photo by  @ND_Koster

photo by @ND_Koster

 

DONCAT is Duncan Nielsen, a San Francisco based songwriter and performer with a penchant for rock, soul and folk stylings. His songs draw from the deep history of California counter-culture music and discuss both the hope and uncertainty of the American dream in kaleidoscopic cynicism.

 

Vocals, Guitar / Duncan Nielsen
Bass / Chris Sugiura
Drums / Kyle Kelly-Yahner
Keys / Jesse Cafiero

 

Duncan Nielsen has sported the moniker ‘DONCAT’ since 2013. Since then he’s lived in a vista-abundant neighborhood in San Francisco, CA, just south of Haight-Ashbury perched on a hill. From almost anywhere in his house the eye can reach the eastern edge of the city, as well as downtown. On most days, just on the shoulders of the hill behind his house, fingers of heavy fog quietly creep in. He spends a lot of time just sitting in what he calls the Princess Room - a small, light, airy box of windows - staring out at the panoramic view.

“Sometimes I have a guitar in my hands but I'm not even playing. Like, I forget to play cause I'm just lost in my head and simultaneously staring at the view. I do get things done though, lots of demoing and writing up there.”

Nielsen’s youth both informs and structures his meditative songwriting process. He was raised with horses on acres of land in a pristine, quiet valley, away from the asphalt upbringing of his elementary school chums. As a kid, he spent the lion’s share of his time mucking stalls, playing basketball (his coach gave him dribbling goggles but they were useless in a dirt and gravel driveway) and channeling classic rock on a crappy Squire guitar while his older brother played drums.

His growing affinity for the golden age of music only continued to separate him from his peers. In junior-high, he gifted Led Zeppelin I at a birthday party and was ostracized. By the time he entered high school, he found himself as the token kid-with-a-guitar: loved by all and known by none. This bolstered his penchant for writing iconoclastic songs, as well as skipping high school to surf alone.

These days, Nielsen moves from his grandmother’s Wurlitzer piano to his father’s hand-me-down acoustic guitar writing songs at home. He sits in front of a four-track cassette recorder and gets the bones of his songs together with the minimal offerings of that dusty, anachronistic piece of gear.

Upcoming release 'Preservation of The Spirit' is a brief 8 tracks, but delivers concise themes of artifice, modern myth, disintegrating social fabric, and, as the title namely outlines, preserving ones spirit when it's time to, well, face the music. Each song is a distinctly American narrative rife with poignant satire. In 'Once I Went to Las Vegas' Nielsen sings, "I'm smoking cigars in a cheap suit/eating foie gras in a restaurant, five stars/are these my lucky cards?" The album shifts casually between swirling, hypnotizing textures and reckless, loud, electric-guitar bravado - a tasteful blend and welcome progression from his earlier, folkier leanings.

Nielsen's fourth effort to date explores a more live approach to recording, showcasing the talents of his band of four years.  Current members include Chris Sugiura on bass, Kyle Kelly-Yahner on drums, and Jesse Cafiero on keys.  The bulk of it was recorded at Phil Manley-owned El Studio - yes, as in The Studio - over the course of 5 long days.

To date, Nielsen’s songs have been featured in network television series and independent films such as Jessica Biel's "The Sinner," ABC's "Nashville" and "Through The Rye." He’s opened shows for The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser, Hayden, and Julia Holter. He's done several nationwide tours as guitarist, vocalist and keyboard player for Geographer. 'Preservation of The Spirit' is due out May 18th via Marble Eye Music.