Home Interviews Interview: DIANA MAY CLARK


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Acclaimed performer of Brazilian inspired world music, Diana May Clark, has made a successful genre move to delightful psychedelic tinged 60’s retro pop, with the release of her stunning new EP, Sunny Daze.  Launched at Bella Union at the Melbourne Trades Hall on the 6th June, the EP is accompanied by an energetic and pleasure filled film clip which saw its first public airing on a three and a half metre screen at the EP’s launch. Now available for everyone’s viewing pleasure on YouTube, the Sunny Dazefilm clip is perhaps a nod to the Beatles’ 1969 rooftop concert on the Apple building. Although sharing the hook-laden guitar of the Beatles, Diana May Clark’s film clip outshines the Liverpudlian pop stars’ classic free public performance with the infectious joyfulness of the splendidly clad band and dancing audience.  This is not the performance of a jaded band on the point of disintegration, but rather a stellar new performer to the 60’s pop genre and her talented and contagiously happy band.

In preparation for the Sunny Daze EP and film clip launch, I caught up with Diana May Clark earlier this week.  Diana was ‘super excited’ about the launch and particularly the film clip’s public unveiling. “It’s my first film clip so to have it up on a three and a half metre screen, and having Emma Peel there DJing and playing with my fantastic band.  We haven’t played there before so it’s very new and very exciting.”


I asked Diana about how the film clip came about.  “It’s a 9 months gestation.  I produced it myself and had a director, Rachael Lucas, who lives three hours out of Melbourne so it was a bit of a logistical battle.   I think she’s very talented and it’s brought the song alive. It echoes things like Austin Powers, clothing and vibes.  I wrote the song while on my honeymoon in Brazil.  I did want to write something up and happy but I didn’t think I’d achieve writing a happy love song.  But I’m happy that it worked”


In respect of the film clip’s location shoot, Diana explained that “most of it was filmed on a roof top in St Kilda. If you look closely you can see the Palais and Luna Park behind us. It was a great day.  It started with an alliance of the right people coming up in my life and they found the right costumes.   And everyone took it quite seriously but when the cameras started rolling, we all experienced the feeling that is quite palpable on the screen … even the people behind the camera.  We all experienced an incredible day.”

Diana is extraordinarily excited about the band that she put together for the launch and hopes to tour with soon.  I asked her how the band was put together.  “Well my producer of the EP, and the upcoming album, is Greg Arnold from Things of Stone and Wood.  I met him at NMIT (Northern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE) at Fairfield. They have a Bachelor of Music where I work.  I’ve jumped in on some of his (Greg’s) songwriting classes and he ended up hearing Sunny Daze and giving it a hit with the pop stick for me. And he’s become the producer for me and plays keys and guitar and backing vocals in the band now. And my husband, Doug de Vries, he’s the one who got me into doing Brazilian music in the first place.  I’ve been doing it for about 15 years now.  He doesn’t play rock guitar very often but he loves doing it so he’s very relaxed with the ensemble and I’m very grateful to have him in my band.  I really do want to tour this project.  I have a lot of fun with it so it would be good if he could come with me.  And then on drums is Al Kerr, he’s awesome, he’s absolutely perfect and we’re good friends.  And we’ve got some newcomers. We’ve two fabulous women from NMIT, Maddie Weybury on bass and Monique Zucco on percussion and backing vocals. I’m really grateful.”

Diana will be going to Brazil in winter where “Doug and I will pick up a band in Rio and launch it (the EP) in a small club in Lapa while we’re there”.  Diana intends to apply for the Australian festival circuit and “we’ll come back and apply to Queenscliff and Port Fairy.  All those sorts of festivals.  If we’re successful we’ll launch the album at the same time and do the circuit.  I hope the Australian audiences hear us and I also want to tour with the band.  So that’s something to look forward to happening.”


Almost as much as I was intrigued by Diana’s move from Brazilian influenced music into pop, I was interested in how she originally came to Brazilian music.  Working in that genre for 15 years, Diana has released five critically acclaimed albums. Introduced to the genre by her husband Doug de Vries, who is considered Australia’s leading exponent of Brazilian guitar, Diana expanded on this fascinating journey a little more for me.  “I was in a Jazz band.  That’s how I met him.  Six months later we were a couple. I finished my degree at the Victorian College of the Arts and he wanted to travel.  It wasn’t until I hit the ground in Brazil that I was gobsmacked by the process of life for a musician over there – the amount they share with each other, and the amount of jams and great gigs that you can absorb.  We were going to three a day for six months.  It was incredible.  And when I came back I wanted to share that music with Australians.  It’s such a rich, beautiful music. I ran four community choirs for four years spreading the music.  And then I published a Brazilian songbook for choirs so I wouldn’t have to be there. I passed it on to choir leaders and that songbook got me a job at the university that I’m now at.  So I have a Brazilian Choir there. It’s my only one now. I’ve been focusing on my life as a performer. I do teach there three days a week and that supports my own private music business in Australia.”


When she’s not singing 60’s retro pop Diana sings her Brazilian inspired world music in Portuguese.  I asked Diana if she was fluent in Portuguese.  “I have made an effort to learn the language over the years.  It’s not as good as it could be but when I go back it sharpens up again. Doug’s actually quite good at it.  He’s been interviewed on radio and television over there under pressure, and that’s really got him up to speed.  He’s played with lots of guitarists born in Rio; not only Rio, but all over.  That pop music that we’re familiar with, like the Beatles, isn’t so far removed from Brazilian. My favourite composers of the 60s and 70s actually lived near and hung out with the Beatles.  There’s a psychedelic influence across the board despite the language barrier.”


Diana anticipates the album from which ‘Sunny Daze’ comes will be released in February 2014.  She told me that “it’s mostly recorded already. We just need to decide on some sort of plan and have it mixed and mastered.  This EP was mixed and mastered in Nashville and I’m really happy with the results. So I’ll probably do the same thing with the other single from the album and we hope to promote it at some festivals and tours”.  Diana then laughs when she tells me “I don’t want much, do I?”


I asked Diana how the Nashville connection came about.  She told me that “Greg Arnold, who’s my producer, has established contacts over there that he’s able to use.  He showed me what they’ve done and I’m so grateful that I met Brad Jones via Greg.  He really added some richness to ‘Sunny Daze’, and things that you don’t really notice, which made it unmistakably psychedelic.  It was there in the melody but he’s added highs and lows.  The song’s called ‘Sunny Daze’ and he added the ‘daze’ to it. I’m really happy with his work. I’ve worked on five albums here in Australia but when you do Jazz or World, the mixing process is more making it through like a live performance.  Pop is creating another dimension and bringing richness to, and discovering new things on each listen.”

Diana doesn’t anticipate any problems translating the sound of ‘Sunny Daze’ to live performances. “Listening to an album is one experience”, Diana told me “and listening to a live performance is another because of the energy between the players and the audience, and your communicating process.  I’m just hanging to perform with this band. It’s really great and there are a lot of instruments in there – the Hammond, electric guitar, bass, drums, three part harmonies a lot of the time, percussion. It’s quite a wall of sound.  It’s very rich.”

Diana has already met with great success with the songwriting of ‘Sunny Daze’.  She took out sixth place in the Australian Songwriters Association ‘Indy Rock’ Category in 2012. I asked her how winning that award felt. “When you do a genre jump, as I have, it’s probably the most unexpected thing for my audience who want to hear Brazilian Bossa Nova.  It’s nice to have that kind of acknowledgement from people who know the songwriting craft and I am currently a nominee in an International songwriting competition as well with that song.  I’m in the top five of the Independent Music Awards for  ‘Sunny Daze’ so once again that’s acknowledgment, I guess, that I’m going in the right direction.”  The awards are finalized in July and Diana told me that “people can actually still actually vote.  I’m in the adult contemporary genre category there as well with that song and you can get to that site via my website.  I’m not sure what would happen if I actually won that.  I’m not pushing the voting process very much.  I’m just happy that I’ve got a clip, and in this time in the evolution of the world and music the bullshit issue of age isn’t so much of any issue anymore.   I’m just filtering music out to the world and hopefully people of any age that would be inspired by it will.  It’s all very exciting.”

I’m sure that many others will experience Diana’s excitement when they’ve listened to ‘Sunny Daze’ and the other track on the EP, ‘Tango Noir’.  ‘Sunny Daze’ is out now on iTunes or can be bought as a single track, or the complete EP, from Diana’s website http://www.dianaclark.com.au/.  In the meantime pay a visit to YouTube and experience the wonders of the ‘Sunny Daze’  film clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrcJGpzJtTo  You won’t be disappointed.


by Vivien Fleming

Copyright © 2013 Vivien Fleming All Rights Reserved

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