When Dylan Dawkins and I sat down at The Harbinger, I wasn’t sure what exactly was going to happen within the next hour or so. Dylan is a new face in the local Charleston music scene, and a bit of wild card. He moved to town last June and already performs with multiple bands around town (Grace Joyner, She Returns From War, Youngster, Invisible Low-End Power, and the Brett Nash projects, just to name a few). When he isn’t filling in on bass, Dylan works on his own personal project titled Persona La Ave. When he isn’t playing music at all, you can find him taking photos on his 35mm film camera or cooking gumbo for his roommates.
Read our interview and see some photos below.
When did you begin writing/producing as Persona La Ave?
Dylan Dawkins: [I started] in Florence in 2008. I didn’t want to make music under my birth name.
What is the significance of the name Persona La Ave?
DD: The meaning of the name has changed over the years. Now I kind of see it as a phrase that makes me think of a personality crisis or alter ego. It makes sense because I’m a double Gemini, and have an almost bipolar personality type.
Tell me about your time in Knoxville.
DD: I always knew I wanted to pursue music, so I kind of gave up on school. My friend Brandon in Knoxville had a room open [when looking to leave Florence]. I joined a band the first year called Royal Bangs. They were on a pretty big and demanding label. Toured a little bit, and learned how to do all that. The band stopped playing as much. We got in a lot of wrecks in winter, a snow storm would hit all of a sudden and we would spin out. It was really traumatic. Remember that movie Jack Frost? It’s the beginning of that – when he dies. It’s that feeling. I still won’t tour during the winter.
How did you end up in Charleston?
DD: I had visited Charleston a lot when they [friends Blake and Dan of the band Youngster] first moved here. They were in North Charleston at the time, so I never really hung out downtown or went to shows. [Once] they moved into their downtown spot, I fell in love with the town.
How would you describe your recent self-released album, Themes from a Window?
DD:It’s all the weird, tonal sauce without any songs. It’s really specific though. I made over four or five hours’ worth of material. It’s long form, which can be exhausting. I didn’t really want the album to sound like a synthesizer, so it’s all either processed in an old arbitrary way, like through tape. I would [also] record something on a computer, then play it back and record it across the room with a crappy tape player. Then re-record that. I just wanted the whole album to sound like you found it somewhere.
I noticed the tracks vary from a little over a minute to eight minutes long. How did you settle on those tracks and the sequence?
DD: A lot of it was written and recorded past four in the morning where you’re either really high or just sleep deprived, and kind of spacing out. Time doesn’t even seem important at that point when it comes to composition. The song needs to be eight minutes long, because that’s where the start and end is. That being said, I didn’t want to weigh the album down with a lot of that. When you’re listening to the drone, you get into the space of the song. Then your brain doesn’t really know where to go from there, so you give it like a minute-long breather.
Do you have plans to perform the material live?
DD: I don’t know. I thought about it, and it would be tedious. I think that work exists in a special place, because a lot of it is just really raw performance. It’s one take that you can’t really reproduce. Live, it wouldn’t sound anything like it – it’d be completely different.
What are some things you listen to for inspiration?
DD:I admire composers who play with anxiety and terror. I love horror film scores, especially John Carpenter’s work. I could about him for hours, he’s just always been in my life even before I started paying attention. Big Trouble in Little China, just being a kid watching that and being really weirded out. Later you find out this guy is making all these awesome movies; making the music for them, producing it, directing it, writing it, everything. It makes me want to do all that. Music is my main thing but I get so caught up with film and photography now.
Yeah, I’ve been following your photography and I’ve seen the shirts you help design. I know you’re mostly a self-taught artist. How did you get into visual arts?
DD: In Knoxville, I kind of got into painting. I just don’t have the patience for it. I would learn any Adobe program [on YouTube], and figure it out step by step. I like drawing and doodling, and drafting. I’ve always been into composition in general. At this point, photography is my favorite side thing because I can just grab a camera and go hang out somewhere.
Speaking of your past times, I’ve also heard you’re the chef in your house. What’s your favorite thing to cook?
DD:Probably gumbo, just because it’s simple. Except for the process of making a good ‘roo [the base], which is something you kind of have to learn on your own over time. At the last kitchen I worked at [in Knoxville], it was the only recipe they let me come up with and it would sell out. People would come up to me in bars and ask, ‘Are you that guy that makes the gumbo?’
You seem really content working on your music and art now in Charleston. Do you have any hopes or ambitions for the future?
DD:In the art world, you’re told that you don’t really hit your stride until you’re forty or fifty, if you’re lucky. That’s just what you sign up for, and I think of music that way. I’m in it for the long haul. I’m not really that interested in commercial fame. I don’t really think I’m ready for it now, at least on a personal level. It’s hard to transition things you make in your bedroom at five in the morning to something you can make money off of.
Stream out Themes From A Window via Bandcamp below, and earlier work on Spotify. Dylan also mentioned that Themes From A Window will be released on cassette soon. Follow him on Instagram @persona_la_ave.