play the Royal Albert Hall one day – obviously on the way to playing a venue of that scale, we will be playing smaller places. I want to release one new album a year – but to make sure that this is a sustainable enterprise. I want to keep growing as a songwriter and storyteller. I have some new songs in the pipeline to follow up this album. It’s important to keep experimenting and collaborating with new and fascinating musicians right across the planet.