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Ari Picker dishes on his new record, 'Dante High II'

Cover art for Ari Picker's "Dante High II."
Chris Ferguson
Cover art for Ari Picker's "Dante High II."

It’s been awhile since Ari Picker pulled the plug on his band, “Lost in the Trees,” and embarked on a new venture called “Dante High.”

But shortly after the first release from his new band, he became a father, built a studio, and then COVID hit.

His new record is called “Dante High II,” and continues an infatuation with 1980s synthesizers and sounds, and with may be a sinister smile, or at least a wink and a nod. Ari seems to be having some fun.

He recently joined WUNC to talk about his new music, his new record and the road ahead.

This is an excerpt of an edited transcript of that conversation. You can hear the full interview by clicking the LISTEN button at the top of this post.

This may be a little broad, but listening to Dante High for the first time, I couldn’t shake the feeling of Joy Division playing on soundtracks of Flashdance, the Miami Vice TV show, or any John Hughes movie. It feels a little dark, but it also made me smile.

“I wanted to write, like, a working man's record. Like a fun, it's Friday, let's get some beers record. But then it turned into kind of like, I hate my boss, I need to go on vacation record. I tried to write fun dancing music with this project. And yeah – I guess the darkness always creeps in.”

If you just listen to it sonically, you can easily be fooled into thinking that everybody's just having a grand time. And then as you get into the third or fourth listen, some of the lyrics start to come through… Are you a pessimist about what's ahead for us, Ari?

“I think I always have a little bit of this doom feeling in the back of my mind. I need to meditate more. I think that's the problem. No, I'm not a pessimist. I mean, I think I want to be an optimist. I want to be. Maybe writing will help me get there.”

You mentioned being addicted to the news in that song – “Love The Job, Hate The Commute” – and then again in another song called “Addicted to the News.” Do you think it's a problem that so many people are tuned in all the time to cable news, the internet or wherever?

“Yeah, it definitely is a problem. Like, everybody just needs to cool off a little bit. You know, I think we were all tuned in pretty hard over the past year plus. It’s just an observation, really. But you know, it also could be like a Huey Lewis reference, to the News.”

You know, that wouldn't be a bad thing. There was a time when I was fairly addicted to that version of the News.

“Yeah, see, that's what we all need to tune into. Listen to sports more.”

Ari Picker’s new record is called Dante High II. You can grab it on Bandcamp and hear it on the radio at

Eric Hodge hosts WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition, and files reports for the North Carolina news segments of the broadcast. He started at the station in 2004 doing fill-in work on weekends and All Things Considered.
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