Interview: Aly Spaltro
Even in the Tremor, Aly Spaltro’s third LP as Lady Lamb, features an eclectic yet cohesive mix of song styles. Over the course of 11 tracks, the Brooklyn-based indie rocker takes memorable lyrics and an already tight full-band sound and tastefully layers them with synthesizers, live strings, and horns that, though electronic, nonetheless sound live.
Just before heading out on tour to share the early April release with audiences across the U.S. — including a Sunday, May 19, return to The Mothlight — Spaltro spoke with Asheville Stages about her various conscious and subconscious influences, fitting a poetic dose of words into her songs, and the joys of working with classical musicians who share the same name.
…on musicians with diverse albums and catalogs who’ve inspired her.
I’m really into this band The Fiery Furnaces. They’re a brother-sister duo. They don’t play together as a band anymore, but they put out a bunch of albums and they were influential for me in terms of lots of tempo changes and strange sounds and instrumentation and real variations on the record. And I really love of Montreal for that same reason. And then other artists like Joanna Newsom are also really good at writing really long songs and having lots of different genre styles within the same piece — or within a discography, I guess, because they can go back and forth between more folk-centered work and electronic, and I love that.
…on seeing her vision for the album through, despite certain potential collaborators who wanted her to make significant compromises.
I talked to a lot of different producers and some of them, we really clicked and got along really well and it would have been an exciting chance to make a record together, but I always felt in my gut that I really needed to follow my gut and stick to some of the vision that I had written. And so, for, I guess, better or worse, the record ended up being very similar to my demos, which I had made very specifically. I’m really glad that I stuck to my guns on that and ended up working with my co-producer Erin [Tonkon], who was real enthusiastic about my ideas and helped me get to them.
…on having two Emily Prices in her string section.
Oh my god! Isn’t that wild? So, basically, the cellist, Emily Hope Price, is one of my best friends and she recommended a violinist who lives in Baltimore — also Emily Price. And when she said that, I was confused. Like, “What do you mean?” And she was like, “Oh! Have I not told you about her? Yeah, we’ve known each other since we were kids.” They’re both from Utah and are both named Emily Price, and one time something weird happened where one of them was doing some big recital, but the other player was sent their parts or something. There was some funny mixup because their names are the same, and through that they became friends. Now they’re in their 30s and have known each other for 20 years. So [laughs], yeah, Emily Hope Price and Emily Jane Price [laughs] — no relation. They just went by their middle names when they were together. [Laughs]
…on the Jenny Lewis and Watson Twins reference in “Emily.”
I love Jenny Lewis. I have since I was a kid. So, the Emily in the song is Emily Hope Price, the cellist. She’s one of my oldest friends, and then there’s also a reference to my other best friend, Shervin [Lainez, the noted music photographer who took the cover image for Even in the Tremor]. He and I have been listening to Jenny Lewis together since we met 10 years ago, so when we go on road trips or tour together, that kind of thing, we always play [Rabbit Fur Coat]. So, that was kind of just a little special thing for him, but I’ve noticed that some people who are Jenny fans are really pumped on that lyric. It’s fun. We play that every night and it’s always fun to get to that line and see the smiles. [Jenny and I] definitely know a lot of the same people, but we haven’t met yet.
…on writing wordy songs, yet performing them in a pleasant, melodic style — reminiscent of a certain California redhead.
That’s just something I’ve naturally gravitated to. I started out just writing poetry before I wrote music, so the lyrics are always number one for me. So, I end up always having too many words and trying to edit them down. But usually for me, if I don’t have lyrics, I don’t write the song. Those don’t stem from any influence, really, just from the passion or writing words and then fitting them to music. There are certainly artists that I admire that are also very wordy, but I tend not to make choices to try to emulate artists when I’m writing a record. But I think that my influences definitely subconsciously find their way through, so it’s very plausible that a bit of Jenny Lewis has seeped into my psyche, along with other artists like Joanna Newsom. Mostly, I just write a lot of words when I’m inspired.
…on translating Even in the Tremor’s diverse sounds to the stage.
Well, we can’t have string players on this tour, which is tough because, obviously, that would be wonderful to be able to play a lot of the string arrangements that I wrote for this record. But I have a couple multi-instrumentalists with me, mainly my guitarist Alex [Schaaf]. He’s doing some synth-string parts. I also built in some samples from the record that he’s triggering. It’s been fun because we’ve sort of had to rearrange some of the songs and decide what’s sonically most important for the live show. Certain songs — like, “Little Flaws” has become more stripped down, but hasn’t lost its essence and that’s always fun to have some things sort of shift slightly live, but still be powerful. But for most part, we’re trying to make it as full-sounding as we can with four people and four-part harmonies.
IF YOU GO
Who: Lady Lamb with Katie Von Schleicher and Alex Schaaf
When: Sunday, May 19, 9 p.m.
Where: The Mothlight, 701 Haywood Road, themothlight.com
Tickets: $15 advance/$17 day of show
(Photo by Erica Peplin)