Interview: The Volcano Diary

Alicia Dara is answering new questions.

As a Seattle-based singer/songwriter she released five records and toured extensivley over 10+ years.  The latest, 2008’s The Secret Dream of Tigers, felt like the final chapter of that story.  All the questions had been answered.  It was time to find some new questions and start making music in a new way.

Now, as the frontwoman of The Volcano Diary, Dara is exploring new sonic territory via collaboration.  In addition to working with skilled guitarist Gus Palaskas, Dara is navigating this new project with producer and Northwest music icon Steve Fisk (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Soul Coughing, etc) on their debut, self-titled album.  The result is a dynamic and multi-textured sound that is still rooted in lyrics and songcraft.  The joy of creative process embedded in this record is audible in the twists, turns, and layers of experimentation. Ultimately, the record feels like what it is – less of an intentional statement and more like an exciting beginning – which, in many ways, is much more fun.

It was an absolute pleasure to sit down with Alicia in a classic Seattle coffee shop and talk about my favorite themes:  beginnings, transitions, and community around music.  The full interview is below, in mp3 clips, preceded by two excerpts.  This was my first interview with a Seattle-based musician that has been pounding the pavement for several years, so I was even more excited than usual to hear Dara’s perspectives.  With all the invaluable insights, it was difficult to choose which parts of the interview to highlight.  In the end, I selected a couple quotes that are more macro-level about Seattle’s unique qualities as a home for music and musicians:

“The Seattle music scene is quite amazing – very rich and diverse.  It’s definitely recovered and rebounded so beautifully from having to carry the legacy of Grunge. When I first moved to Seattle Grunge was this giant monster that gobbled everything up and barfed it out again.  It was like everybody lost that range of their hearing because everything was so loud and sludgy, and musicians were kind of like, with this giant question mark, ‘what are we doing [now/next]?’  It’s kind of taken this long to rebound.” – Alicia Dara, The Volcano Diary

“Unlike other cities I’ve been in, [Seattle has] an unspoken but very powerful system of giving and receiving favors.  The Seattle music community is very much a barter community in the way that people interact with each other musically, and people seem to be very generous and to enjoy a system of trading skills and resources. But the trick around here, I find, is that many people are very reluctant to ask for things.  The emotional constitution here is very low key and it’s not common practice to draw a lot of attention to yourself or be a big self-promoter – in general that’s frowned upon.  But if you can get beneath that and tap into the network of resources it’s actually quite cool.” – Alicia Dara, The Volcano Diary

MH: “What is the origin story of The Volcano Diary?”

[audio:|titles=The Volcano Diary Interview 1]

MH: “How would you characterize the Seattle music ‘scene’?”

[audio:|titles=The Volcano Diary Interview 2]

MH:  “How would you characterize music community here?”

[audio:|titles=The Volcano Diary Interview 3]

MH: “What are some inhibitors to true community around music in Seattle that you have experienced?”

[audio:|titles=The Volcano Diary Interview 4]

MH:  “What is the most encouraging thing you’ve seen in terms of building community around music in Seattle?”

[audio:|titles=The Volcano Diary Interview 5]

MH:  “How has your understanding of music community, and your role in it, changed over time?”

[audio:|titles=The Volcano Diary Interview 6]

MH: “What was the experience of working with producer Steve Fisk like for you?”

[audio:|titles=The Volcano Diary Interview 8]

MH: “What advice would you give to a new band in a big new city?”

[audio:|titles=The Volcano Diary Interview 7]

Thanks again to Alicia Dara for taking the time to sit down with me.  Take a listen to my favorite track from the record, “Lightning Seed,” on the Mid By Northwest Pop-Up Radio Player.

EDIT/UPDATE:  Seattle’s insane weather this week forced a cancellation of this CD Release show.  Stay tuned for details on the reschedule.

For more info and to connect with The Volcano Diary on your social network of choice, visit


  1. Sorry to hear that their record release was canceled due to the weather in Seattle! I look forward to catching them live soon–keep us posted!

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