Lady Lamb the Beekeeper on challenging the singer-songwriter formulaBy Nic Turiciano | June 21st, 2013 | No Comments »
It’s rare to hear rhythmic and sonic experimentation within the folk, singer-songwriter genre. The music is a formula, and one that Lady Lamb the Beekeeper loves to break out of. Thanks to her unique take on an well-worn sound, her debut album, “Ripely Pine” has been received well by fans and critics. We caught up with Aly Spaltro, the brain trust behind Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, to chat about how she feels about the album, her writing process and what she’d change in her music. She co-headlines the Hi-Dive with Torres on Sunday.
It seems the reaction to “Ripely Pine” has been very positive. Did that meet your expectations or come as a surprise?
I’ll be honest and tell you I made sure I had no expectations whatsoever, so my expectations have been exceeded. I spent so long on the record and I was so so proud of it when it was finished that for me — this sounds so cliché and I’m sure a lot of bands say it — but for me it was like ‘my job is done.’ And I was so happy with what I had made that it really didn’t matter to me what happened next. In that way, any sort of feedback or press was just a surprise and a bonus to me.
By the end of that process you’d been working with the same material for a long time. Were there any songs that, by the end, you wished you had done differently?
Honestly, if I had one single critique for the final product, part of me wishes I had been a little bit less nervous about my vocals being abrasive and have the tracks be a little bit brighter.
When you’re in the studio singing every day you get sick of the sound of your own voice, so you end up — by accident — doing things to balance out your vocal tones. I’ve been listening to a ton of Neko Case lately and her vocal is so beautifully bright that it stings, like it goes right to your heart. Part of me wishes I had done that as well.
But I will say that the reason the record took an entire year is because I didn’t compromise. I made sure I was super proud of what I was putting out and that I knew it in my gut.
Some of the turns you take in song structures are pretty ambitious and maybe not what the listener is expecting upon first listen. Is that intentional on your part? Are you trying to make songs that challenge the listener?
I was not intentionally trying to make challenging music. If I had to put my finger on it I would say that the reason the songs are structured the way they are is because I was solo for a year when I started playing music six years ago. Then I met my best friend, TJ, and back in 2008 he joined Lady Lamb and we were a duo. When we stopped making music together and I was alone again I had gotten so used to the extra sounds from him that I felt nervous and vulnerable about how I was going to approach making music that was interesting that wasn’t singer-songwriter-y music. It wasn’t even a conscious decision. It was honestly my sensitivity to wanting to be interesting to an audience, so I think I compensated for that by writing songs that had movement and a lot of tempo changes.
Your music is of a pretty highly personal nature. Is that how you naturally approach songwriting?
It’s pretty natural. I’ve tried, just out of curiosity, to write a song that has nothing to do with anything I’ve ever done or seen or experienced at all. It’s very difficult for me to write something and put my heart and soul into it when I don’t really know what I’m writing about.
For me personally there’s so much value in expressing what I know and understand, what I’ve gone through or go through and see and hear. When I listen to a band that I really love I can feel it when an artist is singing about something they really know. I appreciate that, and in a way it’s an unspoken thank you to them for doing that. I’m thankful to them for making a record that they put themselves into.
With that in mind, what’s going on in your life right now? What might people hear on the next record?
I can tell you what they may not be hearing for the next record, which is that I think the underlying bitterness or frustration or confusion that’s in the first record might be a little wrapped up for the next one. When I think about “Ripely Pine” I really, as the person who wrote the songs, it’s a very joyful and hopeful record. There’s a lot of confusion in it, lyrical confusion.
I think that as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned a lot more about what you can do for yourself to be happy that you don’t need from others. I think that’s what the last song on “Ripely Pine” is about. It’s about realizing that what you thought you needed from someone else you could have given yourself all along. That was a conscious way of opening up my second record to be further self-reflective, but less angry and less confused and about knowing myself better.