Meagan Grandall (Lemolo) – Interview

Hello friends! I am bursting with excitement today! And so should you, because the title of this post is entirely accurate – Meagan Grandall of Lemolo has very graciously agreed to answer a few questions from ZaRecords. I don’t believe Lemolo needs any further introduction to the faithful readers of this blog, but I will say this, for newcomers: I consider their music some of the best I’ve ever heard, and it is a tremendous honor for me to be able to talk so candidly with Meagan. Here goes!

Lemolo 1ZaRecords: From a composition perspective, where does Meagan end and Lemolo begin? Or, if you prefer, the other way around. Is there an edge anymore?

Lemolo: It’s funny you should ask this, because sometimes I wonder this myself. I formed the band in 2009 and for the first 6 months we played under the name “Meagan Grandall”. I didn’t think that sounded very cool and that was when I came up with the name Lemolo. All along I have written the songs by myself and they are always very personal songs about my life. So in that sense I feel like Lemolo is me and I am Lemolo. But on the other hand I love performing with other people, because I think other instruments and energies can contribute a lot to my music. For example, on my new record the drum beats that my drummer Emily wrote with me are bringing the songs to another level. So I think there is a blurred edge that at times can be hard to pinpoint.

ZaRecords: How’s the chemistry with Emily? Did you two “click” right away?

Lemolo: Emily is awesome. On our first meeting we had coffee and talked for 3 hours! And then during our first jam session I felt that she “got me” right away and was playing the kinds of drum beats I was looking for. I played her all of my new songs and had her jam along to them, and it felt right from that moment on.

Lemolo 2ZaRecords: I “discovered” your music on KEXP – like a lot of great music from the last few years. I have the vague but persistent feeling that there’s a “movement” of sorts developing in the Seattle area, something which reminds me of the coherent pop currents of yesteryear (hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?). Would you say there’s a storm brewing in Seattle, or is this stylistic coherence due to my bias as a very distant observer?

Lemolo: I think Seattle definitely has a wonderful music community. I have found that it has been essential in helping me start and maintain a career in music. I think there are so many talented musicians living and creating their art in Seattle, and everyone seems to be very accepted for being their authentic selves and creating their original music. I feel lucky to be based out of Seattle.

ZaRecords: “The Kaleidoscope” is one of those once in a decade albums which instantly enamored anyone I played it for. No exceptions. It’s hard for me and my readers to gauge the success it had from more “objective” perspectives. What’s your view, two years later? Were you expecting more? Less?

Lemolo: Thank you so very much. Just hearing you say that is success in my eyes. It was my first record to ever record and release. Before that I had never even worked in a professional recording studio. So needless to say I had no expectations and just made sure to do my best at every step of the way. So when I received such positive feedback from listeners around the world, it felt amazing. I am still an independent artist and feel that there is a long way for me to go before I have financial stability (I still live in my mother’s basement!), but I am grateful for all of the opportunities I have had so far and am looking forward to what comes next with my new record.

ZaRecords: What’s this I hear about a European tour?

Lemolo: It is true! I received a grant from the embassy of the Czech Republic to travel there and perform my music at Degeneration Next Festival in Brno, Czech Republic on September 23, 2014. I decided to plan a three week tour around that performance, and will be performing all around Central Europe. Performing internationally has been a dream of mine since the beginning, so it feels wonderful that it is finally coming true. I will be announcing more shows soon so you can vista my online show calendar for updates.

ZaRecords: Your music is so intricate and delicate it’s almost palpable. I was wondering what your relationship with your instruments is – do you see them as tools to craft these sonic filigrees, or partners, sources of inspiration? Please tell me the story of your guitar (it’s the only one of its kind I’ve seen) and other such tales, if you like.

Lemolo: Thank you! I’m glad to hear you like my guitar as much as I do. I found it hanging up in a vintage guitar store and felt an instant connection with it. At that point I had never even played an electric guitar, but I knew she had to be mine. I spent all of the money I had in my bank account to buy it and have been in love with it ever since. It is a Teisco and was made in 1962 in Japan.

I think you’re spot on when you say I use my instruments as tools to write my songs. When I get a new instrument or new effects pedal, it directly inspires my songwriting. Often I arrange my songs while I am writing them, so my instruments and effects play a major role in how my songs come together.

Lemolo 3

ZaRecords: I wonder what your non-musical inspirations are, if any. Books, paintings, films? Video games?

Lemolo: I think my biggest inspiration outside of music is nature. I feel the most at peace with myself when I am outside, and especially when I am on the water. I grew up doing a lot of sailing and boating, and doing that is somewhat similar to a religious experience for me. When I spend time outside I come home feeling the most creative and eager to write music. I also love watching movies, and really admire the work of filmmaker Brit Marling. She has a very inspirational story and she is one of my idols.

ZaRecords: Do you have a go-to album for when you want to center yourself? What’s your musical oasis?

Lemolo: I love your expression “musical oasis”. Mine is Radiohead. I have favorite songs from each Radiohead album, a handful of them are “Everything in it’s Right Place”, “Pyramid Song”, “Sail to the Moon”, “Videotape” and “Bullet Proof I Wish I Was”. I love so many other artists too, but I feel a very deep connection with these songs in particular.

ZaRecords: How has the studio work on the upcoming record differed from “The Kaleidoscope”? How far along are you in the process?

Lemolo: I am nearing the end of recording my new album, which is very exciting. I think it is probably 85% finished at this point. With my new songs I am trying to take them to another level with the drum beats and layers. On The Kaleidoscope I purposefully kept the songs very minimal and mellow, but the news songs are feeling a little more upbeat and lush. It has been fun to experiment with new sounds and textures. I can’t wait to share it with you!

ZaRecords: Tell me a story from one of your concerts, from tour, one of those tales to tell the grandkids.

Lemolo: My best tour memory was from the very first time I went on tour. I planned a video session with some videographers in San Diego, California who filmed a project called the Boat Sessions. They invited us onto their sailboat with our instruments, and filmed us as we performed an acoustic version of Whale Song while sailing around Mission Bay. It was glorious and such an adventure!

ZaRecords: I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to answer these questions!

Lemolo: I hope these answers are okay for you, and that we can meet up on my upcoming tour. Thank you so much!

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ZaRecords Mixtape 8: Books

Time for another mixtape! A true one this time, not a simple top. I’m joined in this new musical discussion by my friend Ștefana, author of the ZaBooks blog, which some of you might know is the reason I started writing ZaRecords in the first place. I’m very glad to finally be able to catch her on a free day – we’ve been planning this podcast for years (literally). So, the 8th Mixtape is all about music inspired by or based on literary works – as you’ll see, we cover everything from novels to poetry, stopping by the playwright wilds and sending a wink to Edgar Allan Poe along the way. As you might expect, this one is a bit more wordy than the others – blame it on the theme! Enjoy, and be sure to leave us a comment with your impressions!

Thom Yorke – Mix featuring solo material, Radiohead and Liars remixes (2013)

I have to thank Dazed and Confused Magazine, or rather Dazed Digital, for today’s post, folks. I by no means wish to rip off their achievement at getting Thom Yorke to make a mix for them, to go along with the release of the Atoms for Peace album and an interview published in the February issue of the magazine; I just feel this sort of musical event needs to be spread around as much as possible.

This mix is one of the weirdest, most hypnotic gatherings of music I’ve heard in a long time. Thom Yorke is treading ethereal paths indeed lately, and it’s a real treat to see him cut loose like this and just do things entirely his own way – something he hasn’t done since 2006’s The Eraser. If this mix is any indication of what goes on inside Thom’s head, then it must be like a perpetual acid trip in there – patience mating with explosive wonderment, a sort of subdued, diaphanous narrative of few words and chilling depth, the constant shade of a body in motion being projected by smoky beams of clarity.

I haven’t been able to recognize a single familiar tune in this mix, so either it’s comprised of completely unreleased material, Thom performed some freakish macro-mutations on the songs, or I’ve become “a cloth-eared nincompoop”, to quote Mike Oldfield. Either way, the end result sounds to me like something almost completely novel – I say “almost” because, truth be told, it does remind me a bit of the work performed on the Split/Sides bootleg, along side Sigur Ros. But that was so long ago, and in such a different context, that the comparison doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny, even though both mixes seem to be very focused on dancing. Or rather, in this case, on kinetic energy being discharged by an abstraction of the androgynous human body, given the ice cold, perfectly aseptic, lab grown feel of the music.

At first, there are tribal echoes, the fierce metallic litany of primitive rhythm rearranging time to suit movement, slowly dissolving into the digital – from feet stomping in the dust, to the involuntary twitch of the finger on the keyboard, lit by the diffused glow of the monitor, the journey really doesn’t take very long, but is constructed with breathtaking clarity. Thom Yorke shows and requires patience here, but the return is spectacular – and I say this without being generally known as a big fan of this type of music. There’s a gentleness here, a velvety quality which is simultaneously sickening and mesmerizing, like an unknown something, cold and soft, rubbing against your bare feet in the dark. Yes, that sounds terrifying, but who could look away, who could ignore such a thing? Whether the reaction is along the lines of “KILL IT WITH FIRE!” or some form of fascination, that’s up to the listener, but the initial contact remains just as startling and magnetic.

I highly recommend reading the interview on Dazed, although not necessarily while listening to this mix – the inevitable mundane nature of the conversation clashes with the profound oddity of the music. Either way, enjoy!

 

Radiohead – Live from The Basement (2008)

The only reason I haven’t written more about Radiohead since I started this blog is that I’m intimidated by the task, as I believe most would-be and even well-established critics should be. To add to that marble-hard knot in my throat when it comes to their records, their live performances are often even more striking, even more dazzling, in that ever-so-understated way of theirs. This is the full live show of the In Rainbows album, the one I’ve listened to the most out of their discography. Of that which is unspeakable, one must remain silent. Enjoy.

Vows – Winter’s Grave (2011)

Tag, you’re it! That’s basically how I came across Vows – they liked one of my posts, and I took that as the online equivalent of “Can MrProzaKc come out and play?” Well, yes, yes I can! I like this album, quite a bit, and it’s a nice way of talking about an area of music I’ve been trying to explore for a while now and I’ve always felt it’s a bit harder than it should be.

Such a vast territory this “indie rock” is, right? And I mean, sure, it ought to be. If we’re to believe that mainstream music is quite hard to enter into, than there must be many more bands doing their own thing in venues all across the world than there are on MTV and such. And that’s in no way a means by which one can judge value. Vows have a great thing going, a truly interesting sound and the freedom to experiment and pursue the echoes leading them on. At the confluence between Radiohead and Cocteau Twins, this album is just remarkable. Lush, ethereal sound draped around a definite pop sensibility, this is music one can relate to, discreetly enjoy, whisper about to select friends and use as a soundtrack for solitude. I can easily appreciate the openness of this album, it’s inviting glow, albeit a bit chilly, mostly because of the slightly psychedelic space vacuum slithering under the surface of these songs. I sadly don’t have many points of reference in my attempt to gain some comparative perspective on the music, but I can say this – Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, I’ve tried them all out and I haven’t clicked. Vows, however, got my attention almost instantly.

You see, I get the feeling those other bands I mentioned treat their influences like a Rubik’s Cube – fascinating, compelling, but ultimately technical, leaving little to no opportunity for overlap and color blending. What I hear on Vow’s debut record is quite different. It’s like a finger-painting, where folk, electronica and rock blend in vibrant shades, surprising and full of depth, raw and joyous. The fact that the material is recorded in a home studio, or something along those lines, adds to this vibe of childlike glee I get from the record – there’s no pretension, no easy escape or eminent polish through production; the music sounds real, organic, close at hand and the playfulness and poetry permeating the album seem all together more vivid because of this.

This down to earth approach shines through the video to the third track of the album as well – a pleasantly imperfect, refreshingly non-symbolic visual complement to the harmony and cadence of the song itself. It’s just lovely to be able to softly put the ever-so-agitated post-post-modern critical mind to rest for a bit and just enjoy something like this, so home-spun, so sincere. Sure, the references and connections all bubble beneath the surface, but if there’s one thing this album reminds me of it to just force yourself to shut up once in a while, at least in your own head, and contemplate, allow the sediment to settle, drink it all in. I’m firmly wedged in a bleak, useless, beating-a-dead-horse winter here in Romania, and this record, aptly titled, makes me feel like there’s a safe, shimmering barrier between me and the seasonal lightlessness outside.

I haven’t been so excited about a new band since the In It write-up, and I’m really happy that I can embed the entire Winter’s Grave album in the post, just like in that instance. Bandcamp is amazing, really. I really hope you enjoy this record. Keep an ear open for Unreal Love (sounding almost like a late-Beatles outtake, with a delightful Spanish verse), and Queen Baby (reminding me so much of Cocteau Twins’ spacious sound). I wish these guys the best and I’m looking forward to the new album they’ve announced to be working on! See you soon!