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INTERVIEW: Lapel

Hi Debbie, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

2018 has had a beautiful start, thank you!  I was very lucky to win The Deli Magazine’s Artist of the Month Award and started off the year in a full-on Daria costume onstage at a 90s themed New Years Eve show!

Can you talk to us more about your new single “Less Of A Woman”?

This song is very special to me – I wrote “Less of a Woman” as a conversation between two women (which you can hear in the verses between myself and my amazing bandmate Jess Silva) reassuring each other that our ability or desire to have children does not determine our value or self-worth.  It feels like I’ve waited my whole life for the world to tell women that we are in fact in charge of our bodies and futures, and when I still wasn’t getting that message, I decided to write this song so I could hear it said back to me in a way.  At the same time, the entire chorus is a question – “Does it make me less of a woman?”  Despite how I feel politically or intellectually, I’m a product of the same society that constantly repeats sexist messages, so there is still an inherent self-consciousness to these decisions and questions.

Did any event inspire you to write this song?

I don’t think a singular event inspired the song, but rather an accumulation of my anger and frustration with misogyny, the way women’s bodies are treated and talked about, and the countless ways women are shamed when it comes to reproductive healthcare and decisions.  Writing about social issues is very tricky though, and can come off as trite or didactic, so I was very deliberate in creating something that was positive, empowering, and a song you could actually dance to!

Any plans to release a video for the single?

I have a few videos in the works for some upcoming singles, though I have a dream of recording a live performance video for “Less of a Woman” in partnership with the Women’s Audio Mission here in the Bay Area, the only professional recording studio in the world built and run by women.  My vision would be having every performer, videographer, audio engineer and mastering engineer identify as female, so the entire project would be woman-produced from start to finish, which is unfortunately super rare in our industry.

The single comes off your new album Periphery – what’s the story behind the title?

The title has multiple meanings, all related to edges and boundaries – first, it’s named after one of the tracks and upcoming singles from the album, which felt like a key that unlocked the entire record for me.  I really wanted to move away from all the piano-based music I had made previously, and the use of synthesizers, blending of organic and electronic sounds, and pop/R&B feel of the song felt like I was finding my stride in a new style of writing.

Second, the majority of the record is written about someone I lost to drug addiction – I felt like he was always living on the periphery of life, somewhere between life and death, and when he overdosed, I was still searching for him and trying to understand where he was and what it all meant throughout my grief process, which you can hear being explored throughout the whole record.

How was the recording and writing process?

Because of the emotional topic of the record, as well as trying to challenge myself with an entirely new style of music, it was pretty excruciating at times!  When you’re trying to create something in uncharted territory for yourself there can be a ton of doubt and second guessing, but I truly believe that’s where the greatest work and growth comes from.  It was also some of the most fun I’ve ever had in the studio, exploring so many types of synthesizers and electronic elements.

What was it like to work with Beau Sorenson and how did that relationship develop?

I can’t say enough wonderful things about Beau!  He was the perfect work partner, co-producer, and champion for the record, especially in those moments where I felt like, “can I really pull this off?  Does this sound insanely cheesy?  Can I really write a dance song?”  He is a brilliant engineer, producer, and has a gift for knowing exactly when to step in and when to let the artist find their own way out of a puzzle.  He’s also worked with some of my all-time favorite artists (Death Cab for Cutie, Tune-Yards), and it was such an honor getting to work together on something that felt so new and monumental for me.

How much did he influence the album?

Beau has an amazing knowledge and collection of synthesizers and drum machines, which was one of the main reasons I wanted to work with him in the first place.  These sounds were crucial in separating this new project from my past records under my own name.  The more I worked with him the more I got to see his talent, creativity, and artistic prowess, in both subtle and expansive ways.  There were so many times when I was stuck on a certain part of song, and he found a way to lift it to where it needed to go.  At the same time, he was incredibly receptive to all of my ideas and visions for the record.

What role does San Francisco play in your writing?

I think the people of San Francisco, more than the city itself, inspire my writing – most of the music I listen to actually comes from different parts of the country/world.  I have been so lucky to find the most incredible community of musicians here, whose kindness and encouragement matches their fierce talent.  This album would not have been possible without the brilliance of Cody Rhodes (drums), Scott Brown (bass), Minna Choi (Magik*Magik Orchestra), Adam Theis (horns), Derek Barber (guitar), and Jess Silva (vocals), and of course Beau.

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than working alone?

I always write my songs by myself, so when it’s time to collaborate with other musicians it’s a huge relief and a lot more fun!  I think you get the best work out of people when they have a sense of creativity and ownership of the parts they come up with, so I always like to balance communicating my ideas for a song while leaving lots of room for the player to explore and create.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

The record tackles addiction, my own relationship to feminism, and police brutality, so there’s a lot of heaviness and honesty in the lyrics.  But as I mentioned above with “Less of a Woman,” I really didn’t want to write an album full of sad, dark, slow songs – I wanted to keep that earnestness and substance while still making music you could move to – there are many shades of grief and overcoming oppression, and I think the variety of songs and styles on the album reflect that.

Any plans to hit the road?

We’re playing a series of California shows this month and will definitely tour around the record release!

What else is happening next in Lapel´s world?

I’m so overjoyed to finally release the record and play more live shows this year – it’s such a gift to be able to make and share this music, and I really feel like this is the best work I’ve made!

Listen here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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