Dance Spirit uses music to capture “the beauty that the painting by Van Gogh evokes for us”
Reagan Denius and Christopher Mohn are two Angelenos who make up the techno band Dance Spirit. The duo has played at Coachella, Desert Hearts—an electronic dance music festival in San Diego County that recently celebrated its third anniversary—and Verboten in Brooklyn, amongst other popular venues. We recently noticed that they’d released an EP called Drowning in Irises that was inspired, interestingly enough, by Van Gogh’s Irises here at the Getty.
The guys started the year on the road, and for our #GettyInspired series I caught up with them to talk Van Gogh, sunsets, hometowns, and what it’s like living (and getting accustomed to) the artist’s life.
When did you guys get started, and how long have you identified as Dance Spirit?
Reagan was born in Austin, Texas, and moved to L.A. when he was five. Chris was born in Durango, Colorado, and moved to San Diego when he was seven. We’ve lived in L.A. collectively, and have been best friends and art collaborators for the last nine years. We started Dance Spirit at the beginning of 2012 and have been having fun ever since.
Do you see music? And is your music inspired by the visual? It really depends on the moment, mood, and situation. Sometimes we aren’t hyper-aware of sonic vibrations or sounds that can spark the imagination. With our new song “Drowning In Irises,” we were trying to capture the beauty that the painting by Van Gogh evokes for us.
With all of its different moods, layers, and colors, we attempted to convey the same kind of application to our medium of music as Van Gogh did with his paintings. It actually might be a nice way of experimenting with music to keep creating in this manner and interpreting art that moves us, while trying to reflect it sonically.
What is it about Van Gogh’s Irises, specifically, that speaks to you?
Van Gogh’s Irises specifically speaks to me on a personal level. It is one of the few Van Gogh paintings on permanent display in Los Angeles, and I make trips to the Getty just to look at this painting, as well as the other Impressionists hanging in that room. Like all of Van Gogh’s paintings, its emotional and psychological qualities really evoke and move my emotions, I’m sure mostly because he was in an asylum at this point.
The use of color, line, and texture show signs of a troubled and beautiful mind trying to capture nature in his own way. For some reason I am always fascinated by the single white iris in the painting. I often wonder if it was intentionally painted white, or if there was actually a single white iris in the garden he was painting. I also wonder if there is any symbolism attached to the notion: perhaps it’s a statement of his loneliness or his individuality. Either way this painting has always been something that I appreciate on a deep level, like watching a sunset or looking at the stars. It tranquilizes me and lets my mind wander endlessly.
How often do you take a break from creating, and what does a “break” mean for you?
We don’t really ever stop creating; that seems impossible. We are always working on multiple projects, between the two of us. Our creative interests and pursuits cover a wide span of interests and passions. It’s easy to get burned out from time to time, and that is when it’s necessary to watch a funny movie or get back to nature or hang with friends, but overall our lives are very constructive and creative.
What’s your secret? Is it being on the road, or stopping to catch a sunset? What keeps you guys motivated to make music day after day?
There is no real secret. It takes a long time to get accustomed to the artist’s life. It is filled to the brim with uncertainty and challenges; however, once you have the strength to accept those realities, it’s easy to approach your time and projects with enchantment and enthusiasm. Being on the road is nice because you are connecting with people and learning what moves people, and how people respond to your ideas on a dance floor. Sunsets should be appreciated, and any time you can take advantage of those moments, you know you are getting a little zen. That’s always a good way to reset the creative mind.
Making music day after day is mostly a response to the passion that we have for other artists and music in general. The more music we listen to, the more we are influenced and inspired to keep creating in response to what we feel is going on in the art of underground dance culture.
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