There is a deliriously sad quality to Nona Marie Invie of Dark Dark Dark’s voice that can make even the happiest song seem heartwrenching. There’s a good reason fans often refer to her as an old soul; her hardy, unwavering voice helps to chisel down her emotions to their finest points. Add in a backing chorus of nearly a dozen like-minded female singers, and the effect is downright devastating.
Though Nona has been experimenting with choral elements in Dark Dark Dark for a while now, it wasn’t until recently that she broke off the backing singers into her own group. First known as Nona Marie and the Choir and now billed as the Anonymous Choir, the group has released two cassette tape EPs and has been gigging around town this winter while Dark Dark Dark is on a songwriting break. In anticipation of their gig tomorrow night at the Turf Club with the Daredevil Christopher Wright and We Are the Willows, I called up Nona to find out what this new choir project is all about.
Local Current: When did you first have the idea to form a choir?
Nona Marie Invie: It came up with Dark Dark Dark, when we wanted to have some more backing harmonies. And then as time has gone on I wanted to have it be my own project and work with a bunch of my women friends who wanted to sing.
How did you select the members for the choir?
They’re just friends. I was talking about the idea of starting a choir, and gauging people’s interest, and a bunch of my friends wanted to sing. It was great.
Were you in choirs growing up, at school or in church?
Yeah, when I was really young I was in the church choir. Like in junior high. But nothing really professional.
Do you write the arrangements for the other singers?
I do, yeah, I do all the arranging.
Did you have experience doing that kind of arranging before?
Not really, only just from writing piano music, and thinking about things in that way.
Is it difficult to keep the voices balanced? I noticed on the recordings your voice is at the forefront.
Yeah, I think we’re sort of learning. The more we sing together and the more we perform, we’re learning about balancing each other out. There’s a few people who have been in choirs before, but most of us it’s our first time going at it like this.
What are some things you’ve learned so far, experimenting this way?
I think just about how we communicate with each other, and how to make people feel comfortable singing. Like singing confidently, and expressing ourselves comfortably that way.
Are there people in the choir that hadn’t performed before?
Yeah, most people it seems, hadn’t, this is their first musical project.
How do you choose which songs to cover?
So far, the songs have just been a lot of my favorite songs, and then choir members will mention that they want to do something, so I’ll try to get everybody’s input.
I was reading an article that talked about how sad all the songs are…
I’m wondering, is there a specific vibe that you’re going for, with the songs that you choose?
I might just be attracted to songs that are a little more tragic. [laughs] And then I think the female vocals can really bring out those intense emotions in songs.
You recently changed the name to the Anonymous Choir (from Nona Marie and the Choir). Is that in an effort to take the focus off of you?
Definitely. I think that having my name is kind of a distraction for me, and it will be nice, because it is a full group effort, it will be nice that we’re all involved in that way, on equal footing.
Are you planning any more releases?
Hopefully — actually, Mark Trehus from Treehouse Records is going to put out, on his label Nero’s Neptune, they’re going to put out our tape on vinyl. So that will come out sometime this year. It’s just going to be a limited edition. Hopefully we’ll have time to record this summer. I want to go up to Sacred Heart and record, and then we could put out another thing on vinyl or cassette.
Are you going to SXSW?
I am, not with the choir though. With Dark Dark Dark.
Has Dark Dark Dark been on something of a hiatus this winter?
Yeah, we have been. It’s been mostly for songwriting, so we’re going to record a new record in May and I’ve been writing a bunch of new material this winter. We’re going to get together, actually starting this weekend we start touring again for the next couple of months, we’ll be pretty busy through June.
So for your songwriting in Dark Dark Dark, you split apart and work on things separately?
Yeah. Because people have their own lives in Chicago and New Orleans. I’m the only one living in Minneapolis now.
Is it hard to stay connected that way?
I think that it’s good. I think it works out well for us. Because we all have — people have other bands in other cities that they want to spend time on, too, and then we can come together for these intense periods of time and have a lot of energy for Dark Dark Dark, and then be able to know that we have a couple months off where we can do other things.