Get Lost in the Virulent Tumblr Maelstrom of Lady Lamb the Beekeeper's Aly Spaltro
How best to tag the restless, reactive folk-pop of Lady Lamb the Beekeeper? So many ways, dude: rambunctious, precocious, invigorating, probing, sweet, exasperating, quirky, self-indulgent, lunging, crackers, too sane, even. The outfit led by Brooklyn's Aly Spaltro, 23 -- named after something she scribbled on a page while stuck in a dream -- ultimately embodies all of these qualities and more, though it should be noted that she's getting better at focusing her musical attacks. New album Ripely Pine (Ba Da Bing!) is heads and tails above the run of releases the former Air Force brat has committed to digital tape since 2007, even if the experience of submitting to its songs is comparable to getting lost in a virulent Tumblr maelstrom. There's an endearing theatricality at work in her songwriting, with mad breathlessness giving way to oases of calm and the sense that the dusky blues of "Taxidermist Taxidermist" or spritely "You Are The Apple" -- where limber-digit guitar squares off against Spaltro's uncanny, unintentional Morrissey impression -- are less quick-hit bursts of sonic product than intense journeys that listeners are intended to join Lady Lamb on. The swoop and sweep of her sprawling craft somehow finds room for echoes of Half-Handed Cloud's devotion, PJ Harvey's vengeance, and Regina Spektor's evocative brittleness.
What was the name of the first song you ever wrote, when did you write it, and what was it about?
The first song I ever wrote and recorded was a kind of Lady Lamb theme song called "Lamb in the Swarm." It's essentially about bees. I wrote it and recorded it when I was 18 years old in an eight-hour span overnight in my friends' mom's basement dance studio with guitar and a keyboard with built-in percussion. I was so delirious and excited when it was finished that I shook my friend awake at 5 am to make him listen. Needless to say, he thought I was completely off my rocker.
The song begins with a high-pitched, bent vocal that goes "one by one and two by two/here they come, they're coming for you/three by three and four by four/there's no time to shut the door/bees in my brain, bees in my knees/bees in my belly/and bees in my teeth/bees in my hair, bees from those hives/oh my god, they're everywhere."
Very few people have heard it, but it's stashed away somewhere in my iTunes.
To me, those lyrics recall an Alanis Morrisette song called "The Bees of My Knees." Did you ever hear that one?
I've never heard that one! The only Alanis I'm familiar with is Jagged Little Pill.
What does the title Ripely Pine mean?
Well, "Ripely" is a made-up adverb. The phrase "Ripely Pine" is taken from a lyric in the 11th track on the record, "The Nothing Part II." The lyric is: "That you may ripely pine in the mammoth nothing of the night." To me, it means to long for something - with a pulpy heart. The songs on Ripely Pine are just that: songs of pulpy pining.
Are you a big Smiths fan? I notice Morrissey-esque cadences cropping up frequently in your vocal performances.
You might be the fifth person in the past year to bring up Morrissey to me in relation to my music. What's so interesting is that I've never been a Smiths fan.
For those Smiths fans out there, I apologize, but I couldn't even name one Smiths song title. It seems like I must look more into them, and see if there's a nod I'm making that I just don't know about yet!
Could I trouble you to Google and sample two songs featuring him on lead vocal, and let me know what you think? First: Morrissey, "The More You Ignore Me." Second: The Smiths, "This Charming Man."
I think Morrissey certainly has a beautiful voice and both songs are catchy, but I just have trouble connecting with The Smiths. I can't say that the musical style of 1980s British bands - and a lot of 1990s stuff, too - is really my jam. But I do think Morrissey is a great lyricist.
"Crane Your Neck" is a lively, active song at points, and in some ways it feels like you're exhorting your audience to dance, to get physical like a personal trainer might. In a live setting, is this one of your goals? If so, does it usually work?
It is one of my biggest dreams in my career to be able to perform music that people can dance to. I actually consciously feel guilty sometimes when I perform "Crane Your Neck" because of all the mild-to-dramatic tempo changes. I honestly sometimes feel bad, throwing people off like that. I want to make dance records; "Aubergine "and "Rooftop" were my attempts at opening that door on Ripely Pine.