D.A. Crimson’s “Really, Really Sick Big Dog””

Words by Willa Rudolph
Color photo by Christian Michael Filardo

Indie folk/rock artist D.A. Crimson really grabbed my attention at a recent Our Wicked Lady show. I was tired and not in the mood, and then I heard this angelic voice and this music that I couldn’t quite pin down at first. It reminded me in the best way of Never Shout Never mixed with Ezra Furman and Alex G, with two shaggy-haired musicians on stools playing electric guitar while one sang and the other harmonized (side note– not sure what the demographics are here, but if you don’t know who Never Shout Never is, they were the MOMENT in 2007, and just to age or anti-age myself, I was obsessed while I was at sleep away camp). The singer is named D.A. Crimson, hailing from “The Valley” (a.k.a. The San Fernando Valley [see: Clueless, Paul Thomas Anderson movies, Valley Girl]). Accompanying them was Jesse French from Tetchy

I hope D.A. Crimson, born Diego Antonio Clare, doesn’t mind that comparison, but the music, and the act itself, brought me back to mid 2000’s emo. The songs were unexpected and the melodies unusual, but so beautiful and haunting. I didn’t know where they were going to go and I wanted to know more, like when you get to a point in a book where you just can’t stop reading to find out what happens. 

Nevershoutnever! July 9th, 2008 – What a legend XD

I reached out to Diego on Instagram and asked if I could email them a few questions about their music. They were so kind in saying “hii! thats so cool, thanks for reaching out! sure, i’d love to!” 

Before we get into the interview, my absolute favorite song I heard during the set was called “Big Dog,” which is also their most recent single and music video. The song begins with a muy tasty guitar riff before the drums collide into the track. D.A. Crimson’s vocals are sexy, with pop punk-esque pronunciations, as they croon, “I see you, I want you / I smell your wounded heart / I notice in your kiss / the way you fall apart / Like a really big dog…” When I say I haven’t been able to stop listening to this song, I really mean that. 

The self-directed music video (cinematography: Bijan Souri and R.J. Spain; camera operator: John Quiros; featuring: Alyx Zauderer, Kelly Moran, Vicky Spain, Allison Regan and more) exhibits surrealist and eerie imagery, complete with a man in a hoodie wearing a full dog mask over his entire hood. It’s shot in the fall or winter, and definitely gives you that feeling of melancholy that comes with that time of year. D.A. Crimson appears in a couple scenes of the video, but is not the main character. The song is about “watching someone you care about lose control, and the complexity of that I guess.”“Sex, Love, Put a bullet in my gut. / Sex, Love, Put a bullet in my God,” they sing in the bridge.  

See our interview with D.A. Crimson below!

WR: Where are you from?

D.A. Crimson: Suburban Los Angeles; the San Fernando Valley; “The Valley”; Paul Thomas Anderson’s special interest, apparently.

WR: How long have you been making music? How did you start?

D.A. Crimson: Since I was about 15. I was just learning classic rock and folks songs and started trying to write similar stuff. Goofy stuff. I got some friends to play with me for a Battle of the Bands at my high school, so I wrote more songs for that and then we started playing around town.

WR: Is D.A. Crimson just you? A band? Who are the members?

D.A. Crimson: It’s just me, really. But I have a kind of rotating cast of suuuper talented friends I’ve been very lucky to play with and work with over the last year. I started out playing solo, which I still do a lot, but these days I try to do the full band thing as much as possible. You saw me with Jesse French from Tetchy (and a ton of other bands). The live group is always shifting, but some people who’ve played with me are: Daniel Bloch, Alex Harwood, Noga Davidson, Lea Jaffe, Richard Orofino, Allison Regan, Drew Hart, Jane Lai, Frank Corr, and several others I’m sure I’m forgetting!

WR: How long have you been making music as D.A. Crimson?

D.A. Crimson: Only since this summer, when I put my first single out. I played shows under the name “griefcase” for about a year first. That name was more of a joke to get me started, though it kinda grew on me. Ultimately I found there were a bunch of griefcases on the internet so I went with D.A. Crimson instead. 

photo by Rubén Alvarado.

WR: Tell me about D.A. Crimson. Where does the name come from? Especially the “Crimson?”

D.A. Crimson: It’s just a name I started using a few years ago on instagram. My name is Diego Antonio Clare (hence D.A.) — but Crimson… I’m not sure, I think I was just kind of obsessed with the song “Crimson and Clover” at the time, lol.

WR: What are your biggest musical inspirations?

D.A. Crimson: The Beatles lol

WR: Have you been in any other bands / released music under any other names in the past?

D.A. Crimson: That band I had in high school — a kind of wannabe Arcade Fire thing with like 9 people called The Limetree Warehouse (to be fair, it was 2009). I did a solo thing for several years under my name but gave it up. Released a couple oddball tracks under the name Otto Zilch in 2019. I’ve played live in a few friend’s bands, but nothing I wrote. I played in Birthmark for a bit, had a brief stint in a veryy nascent version of L’Rain, toured in Lewis Del Mar, and played with my friend Cory Sterling. 

WR: What instruments do you play?

D.A. Crimson: Mostly guitar. Keys, bass, mediocre drums. Grew up playing saxophone and a little clarinet, but I’m pretty rusty these days.

WR: Have you had any interesting previous jobs (non-music, if so then what were they)?

D.A. Crimson: I worked in tech for a long time, for a couple Big Name Corporations. The offices were very utopian in a dystopian kinda way. I had to watch music videos or listen to songs all day and identify the recordings and verify publishing and ownership info. I have no evidence to support this, but I often think I was training an AI.

A few weeks ago I started a job as an optician. It’s pretty fun, I help people pick their glasses basically, and that’s nice.

WR: If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you would be?

D.A. Crimson: Maybe a detective. A private eye.

WR: Any upcoming releases?

D.A. Crimson: I’m putting another single out soon! One of my favorite songs, called “Olly Olly Oxen Free.” Not sure when yet, but the mix is nearly done. Then hopefully an EP early next year.

WR: Your latest release is “Big Dog”. Can you tell me the story behind that song?

D.A. Crimson: There’s not really one story, but more of a feeling — which is kind of one of pity. Like watching someone you care about lose control, and the complexity of that I guess. I felt that in some relationships, and with myself too. I went through a lot of emotional turmoil the last few years and watched myself spiral and suffer mistakes as a result. I also know someone with a 200-pound English Mastiff named Townes (after Van Zandt) and that’s probably where the big dog image originated.

photo by Rubén Alvarado.

WR: What inspired the imagery and surrealism in the video?

D.A. Crimson:

  1. Leather
  2. Rewatching the video for Silversun Pickups’ breakout hit “Lazy Eye” with a friend
  3. The Bookhouse Boys
  4. The fact that my little brother Kelly sorta looks like a beefcake version of my friend Alyx (who is also strong btw)
  5. Donnie Darko
  6. Temu Y2k nü metal jewelry
  7. My grandma

WR: Was the song created with a team? Who worked on it and what was each person’s role?

D.A. Crimson: Before I had any lyrics I recorded some guitar and drums at my friend Olive Faber’s house on Long Island. She engineered and played drums. I finished writing the song months later, then edited what we had and recorded the rest with Richard Orofino at his apartment. He co-produced it and played synths and baritone guitar. Mixed by my good bud Daniel Bloch and Mastered by JJ Golden at Golden Mastering.

WR: What’s your favorite movie (right now) and why?

D.A. Crimson: Idiocracy, because I never bought a pair of Crocs and now I want some.

WR: What’s your guilty pleasure?

D.A. Crimson: Biting my nails. Eating chocolate every night.

WR: Non Musical Influences on your music?

D.A. Crimson:

  • history documentaries on YouTube
  • Drifting Off with Joe Pera podcast (helps me sleep)
  • @b3n1s
  • my parents’ divorce
  • murder mystery dinner theater
  • the Seventh Day Adventist church
  • The Hobbit movie trilogy

WR: To you, why is the NYC underground or DIY music scene special compared to others?

D.A. Crimson: It’s really big and there are so many different scenes and worlds of artists to immerse yourself in. Part of the benefit of living on top of each other is being exposed to so much—not only music—but art, performance, movies, poetry, people, etc., which leads to a lot of cross-pollinating ideas. I feel very lucky to have been here for 12 years and seen, heard, or even played with so many brilliant artists I would still listen to on any given day.

More about D.A. Crimson here.

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