For Matthew Doty, Deserta has always been about exploring a sonic universe that allows him to express a kaleidoscope of emotions, without having to say much at all. Through a patchwork of reverb-tinged textures – drone guitars, lingering synths and driving percussion – the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist weaves together stories of care, frustration and catharsis that ultimately stretch to a gentle resolve. On new album Every Moment, Everything You Need, Doty chronicles the kind of year we all fear, full of uncertainty, tension and sustained pressure, and transforms it into a celebration of perseverance. It’s an essential reminder that we have the power to shape the stories we tell.
Stepping out as Deserta in 2020, Doty’s debut solo album Black Aura My Sun garnered critical acclaim for its gorgeous, experimental ruminations on new fatherhood, where shifting perspectives and challenges were relished with a cinematic flair. Follow-up full-length Every Moment, Everything You Need continues these explorations but with a louder, more aggressive tone that mirrors the difficult year Doty – and many others – experienced.
The pandemic meant that Doty had to give up his studio and downsize a lot of his gear and instead, carve out a space in his two-bedroom apartment to craft the next chapter of Deserta. Sharing the space with his wife and son, Doty and his partner are also essential healthcare workers, which meant the couple would often have to tag-team childcare with alternating 13-hour days in PPE with ever changing guidelines and protocols. On their days off, construction noise would drill through the walls on all sides of the apartment in the developing LA neighborhood, while helicopters, sirens, protests and police chases would soundtrack the evening hours. This, along with a small toddler in need of mental stimulation, companionship and basic needs, saw Doty pushed to his limit. “We had two days together as a family per month, it was never enough.”
Describing himself as “an introvert without a retreat,” during those claustrophobic, overwhelming months, they ultimately led to a spontaneous release of creativity, with Every Moment, Everything You Need mostly written in the hour or two when Doty’s son was having his bedtime routine. It was a tiny window where Doty was able to focus on the project and the result is an album that feels urgent and necessary; where Doty’s artistry broke through every bump in the road, not because he simply wanted to write, but because he simply had to.
Once the blueprint for Every Moment, Everything You Need was set, Doty reached out to a number of collaborators to stitch together his vision for the sonic landscape. James McAlister (Sufjan Stevens, The National) came onboard to perform and record drums, while Caroline Lufkin (Mice Parade) wrote and performed vocals on the ethereal “Where Did You Go.” Elsewhere, the LP was mixed by Dave Fridmann (Tame Impala, Mogwai, Interpol), with Beach House and Slowdive producer Chris Coady engineering and co-producing, making this the first time Fridmann and Coady had worked together on a project.
Demoing everything in his duplex apartment, Doty wasn’t able to play his guitar through an amplifier, or sing to his full volume, so he re-recorded all of the guitars and vocals with Coady. The collaboration with Coady also urged Doty to push beyond his usual restraint when it came to vocals, swapping his fast-track approach for a more organic method. “Chris had me sing entire songs front to back, many times over again, without reverb on the vocal track… all of which was unfamiliar territory,” Doty says. When it came to Fridmann, Doty says that the producer and Mercury Rev founder made Every Moment, Everything You Need a more pugnacious and authoritative album, with even the more upbeat songs reaching punchier heights.
While the vocals are more prominent than Deserta’s previous album, it’s their amalgamation with the instrumental aspects that secures Every Moment, Everything You Need as Deserta’s most confident and assured release to date. An affecting emotional candor teamed with persistent riffs and tenacious rhythms sees Doty unafraid to dive deeper; an unrestrained approach that ushers in a lustrous purging of agitation and anxiety. Showcasing those dark, exhaustive thoughts through crucial swells and looped, electronic soundscapes, it’s an LP that’s infinitely layered, with something new to discover with each and every enchanting listen.