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Transmissions from the Dorm Room Heart: Snail Mail

words: Jordan Weinstock

The downpours outside begin to stop just as my interview with Lindsey Jordan, the creative backbone behind Ellicott City, Maryland’s Snail Mail starts.  The band, having recently signed to Sister Polygon, is about to begin a tour of the East Coast. As I prepare to ask the songwriter the questions I had been fretting over during my train ride home from work for a week, I think back to the way Snail Mail made my stomach churn, in a good way, when I heard them for the first time. 

Jordan: You’re putting out an EP called Habit on July 12th, what’s it like to work with Sister Polygon?  They’ve always seemed super mysterious to me.  Maybe that’s because they lack a Facebook or a heavy internet-presence.

Lindsey: That’s funny, for me it’s always been pretty easy because they’re just my friends who I see at shows and stuff.  They’re around in D.C, they’re just really cool people who are working on putting together cool shows and making sure the artists that they like are getting heard. 

Jordan: The first track off of the new album is called “Thinning”.  It kind of took me by surprise because instrumentally it seems so different from your last EP. What has brought about those changes?  How would say you have developed and changed since you first started putting out music as Snail Mail?

Lindsey: “Thinning” is a little different from the dynamics of the other songs on the album.  It’s kind of faster and more aggressive and a little more fun, but the sound is definitely way different from the EP just in that my music taste has changed and I’ve gotten a lot better at playing in the tunings (Lindsey plays in Open D and Standard) I have been playing with.  Also it’s the fact that, although the band didn’t help me write the songs, I was thinking about it more along the lines of “how can I write something that will work with a bassist and a drummer?” 

Jordan: Would you mind expanding on how your music tastes have changed since the release of the first EP?

Lindsey: I’ve been listening to a lot Electrelane, Broadcast, the Cure, and New Order. I really like Joni Mitchell but I can’t say her sound inspired anything, definitely her writing though, her writing for sure! I really like Psychic TV and Hole.  Hole are really cool.  Everything is in all of these different directions so I don’t really know what inspired what, things seem much more dynamic now.  I’ve gotten much more into listening to music now than I was then.

Jordan: So maybe not who inspired you, but what inspired you?  Any specific place or book or thing maybe?

Lindsey: Each of the songs probably took a month to write so I was a much different person as I wrote each one, emotionally.  I would give a lot of it to being restless.  I hate to put it all on being in high school, but being in high school and also just like figuring it out.  A lot of songs were like ‘ughhh, I love this person and they don’t love me back” or being like “I’m so bored” or at that point, being sixteen and not knowing what to do with myself at any point and being an emotional mess.  A lot of the album is me being an emotional mess, the whole thing pretty much.  I can’t say anything’s changed but I’m definitely in a different place now than when I wrote it, just being a mess.

snail mail habit art.jpg

Jordan: The EP is called Habit so I was wondering, a habit of what?

Lindsey: I think that falls into the same conversation as the themes of the EPs.  Just about being in a rut and getting into a habit of staying that way.  Being so stuck in the same place and I just fell into a sort of every day slump.  Pretty much the entire time it took to write that album is me being bummed out and getting into a habit of living life like a sad weenie.  It sounds really negative but the album itself isn’t supposed to be negative, it’s just me trying to express whatever I was feeling at that time. 

Jordan: If Snail Mail was a comic book, what would your origin story be?  Like issue number one, explaining how Snail Mail came to be.

Lindsey: Well, I’d definitely put a superhero teenage girl in there, it would be me.  She meets other cool musicians in the Big, Bad City and plays Big Bad Shows and as a result gets other Big Bad Shows.  She stops crime by getting more teenage girls to come to Snail Mail shows.  Like a Justice League of Snail Mail thing going on.  We’re all just coolin’ and stopping the crimes and injustices of Baltimore with rock music.

Jordan: Is this the first tour you guys have done?  Where and who are you most excited to play with?

Lindsey: Yea!  We’ve played New York and Philly before for one-off shows.  It’s seven days, a show every night except one break day for Coney Island. I’m really excited to play with Long Beard.  I really love Leslie’s music.  She’s so good but I’m most excited to play in the Silent Barn, the sound there is so good!

mp3: "Weeknites" - Strange Relations

podcast: The Grey Estates Podcast #5 with Esmé Patterson