Lemolo's Meagan Grandall is the Seattle music scene's equivalent of Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception, and we're all just living in her R.E.M. trace while she implants her ethereal dream pop deep in our memories. After making a serene debut with 2012's LP The Kaleidoscope, Grandall continues her dreamweaving ways with more haunting and emotive vocals and instrumentation on Lemolo’s even more layered second LP, Red Right Return. While the record officially arrives on November 10, early copies can be snagged this Friday, November 6 when Lemolo plays the Crocodile for the Red Right Return release show.
For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Grandall about building a sonic dreamscape, the frequency of Lemolo's drummer turnover, and anthropology.
What’s your favorite aspect of Red Right Return?
I had a really great time experimenting with a few more layers than I ever have before. I feel like the sound itself has sort of expanded a bit, and that was really fun and exciting for me to get to do. I let myself create all the layers that I really wanted to be there, and I had some new instruments to work with, so that was really enjoyable for me.
When you’re building these ethereal soundscapes, how does the composition form in your mind? Is it just staring with one piano or guitar riff that you then build upon?
Every song that I write starts out with just one basic All my songs start out very basic with guitar or piano and a main vocal melody with the lyrics. I finish that first, then finish the whole song.
Going into the studio is really fun because I laid down that layer first, then lead drums after that. And so then from there, it’s a really amazing opportunity to build around that foundation and make it into what I really wanted it to sound like. All the layers were really added one at a time.
I spent quite a bit of time recording the record, and sometimes I’d spend a few weeks at a time in between the layers. I’d take what I had home, sit down with it in my studio, and really get to be as creative as I wanted. I’d write the parts that go on top of it, then bring it back into the studio, add that layer, and mull that over to see if I wanted to add even more on top of that. It was a building process, but it definitely starts out very basic.
How do you feel you’ve evolved as an artist between the The Kaleidoscope and Red Right Return?
I definitely feel that I have grown up a lot from the time I wrote the first one to now.] I think it was a really big lesson in being confident and knowing what I wanted to do. I’ve always struggled with self-doubt; doubting if I like something or doubting if what I like is good. For this record, I really tried to trust myself and trust that what I wanted to do is what I should do, and that that’s okay. And even if people don’t like it—or whatever the response is—that it’s okay. That’s still hard for me. Working on this record was the first time where I challenged myself to try to be that way. It’s something I’ll always work on, but I’ve definitely noticed a difference in myself. I’m able to trust myself more.
Who goes through more drummers: you or Spinal Tap?
Oh man, I know. [Laughs] It’s been a big thing for me.
How many drummers have there been since the first record?
I think three… and that’s definitely not by choice. [Laughs] Nothing against the drummers I’ve had, it’s just a challenge to find people who are able to go on tour. This year I’ve finally started touring a lot, and it’s really hard to find someone awesome at drumming who isn’t in another band. I feel so grateful, the last six months or so I’ve been working with a drummer who is actually really eager to go on tour and very available and interested. His name is Adrian Centoni. Hopefully that run of trying out all the different people and being in transition is coming to an end, because I would love for him to keep playing with me for a long time
How do you two first connect?
When I formed Lemolo, I played a lot in Tacoma. He and I played one of our first shows together like seven years ago. He was drumming in a band called Colonies. I played a bunch of shows with Colonies long, long ago. I met him way back when, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. He always told me, “If you ever need a drummer, please call me, because I’m a big fan of your music and I would love to.”
And the timing just worked out. He was no longer drumming with Colonies and was looking for a projects. And I was looking for someone who wanted to go on tour and be gone and live that crazy lifestyle, because touring is definitely not for everybody. So I feel very grateful that we came together musically. We’ve known each other a long time, so it’s been fun to have those roots to build on.
What do you appreciate about what he brings to the group?
He has really great technical skills, which is important. But I also really like his energy on stage, I think that’s really valuable. I like to rock out and have as much fun as I can onstage, and I appreciate having a drummer onstage with that energy and desire to have fun and rock out and not hold back in terms of performing, who can let loose and just have fun with it.
How do you feel like Seattle has influenced your music?
For me, it’s more the Pacific Northwest in general. I don’t even live in the city, I live kind of out in the country. It’s a lovely place to live. It’s always felt like home to me. The idea of home is really important for me creatively. Home is where I feel comfortable and able to be creative. The beauty of being surrounded the Pacific Northwest nature is really calming and inspiring for me. In a way, the calmer I feel, the more creative I’m able to feel. So I think that all feeds into my ability to make music, my desire to want to make music.
In Seattle specifically, there’s just such an amazing art culture and I feel like the music community is so supportive. Granted, I’ve never lived in another city and tried to be a musician there, but in Seattle I’ve always felt so much support from people from the very beginning. And I think that’s played a big part in my story, in my ability to be a musician.
If you weren’t a musician, is there another line of work you’d want to pursue?
I have always been interested in international development. I graduated from Seattle University with a degree in environmental science and anthropology, so I always thought if I wasn’t making music I would go into that field in some way. But I’ve been enjoying music so much it hasn’t been my reality yet. I love that field of study, so maybe someday I’d get back into that.
Do you have any pre-show routines?
Oh man. Pre-show, I’m always terribly nervous. No matter how hard I try, there’s no way to get around it. [Laughs] I don’t know if I’ll ever not be that way. I notice the more I go on tour the easier it becomes to manage. Maybe I get used to the feeling more or it’s not as extreme. Usually before a show I’m trying to do everything I can to relax and calm down. I love drinking tea and sitting somewhere really quietly. I always have my phone by me to play some of my favorite songs and sing along to them.
Any go-to sing-alongs?
One of my favorites is Sharon Van Etten. I like singing along to her. She calms me down a lot. My girl.
Lemolo: Red Right Return Release Show
Nov 6 at 9, The Crocodile, $15–$17