Darkness turns to light: White Poppy ends hiatus, set to play first-ever Levitation Vancouver

wp2015After a nine-month hiatus, White Poppy is set to make her highest-profile appearance since returning to the public eye.

This summer, the massively popular Austin Psych Fest, in partnership with Timbre Concerts, introduces the first-ever Levitation Vancouver. They’ll be trading the names that dominate festival flyers year after year for smaller acts – mostly garage, psych, and electronic – each with a highly devoted following. Levitation will debut as one of the most refreshing, and thus most anticipated, music-and-arts festivals to hit the city this year.

White Poppy, real name Crystal Dorval, was seemingly on course for a breakout year in 2013. That September, she released her first LP, a self-titled that gained mentions by SPIN and, more surprisingly, Nylon. A collaborative album with Wisconsin’s Samantha Glass followed, as did Dorval’s first European tour. She also began working on Baby Blue: Sing to the Mystery, a zine aimed at demystifying romanticized notions of “the tortured artist” by exploring the connection between creativity and mental health issues.

Despite this flurry of activity, Dorval pulled back from public after the tour. She nestled herself back into life on a farm on Cobble Hill where she had lived prior to leaving for Europe. “When I first went [to Cobble Hill], I was sort of like, ‘I don’t think I can play shows anymore!’ and I kind of freaked out…. But now that I’ve had that time off, I’m excited to get things back together to play.”

Re-centred and rejuvenated, Dorval gradually re-emerged, first with a Facebook update on New Year’s Day. In her note, she announced that she had finished the second White Poppy album. Aside from “a few production details,” which included mixing by Vancouver pop maestro Jay Arner, and a firm release date, the record was ready to go. “It’s the first album that I’ve done that’s mostly instrumental. There’s only like three songs that have vocals on them…. the album as a whole is just something that can be put on as an accompaniment to someone’s day,…”

In the same post, Dorval announced that she was putting together a band. Though largely motivated by “band envy” and the potential for a more “powerful” sound, she predicts that the creative process will remain the same: “In making the music, I think I’m still going to just be doing it by myself,… I will mostly just be trying to figure out playing songs from the albums live.”

Unfortunately, Dorval’s search for bandmates has been slow: “… I’ve been talking with some friends about it, and I have the idea of the line-up and which instrumentation I envision for it, but I haven’t jammed with anyone yet, and it feels like a really weird obstacle because I haven’t played with other people in my project in a while.”

This past February, Dorval also resumed making physical appearances. She began with an art exhibition at Horses Records entitled Things Left Alone to Think. On display were photos of once cherished, now abandoned alley effects set to electronic soundscapes performed by local duo Orcana and then Dorval herself. “[The objects] probably spoke to me and my own abandonment issues or something,” she wrote on the event’s Facebook page.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu