It had been two years since I first met up with Lady Lamb (Aly Spaltro) in Park Slope for coffee that I got the opportunity to ring her up again for a chit-chat. This time we spoke about her new record After and what it was like to write it when compared with the process of making Ripely Pine. We also talked about the rad lyric videos that have dropped on YouTube, both of which she made herself using found footage and vintage cutouts. (And, of course, we talked about some bomb vegan chocolate coconut cupcakes she recently ate in Maine, because what is a good interview without talking about desserts?) So read up on all that below, grab a copy of the record, and try to finagle your way into Lady Lamb’s show tonight at 9:30 Club. HERE WE GO:
So what are you up to? You survived the “Blizzard” of 2015 okay I’m guessing?
Yeah, just barely. [Laughs] I’m actually listening to The Districts’ new record on NPR, havin’ a lazy day.
Nice! I’m having a pretty chill day myself, which is rare but much appreciated. Now, you’re at Rough Trade in March for the record release, which is rad! Have you actually played there before?
I haven’t, no. I’ve been there a couple of times, but this will be my first time playing.
It’s weird, it feels like they’ve been here so much longer than the year or whatever it is that they actually have.
But I guess I haven’t really made it out to too many shows there yet. Maybe that can be the 2015 resolution, is to go to more Rough Trade shows…shouldn’t be too hard seeing as there seem to be less and less Brooklyn options, though, what with Glasslands and DBA being gone…
I know, I know, it’s crazy!
Totally. Okay, so you’ve got After coming out on March 3rd, and I wanted to talk to you about how you felt with this batch of songs compared to when you made Ripely Pine; we spoke two years ago and you’d said that you’d had some difficulty editing the tracks that went on Ripely Pine just because you had been sitting on some of them for a while, and it was inconceivable to imagine changing some of them. Did you find the process to be easier this time around for that reason?
Well first of all, I can’t believe that it’s been two years since we last talked! Time’s really flown! [Laughs] But so this album was a completely different experience and process; as you and I talked about before, the last record was really difficult, because it felt like I had to stretch the songs wide-open to be able to arrange them and make them full, just because I’d been playing them so long solo. With this record, I really spent a lot of time in between touring Ripely Pine to write the songs and arrange them, and my whole premise with this record was to be really prepared. So basically I’d come home from tour and start writing the material, and then I would demo them in full on my computer and arrange them at home in my apartment to the point that they were fully-fledged demos that sound not unlike what you’re hearing with the final product, even with the horns and the strings and all that, because I was using a MIDI keyboard with those horn and string sounds to write those pieces. So I was very prepared to go into the studio; with the last album I arranged the songs in the studio, whereas this time I went in very clear-headed and knew exactly what the songs were meant to be, and what I was going for sonically pretty much down to a T. So it was kind of an easy process, just less stressful and more thought-out and planned. We just checked off the list of things, you know what I mean? It was pretty fun in the way that it wasn’t as difficult to get through.
Well, that’s all you can really ask for I guess, so congratulations! And you say you had much more clarity here, but were there still many tracks that were cut from the final lineup that you were bummed to see go?
Well, with this album there were a few older songs I wanted to try to include, so I had a list of maybe twenty songs that I got down to twelve. And so a couple older songs made it onto this album (for example there are two songs, “Violet Clementine” and “Penny Licks” which were both co-written with my friend TJ many years ago), so I took the early versions and expanded upon those arrangements and made them new and fresh and relevant to now.
Awesome. And are you still writing when the mood hits you as opposed to planning out rigid sessions? I know we’d touched on that a bit last time as well, so I was just curious to see if your approach had changed at all or if you’d developed any new techniques to help you write over the last two years.
That’s still pretty much how I work, but with Ripely Pine I was out on the road so much that I’d have a though like, “Oh god, am I ever going to have time to write my new record and will I be inspired?” So I had to commit to the fact that I was on the road, and not really try force anything. Basically if I’m gathering lyrics all the time, even if it’s just a sentence or a phrase, then I’ll be in good shape when I get home; for me, I can never sit down and write a song first, I have to have the lyrical content first to move on, so I know if I’m inspired lyrically then everything will come into place. And when I was home from tour, luckily my brain was able to switch into the record mindset, and I was able to just pull out all my lyrics and go from there.
Good, good. And I really like the lyric videos that you’ve got out so far for this record; whose concept were those? Yours? And where did some of the found footage come from?
Both of those videos were my concept, and I made both of them. The first, “Billions of Eyes” is full of old magazine cutouts from the sixties and family footage that I compiled at home, and then with “Spat Out Spit” I had been going online to try to find archival footage that I could use for free, so I found this archive and originally watched the little documentary that’s at the start of the lyric video (called “Let’s Make A Film”); I was really pumped, because symbolically, even the narration made sense. And then I found other videos which were all made by students at a junior high in California in the sixties and seventies that were all under the direction of the same art teacher named Will Simms. But so at the last minute, I had downloaded everything and was ready to start editing it all together, and I noticed that they were copyrighted and not for free. So I found the copyright owners (who happened to be the art teacher’s daughter and the woman who made the documentary “Let’s Make A Film”) and I just reached out to them and asked for permission, and they granted me that. So then I moved forward and just kind of stitched these films together.
That’s awesome! I guess it just proves that sometimes it just takes a little good will asking and the universe provides.
Exactly! All I had to do was ask. And it was actually a really nice experience to have a conversation with these women and learn a little about the history of the people. For instance, the art teacher has since passed away, but his daughter was able to tell me all about him. And the woman who made the documentary is a little old lady now, and the kids in the documentary were actually her kids who are now in their fifties. So she sent me photos of them and told me about what they’re up to, and it was just a really cool learning experience.
Wow, that’s amazing! I mean, as I say, I already kind of like the lyric videos enough that it doesn’t even seem necessary to talk about future After music videos, but do you have plans to make more?
I think we’re going to start planning real music videos that aren’t affiliated with these lyric videos, but I really do enjoy film editing and making my own videos, so I’m hoping to make more lyric videos as the record comes out (just for fun to put out), and then obviously make real videos as well for a couple of songs.
And tell me about the album cover design; is there any significance to the font you used? It’s really cool-looking, but definitely a departure from Ripely Pine!
I found that font and noticed that it was completely for free use, and it’s made by this man David Sutterley. I made the art for the album (I generally do all the art and layout since those are hobbies of mine), but I knew I was going to have that jam jar on the back, and I thought, “I know the connotation is that it’s blood, but I think it could be jam or anything.” So I felt it fit the mood.
No it does, it definitely seems like it fits. And while we’re on the subject of creative hobbies, are you still in the same apartment as when we last spoke, and have you had any new interior design projects as of late?
Yeah, I’m still at the same place in Brooklyn, but I’ve already sort of souped up my house and decorated everything, so it’s warm and cozy and a good spot to come home to.
I bet. That’s crucial for the winter we’ve been having, too. Now, we ALSO talked briefly about your sweet tooth last time, so have you eaten any epic desserts recently, or over the last two years?
Actually, yeah! I was in Maine for rehearsals the other day, and my bassist’s girlfriend made the most delicious chocolate cupcakes with coconut frosting. (They were vegan and one of the better cupcakes I’ve ever had, just perfectly baked and wonderful.) Speaking of desserts, I’m in HEAVEN right now; my mom is opening a bakery in my hometown in Brunswick, Maine, so I’m pumped because I get to go home and raid her goodies now. [Laughs]
Yeah, you can be the guinea pig to test out new things, that’s dope! And now that we are in the new year, you’ve obviously got this record release and touring coming up (which are huge things), but is there anything else on the horizon you’d like to talk about before we wrap up?
Mostly I’m just excited to tour; it’s been a really long time, I feel like I’ve been in record mode for months and months, so I feel like I’m just itching to get back out on the road. And the plan is to tour as much as humanly possible. So I’ve got the release shows which will be fun, and then I’ve got a full-blown springtime tour, plus I’ve got a few other things in the works, like I’m working on hopefully getting to Europe and with any luck just kind of ping-ponging back and forth.
This piece originally ran March 2, 2015.