“It's been a long time coming in a lot of ways,” says singer-songwriter and bedroom producer Dan Vidmar. “I've been doing the Shy Girls thing for four years now and this is my debut album.”
Long time coming is right. It feels like Vidmar’s intimate R&B project has been on Portland’s radar for longer than that. Named Willamette Week’s Best New Band in 2013 based on the strength of just four songs, Shy Girls released a debut EP, Timeshare, several months after the recognition. We soaked up that initial romantic salvo until 2015 brought us the 4WZ mixtape. That makes 2016 the year where Vidmar “began to really narrow my vision down,” he explains. “I had so many demos for the album so I had to step back and take a deep breath and figure out exactly what I was trying to say.”
Thanks to consistently sporadic musical appetizers—including a notable collaboration with ODESZA—and high-profile opening slots for HAIM, Little Dragon and Maxwell, Shy Girls never fell off the map. And now, 2017 is our year for Shy Girls’ cerebrally sexy contribution to R&B.
But before we could savor Salt, Vidmar had to go back to the basics—his proven creative space. “Most of it happened in my bedroom studio,” Vidmar says. He learned this the hard way by scrapping a bunch of studio sessions because, in the end, “I just found that everything felt more right when I did it at my home studio, alone. It felt more genuine and true and vulnerable.”
Self-produced, Vidmar played and recorded virtually all of the instrumentation by himself. Unlike demos, EPs and mixtapes, he says his debut is “not a collection of one-off songs. It’s an album that wants to be listened to from front to back in its entirety.” Finding focus, he primarily created music “in response to two or three meaningful experiences from the past year or so.”
“A lot of the album is about the gravity of time, growing older, regret and loss, finding hope in the absurd, [and] searching for the small things that make life wonderful,” he explains.
While many of the record’s 10 tracks clearly allude to emotional pangs, broken relationships, or the relentless ticking of time, the latter two themes find inspiration in being hopelessly stuck in the Oregon desert. With his car broken down and forced to spend the night, Vidmar was unable to sleep and stayed up contemplating his existence—like “how insignificant I was, how the earth is much more vast than I, how comfortable our everyday lives are, and how we avoid the truth like the fact that nature doesn't give a fuck about you.” We’ve taken this “eerie earth” and built our lives upon it, both “physical and social structures… and how that's kind of beautiful.”
While the handle of bedroom producer may conjure up images of electronically engineered EDM beats and bass drops, Salt is just the opposite. It’s slow and brooding and touching—yet danceable. “I set out to make something that felt authentic and organic in the way that a real-life human being is authentic and organic,” Vidmar describes. “Versus, for example, a photoshopped model.”