Damon & Naomi - Biography
When Galaxie 500 broke up in 1990 so that singer/guitarist Dean Wareham (always the driving force of that band) could form Luna, rhythm players Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang didn't see much of a future for themselves in music. They had been hurt by their longtime friend and bandmate in a decision that seemed to come from nowhere and was revealed to them right before they were scheduled to tour Tokyo, something they were very excited about. But Wareham, who recounts the misery he felt in Galaxie 500 (and even in Luna) in his recent book, Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance, had little sympathy for his bandmates, a dating couple who spent all their time together and often had the same opinion, one that was usually at odds with Wareham's. Whether it was Wareham's fault or their own, Damon & Naomi had a future to think about. And, initially, music was far from their minds.
Nonetheless, the couple had some demos they'd recorded and decided to release them as an EP in 1991, calling themselves Pierre Etoile. But that was it. Right afterward, they committed themselves to running Exact Change, a small publishing house they'd started up in 1990, specializing in Dadaist and Surrealist writing. If they played music, and they certainly did from time to time, it was only for their own enjoyment.
And then someone intervened. Mark Kramer (known simply as Kramer) had been very close to Galaxie 500, practically discovering them, producing all three of their influential LPs, and even joining them on the road. Whereas communication between the duo and Wareham had become nonexistent, Kramer remained in their lives and was now coaxing them into recording their new material for his Shimmy Disc label. The couple at first refused but eventually gave in and headed to New Jersey to join the producer at his Noise New Jersey studios. What resulted in the ensuing sessions was their debut full-length LP, More Sad Hits, issued on Shimmy Disc in 1992. For the release, they jettisoned the Pierre Etoile moniker and simply recorded under their own names, Damon & Naomi. Krukowski, who had been restricted to the drum set in their old band, was now free to additionally sing and play guitar. Yang reprised her role from Galaxie 500, playing bass and singing. Although the release didn't stack up against any of the three Galaxie 500 albums, it did find the duo holding their own and was a worthwhile set of well-crafted, arty pop songs.
Now that they had granted the wish of their friend Kramer, the couple felt comfortable to get back to their publishing house and shelve their musical inclinations once again. And once again, the retirement didn't last. Kate Biggar and Wayne Rogers (of the psychedelic punk/folk rockers Crystallized Movements) contacted Damon & Naomi, hoping to recruit them as their rhythm section. The latter duo accepted, leading to the formation of a new band called Magic Hour. The quartet released an album per year during their three-year tenure: No Excess is Absurd (1994), Will They Turn You On or Will They Turn On You? (1995) and Secession 96 (1996), all on the Twisted Village label. Though they didn’t tour, they played a few shows around New England.
While in Magic Hour, Damon & Naomi continued running Exact Change and even released another Kramer-produced album, The Wondrous World of Damon & Naomi (1995 Sub Pop). Here the group's artiness got in the way on a few songs and it was beginning to seem as if the couple were better off as providing a rhythm section for someone else. Once the latter group disbanded, Damon & Naomi went back into the studio to record their first album without Kramer, and their first as a married couple. The newlyweds came away with their best album up to that point, Playback Singers (1997 Sub Pop), preceded by the single, “The Navigator.” At last the duo were matching their reliance on ghostly, ambient production with great songwriting.
For the next few years, Damon & Naomi enjoyed on and off collaborations with Michio Kurihara (of the Japanese psychedelic folk band Ghost) which culminated in the 2000 release of Damon & Naomi with Ghost (Sub Pop). Giving credence to the belief that the duo are better when they're collaborating with outside musicians, the LP contained some of the best music they'd recorded since Galaxie 500. In 2002, a live album featuring a set they'd recorded in Spain, Live in San Sebastian, was released on Sub Pop, highlighting the music they'd made with Kurihara on the Ghost LP. A companion DVD came with it, featuring a Yang-directed tour documentary.
Damon & Naomi amicably parted ways with Sub Pop after Live and started their own label, 20/20/20. In 2004, Krukowski released a book of his poetry, The Memory Theater Burned, on Turtle Point Press. Valentine's Day of 2005 saw the release of Damon & Naomi's first album on 20/20/20, The Earth is Blue, a consistently beautiful album that featured guest appearances from Kurihara. Two years later, they returned with perhaps their most assured release to date, Within These Walls (2007 20/20/20), a release that finds the duo expanding their sound even further; including horn, string arrangements and lush guitar playing from Kurihara, who seems to have become a full-time member.