David E. Johnston is hosting a dance party like no other. His songs fizz with sugary synth-pop hooks and undeniable grooves. These invigorating electro-pop songs move your body, and, if you listen closely, they will stir your soul.

The Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter has created a safe space to heal and to process his depression and anxiety through dance music. Previous to his intimately revealing electronic releases, David had a critically-acclaimed theatre career and was known for dramatically inhabiting various personae. In his songs, however, David is David. Today, he bravely steps forward with his sophomore album, The Perfect Son , by his electro-percussive band, Gift of Tongues. It’s a dynamic and cohesive 15-song collection of synth-pop, folk-tronica, and ambient vocal electronica.

“I am a 56-year-old gay man who loves to lose himself in a bubble of making music - especially dance music. I feel EDM and house music are mostly made by and for young people, but I still love the sound of dance music at my age. I’ve been diagnosed with bi-polar depression, but music helps take me away from that spin cycle of my brain. It’s a safe way for me to be me, unapologetically. It doesn’t matter if I’m older, or if I feel lonely, the music makes everything go away,” David shares.

David is a multi-dimensional artist-entertainer. He is adept at working as a performance artist with projects that recall the bold and enlightening work of Laurie Anderson; collaborating in small ensembles; and even entertaining as lounge singer David Jay. Select career highlights include releasing Gifts of Tongues’ debut, Songs of My People In 2013; presenting Gift of Tongues music at the exclusive alt-theater space Dixon Place; and crafting a string of well-received San Francisco performances (The Hustler, Show, and Gone Dollywood ).

His musicality flows spontaneously without trying to mimic or consciously capture an aesthetic. David writes on a keyboard, and what comes out organically invites comparisons to 1980s new wave/synth pop, 1970s disco, and more contemporary electronic artists such as The Knife, Planningtorock, and Zeigeist. David is an emotionally visceral writer whether he’s writing about a man he loves or about a traumatic experience. Signature to his musings is often an intriguing juxtaposition between his words and his music. “I really try to write happy pop songs, but darkness always creeps in,” David says with a laugh. “I guess it’s just my nature.”

SF Weekly has described David’s songs as “haunting and occasionally hilarious,” explaining, “Johnston comes up with a troubling entertaining mix of Southern legend, psychodrama, cabaret, chamber music, Madonna, and Fleetwood Mac.” SF Times has praised his “Witty Iyrics and caustic storytelling.”

Gift of Tongues’ debut, Songs Of My People, has also been a critical success. Indiemunity highlights David’s conceptual writing, saying: “{Songs of My People} alludes to the American Dream that has seemed to mutate from its original promises to a politically correct idyll with references to The Star Spangled Banner.” Indie World Music dives deep into David’s overarching artistry, summing his work up thusly: “When poetic lyrics, enticing rhythms and melodies, and theatrical displays of sound come together unabashed, Songs Of My People results.”

Growing up as a lonely boy in a single-parent household, he was a dutiful son, attending his mom’s fire and brimstone Baptist church, who didn’t rock the boat by trying to get attention or adding more stress to her complicated life. He would disappear into his private world of music, which included listening to a four-record Motown compilation and picking out his own melodies on an old baby Wurlitzer electric piano. Here, David was escaping to a self-curated private world where he could be himself unbound by expectations.

Now, performing as Gift of Tongues, David uses masks and costumes to conceal and augment his Identity to turn that private world into a public persona. “It allows me to feel less self-conscious about my appearance and age. It is the contradiction of creating distance yet allowing me to be my 56-year-old authentic self.”

On The Perfect Son , David courageously faces the darkness of that childhood. “All the stories and anecdotes shared on the album came from this kid, the perfect son. At a young age, I felt and acted different from other boys — I felt ‘wrong’, and I think that was because I was gay, without knowing it, of course. I think the shame of this difference led me to be the silent ‘perfect son’ who didn't want any focus on himself,” David reveals.

Musically, the album furthers the Gift of Tongues aesthetic as established on Songs of My People , yet it integrates acoustic guitar and even a few playful pop songs (“Fountain of Youth” and “Nightlife”). On “The Flood” David explores his mother’s faith and the hellfire and damnation dogma of her church. Here, he sings in a robust low-register vocal accompanied by rousing synth-pop, a blend of ethereal textures, fizzy beats, and almost gospel backing vocals. The song’s chorus uses biblical imagery for arresting emotionality.

“Useless” is classic Gift of Tongues. The song is a blissed-out dance track with treated vocals, moody textures, and incessant beats. Underneath this club banger is a powerful display of vulnerability. David sings: I feel so useless in this world/I feel unwanted in this world/God dealt me a bad hand this time/Stacked the deck so the odds weren’t on my side/I meant it to matter that I was around/I feel so useless to you now . “It’s a love song about flying high then plummeting down - a dark dance song about unrequited love for another man,” David shares.

An emotional album centerpiece is “The Art Of Loneliness,” which sounds triumphant, but, upon closer listen, feels tragic. It’s a dance-pop smash powered by springy beats and lathered in atmospheric synths and infectious melodies. The lyrics here are the closest one gets to a private monologue with David trying to convince himself loneliness isn’t such a painful situation. “I’m attempting to trick myself into thinking being alone isn’t so bad,” he says with a laugh.

The Perfect Son closes with the stirring title track. On top of bittersweet melodicism and mid-tempo synth-pop grooves, David shares his own story. His vocals here are weary but also coolly detached. He powerfully sings the lines: Born with an old soul he felt things so deeply/‘You're always so sensitive,’ his heart darkened quickly/But old souls have old wounds/And old wounds always have scars/Some find them beautiful/Some turn them to art. It is these words that epitomize David’s life and music as he’s turned those scars into beautiful music on The Perfect Son .


Craig Levy is a multifaceted musician and producer who has his own recording studio called Little Pioneer Cider House. He brings years of music industry experience to his client and offers them full production abilities, high-level engineering and mixing, as well as the ability to add his own guitar, bass or keyboard on their tracks. Visit his website here.

Raised in a musical family in Clarksburg, West Virginia, drummer/percussionist Brian Wolfe relocated to Brooklyn, New York in 1999. Since then he has performed, toured, and/or recorded with a number of diverse artists and producers including: Sufjan Stevens, Maynard Ferguson, Diane Schuur, Phil Ramone, Carl Fischer’s Organic Groove Ensemble , Kelly Jones, Leah Siegel, Melvin Sparks, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and My Brightest Diamond, among many others.

Emiliano Valerio studied Cuban percussion in Havana, Cuba, at La Escuela Nacional de Arte with Fermin Nani and Pancho Quinto and is currently a Tabla disciple of Pandit Samir Chatterjee. He founded Nueva Siembra, a 15-piece Latin band, and was musical director and percussionist/guitarist of the Broadway show Tap Dogs which toured the U.S., Europe and Asia. His first CD is titled Dream Time.In 2011, Emiliano was a Queens Council on the Arts grant award winner for his composition “Jackson Heights Suite.”

Guitarist Steve Elliot hails from Vancouver, British Columbia. He has toured with such diverse artists as Paula Cole, Angelique Kidjo, and Shooter Jennings. He has also performed on stage or television with Norah Jones, Shawn Colvin, Chely Wright, Kat Edmonson, Lucy Woodward, Mike Viola, and Courtney Love.