doula/musician domino kirke on getting sober and her debut album
The singer discusses marriage and music. And premieres a track from her debut LP, 'Beyond Waves.'
Photography Shervin Lainez, courtesy of the artist
It's no secret that the Kirke family has been thriving in the New York arts scene over the past few years. While sisters Jemima and Lola have pursued acting, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Domino has been running a doula collective and making music. First signed at 17, Domino formed DOMINO with friend Jordan Galland in 2000 and toured with Lily Allen and Gang of Four. Over the years, Domino has continued to release EPs, but now she's stepping out on her own, releasing her folk-tinged pop debut LP, Beyond Waves, later this month.
Beyond Waves is a collaborative effort: Domino co-wrote the songs with Luke Temple of Here We Go Magic and co-produced the record with Joan As Police Woman's Joan Wasser. The album focuses on family, wrapping up loose ends, and learning to let go.
The song "Friend of the Family," premiering below, conveys what it was like to grow up surrounded and supported by influential people (Domino's father, Simon Kirke, was the drummer for Free and Bad Company; her mother Lorraine ran the cult boutique Geminola in Greenwich Village). "'Friend of the Family' is about growing up with a lot of people in my house that weren't related," Domino explains. "My parents were very social, so some of my closest friends and mentors came into my life from growing up with very festive parents. [The song] pays homage to these people who taught me so much about myself." The track is stark and poetic — Domino isn't afraid to stray away from being pitch-perfect. But that's the beauty of it.
To begin, can you tell me about the process of making this album?
Well, it took me a year to make. I think making lots of EPs over the past few years was really a result of being a single parent and not having enough time to really dig in for a full-length record. I finally got together enough songs and just sorta jumped into the studio very last minute with my friend Joan, who produced it. It seemed like the perfect time.
Why did you chose the single "Beyond Waves" to open the record?
It felt like the most important song because it was the last song I recorded, and it was a really great way for me to round up the experience. It was an instrumental song that Luke and his friend Mike wrote for Here We Go Magic. It never got on any of their records. I wrote lyrics to it and they kind of flew out of my mouth. It felt like everything I hadn't said yet on the record I was able to say through that song, so I decided to start the whole journey with it.
How did falling in love and getting married influence the record?
It all happened quite quickly. I got married and it was a bit of a whirlwind I wasn't expecting for the next phase for Penn [Badgley] and I. To be honest, it came as a huge surprise, and it happened after the record was made so it's been a very busy year.
What does the title Beyond Waves mean to you?
The record speaks to a lot of the experiences that I had in the past, since my son was born, and for me it was about releasing that as I was agreeing to start the next chapter in my life. Luke actually came up with the title as a joke for the song when they were demoing it. For me, it felt perfect right out of the gate. I'm very interested in having a "non-wavy" time in my life right now. It's been quite a ride up until that point.
Are you still a doula as well?
Yes, I do doula work really to just stay sane. It's grounding for me to be a service to other people, especially pregnant people. I run a doula collective. I act as the director, and I play an administrator role. So, I'm not as on call anymore, but I mentor other doulas. Now I'm trying to find ways to balance both supporting a record and being available for the collective. It's going to be an interesting balancing act.
How did your upbringing influence the way you make music?
We were always encouraged to make art. It was about being creative and letting those juices flow, instead of being academic. I had the dream of making music as a career. There was never a plan B for me until I had my son, and I realized that I wanted to help people. It influenced me heavily growing up with artistic parents. But all of my siblings obviously had the same experience because they're artistic in their own right and are making careers out of it too. There was never a dull moment in my house when it came to music. My parents encouraged me to take classes, and I had a really hefty after-school schedule with the performing arts. I got into LaGuardia High School, and I was overwhelmed with the idea of studying what I love so young.
Do you want music to be your full-time focus?
I want to be able to do it all but I also understand that it takes time to build a career in music. I'm really willing to carve out the time and the stage to get this record all the support it needs, and put the doula work down for a while because the on-call lifestyle is pretty intense. It doesn't really lend itself to performing. So I think I'm going to find a way to have both, but definitely the music is going to come first.
Do you have plans to collaborate with your family?
Penn and I want to write a record together. Jemima is going to be making one of our music videos, so that's exciting. She just finished a wonderful music video for Alex Cameron, which she stars in, so I'm super excited for her to direct.
What's the overall theme of the record for you?
It's one of the first times in my life I'm sober. I'm a mother of an older child. Everything is very serious and very rich, and it's me looking back on so many years of being alive. Relationships that have come and gone. I lost a lot of family members. I was unearthing my past, and these songs really helped me to do that. This record really taught me a lot, to be honest.
When did you get sober and what inspired that decision?
I've been sober for three years. I never really was a big partier, but it kind of caused me to be in these melancholy, depressive states that were more of the problem. It wasn't the actual going out at night and being crazy, it was more the way I was feeling in-between. So, I chose to take it out of my life, and I grew up with a lot of addiction and a lot of artists who had substance issues. For me, it just was a way to stop a cycle and to say goodbye to some way of living 'cause it really is handed down from person to person. I do believe it is a family illness. For me it was just choosing a different path, and it certainly influenced my record; the people I made it with, a lot of my bandmates, are sober. I have a really strong meditation and prayer practice, and I just feel like I'm awake for the first time since I was a child, really. I feel like this record is the first of many.
What do you hope the record brings to over people?
Some peace. These songs are gentle, lush and kind. There are so many stories woven into them that they're so lyrical. I just want people to get a better sense of who I am through this record and be loved as well. I want this record to feel like it's giving you a hug. It's really helped me ease out of a phase in my life.
Text Ilana Kaplan
Photography Shervin Lainez, courtesy of the artist