“A Casual Simplicity” Snail Mail Interviewed

Lindsey Jordan on the creative leap towards new album 'Valentine'…

When Clash is put through to Snail Mail she’s only days away from the release of her new album. It’s an important time for the New York based artist – real name Lindsey Jordan, ‘Valentine’ is part of an arc of evolution, a remarkably succinct piece of maximalism that explodes the indie pop template of her debut, expanding into shards of R&B and synth pop, moving from precocious melody to heart-wrenching lyric. 

“I have really, really strong feelings about it,” she admits. “To me. it’s a golden record and I don’t want my opinion to be tainted, I don’t want to see anything. That’s where I’m at in the moment.” 

If ‘Valentine’ is unexpected it’s only due to the prodigious success of her debut album ‘Lush’. A more defined, finessed indie pop experience, it’s a straight up genre piece that excelled through grappling with, and then disregarding, the rules. In the world of ‘Valentine’ however, she’s gone one further – to Snail Mail, the rules are but a memory. 

“I would have never dreamed of making anything pop adjacent,” she admits, “because at that point I think I was like, ‘I’m above it’. I just think I take myself more seriously and less seriously now and I guess I feel like my music tastes have landed more in the direction of disco, pop, R&B, hip-hop… and also I love indie rock, I love jazz, I love guitar music.” 

‘Lush’ was guided by the spirit of a songwriter in a more ‘classic’ sense; in the world of ‘Valentine’ Lindsey Jordan has transformed into an auteur, handling key aspects of production and arrangement. Indeed, this role acts as a lens for the maximalist palette she draws on. “Once I’d been in the producer role, it felt pretty natural for me to be like, pop music is my dream,” she recalls. “That started to jump out and I was like, okay, yeah, this just feels super correct for me.” 

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At its heart, though, ‘Valentine’ is simply a collection of good songs. The influences, the sonics may have changed, but the core of Snail Mail – in all her over-sharing glory – remains precisely the same. Take album standout ‘Ben Franklin’ and what she terms “a casual simplicity… but shrouded underneath it’s really intense!” 

“My style of writing almost became complacent and I wanted to be as expressive and intense as possible,” she says. “Making a song with this, almost casual sounding instrumental, I was like, it calls for a shift in tone, but not necessarily a shifted intention. So the intention is, the song is extremely personal and it’s a little bit TMI, but the actual delivery of the lyrics – being at times apathetic and then other times bratty and spoiled – was intentional in actually matching up with the instrumental itself.” 

Formulating sounds, gradually bringing them into focus, Snail Mail permitted herself space – and more importantly time – to live within the shell of ‘Valentine’ as the project evolved around her. A flurry of co-producers came and went, until Brad Cook came into her life. “I drove to North Carolina, late at night, and… well, his studio environment is amazing,” she gushes. “It’s lit only by lava lamps and, like, those rock lamps, so it’s pink, and we just sat in there talking about music for hours and just chilling. He takes his role working with a lot of young people and women very seriously as to not step all over anybody’s dreams. He’s very much like: you got it, you take it, you’re capable and I’ll just be here.” 

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It’s a position that afforded Snail Mail the space to evolve, while also providing support. Her voice, she is keen to point out, remained the guiding light of the entire situation. “I wanted to produce, I wanted there to be room for me to take creative risks and maybe a situation where I didn’t feel embarrassed to be wrong… I felt like I could be in a role where I was doing more than just listening to somebody else tell me what to do. I know what I want to do.” 

During our conversation Lindsey is a flurry of words and gestures, her passion for music causing limbs to flail far beyond the camera connecting our Zoom call. At one point, we both raise our arms in the air, mimicking her pre-gig routine to remove nerves – it’s a power pose, she explains, one that imbues you with a quiet sense of confidence. 

Behind her are a number of posts and framed pictures, each indicating a formative influence. She’s an Oasis stan, she laughs, but recently her tastes have gone all over the place – from re-absorbing Millennial R&B to cult Glaswegian audiophiles The Blue Nile and their evocative synth noir. “It’s New York at night!” she gasps. 

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“A lot of it has been about, for me, intentionally raising the bar,” she comments. “I feel like with my debut, I was like, I’m a songwriter, here are the songs, let’s get them recorded and get out of here. Same with the music videos and everything. Now, all of a sudden, I’m the producer, I’m the music video writer, I’m the leader… I feel like I’m working from a different band or something. Before I was a child, and now I’m an adult and it feels weird to be like, here’s another record from my childhood.” 

‘Valentine’ feels like a complete cohesive statement. From the stylized photo shoot – shot through with passionate pinks and reds – to the videos, which cross-reference costume drama and slasher horror to a sublime degree. Her next step is touring – sadly, a week after our interview took place, Lindsey learned that she would need an operation on her throat. Rehearsals had already taken place, however, giving her a feel for what will come in 2022. 

“I feel like everyone in the band is the type of person that, during the pandemic, were just completely alone in a dark room, with the guitar all hours of the day. We’re all similarly obsessive, kind of like nerdy musicians,” she chuckles, “and in that way we all came out of the pandemic much better and everyone had already learned and practiced all the songs, just through having the album.” 

Not she’ll be drawn on her own favourite song on the record. “They’re all my children!” she laughs, before joking backtracks. “I mean, I definitely have favourites. I probably would if I had children too!” 

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‘Valentine’ is out now. 

Words: Robin Murray

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Source: https://www.clashmusic.com/features/a-casual-simplicity-snail-mail-interviewed