with video: Lightning Love's minimalist indie pop sound shines in their new Blonde Album
They decided to do things “a little backwards,” Collins says, and release a 4-track EP, "Girls Who Look Like Me," in January, while holding off on releasing the album. Two of the tracks, “Deadbeat” and “I Know,” appear on both. The other two tracks, “When You Sleep” and “Wake Up and Find Myself,” are newer songs composed after "Blonde Album" was already recorded.
They admit that, after spending so much time with the labor-intensive "Blonde Album," they had started to lose perspective on it. Collins, who did the mixing and mastering found himself so familiar with every little detail of every single song that he needed to put it to bed for a while.
“I hadn’t listened to it in like 3 months until recently. Once it was done being mastered, I decided I needed a much need break from it. I was too close to it, so I couldn’t tell if it was good anymore,” Collins explains. “I couldn’t get back to the forest,” he says.
Fortunately, when they started listening to it again, band members discovered that they really like how it all turned out.
The band’s renewed interest in "Blonde Album" comes at a good time. Their upcoming tour features songs off the album, as well as new songs composed after they were done with it.
Lightning Love kicks off their tour with a CD release party at Woodruff’s, on Aug. 31 (doors, 9 p.m.; cover, $5), and a second Michigan show at PJ’s Lager House in Detroit, on September 1. They are joined by Jamaican Queens and Wally Dogger.
The band’s carefully composed minimalist songs are often associated with the “Twee Pop” genre, which the band finds to be as loose a categorization as any that happens to still apply to their indie pop-rock sound. There is simplicity in their melodies. Leah Diehl’s voice can be sweet like a child’s at times. These things seem to fit the genre.
But they did not know it was “twee” until someone told them. The band members are more likely to describe their sound as “minimalist” or “stripped down pop rock.”
Early reviews are trickling in, which provide other possible descriptors of the band’s sound. In their review, Nylon called it “sparse basement pop,” which Collins thinks is “right on,” he says. A lot of the album was, in fact, done in the Diehl’s parents’ basement (while some parts were recorded elsewhere, Collins recorded guitar with Detroit-based producer Jim Diamond and Leah Diehl worked with indie artist Gerald Roesser to record her vocals).
In general, they are more at home playing a house show or a smaller venue than a large theater, which gives them some of their homegrown, independent, out-of-the-garage (or basement) feel.
Leah Diehl says their recent show at the Michigan Theater, where they opened for Mayer Hawthorne, was bigger than what they are used to. For her, “there was so much space that I didn’t know if I would fill it all!” she says. But the hugely popular free Sonic Lunch show was still great exposure for the band.
When she writes lyrics and melodies, Leah Diehl always tries to capture “a moment in time,” she says. “I try to base a song on how I feel about something as it happens in the moment, right then. That way, it more accurately capture a certain mood or what I was feeling at the time. What inspires me always changes simply because time passes,” she says. Thus her music changes as life flows on.
Some of the songs on "Blonde Album" still resonate with her today; while others, not so much. The scathing tell-off of a lacking suitor in “Deadbeat” no longer riles her up as it did when she wrote it. “I hated a guy that I hung out with once, but I could care less about that anymore,” she laughs. On the other hand, the lyrics in the song “I Know” still “resonate with how I feel now,” she explains.
Regardless of how her feelings about her song change over time, the point is to base them on real experiences that other people might relate to. “When something is real, people can tell. The songs just mean more,” Leah Diehl says.
When Lightning Love last spoke with AnnArbor.com, last May, they were getting ready to leave for Billboard.com’s national “Battle of the Bands” competition. They had made the finals. Although Gentlemen Hall won, Lightning Love still had a lot of fun in such a big national competition.
“We got to travel across country in a Chevy Cruze and stay in Las Vegas for a couple of nights and meet awesome people and do awesome things that we never would have done,” Collins says of going to the “Battle of the Bands.”
Isn't it always the case that when you’re handed something as sweet as a trip to Las Vegas there is always a catch? Part of the deal was that bands had to help promote the Chevy Cruze by saying nice things about it on camera, some of which was scripted. “The only weird thing was how much they forcibly made to talk about how well the Chevy Cruze drove to a camera all the time,” Collins says of the “corporate” side of the battle.
“It got uncomfortable and a lot of the bands were uncomfortable with it. But I settled on the idea, this is why you get to do this. If they didn’t have a sponsor like Chevy, it wouldn’t have been paid for and would have never happened,” Diehl says.
She agrees with Collins when he says “the idea of ‘selling out’ is really out of date.” She thinks shooting videos for company’s websites or having your song featured on a commercial, for instance, are good options for many independent artists. “It all depends on what you are comfortable with,” she says.