A Conversation with Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan

We caught up with Lindsey to talk Lush, tongue-in-cheek melodrama and house-bias in the Harry Potter films.

Releasing her first EP to slow-burning critical hysteria, Lindsey Jordan’s debut album could be forgiven for failing to live up to the hype. Instead, after a considered two year-long writing process, next Friday’s (June 8th) Lush is set to bolster the trajectory of one of indie music’s most exciting young talents.

The six-song Habit EP (2016) broke Snail Mail as a much-hyped emerging force. Habit was a rough diamond. Fuzzy, lo-fi bedroom-rock songs steeped in frank emotion and sentiment. But it was the maturity of the writing that turned the heads of music publications and indie labels alike. Songs like “Thinning”, which ties together a bout of illness with a bout of heartache, swells with infatuation and boasts a striking timelessness. Habit was more than enough to earn Jordan a recording contract with Matador, acting as a late catalyst for an album process that had already begun.

Two years on, Snail Mail’s next body of work Lush is on the verge of release. Ten songs deep, Lush is an honest and quietly witty take on growing up. Whether it be the infatuation of fleeting crushes, the repetitiveness of teenage parties or the turmoil of untimely breakups, Jordan approaches it all with a playful awareness of melodrama. Initially written singles “Pristine” and “Heatwave”, whilst serving as two of 2018’s strongest heartbreak tracks, are drenched in the stuff. The rest of the album serves as an exhibition of Lindsey’s talent as a guitarist/songwriter and stands as one of the strongest indie pop collections of the year so far. After two years of expectation and excitement, I’m very happy to report that Lush does not disappoint.

Speaking to me from the back of her tour van in Santa Fe, Lindsey and I discussed everything from tongue-in-cheek inspiration to the dynamics of Harry Potter house-bias.

 

Too Many Blogs: How keen are you now just to get Lush out there?

Lindsey: It really feels like I’m fulfilling something… It was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done to be honest. It took a lot of time and decision making. The hardest part now is thinking about starting to write the next one because I don’t have much time alone.

Where do you find time to write?

I do quite a bit of my writing in the van when everyone’s asleep. I plug my headphones into my guitar, but I can’t arrange vocals with people around. It makes a big difference to me. It sucks when you get a wave of inspiration and you’re in the back of the van in Nebraska with everyone.

The other day in Palm Springs I got up at 6am and locked myself in the van whilst everyone else was out. That was good.

Habit must have been much easier in that sense. I assume you could just write in your room and note down any inspiration when it came.

Yep, it was great. I could work on it whenever I wanted. I had no deadlines or any implications. It was all just for fun. I’ve had to rework my process a little bit, but I still feel like I’m writing for the same reasons. I’m still a writer before anything else.

Where’s your favourite or perhaps most productive place to write?

I’ve done the most writing in my parents’ house when nobody’s home. I lived in New York for a while and the apartment was super noisy. I could hear my roommates literally breathing through the walls.

You could hear them breathing?!

They were so thin. It had a little window that was forever cemented open from my roommate’s room to mine. There was a hole in the wall. I felt really uncomfortable trying out new vocal melodies knowing that they could be really bad and everyone could be hearing them. I got nothing out of my time when I was living there.

I just love to be completely alone. I can spend like six hours straight writing and not even notice how much time has gone. Alone in the van works, but it’s nice to be in an air conditioned room. I haven’t really found anywhere as good as my parents’ house.

I can see why that’d be better than the van.

There’s a real specific smell in here. We often go swimming in the ocean in our clothes and we once left our wet clothes in a tightly closed bag in here. It produced the most insane smell. It made the van totally uninhabitable.

Aside from touring and writing, what else fills your time these days? From your Instagram alone I get the impression that you’re into dogs and Harry Potter?

Oh yes. I am into Harry Potter. We went to the studio in Orlando. They had a fake King’s Cross platform, which was very cool. I need the full Harry Potter experience in England. My manager and I were googling where the actual Hogwarts castle is on the plane…

…have you tried Butterbeer?

Haha. I have not, but I’ve always wanted to!

It’s so good. You have to! Do you guys have Whole Foods in London?

Yep.

Well they have a knock-off there which tastes a lot like the real thing. It’s not called Butterbeer but it has a cauldron on it. It’s disgusting but it tastes really similar to the one that they have in the park. You can get frozen ones at the actual theme park. They’re pretty good.

What Hogwarts House do you reckon you’d be in?

According to that Hogwarts House Test online I’m a Slytherin. I definitely identify with that house the most too. I like to surround myself with other Slytherins. When I was dying my hair blonde I really felt like I could finally be one with my true identify. Malfoy blood in my veins.

We get a bad rap because of the movies. The movies are like, “Slytherin’s bad, Gryffindor’s good, Ravenclaw’s smart, Hufflepuff’s lame”. Which is DISGUSTING and untrue.

Awful, irresponsible misrepresentation. 

It’s just not fair. All those houses are multi-faceted. The books do a better job of portraying that, although Slytherin still comes out pretty bad!

This is the second interview that I’ve ended up talking about Harry Potter. I need to stop.

Well I’m glad we got to talk about it a little at least. What house would you be in?

I’m not going to pretend I didn’t take the same quiz. I actually got Gryffindor.

That’s nice. I’ve got a couple of Gryffindors in the van with me.

Say hi to the lads for me, will you?

Sure, it’s a special bond.

A post shared by Lindsey Jordan (@snailmailband) on

Lush feels very much matured. With a much more ‘pristine’ sound and a little more experimentation in terms of your guitar playing, it feels like you’ve approached the writing process differently. How did you change your approach?

Haaaaa. ‘Pristine’. Nice.

The process was way different, mainly because I had a ton of time. I sort of just spat Habit out into the world. With Lush I wanted to be really gradual about it. I had this great opportunity to pick a producer and a studio and take my time. Matador gave me the opportunity to make the record I wanted in whatever way I wanted, so I wanted to do it right. I feel like it’s everybody’s dream to have all of those resources at my disposal, so I needed to take advantage of that and make something really special. I spent a lot more time with myself figuring out what I care about in music and what makes a record special to me.

At the same time, I’m not totally on board with the idea that Lush is some representation of my maturity down on paper.

What does Lush mean to you, personally or thematically?

It’s really hard to pin down because it was written over a year and a half. I actually wrote “Pristine” around the time of Habit! At first I actually thought about it as a B-side for the EP, but I liked the song too much. I decided it probably wasn’t a B-Side.

It’s definitely not a B-side.

Haha, thanks.

“Let’s Find an Out” was the last song I wrote for the album… But there was so much time between starting and finishing it that it’s hard to equate it to a particular period in my life…

I definitely grew up a lot because I had to write it – I made it a challenge for myself. Most importantly, I wanted to make a record I felt like I would listen to. I know what matters to me lyrically now and I really got to know myself. The most important thing was making lyrics that meant something to me. I really didn’t want to be singing about some bullshit every night.

Let’s talk specifically about a few songs then. “Heatwave” links a failing infatuation to a heatwave during Summer. It’s brilliantly tragic. Can you tell us a bit more about what it means to you?

That was the second song I wrote for Lush. I wanted to write a heartbreak song. Along with “Pristine”, it’s just really melodramatic. All of these feelings I write about are just amplified by the weather. It’s hard to match up your heartbreak with the fact that it’s so sunny outside and the fact that everyone’s out eating ice cream, in the pool or having fun… Pan across to my bedroom and I’m just curled up in the dark. A little juxtaposition for ya.

What about the video? You were quite big on Ice Hockey when you were younger, right?

Yeah! I hadn’t been on the ice since junior year at high school – I had to write it off with all of the music.

Recently I’d started having a bunch of stress dreams. I’d be on the ice. It’d be overtime and I’d have one chance to win the championships. I was having so many of these hockey stress dreams. Eventually someone suggested I should do a video since I have the skills in my locker. I wasn’t sure at first, but I really missed flexing that skill.

Anyway, we rented out my childhood hockey rink for it! We had a press day in New York and I got a late train home, eventually finding myself back on that hockey rink at like 4am. It was really cool. It was the first time I was back on the ice since I was like 15.

You need to take advantage of that stuff. Get your label to make more videos of you doing something you enjoy. If you really like a certain meal or food, get them to film you eating it.

Yes! Maybe like strawberry-flavoured cake. That’s probably my favourite food… With mint-chocolate chip ice cream! I think that would be the dream. I also really love cooking. Maybe that should be the next video.

Onto “Pristine”. It’s probably my favourite song of the year so far. It’s similar to “Heatwave” in that it feels like you’re indulging yourself in some solid romantic depression. I feel like it typifies that feeling of being hopelessly and desperately in love to the point it’s almost funny. 

Totally. I was trying to get across a sense of self awareness and melodrama. I’m kinda making fun of myself. I wanted to get across this image of a totally love-struck idiot. It was written at a time when I was trying to get past this thing. I think it’s kinda fun to be hopelessly in love… but it’s also funny to be able to look back on it and think, “that was so dumb”. I was never under the impression that I would never love anyone else again haha. It’s just a fun self-deprecating song.

For some reason, the lyrics “it just feels like the same party every weekend, doesn’t it?” really stuck with me. Can you explain what you’re referencing here?

I was still in high school senior year when I wrote it. I was literally going to the SAME parties EVERY weekend. But then it’s also about how everything just seemed to be really habitual and boring ALL the time. I like the double meaning. I ended up getting a lot out of my everyday boring life.

Even being on this very strict touring and album cycle now, it’s still very habitual. First of all, you get your continental breakfast at the hotel. Then you drive all day and arrive in time for soundcheck. Have dinner. Play the show. Then drive to the next hotel. It’s all still the same party every weekend.

I think life is just the same party every weekend until you die.

That’s my senior quote right there.

Onto another great tune. “Full Control”. This one feels like you’re taking back control over those feelings a little.

I wanted that one to be in opposition to songs like “Heatwave”. Those songs portray me as some kind of mega-melodramatic heartbreak-indulgent. I’ve obviously matured a lot as a person since then and don’t really see myself as someone who loves to drown myself in my sorrows.

I feel the most whole when I’m comfortable with myself and not looking for that comfort in somebody else. I wanted to make a song without metaphor or anything – something that was much more nonchalant than some of the other songs.

I remember we were trying to get a different effect in the vocal styles in the studio. I wore my pyjamas for that one because I wanted to bring that level of nonchalance into the song.

You and the band are about to tour Europe for the first time. Anywhere you’re excited to go? [we spoke to Lindsey before their European tour started]

We’re honestly beside ourselves that we get to hang out in Europe. I think I’m the only one in the band who’s been to Europe before.

But I’m really excited to go to Norway. I’m excited for Belgium too. I think it’s gonna be our bassist Alex’s birthday out there. So I’m excited to see what we can do for it. Maybe we can open up a really nice bottle of wine or something – do something fun and European.

I’m also super excited to be by myself in Paris. I’ve been on Duolingo in an attempt to learn some basic French.

Before I let you get back to the van, I wanted to ask one final question. I’ve seen you big up quite a lot of other bands in interviews before. If you could listen to one album for the rest of your life, what album would you pick?

Oh GOD. That is a question. I’m a very album-orientated person and there are so many out there that mean so much to me. I wanna say a classic that I care about.

Maybe like… damn. Man… maybe like… The Velvet Underground & Nico. I think I’m gonna say that for now. To me, that’s what songwriting should be.

I also love Arthur Russell’s Love is Overtaking Me. It’s an incredible album.

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You can follow Joe on Twitter.

You can find Snail Mail on Twitter // Instagram // Facebook // Spotify

 

Lush will be released on June 8th via Matador Records. Pre-order here.

 

Snail Mail returns to the UK & Europe in late-Summer/Autumn:

17/8 – Cardiff, UK – Green Man Festival
20/8 – Antwerp, Belgium – Antwerp OLT
22/8 – Luxembourg City, Luxembourg – Conges Annules
23/8 – Düdingen, Switzerland – Bad Bonn
28/8 – Bergen, Norway – Perfect Sounds Forever
31/8 – Asten-Heusden, Netherlands – Misty Fields
2/9 – Dorset, UK – End Of The Road Festival
25/10 – London, UK – The Dome
8-10/11 – Reykjavik, Iceland – Iceland Airwaves

 

 

 

 

 

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