Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail grew up among the groundswell of independent artists emerging in Baltimore, most of which seem to have the same ethos: make music for the sake of making a good thing. She lists her local inspirations: Celebration, Future Islands, Romantic States, Beach House, and Big Mouth, just to name a few.
“It’s such close proximity to New York and Philly where it’s sort of like people move out of their hometown to make it big. But it’s also not really a destination spot,” explains Jordan. “So we have really amazing like, creepy weirdo bands, which I’ve always really looked up to and thought were really cool. Snail Mail is like, the least freaky band, but it’s inspired by freaky music.”
Lush was recorded in Upstate New York at the seemingly haunted – according to Jordan – Outlier Inn. Her unrelenting need to perfect the tone of each instrument and melodic phrasing within Lush shows a keen eye for detail and emotive precision. At 18 years old, Jordan wields an intricate and controlled sense of direction in Snail Mail’s lo-fi sound, which really, isn’t lo-fi at all.
“There is a lot of variation on [Lush],” she says. “It’s mostly like a clean record and then when you hear something crazy happens, you’ve got to like make a really big deal out of it with like, some weird noise.” Jordan sat by producer Jake Aron’s side throughout the entire mastering process, soaking in as much as possible.
Snail Mail is like, the least freaky band, but it’s inspired by freaky music.
Together, they took inspiration from Solange – Aron helped engineer her phenomenal album A Seat At The Table – and Big Thief’s Capacity. “The manner in which [Big Thief] make and put out music is unchangingly honest,” explains Jordan. “It’s really hi-fi production and clean and very straightforward but also like, huge. And I love that almost like, arena rock bulk setting that they have going on.”
From Hop Along to Paramore’s After Laughter to Big Thief, there’s a wide sense of musical community living and breathing within Lush’s DNA. At the same time, it is undeniably its own organism.
There were moments touring prior to Lush where Jordan was feeling stifled. “I sort of wasn’t so psyched on what I was doing and I wanted to kind of get away from doing music stuff, which is hard for me to say,” she says. It wasn’t until she began reading novels “obsessively” that she began being pulled back into her own words. Annie Dillard’s account of living in rural Virginia, Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, particularly rekindled her passion.
“She’s just writing about isolation and she writes about all of these plants and bugs that she finds. She gets really philosophical about how her life mirrors the ecosystems. And that’s just a really nice distraction for me,” explains Jordan.
Some of these relationships don’t really mean that much to me anymore and represent a blip in time.
Lush’s earlier tracks were written while she was head-deep in the work of poet Eileen Myles, including the works Inferno and the classic Chelsea Girls. “[They] were both kind of personal accounts of being an openly gay woman. Her writing has a really unique personality to it that’s just really bold and succinct,” explains Jordan. “I think she just epitomises like, cool,” she says, geeking out a little over the phone.
With mentions of luring in an ex with a bourgeois $25 pie and hoping to gain said ex’s sympathetic attention after she breaks an ankle, Myles both delicately and wittily captures the desperation of missing an ex-lover in her essay on The Excruciating Pain Of Waiting for Love. When it comes to the themes here, Jordan says, “That’s where I draw a lot of parallels.” In its beginnings, Lush captures young romance, and her reaction to heartbreak of rejection at its highest point of intensity.
“It sort of feels like, the end of the world, like everything is shit, [a] melodrama album,” she says. “I wanted to capture the intensity of those feelings and having those earlier relationships in your life that you feel makes a really big impact on you but, you know, when you’re moving past it and you can just look past and laugh at yourself because you realise you’re bathing in your own melodrama.”
Lush begins with a trickling guitar melody that runs off of Jordan’s voice like water in ‘Intro’, which ends with a warm, full drone before moving into the fuller strumming of ‘Pristine’. She croons, “don’t you like me for me / is there any better feeling than coming clean,” before demanding, “I will never love anyone else.”
“I like to immerse myself in it and just feel everything fully and be non-judgemental of myself, coz you know, all that stuff’s real,” she explains. “And at some point I was writing and I was looking back at the earlier songs on the record while I was finishing the record, and I was like, some of these relationships don’t really mean that much to me anymore and represent a blip in time.
“But I mean the only reason I don’t regret any writing I’ve ever done or just erase anything is because at some point it was significant for me and I like the idea of capturing that.” The last two songs on Lush are soft, weighty and full of reflection; the lovely indie-rock slow dance ‘Deep Sea’ creeps under your skin, combining imagery of a lonely dive into the blue with long, breathy notes on the French horn. ‘Anytime’ repeats similar lyrics from ‘Intro’ with the distortion lifted from her voice, perhaps indicating the clarity of hindsight that comes after an intense wave of emotion.
These relationships are over, and for now, she’s doing fine.
Lush is out through Matador/Remote Control on Monday June 18