Ardalan’s Hosting a Mardi Gras Parade at Dirtybird Campout
After a decade-plus with the label, the funky S.F. producer and DJ will release his debut full-length, Mr. Good, in November.
Just how visibly San Franciscan is Ardalan? Enough that the press shots for his forthcoming debut album Mr. Good show him on a 38-Geary bus, reading a copy of the Examiner with the almost-too-perfect headline “Late Night Pit Stop.” The actual story might be about 24-hour restroom facilities, but in this context, it sounds like a party that never, ever ends.
“All the stars were aligned for this,” he tells SF Weekly of the semi-impromptu shoot. “And the fact that there’s a couple people in the press photo is awesome.”
A resident of the city’s West Side, Ardalan had to move before finishing the record, whose completion has been a long time coming in spite of the fact that he’s been a staple of Dirtybird — both the label and the many parties — for more than a decade. He’s been to every West Coast Dirtybird Campout since the beginning, and he’ll be at the next one, held the first weekend in October at Modesto Reservoir Campgrounds. A consistent collaborator with other Dirtybird staples, he’ll now have the lead single from Mr. Good, “I Can’t Wait,” to dangle at his set. But if he’s such a reliable presence, why did it take so long to get a proper record out?
“I didn’t know how to tell a story with just an EP,” he says. “I’d released a lot of music just with Dirtybird because I live in San Francisco and the Dirtybird crew are like family to me, so I was comfortable enough to be like, ‘I have a lot of songs that I’m making that I don’t think would fit in just a single.’ ”
He got some tough love about it from the label’s masters, Justin Martin and Claude VonStroke, who used to tease him about waking up in time to move his car ahead of the street cleaners then spending the rest of the day eating McDonald’s. Further, he admits to a fair amount of self-consciousness about his work.
“I felt like I was at this point in my career where I felt like I was lost, in the sense that people didn’t know who I was in terms of what I was going to play or what music I was going to express — and this album is the answer,” he says. “I don’t want anyone to think I’m just making the same music as everyone else. Obviously, Claude really helped me. He was just like, ‘Why don’t you make a song loop every day, and from there take it into your album? If you make a loop every day for the next month, I’ll let you do an album.’ ”
After working “for so long that I lost my mind” on the song that would eventually become the album’s as-yet-unreleased title track, Ardalan completed “I Can’t Wait” in barely a day. All but a handful of songs on Mr. Good came out of the last four months, in fact. If you deduce from this timeline that Ardalan is sitting on a pile of unreleased tracks, you’d be right.
One is a new track he’s created under the moniker Escapade, a joint project with labelmates Walker & Royce. Escapade played an incredible set at this year’s Lightning in a Bottle that fed into another two-hour freakout by Shiba San, and while all those acts will be at Campout, there won’t be an Escapade set per se. (At the conclusion of Ardalan’s album tour, currently with dates through early 2020, that track and its B-side will see the light of day.)
Since the whole point of Dirtybird Campout is that it’s a three-day sleepaway camp complete with tug-o’-war, dodgeball, and other excuses to give people wedgies, along with yoga, tie-eye, and a talent show, performers have activities that they lead. Known for his periodic Ardy Parties — a poolside pair-up with Desert Hearts that’s also a Lonely Island reference, if you didn’t know — Ardalan is throwing an Ardy Parade, which will be Mardi Gras-themed in some way, although the details have yet to be worked out in full. But it’s probably going to be before his set, he says.
In the meantime, Ardalan remains a spontaneity-loving act with a predilection for Tetris-like layering and a density of sounds. Lisa Simpson’s observation that “you have to listen to the notes [he’s] not playing” applies to his method, but there’s always plenty of room for dance floor fun, as on “I Can’t Wait,” which samples vocals from Ardalan’s real-life girlfriend.
“I always love to fit as much as I can in my tracks, but then I go back and reduce things. Playing with space in music is the best,” he says. “I make sure everything has its own place. Like that Radiohead song.
“The dark matter is what helps everything else,” he adds, “if I can get Carl Sagan about it.”
Dirtybird Campout, Friday-Sunday, Oct. 4-6, at Modesto Reservoir Campgrounds, $275-$425, tickets here.