A Lil Chat With Iska Dhaaf at CHBP 2016

Perhaps you’ve heard their songs on KEXP as you’re driving down to Madison Park, or you’ve recently seen their mesmerizing album art for their new LP, The Wanting Creature. Or, perhaps, this is your first time hearing about this band. Regardless on how you’ve found them, consider yourself lucky. Together, Benjamin Verdoes and Nathan Quiroga are Iska Dhaaf, a rhythm-heavy, sound-experimenting band based in both Seattle and Brooklyn. Previously, both Verdoes (Mt. Sr. Helens Vietnam Band) and Quiroga (Mad Rad and Buffalo Madonna) were in Seattle-based bands, but in 2011, they formed Iska Dhaaf with the intention of exploring their creative wills (and trust me when I say I think they’ve done that and then some). Although their creative vision is constant, their sound is always developing, molding, and changing—it ranges from gritty to haunting to mellow—but no matter the type of sound, Iska Dhaaf never fails to impress.

They have had quite the list of gigs this year, from Fisherman’s Village Music Festival, Sasquatch Music Festival, and even a killer sold out show at The Crocodile, to celebrate the release of The Wanting Creature. The album has received positive attention from all different outlets, including Noisey, Clash Magazine and more.


Photo by Jordan Strong

Iska Dhaaf has been a pal of KXSU for quite some time now (they’ve played at our studio before, and they’re straight up homies). I caught up with them after their set at Capitol Hill Block Party! Check it out:

KXSU: How did Iska Dhaaf come to be?
Nathan: Benjamin started shadowing my producer at the time.  He wanted to learn how to make beats.  He heard my voice/words and was intrigued by my writing. He wanted to meet for coffee to discuss lyrics and the writing process.  We both realized how much we had in common with our strange upbringings and visions for the future. I wanted to learn how to play instruments.  I went over to his house at the time and we recorded the riff to “Rumi” on Christmas Eve 2011. We basically met up every day after that and kept writing.

KXSU: Your album, The Wanting Creature, came out earlier this year and we’re so in love with it. Can you tell us a little bit more about the creative processes of making this album and what you’re most excited about?
Benjamin: We took a whole different approach with The Wanting Creature. Most of our first record was recorded live. With the new record we used Ableton and produced a lot of it ourselves. The album has a lot of electronic elements to it. We would map out the beats and edit the songs in Ableton. A song might start as a guitar song with a verse, chorus, and bridge, but end up as a verse and instrumental chorus without guitar. Or, the guitar part might be chopped up and reversed. We used lots of synths and ambient sound designs. The lyrics were written mostly together and were influenced by a different set of feelings and experiences. The possibilities within the world of electronic production is very exciting to us.

KXSU: You two often move back and forth from Seattle to Brooklyn. What are your favorite aspects of both cities and why have you chosen both to call home?
Nathan: New York’s a crazy roller coaster that exhilarates and nauseates you. Seattle’s a resort that you cruise around on a golf cart which relaxes but sometimes bores you.
NY is coke. Seattle is weed.
They’re perfect together.

KXSU: When you’re back in Seattle, what are your favorite go-to spots and venues?
Both: Mario’s, Cha Cha, Liberty, Caffe Vita, Neumos, The Crocodile, the lake…

KXSU: Can you tell us one thing about each of yourselves that a lot of people don’t know?
Nathan: I wanted to be a professional skateboarder but went to school for theater.
Benjamin: I am an introvert. I crave solitude.


Photo Courtesy of Iska Dhaaf’s Website

KXSU: Can you describe a typical Iska Dhaaf set in 5 words?
Both: loud, cathartic, immersive, intense, tequila

KXSU: Theoretically, what would you do if you saw someone playing Pokémon Go during your set?
Benjamin: I would probably be pretty confused. That being said, I hope our stage is a hot spot (I don’t know much about it) so we’ll make new fans.

KXSU: You recently performed at Sasquatch this year! How was the festival, and what were some of the best sets you saw?
Both: It’s always amazing. We had a blast. Jamie XX was incredible. Four Tet, Grimes, Chelsea Wolfe & The Internet were rad.

KXSU: What are you most stoked about for CHBP?
Benjamin: Performing, meeting people, the unknown.

KXSU: What sets are you planning on seeing at Capitol Hill Block Party?
Nathan: I tend to watch most the bands playing the Cha Cha.

KXSU: As I’m sure you’ve both performed and attended many festivals including CHBP, can you share some of your festival do’s and don’ts with us?
Benjamin: Pace yourself. Don’t try to see everything. Follow the vibe, don’t force it. Be safe and considerate.
Nathan: Don’t hit security guards.

Iska Dhaaf put on a *killer* set at CHBP 2016’s  Vera Stage on Friday at 6 p.m. I’ve been dying to see them live for so long, and their set was even more brilliant than I expected. More photos to come!


Photo by April Jingco


APRIL JINGCO | KXSU Digital Media Director


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