Allen: We’re feeling excited and a bit nervous, because this is a little scary — sharing the first song we’ve written together! Alison and I have been writing songs, playing in bands, putting out records, and touring the US for years, but this is all new for us right now.
Alison: It’s nice to start small, with a single, but we already have plans for where this project will go, and what the bigger conceptual framework will look like. It’s going to be a different kind of album for sure! We’re trying to come up with innovative ways to release new music.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Disagree To Disagree”?
Allen: It’s a song about how difficult it is to communicate sometimes. It’s about inner monologues and holding grudges—you know, like reliving arguments you had 3 years ago and finally figuring out the perfect comeback. But it’s also about letting go and exploding all that to get on with life and love. The song isn’t offering any solutions though. I mean, the big moment comes when the two characters belt out “Baby, I Don’t Know” together with a choir of backup singers.
Alison: We didn’t even realize, when we wrote the song, that it would become so relevant now in our current climate. There is so much polarization with everyone in their own echo chambers, no one really listening to anyone but who they already agree with.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
Allen: Both Alison and I were coming off a rough year for different reasons, and we both had some friendships that we were questioning — people we cared about but always left us feeling like we couldn’t do anything right. We’re both Leos, so I think we both react similarly in those situations—feeling used or betrayed—so we decided to try transforming those feelings into a song.
Alison: Allen and I always have at least an hour therapy session with each other before we start any musical project, just digging deep into what’s going on in each of our lives, so this was a great place to start writing. We’re both pretty sensitive people, and we get our feelings hurt easily. It would be great to have a thicker skin, but sometimes having a thin skin is what leads to more honest songwriting I guess.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
Allen: We’ve been talking about it, but we’ve both been super busy with various projects. It could happen, let’s leave it at that.
How was the recording and writing process?
Allen: Well, I think this was a big experiment for both of us. We’ve co-written with lots of different partners in the past, but neither of us has ever tried the old-school approach of just sitting together in a room with a piano and a notebook. For me, it’s a lot safer to write lyrics on my own. Sharing half-baked lines and rhymes with someone who’s sitting across from you in real time is weird! It feels kind of embarrassing somehow. The good thing about it is that there’s nowhere to hide, so there’s an emotional honesty that comes through.
We wrote and recorded a demo of the song in an afternoon, then spent the better part of a year chipping away at the final version in between other projects. The studio was only semi-available most of that time because we got some water damage in the torrential Santa Cruz Mountains rains of 2017, and we spent most of last year installing new siding and windows. The upside is now the place is ready for anything. It turns out one of our contractors is a great guitar player from Santa Cruz, and we jammed a bunch of times while he was working on the place. He eventually ended up playing all the lead guitars on Disagree to Disagree. Thank you Mr. Ray Newkirk!
Alison: As Allen mentioned, writing songs from scratch in a direct partnership is a new thing for both of us. In every band I’ve ever been in, one person always comes in with the basic skeletal song, and then the collaboration happens from there. Our goal here is to do everything together from the start, which is challenging for sure, but also a really rewarding experience. I do really enjoy bouncing ideas and concepts and words and melody lines off each other – it puts you in a very vulnerable position, so there has to be a lot of trust in the other person. As far as recording, that is a total slam dunk for us always – we jump around the studio like crazy people with all kinds of ideas. We have fun.
What role does San Francisco play in your music?
Allen: San Francisco was the epicenter of the music scene when we were both coming up in the 90s, and it’s where we met most of the people we still make music with today. There’s such a great tradition of great pop music from the area—Neil Young’s ranch is about 15 minutes from my house and Fleetwood-Mac recorded the bulk of Rumours about 15 minutes from Alison’s house. That stuff is just part of the feel of living here.
Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than on your own?
Alison: It’s nice to have someone say “Maybe you can do something different with that, or play that differently…” without it feeling like criticism. We are friends and support each other, so we push each other along in a cool way. When I’m writing alone, I tend to stay in a certain comfort zone, so this is good to stretch out of that a bit.
Allen: I don’t think either of us would have ever written this song on our own — I can say that for sure.
Does the new single mean we can expect a new material – how’s that coming along?
Allen: Yes! We got together for a second writing session recently, and mapped out a few ideas for the future of Leafy Seadragon. It’s very mysterious, though.
Alison: The landscape of releasing music is so fraught with difficulty now for artists, so it’s important to find a way for your voice to be heard. We have some interesting conceptual ideas for this project that will be really fun if we can pull it off!
Any tentative release date or title in mind?
Alison: Not a date or a title, but definitely a through-line to the whole project that will be very unique.
Any plans to hit the road?
Alison: Haha! We keep saying, we’re a studio band that makes Hit Singles Only! We have both performed and toured so much as bandleaders who also play keyboards and guitars, we both sort of enjoy being homebodies, having fun in the studio, and not dragging our gear around. But we do know this: When and if we do perform live, we will have an amazing band that will allow us to be free to sing and move around and give the people a great show.
What else is happening next in Leafy Seadragon’s world?
Alison: We’re excited to see how people react to this song, we hope it’s a huge hit and everyone is singing along to it!