Today singer, writer, and rapper Dessa announced IDES — a new single series that will see the Doomtree member releasing new music on the 15th of every month. The announcement comes with “Rome,” the first single in the series.
Dessa recently spoke with Marketplace about how the pandemic has affected her, and what 2021 might look like for musicians. IDES is the product of collaborations between artists working from their home studios across the country, trading sound files, snapshots, and voice memos. In a world without touring, Dessa says, the song series is designed to deliver music in regular installments–new art to look forward to every month. The title of the series nods to the ancient Roman calendar, ides being a day that falls roughly in the middle of each month.
Dessa says of the origins of “Rome”:
“Before the pandemic hit New York, I ran across an incredible pair of bucket drummers in the subway—syncopated, pocket players, I was waiting for the L at Union Square, and found myself wanting to miss the train. I wanted to just stay and listen, start writing lyrics. During one of their breaks, I asked if they busked at that stop often. It was their usual spot, they said, and they played for hours at a time. I went home, found a work-for-hire template online, printed it off, put some cash in my pocket, and went back to Union Square. I asked if I could record their stuff, to be sampled in a song if I paid them upfront. I got a yes, dropped the bills in the bucket, and captured audio on my iPhone. I picked some favorite parts, and turned the recording over to the composer and producer Andy Thompson, who built a skeletal arrangement. He shared that file with me and Lazerbeak, a longtime collaborator in Doomtree, and we slowly wrestled the song into existence. The lyrics are about the way we live in modern cities—a kind of life that is heavily influenced by global powers who stand to profit by stoking our basest vanities and appetites. Many empires of the modern era aren’t bound by borders, but by bandwidth. And of course, we benefit in many ways by being so connected to one another. But if you don’t much care to live in the world that the corporate interests are building, well, there’s not an untouched city to escape to.”
Dessa has made a career of bucking genres and defying expectations—she’s performed at Lollapalooza and Glastonbury, co-composed for a 100-voice choir, contributed a song to the “RGB” documentary soundtrack, she has appeared on the Billboard charts as a solo artist and a member of the Doomtree hip hop collective, and as a contributor to The Hamilton Mixtape (her track “Congratulations” notched over 16 million streams). She’s written for The New York Times and National Geographic Traveler, presented a TED talk with more than 2 million views, and in 2018 published a memoir titled My Own Devices. Her most recent full-length record Sound the Bells was recorded live with the GRAMMY award winning Minnesota Orchestra. The LA Times wrote that Dessa “sounds like no one else,” while The Utne Reader called her a “one-woman powerhouse.” On the stage and on the page her style is defined by ferocity, wit, tenderness, and candor.
KEXP of Seattle spun the radio premiere of “Rome,” a day in advance of its release. The second IDES single will drop on February 15, 2021.