Season of indecent dreams: Diamond Mind’s Liam Trimble

“It all started one day when I wrote the song ‘Diamond Mind.’ I wrote it in big bubble letters in a notebook like a 13-year-old. I was really enamored with that as an idea– it befit my process, which is incredibly slow, like condensing coal into a diamond. If anybody ever called a song a gem, you know that takes time.”

Liam Trimble tells his band’s origin story with a practiced confidence, though he fiddles with the french press of tea in front of him. His eyebrows know two positions: furrowed in thought and raised in curiosity. Occasionally his whole upper body bounces in easy laughter.

Astute observers of Edmonton music will know that three years after his acclaimed solo effort, Ultra Rare EP, Trimble has re-emerged with a full band behind him. That would be the sparkling collective known as Diamond Mind.

“I’ve always been really enamored of the family band model. Bands that are really close. Like the Ramones or Metallica or the Band. Something about the band/family… being united in that way is really romantic to me. Although I’m sure behind the scenes it always crumbles. There’s something really wrong with the Ramones and Metallica and the Band. But if we make great art it doesn’t matter. But we may never.”

One could easily argue that Diamond Mind has already set down some great art. Their recent EP, Fake Tape, tumbles listeners through eighteen minutes of Delphic bubblegum pop. Trimble’s lyrics send you down rich, mythic, spiraling slides of solitary narrative. The songs are jangly and shiny and undeniably doomful. Fake Tape certainly falls under my definition of good art, but Trimble doesn’t necessarily agree.

“Let’s talk about art versus music, and how they’re entirely different things. I always come back to this word: cipher. [Art] has to be filtered, and made tricky. In a thought provoking way. In a sense [it’s about] obfuscating what you’re talking about through symbols.

“I don’t think you’re devaluing something by calling it not-art, I just think there should be a check on that. If a great song isn’t very artistic, just representative of a literal story– if it has no agenda or subtext– it’s still a great song. It’s in no way devalued, I don’t think.

“I just want to write pop songs. I really, really do. Everything I do is an attempt to write a great pop song. It expresses itself in a different way each time, but I think I’m writing a radio hit. … I just want to be able to write songs of that calibre. I study [pop songs] and really enjoy them and wonder why they’re so mystifyingly great in a very singular way. I look more to them for my cues. Even if you have something to say, it’s going to come across better if you do it in a catchy way and it latches to somebody’s brain. That’s the goal.”

That said, Trimble is aware of the fact that his songs “don’t always square” with the traditional definition of a radio hit. To listeners, this is evident in the EP’s eeriest track, “Closed Circuit.” Aching, exploring shame and abuse, the song isn’t your typical Top 40 fare. For me, every Diamond Mind set is spent anticipating the soft fingerpicking that opens the song. It’s hard not to get lost in Trimble’s upper register as his voice descends through its verse, hard not to spill into benediction.

liam“I was exploring that idea of– whenever I would do anything awful as a kid, like destroy something or throw a rock at my sister– your parents would always ask you why you do it. And you have no idea. It’s just an impulse that you absolutely had to explore. You just work in such simple decision-making algorithms. It’s yes or no, and it’s yes every time. As a kid, I would get these shame hangovers if I knew I was doing something really bad, something my parents would disapprove of. I would really feel this cloud of morality over me.

“I didn’t really write from the perspective of a murderer, but I could definitely synthesize that feeling of being young and that really simple binary of ‘should we keep fucking around? Yes or no.’ And it’s always yes. Push it as far as you possibly can. And you’d go incredibly way too far. You probably don’t realize what you’ve done.”

“Closed Circuit” is unsettling and cathartic. An exposition lies in the timbre of Trimble’s voice. Diamond Mind’s music is room: the walls are sturdy, constructed from condensed verbosity. Its interior is open, though, holding only an honesty of voice. As listeners, we get to stand within it. 

I ask Trimble if he thinks of himself as a happy person.

“I’m very comfortable to say that I’m not happy, like, 80% of the time.”

The teahouse closes for the night. A fine, wet snow falls over burgeoning grass. Trimble shuffles through the slush, lights a cigarette. We squabble about how best to get back to our shared neighbourhood. Regular rapport returns. Underpinning any conversation with an artist about their art (or a musician about their music, as Trimble would have it) is a feeling of transgression. That you are walking into the vulnerable wings of their minds. The best bands capture that feeling in song. Diamond Mind is one of those bands.

Trimble suddenly turns the questions on me. What about my music? Do I write songs? Why don’t I perform? The curious brows are back. “Things are about to get weird,” he laughs.

“I’ve occasionally likened coming out as an artistic person to admitting that you’re a bit of a pervert. There’s so much exposition in it. It’s like exposing some weird kink you have to a lot of people. But that’s a cornerstone to the whole experience. It wouldn’t be the same– it wouldn’t exist if that weren’t true.”

//

-photos & words by becky smith-mandin

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