Olio: Dgiin is always better mixed with many flavors.
Dgiin's got the international groove
By Heather Seggel
If you've tipped back a few brews at Jasper O'Farrell's or Negri's on a night when local band Dgiin are playing, you might be able to describe their sound to uninitiated listeners. But drop the words "French" and "folk" into the mix, and they'll be throwing catfish in a pot and melting butter before you can stop 'em. It's fair to say Dgiin have a hybrid sound, but while their music is extremely danceable, it owes more to the influence of Jacques Brel than Beausoleil. In short, they ain't Cajun.
Thanks to that rigorous work ethic, the Guerneville-based band have attracted a loyal following over the past three years. "We're really grateful for those fans, because they motivate more people to dance and make it smoother for us to communicate with the public," says singer Mimi Pirard.
A bridge over the communication gap is sometimes needed, because though the band perform some songs in English and Spanish, most of their repertoire is written and performed in French. Mimi and her brother Gabriel, who plays guitar and also sings, are both French-American and grew up moving around with some frequency. Add to that a bass player, Jeff Lashar, with local roots, and drummer Paget (just Paget, thanks), who comes to the band by way of Belize, and you've got a complex, potentially unclassifiable sound to contend with.
A fan termed them a "French folk funk fusion" band, a description with which they mostly agree. Paget, who also acts as booking agent for Dgiin, expands the definition to include "world music, including R&B, blues, calypso, reggae and Latin styles." A listen to their most recent CD, Absint (like their first, Spirits, the title is a play on the "gin/genie/djinni" blended spelling they chose for their name) confirms that all of these influences come into play in some way or other.
The influence of blues on Dgiin's sound is enhanced on Absint with the addition of keyboard player Nathan Prowse, whose style moves from bar room piano to soul-drenched organ work. From the title track, a spare, arresting instrumental that pits hand percussion, bass and guitar in a sort of looping race, to the flamenco strumming and layered harmony of "Tristeza" or the more loose-limbed jam qualities of "Enchante," the group manage to incorporate an atlas of influences into a very organic sound.
For the moment, band members work day jobs between gigs. Paget is the only full-time musician, playing in several local bands. But all are planning--and working--to make the band their job. That's a common dream for musicians, but Dgiin have moved past the dream stage and are gradually making it happen, one step at a time.
This has meant getting out on the road to enlarge their fan base. The band toured Arizona last fall, and plan to return once they get an all-important van. They are making it happen through discipline and continually reinvesting in the band. As Mimi describes it, "Every time we have a gig, we don't pay ourselves. We have a communal band bank account and keep all that money for projects, making new CDs, buying a van and so on," with an eye to "ultimately [touring] France and the rest of Europe." Paget adds, "We all want this to be our full-time gig, and to travel the world doing it. We're very hard-working." Unfortunately, that's why the band he calls "Sonoma County's secret" won't be ours much longer.
When asked about their short-term plans, Mimi allows that the band will be pulling up stakes soon and heading down the coast. "We're going to be moving to Santa Cruz pretty soon, and that will be our next step in terms of expanding [the fan base]," she says, assuring that they'll still be playing up here as often as possible. They've just reprinted their first CD, Spirits, which features conga drumming by Johnathan McChutney, and they're in and out of the studio working on a third album. Catch them while you can, but leave the Mardi Gras beads at home--they'll just get in the way when you hit the dance floor.
Dgiin play Negri's on Friday, April 16. 3700 Bohemian Hwy., Occidental. For details, call 707.823.5301.
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From the April 14-20, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.