Writing songs that people can resonate with seems to be intrinsic to Snail Mail who somehow manages to exude self-confidence and great fortitude even when it comes to embracing her underlying vulnerabilities.
Unequivocally, American indie-rock act Lindsey Jordan has done it again with her sophomore album Valentine which is set to be released on the 5th of November this year.
Valentine will be the follow-up to the band’s heart-wrenching debut album Lush. Put out by Matador Records in 2018, the full-length made waves, and was nominated for Breakthrough Artist/Release and Best Rock Album at the 2019 Libera Awards.
Co-produced by Brad Cook and Jordan herself, the songs off Snail Mail’s upcoming album Valentine is analogous to the empowering bedroom anthems of Lush in some respect as it also speaks volumes of heartache but this time, it has a marked tonal shift that renders it even more dynamic and intense.
Fellow artist and friend of Snail Mail, Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) had nothing but good things to say about the new album Valentine: “Made with careful precision, Valentine shows an artist who has chosen to take her time. The reference points are broad and physically stirring, while the lyrics build masterfully on the foundation set by Jordan’s first record to deliver a deeper understanding of heartbreak.”
Bandwagon caught up with Lindsey Jordan before the release of Valentine and had a chat with her about the evolution of her songwriting as a musician, and her views on being brutally honest when it comes to lyricism.
Tell me more about your sophomore album Valentine.
Well, I definitely am very proud of it. I think it’s a great length, we got 35 minutes which I think is perfect. It’s like 10 songs, and I don’t know, it’s hard to explain it. It’s just been an amalgamation of everything I’ve been working on for the last several years, and hopefully, it reads as concise to other people because to me, it all really goes together. But who knows if everybody would agree with that. I would like to think that it’s really one thing that describes me and where I’ve been for the last few years.
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If you could sum it up for me in just a couple of words, how would you describe the album?
Intentional and very emotionally honest. Thought-provoking and reflective, singer-songwriter, an indie rock, pop record that experiences love and loss in real-time with me.
Do you think it’s comparatively different to your debut Lush?
Definitely. I think with Lush I did what I could with what I had at the time, and I’m really proud of it but I see it so much as my first stab at making a record, and I see this next one as a more informed stab. There’s just so much more about writing that I still had to learn. I mean, there will be [more to learn] forever but I think there’s a certain studio anxiety that comes with being a new artist in terms of not knowing if you’re making the right decisions. Having just a little more footing this time changed everything. I was more involved as a producer, and really stepped up my lyricism, and I think the first record is very much about yearning for love and wanting my crush to see me and all this stuff, and Valentine is kind of like, I’ve already experienced love and loss, and I’ve learnt my lesson, and so I'm approaching it from a more realistic standpoint because now I’ve seen what it’s like you know.
In that sense, how do you think your songwriting has evolved since then? Across the two albums.
I think my melodies are a lot better. I pay a lot of attention to vocal melodies and just the certain pop formula to it all where you wouldn’t think in every situation is pop but it’s like a mindset. When I’m working on stuff that I think is apparent, the melodies are a lot catchier and it’s so different in so many ways. I definitely feel like I grew as a lyricist, and as an arranger. I think the songs are shorter because I say all I need to say in a shorter period of time which I have to say is maybe harder than making long songs.
What was it like producing with Brad Cook?
It was awesome. I mean, Brad is sick. He’s worked on so many things I love. He does Whitney stuff and Bon Iver. I’m a massive fan of his, and I have been for as long as I can remember. He’s such an easygoing dude. I feel like I spent most of my time just hanging out with him, his dog, and his cool wife, and we just watched a lot of movies, chilled, hung out, jammed, and built fires. He’s such a cool guy. He’s so artist-friendly. I think it’s so rare to meet somebody who just puts their ego aside to really put the artist's ego at ease. He was so encouraging and really wanted me to take the reins in a way that was so inspiring. I find that to be really special and unique because I was going into his space, and he was like ‘you produce.’ That was definitely what I needed to finish the record. Also, he has great taste so I really trust him.
Did that give you more creative control over how the album was going to be?
I think the creative control was entirely mine on this thing which is a blessing and a curse. It came out great but that’s just another layer of responsibility because wanting to make everything great just makes everything take even longer for me. Before I was so hands-off, and now I know what I want so much more, and I don’t want to argue about it, I just need help getting there sometimes. I think I made almost every single decision so I’m much more protective over it, and so much more proud than I ever thought I could be of a record because this thing is so mine, right down to the visuals. So if people hate it, that would be like someone saying 'I hate your kid.' I don’t think I could take it.
Speaking of visuals, the title track Valentine has a rather interesting music video. Tell me more about that; how was it conceived?
So I came up with the original concept of what it was and made a vision board that had movie references, and all kinds of ideas that ended up in the thing but not all of it did. The chocolate and Victorian outfits were an original idea that was there in the beginning. There was murder in my version, there was a scorned lover in my version but Josh the director came up with a version based on my treatment that was so much better. It was really inspiring working with him. He's working on some other professional movie thing as we speak so the guy knows what’s up. He spent so much time being collaborative on that, and I loved hearing his ideas because he has good taste in movies and a good eye. It came together pretty quickly and it was super fun. There were so many people on the set. That blood was disgusting though, it was made of corn syrup…
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Were you inspired by the imagery from the 19th century? Because it’s very Victorian-esque.
In some ways, yeah. I do like a period piece here and there, and I think the aesthetic of it is pretty cool but it’s not untouched, like, people have done it before but I felt like there was an opportunity to re-touch it, shake it up, and make it a little bit more interesting. Our music video has a lot going on, and it kind of rewrites history. I’ve never seen Bridgerton but I hear that’s what it is, so that’s cool. I like how it’s a prim and proper thing, right down to the outfits so I wanted to make it diverse, put some murder in there. I think I just got carried away with the fun costumes. The album cover and all the press photos that went alongside it are also Victorian, and I liked being dressed up like that too much so I was like, alright let’s do it again. Any excuse to do it again.
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Your songwriting has always been brutally honest, and I think that’s why people resonate with you so much. Simply because you’re so candid at all times. I was just wondering, how important do you think it is for a musician to be straight-up when writing songs?
It’s hard to say. I definitely think some artists benefit from not being straight-up. Power to the artists who can write about characters and stuff because I can't. Like maybe I could one day so I shouldn’t say can’t but I’ve struggled to try to write from other perspectives. ‘Ben Franklin’ sort of has a dishonest tone in it but beyond that, it’s not something that I’m experienced in. I don’t know if it would be good on every artist because some people are good at doing less personal stuff, and that’s cool but artists that do, I love, like Elliott Smith. So I like a little of both. I think it’s cool that prog-rock guys can write about witches and wizards and stuff but I can’t. I admire both ends I guess.
But do you ever worry about laying yourself bare, wearing your heart on your sleeve, and maybe even divulging too much information? Is that ever a concern with you?
Yes, oh my god. That is one of my main concerns, especially now that I’m in the press… you have to be careful. I already feel like I say a lot in my songs. There’s already so much honesty in it so I don’t want to divulge any further. Like, if we’re talking about rehab, I don’t want to go any further than I already have because I already dropped the big ‘R.’ I already told everyone I went to rehab which is crazy so there’s only so much I’m willing to say beyond that. Nothing beyond the pseudonym that I use for someone’s name or something like that. I think it’s a super conscious thing to me when I’m writing. I want to go deep but I sometimes have to think about the ramifications in my real life because ostensibly, I could be doing some damage without even realising it. It’s a balancing act.
Aside from the two singles you’ve already put out— ‘Valentine’ and ‘Ben Franklin’—which have since received great reception from your fans, what other tracks off the record are you most excited for them to hear, and why?
Oh, damn. You know I love that question. I want to say which ones are my favourites. ‘Automate’ is my absolute favourite and then, ‘Forever’ is my other absolute favourite so I’m really excited to unleash those. But I also think ‘Mia’ has got some secret energy to it. Maybe that song will sneak up and be a fan favourite. I’ve got a really good feeling about that one.
You put out your debut EP Habit when you were just sixteen years old. How did it feel to release music at such a young age? And, how do you think you've grown as a musician since then?
It didn't even feel real then because we were still a DIY band at the time. The stakes were low and it didn't feel that different from putting up a picture on Instagram or posting a tweet. I feel very lucky that I get to have a guitar and a mic in my hands for most of the year! Whether it's playing shows, practising for shows or recording. I always feel like I'm growing. The skills just evolve naturally with practice.
Last but not least, are you stoked to finally be able to tour again?
So excited. I can’t tell you how much I miss it. It’s crazy, I’m really excited. I was just on the phone with my band an hour ago being like, we gotta get out there. We’re all super excited because everybody’s been locked up too long.
You can now pre-order Snail Mail’s new album Valentine off her website before its official release on 5 November.
In the interim, you can also start streaming the band's pre-existing songs on Spotify.
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