As the leader of the Brooklyn-based Adeline Hotel, Dan Knishkowy creates moody, introspective indie-folk for a solitary night with headphones on and eyes closed.
Their newest release, Solid Love, drops on May 8, and American Songwriter is proud to present a video premiere of their single “Strange Sometimes,” along with a Bandcamp link (editor’s note: Bandcamp is waiving all revenue shares so artists receive 100% of sales).
Sung in a calming, near-whisper over a subtle percussive groove, Knishkowy lets the lyrics breathe as sets his thesis on love and the passage of time in the opening line: “Same thing/different though/the older I get.” Weaving, persistent guitar lines echo the contemplative lyrics, while the support musicians pay close attention to what each are playing, supporting rather than outshining.
We caught up with Knishkowy for a discussion on his admiration of indie pioneers Jeff Tweedy and Jim O’Rourke, playing music with friends, and how using alternate guitar tunings and a capo inspire musical creativity.
What was your first instrument?
I played piano and a bit of saxophone growing up, but primarily drums. I was a drummer first, guitarist second (for a long time), then that flipped the other way, and now it’s about 50/50.
It sounds like Adeline Hotel is a collective with different musicians for each project. Is there a vetting process for who you choose?
It’s always been loosely defined, but this record definitely solidified the core lineup: Andrew Stocker (bass), Sean Mullins (drums), Winston Cook-Wilson (keys), and Ben Seretan (guitar). I collaborate with friends whose playing I love. I trust their instincts, and just let them surprise me – being surprised is my favorite part of writing music.
Andrew and I have played together since we were kids and I play drums in Ben’s band too, so we have a very intuitive understanding, musically. Winston is the glue that binds it all together.
Our friend and bandmate, Devra Freelander, passed away last summer. She was an incredible sculptor and harmony singer, an instrumental part of writing this record, and you can hear her voice from our demo recordings woven into the album on “Trying For You” and “Takes A Long Time”
Brigid Mae Power also sings harmonies throughout the record. I’ve been a fan of her music for long time, and I love the way our voices blend at the end of this song.
Tell me about writing the lyrics for “Strange Sometimes” and their meaning.
This was one of the rare songs whose music and lyrics arrived at once, fully formed. “Strange” looks at old habits through a new lens, questioning ingrained beliefs and the fine line between growing comfortable in your skin and losing yourself in it (“I don’t hold my tongue anymore / I don’t hold my gut in anymore”). The song feels poignant right now while I’m stuck inside with a pervasive restlessness thinking about the privilege in boredom, when so many do not have that luxury.
I loved the sax when it comes in towards the end. It’s a nice surprise and offsets the guitar line without getting in the way. Why sax?
I’d been listening to a lot of the Ethiopiques series (a CD compilation of Ethiopan musicians) during the recording of this, especially the Mulatu Astatke records. There’s sax throughout Solid Love, played by Dave Lackner, but that vibe especially suited this song and really ties it up nicely.
What guitars were used on the song?
I’m playing a Telecaster with some acoustic overdubs on a Guild F-30. Ben’s playing a Gibson SG, which my dad passed down to me, and I passed to Ben because it suits his playing much more than mine!
You use a capo a lot it seems. Any reason and does Strange Sometimes use one?
I write almost exclusively in alternate tunings, and I find that tunings have completely unique personalities when capo’d differently. I often use the capo to deepen the way the songs relate to each other (i.e. “Solid Love” and “Slow Love” are companion pieces to begin and end Side A). On “Strange Sometimes” I use a capo on the first fret.
Describe the recording process for this song?
We tracked most of the record with the five of us live in a room, with minimal overdubs (vocals, sax, etc.). I like to work quickly and recording live suits us – five people with very distinct playing personalities playing as quietly as possible, listening and reacting to each other in real time.
Favorite and most influential artists for your music?
Jeff Tweedy, of course. I’ve been in a long Jim O’Rourke phase, both his records and those he produced (particularly Beth Ortons’ Comfort of Strangers). Bert Jansch and Richard Thompson are my favorite guitarists. I love Marisa Anderson and Nathan Salsburg’s playing, too. Jessica Pratt’s first album continues to knock me out over and over. Michael Hurley, Judee Sill, Arthur Russell, always.
Photo credit: Chris Bernabeo