Originally from L.A. The Last Artful, Dodgr; real name Alana Chenevert made the move to Portland back in 2013. A few years later, a chance meeting with EYRST label co-founder Neill Von Tally would be the catalyst for this unstoppable twosome.
Since that encounter, Dodgr and Tally have come together to create music quite unlike anything out there today. Unable to be pigeonholed these two unleashed their first joint effort, an EP titled Fractures back in 2015. Today, the Portland based duo release Bone Music; an 11-track project that tells the story of a blue-collar worker trying to find the balance between working and their personal relationships.
SFPL’s own Arlene Danna had the opportunity to speak with Dodgr and Tally and gain insight into the inner workings of this unique duo. We discussed the inspiration behind the project, how they met, the relevance of Bone Music given the current political climate of the country, and so much more. Delve into the world of this captivating duo below.
Bone Music drops Feb. 3. Tell us about the project.
Dodgr: It’s the story of a blue-collar worker. It’s like a love story too.
Neill: All of those things are definitely true. The album is definitely a concept album and pretty much through the production, through our features, through what Dodgr does we’re telling the story of these different characters. Ultimately the story is that of a blue-collar worker who is struggling with their relationships and is kind of going through the traditional myriad of things we all experience relationship wise as well as going through the experience of trying to remained employed, and realizing that you have to work your whole life to get these things. So coming to the understand that nothing in life is free, nothing in life is easy and you just have to push through. So that’s the big take away of the narrative we’re telling…
Dodgr: …Without giving too much away.
So how did you guys come up with the concept?
Neill: The concept in a way sort of revealed itself to us. We were working on a lot of music together and we hadn’t necessarily planned on any one album or any one direction. A group of songs started feeling tied together and we realized there was a story we were beginning to tell. Once we got six to seven songs to that story we decided that would be what we would focus on. We essentially tried to round out the plot almost or the trajectory of the characters from the story we were telling with that story.
Bone Music itself the actual concept and where that name comes from is something that I’ve been aware of for a long time. Music was cut into x-rays during Soviet Era Russia when music was illegal. The distribution of music was illegal so a black market was created. So going back to the blue-collar worker and struggling your whole life that aesthetic is somewhat dark and somewhat cold. We realized that could easily be tied to similar things that went on during Soviet Era Russia and that there was sort of this thread going through. So Bone Music is the title and the origins historically of where that comes from are meant to portray the aesthetic we were pushing with the project.
Wow, there’s so much backstory. It’s so interesting that everything sort of ties into the story you were trying to tell. Dodgr I know you’re originally from L.A. How did you guys link up?
Dodgr: I moved to Portland in 2013 and was working at a dispensary in early 2015. Neill actually walked into the dispensary I was working at and one of my coworkers asked me to ring him up. They were like “Dodgr can you ring this guy up” and he was like “The Last Artful, Dodgr” and I was like “Yea, that’s me.” We linked that day. He told me about his studio space and we talked about hanging out and making some music. It just turned into this beautiful combination.
That’s awesome! So Neill you had heard of her?
Neill: Quite literally maybe 4 or 5 days previously was the first time I had heard of her. I was very excited to hear about her because I’m very involved in the Portland music scene and I’m always looking to know what’s going on here. Admittedly I wasn’t trying to seek her out or anything I was just happy to know that she existed and was doing her thing. But you know it’s undeniable. You read about someone and then a few days later they’re standing there in front of you. You can’t really ignore that.
Wow, talk about the universe working its magic.
Neill: Absolutely. Definitely serendipity there.
So at that point Neill were you already working with EYRST and developing that?
Neill: Yes, I co-founded EYRST with Martell. Essentially Martell was the financial backer and monetary founder behind it and then on my end I was more the vision and the goal. Why the label exists and what we’re trying to do. I had sort of picked out a few people who were going to help start EYRST and had gotten the initial funding and a studio space set-up. We had signed a few artists already. I definitely at that point wasn’t planning on signing anymore people but again Dodgr and I worked so well together there was no reason to not do this project under EYRST.
In your interview with Sway you described the project as this “dystopian industrial universe.” Do you feel that’s something that kind of ties into the current climate of the country and the things that are going on?
Dodgr: We actually just had this conversation in the studio yesterday. How Bone Music is proving itself to be a little revelatory and maybe even predicting some circumstances. I called it a post-industrial dystopian universe. You really could put Bone Music anytime in the near future, the far future, the past and it could be of relevance to what’s going on. There’s always going to be destruction. There’s always going to be turmoil within society and Bone Music is pretty much describing the inner turmoil that one faces amongst all the external is going on out in the world.
Neill: We sort of realized it’s even more relevant than we thought it would be. Which again we would never wish these circumstances to be the circumstances under which we’re releasing the project but at the same time we really hope that the project can speak to people. Maybe even more now and provide some solace or comfort in a sense. Being able to listen to the music and know that you’re not the only person that feels someway about what’s going on.
That’s something that I noticed EYRST prides itself on. This idea of creating music people can enjoy but also providing a sense of activism through that as well.
Neill: Yes, definitely. One of the main mission statements for EYRST is to ride that fine line between activism; where reality is and the fact that we need to be responsible human beings; but also the fact that we need a chance to let go. Escapism is a necessary tool for survival and you can’t really function as a human being if you’re always trying to escape or always focused on the harshness of reality. You’re either super depressed and won’t get anything done or you’re bouncing around so much you’re not really making a difference. We all need to in some ways at least do our part.
Dodgr I saw that you had the opportunity to perform as a backup singer for Aminé on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon when he performed his hit “Caroline.” How was that experience?
Dodgr: It was a lot of fun. I got a Facetime from Aminé like 3 days before he wanted me to fly out to New York. He told me he had this opportunity to be on Fallon and we wanted to make sure that his hometown was represented properly. So he wanted me to be one of his backup singers and help him with his hit song. Shoutout to that dude for giving me that experience. It was a lot of fun hanging out backstage and just getting to see The Tonight Show. That set is a lot smaller than one would expect. It’s super tiny but the people who work there are awesome and I can’t wait to go back on my own. Well not on my own with Neill actually but I mean not as someone’s backup singer. [Laughs]
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the project?
Dodgr: There’s a Instagram multiverse that we want people to definitely seek out. It’s @BoneMusicMultiverse. From there we’re revealing an accompanying screenplay and a bunch of different choose your own adventure style things.
Neill: We tried to just build this sort of multimedia universe so if people want to get into what we intended for the album they can but of course we want people to bring their own interpretations and come to their own decisions on what it is. Art honestly really comes to have its meaning on an individual level. We have a screenplay and some little things that we hope people will check out. It exists now. A couple of the songs are linked and then on Friday the rest will become unlocked. You’ll be able to go to an Instagram through the multiverse that represents each individual song so there’s 12 different Instagram accounts essentially.
Bone Music is available now on iTunes. It is also available for streaming on Spotify.
Instagram + Twitter: @TheLastArtful & @NeillVonTally
About The Last Artful, Dodgr x Neill Von Tally
A buzzing duo based in Portland, OR these two are quickly making noise in the music industry. With beats and production handled by Von Tally, their music features Dodgr’s unique take on Hip-Hop and R&B. The sonics take listeners on a journey, telling stories of balancing a discordant home life and relationships with life lessons learned along the way. Dodgr’s voice is a threat in every dimension; equipped with memorable melodies, an agile flow, and puckish, often ostentatious wordplay. Previously, Dodgr and Von Tally released a debut EP Fractures in 2015, followed by the Rare Treat EP in early 2016, which was a collaboration with Myke Bogan. This spring, The Last Artful, Dodgr released her solo single “Squadron” to acclaim. Most recently, the duo released a captivating music video for their buzzed-about song “Jelly Hunt.” Dodgr’s music has received praise from the likes of Pigeons and Planes, Earmilk, Milk, 2dopeboyz, Uproxx, Beats 1 and more.