Durand Jones & the Indications Break Down Their Dancefloor-Friendly LP “Private Space” Track by Track
The Bloomington neo-soul group’s latest album is out now via Dead Oceans and Coalmine Records.
It feels like it was just a few years ago that millennials were giggling as we sent each other the Wikipedia page for the infamous Disco Demolition Night at the White Sox’s Comiskey Park—having grown up under the undisputed notion that disco sucks, it’s taken quite a bit of unlearning over the past couple years to not only understand that the demise of the genre was not only rooted in racism, but also that disco, in fact, whips. With the help of music docs and reappraisals of our parents’ record collections, contemporary artists—most recently Duran Jones & the Indications—have made a strong case for a long-overdue resuscitation of this ceaselessly fun moment in music.
Private Space embodies the exact type of dance floor you want to step onto after a long 16 months sitting at home—the record takes the Indications’ neo-soul sound and infuses it with a new keyboard-heavy and disco ball–illuminated nostalgia, while amping up the sexiness considerably. Meanwhile there’s plenty of room for the political and social conversations we’ve all been engaged in over the past year and change, with the record opening on an optimistic note that permeates throughout the rest of the LP.
With the record out today via Dead Oceans and Coalmine Records, we had Jones, as well as bandmates Aaron Frazer and Blake Rhein, walk us through Private Spaces. Stream the record below, and read on for their words.
Durand Jones: In what seems to be a recurring theme, we start our album with a political/social consciousness tune. This tune is hopeful in a sense. Amidst everything we went through in 2020, and the many horrible things that happened even before then, love is the answer. And that may sound cliché to some, but I can’t help but think about MLK and his message and preachings of love. Even though times have been rough, we must move with love. We owe it to the future generations.
Aaron Frazer: This was the first time I did a lot of writing on keyboard, rather than guitar, and I think you can hear it in the songwriting! By playing an instrument I don’t know very well, I was able to break out of the basic folk chords I knew on guitar, and come up with the more sophisticated chords you hear here and on “Love Will Work It Out.” Over the years of touring internationally, I came across Eurogroove records, Italo disco records, Dutch synthwave, and those were the kinds of records that inspired “Witchoo” musically. Lyrically, I knew I wanted to do something with a more dense, hip-hop rhyme scheme. Originally I wanted Durand to sing the hook, but he suggested we trade off and I think it makes the song what it is!
3. “Private Space”
Blake Rhein: We built this song around a really simple progression: It’s mostly an Dm9-Em9. Aaron brought a really interesting rhythmic feel to it that was totally different from what I was expecting, but I immediately loved it. From there I was really inspired to work in some outer space imagery. That was definitely a trend in the mid to late-’70s with soul and soul-jazz. Dexter Wansel’s Life on Mars is a great example. We wrote this in January 2020 before the pandemic forced us all into our own private spaces, but listening back there’s definitely an escapist desire that feels very attached to being cooped up at home. “Baby let’s get away on a holiday to a private space…”
4. “More Than Ever”
DJ: This one got its beginnings from Blake. Blake already had an idea for a chorus, and I just went with it and wrote some verses. From there the lyrics were keenly edited to the song you hear today. The production was also heavily influenced by Blake, who was really inspired by Barry White’s production. This one is definitely one of the sexier tunes on the record.
5. “Ride or Die”
BR: This one came together during a jam session back in November of 2020. To me this song really helps tie the sound of Private Space back to what we were doing on American Love Call. The disco influence is there, but it’s airier and more organic than a song like “Witchoo,” or “The Way That I Do.”
6. “The Way That I Do”
AF: Whether on tour or spinning records, over the years we realized how much we love making people dance. When the first notes hit or the needle drops and the whole crowd lights up, that’s a feeling we held onto all through 2020. And that’s what we’re bringing on “The Way That I Do.” It’s a run-to-the-dancefloor song for that special person who gets you shook, makes you wanna do more and be your best self. But it’s also for everyone who’s missed just getting together and moving their ass!
7. “Reach Out”
BR: I really love the message of this song, because it talks about mental health, which is something we haven’t really written about since “Smile” on our debut record. In a way, it was a reminder to each other as bandmates that if one of us is going through a spell of anxiety or depression, that the rest of us will be there to talk, to lean on, or whatever they might need. I think a lot of people need to be reminded that they’re not as alone as they may think; there’s always going to be someone out there who wants to help you through your darkest times. We took a lot of inspiration from ’90s R&B on this one, and I love how that influence blends in with the band’s natural style.
8. “Sexy Thang”
DJ: Blake showed us this tune years ago and we kinda forgot about it in a way. One of the good things about the quarantine was that this tune came back into the fold. Around August 2020 I was abstaining from booze, pot, and sex. And on August 14 I lost out on all three. It was a friend’s birthday. And she wanted birthday sex as a gift… It makes me laugh thinking about it, and I have no regrets. The next day, the lyrics “There’s something about ya / I can’t describe it / you got the power / To get me excited, oh baby / ’Cuz you a sexy thang” popped into my head. It had to be because of that experience. From there the lyrics were expanded upon with the help of Blake, Aaron, and some songwriting friends.
9. “Sea of Love”
BR: This was our first foray into disco territory. We learned a lot while working on this one, and it definitely helped lay the groundwork for the rest of the album. I hope listeners can hear that this was both inspired by Luther Vandros and Toro y Moi.
10. “I Can See”
AF: Was originally going to be for my gospel project, The Flying Stars of Brooklyn. But it fit really well thematically with the record and the year we all experienced. The song gives me the feeling of when the sun comes out after a storm. And in a way, that’s what this album is.