Interview: Snail Mail
Lush is the debut record from Baltimore based artist Snail Mail and it is a beautiful collection of songs that together create a well-rounded and intimate body of work. As the sophomore release from the band, after the rawer and more lo-fi EP Habit, it feels like both an extension of the story told by Habit as well as something beyond that and much more new and fresh.
The two leading singles off the album, Pristine and Heat Wave are both written in a way that is assertive, bold and secure in themselves, and for good reason considering they are undoubtedly two of my favourite songs and two of the best written releases this year (IMO). The third single, Let’s Find an Out, offered a more nuances and melancholic view of the picture that the first two singles had presented. The album seems to be a continuation of these themes. For a debut album to be so nuanced, interested, dynamic and excited like Lush is, blows my mind. I am in awe and I’d say that I have listened to this album back to back over 100 times.
The use of instrumentation throughout this album is beautiful and so well thought out. Lindsay Jordan’s guitar parts lyricism and melodies are consistently strong and vulnerable at the same time, and the use of brass instruments and woodwind in this album elevated all of the music and rendered it undeniably beautiful, emotional and raw. It made me feel like I was in a movie of my own life, as well as the movie of Jordan’s life. I also love that there is a re-recorded version of the song Stick, which initially appeared with an arrangement of only guitar and vocals in the first EP, and in Lush it's backed up by full instrumentation. The thing that stuck with me about this re-recorded version was that I hadn’t even noticed the bareness of the song when listening to it on Habit until I heard it with a full band. I couldn’t say if one version was better than another, I love them both, but it was really cool that Jordan could take an already complete song and elevate it further with a new arrangement.
Every single song on this album is my favourite song and I wish I had written each of them. The way that Lindsay writes simple, to-the-point and poignant lyrics alongside vocal lines that sit perfectly above and around the guitar lines is entrancing and to be honest (not to sound clichéd) inspiring. I could talk about this album for hours and each of the songs, but I’ll finish this gushing review with a few of the tracks (not including the singles) that I have listened to more than the others on the album (but let me say once again I love every single song on this record):
- Speaking Terms
- Full Control
- Deep Sea
Lindsay Jordan you are a goddamn genius.
See the interview I did with Lindsay just before the album was released below. Please forgive me for being such a huge fan girl.
I’m so excited to be talking to you – I know that’s a bit full on – but I’ve listened to your music a lot, I think I listened to Pristine 20+ times a day several days in a row. I’m sorry to open with that – I know it’s a lot but I just had to get it out of my system.
Anyway, what’s your favourite meme at the moment?
There’s this meme going around of this guy playing basketball against a deer and it says something like ‘animal crossing? We been out crossing animals’ – that kinda stuck with me. There’s also this thing where people are like out doing something like violent things with the Wii music in the background, uh, there’s a video on Twitter of these people getting their asses kicked at McDonalds with the Wii music behind it.
One of my favourite memes at the moment is all about star signs, so my next question is: What star sign are you?
I am Gemini sun, Scorpio rising and Leo moon.
I totally feel like a Gemini, I think that my entire chart is ridiculously accurate.
So is it your birthday soon?
Yeah it’s on the 16th.
You’ve been touring a lot and travelling a lot lately, what keeps you from going crazy on the road?
I think I am definitely going crazy, but I guess having things along the way that you really like – like being able to separate from the group and going to get coffee or getting up early and doing something for yourself. I like to read in the down time because it makes me feel like I’m doing something. Every now and then going to get ice cream and seeing friends along the route and stuff. It’s just having little things in there that make it not monotonous and makes sure you’re taking care of yourself physically and emotionally and just make it somehow as comfortable for yourself as possible. I’m definitely on the road more than I’m at home so it’s just like you have to make it into your reality somehow.
I guess reading is really good because it’s some time for yourself without looking at a phone etc.
Definitely, I’m in the pursuit of extending my attention span. It’s so hard.
How is maintaining the blonde on the road?
In order to maintain my blonde I don’t wash it very often, and use dry shampoo to keep it from looking greasy and like after I towel dry it I put coconut oil and I also put anti-frizz in mine and I only bleach the roots every so often because obviously it’s bad for it but I love getting it refreshed it feels so renewing. But I do it when I’m home – I don’t trust every colourist with my hair. I have one at home and that’s the only one I really trust with it and who I go to with my blonde.
So Snail Mail started out as a solo project, was it hard to come up with a name for the solo project or did it just make sense to name it how you did it?
I think I was just coming up with the name with the intension of playing shows and having the name be something recognisable. I just wanted it to be light-hearted and I didn’t have the intention of ever doing anything with it so it came quickly and I didn’t put much thought into it. But now that I have to put thought into it I don’t have like a good answer for why.
What is it like having so much attention on you so quickly?
It’s just weird. It’s cool in that we get some insane, all-over-the-world type tour dates coming up that we haven’t announced yet and that is really nice. That is really rewarding and nice and I’m really excited that we’re going to be able to go all over the place and do this and it’s really fun. But it’s definitely weird, there is definitely some weird stuff in there. But for the most part it’s really fun and exciting, and I like meeting people and it’s just been cool to see everything. But ah yeah there’s always some weird or slightly off. [There’s always something weird or unexpected when it’s something this large-scale]. It’s [having so much attention so suddenly] hard to give it context in real life like it’s weird going to Europe and playing shows for people who knew the work because I don’t know it’s just like ‘what huh what is going on?’
Yeah I saw a friend of mine is in in Paris at the moment and she posted a video of you playing there and it looked so cool.
Oh at that festival – Under the Highway. Yeah that was really cool.
A lot of your songs are intimate and honest in the lyricism but there’s also a bit of space between what you’re singing about and what you’re actually singing. So do you get more inspiration from people or places when writing?
I think there is a lot to be said for writing from both. I think that a lot of inspiration is more people driven than place driven. I hadn’t really like travelled that much. We toured a little but I felt like most of my writing was done in the solitary confinement of my room and I sort of didn’t want to go outside that because it scared me to try think of mixing up my environment. But I feel like now that I’m practically in transit all the time, I feel like, the writing that I’ve done has been a lot more place-inspired and it’s been more like a wave of inspiration comes from a place, more so than a person.
I feel like my stuff was so person-driven and I wanted to separate from that a little more and just figure out what else there is and how I can expand on my writing process because it feels sort of limiting. There’s so much to be absorbed around you at all times, but it’s exciting to be able to work on the next one now. All relationships have to change and evolve or end. It’s really intense.
You’ve gotten more into guitar and focussing on being a guitarist? What’s your set-up at the moment?
It’s been really fulfilling and it feels very innate to be working specifically on making guitar music. I consider myself a guitarist above all else and actually it’s funny that you ask that because until recently I never had much interest in building a set up until like a week ago and now my set up is pretty expansive. My pedal board has like a bunch of EarthQuaker stuff on it, and a clean boost and a distorted boost, a chorus and a phaser by a company called Rabbit Hole. I have this like freaky pedal that I got called the Daze-Something (I’ll be honest I couldn’t decipher the second part from the recording) and everything you write and the output is insane, it kinda sounds like a space ship. It’s really sick I’ve been trying to incorporate it into the set. Oh I just got into using a compressor pedal, it’s very helpful. It’s 2018, we’re mixing live now.
Technology is amazing, I love electricity.
Yeah electricity is pretty cool.
I don’t know if this is right or not, but did you do the album artwork for Lush and the singles leading up to it or did someone else do that for you?
Oh I actually didn’t, the album cover is from this photo shoot that had like 300 photos – and the light on it is actually on the photo like it’s not edited which is really cool. I picked the frame and the font and the colour so I didn’t design it or anything I just picked from choices and altered them to my taste.
I’m loving the colour scheme, and also from the video I saw of you playing in Paris and you’re wearing red pants, and the red of the photo, it’s all connected, amazing.
I think I just tend to gravitate towards red. It’s not my favourite colour or anything it just seeps its way into your wardrobe. Very bold.
I’m going to steal this question from an interview I was a part of for our community radio station in Brisbane called 4ZZZ – what movie would you choose your music to be the soundtrack to?
Uhmmm, probably – wow that’s a good question – maybe like that movie with Ellen Paige about roller Derby Whip It or maybe The Terminal with Tom Hanks.
I reckon you could make it happen – a reshoot of the entire movie but with your music. When people do remasters of entire albums but it’ll be the movie. And then you can play live with the premiere, please can you do it?
I guess a lot of people don’t really know what goes on in Australia, is there anything you’ve heard about Australia or Australian animals or whatever that has intrigued you or made you think we’re all weirdos or anything like that?
Yeah well I read that in order to hold a Koala it has to be sedated.
Well Koalas are not as cuddly as they look – they’re vicious – well they sleep a lot of the time and the only time you ever really go to hold a koala are at koala sanctuaries and wildlife sanctuaries but I don’t think they sedate them because they’re used to humans. It was a lot smellier than you’d expect – it looks cute the photos are great.
Aw that’s so cute, it’s cute to me that it’s smelly. That makes me feel like I’m really holding a Koala thank you.
I know Australia, well I guess I don’t know that much. I feel like I’ve met quite a few Aussies, but I think I’ve met even more New Zealanders, and I don’t know why!
Well come to Australia and you’ll meet lots of Australians, and that’s my last question are you coming to Australia?
Yeah probably, it’s very likely, it’s extremely likely that we’re coming to Australia. All signs point to most likely.
Who’s your favourite Australian artist at the moment if you have one?
RVG, have you heard them?
Yeah! They’re amazing
I saw them at SXSW and I was freaking out.
Snail Mail's debut record Lush is out now via Matador / Remote Control Records