INTERVIEW WITH SNAIL MAIL
India sits down with Lindsey Jordan for a chat, and guest-stars on guitar.
‘Lush’ by Snail Mail is, and continues to be, one of my favourite albums of all time. After somehow bagging an interview with Lindsey Jordan herself, I went to meet her in Birmingham ahead of her show at the Hare and Hounds. As a first-time interviewer, I did not know what to expect, however, I definitely did not predict that I would end up playing guitar on stage with the band. This interview took place in May 2019, so some answers may be slightly out of date - but what follows is a selection of questions that Lindsey kindly answered for me...
So you’ve just finished a short European tour with Soccer Mommy, is that right?
LINDSEY: Well, I messed up when I made that post. <laughs> We actually just did the one show with Soccer Mommy but it was great!
Was it nice to finally have some time where you’re both in the same place at the same time?
Yeah! We are actually old friends with those guys. We used to play house shows with them and stuff. It’s really refreshing to get to see them because we’re all best friends and we’ve had a lot of late nights with them. It was awesome, I love that band.
You’ve mentioned that Paramore was a pretty big influence of yours when you were younger. Did you get the chance to see Soccer Mommy supporting them on tour last year?
No, no, my biggest regret of all time. I bet it was magical. We were on a conflicting tour in Europe I think. Kacey Musgraves and Soccer Mommy toured together too!
Speaking of influences, was there a specific person or moment in your life that inspired you to go into music or was it something you always wanted to do?
Uh, I feel like it was always kinda like an intrinsic force, it was always something I felt like I had to do and I’ve been playing guitar for so long. Yeah, it’s always been a hobby and an outlet… I figured if I could just make that my life, then that would be ideal. I guess I've had lots of different music teachers in my life and lots of friends who inspire me in bands and stuff, but it’s always just been a personal journey.
I’ve recently started playing guitar as well and your song Heat Wave was the first song I learnt!
NO WAY! That’s awesome. You should play it. Do you feel like you can? Do you wanna play it tonight?
Are you serious?
Do you want to?
That would be amazing, but I feel like I would mess up! I’m not very good.
Well I think it would be cool, if you want to, I have an extra guitar in standard and you can just come up and do whatever you want! If you want!
That would be so cool, seriously?
Yeah! That would be so fun! Let’s do it!
It will be so fun; I am so sorry if I mess up.
Oh dude, I literally don’t care. I played a guitar solo with Mac DeMarco yesterday and he didn’t tell me the song and I also didn’t know the song. I actually don’t really know his music that well and he was like, ‘this song is in this key so just come up and don’t mess up’, and I got up there and I really messed it up, so it’s okay <laughs>. Just hang back if you feel like it.
Thanks so much, this will be great!
So, you seem to spend most of your time writing, recording and touring. Do you have a favourite of these processes?
Writing, probably. I like recording a lot, I like touring sometimes, but I think writing is the most fulfilling of the three. It’s the reason why I do music and why I started doing it. Also probably why I’ll stop doing it. I think it’s also the most challenging. It sets people apart from each other because it’s such an individual process. It’s something that I don’t really collaborate with other people on, and I really feel like it gets to the root of what makes someone an artist. You have to excel at the other parts too, but I think the most gratifying and special part is just sitting alone by yourself and working out what you’re gonna be putting together.
You started touring when you were 16, right? Do you ever regret starting so young or has it always felt like it was worth it?
No, I’m glad I started young, I think I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. Sometimes it’s really challenging to just be around older people all the time, you know? There’s a lot of bad decisions to be made, but it’s kinda cool to learn that for yourself. It being harder when you’re younger makes it all the more gratifying to meet other young bands and make friends that way. It’s taught me a lot about who I am as a person and I've grown up really fast, but I'm thankful for the experience.
So, you’ve said that you relax at home by playing Skyrim. Are there any games you and the band play on tour?
No, our tour manager has a Switch, but we haven’t set it up! Our van has a TV in it, but we don’t know how to use anything in the van. We can’t even figure out how to make the chargers work!
Do you have any other things you like to do to help you relax after a long tour?
I read a lot, on tour and off. I love hanging out with my friends and my parents, just doing stuff that’s super normal is really nice. Going to college parties and sleepovers and stuff. I go roller skating still a lot.
What do you enjoy most about touring and what do you miss most about home?
I like seeing friends at festivals, it’s really nice because we don’t always get to see them. It definitely used to be going out to eat. That used to be really thrilling for me but now I’m like, someone bring it to me please. The show as well, the 40 minutes that we’re on stage is awesome. The things I miss most about home are getting 8 hours of sleep at night and seeing my dogs, Amelia and Bear, and my mom.
Some artists find ‘stan’ culture a bit weird and off-putting. Do you think that because so many of your fans are a similar age to you that it’s less strange?
I think it’s funny and sweet. I usually won’t even think about it, I’m usually thinking oh I gotta text someone, gotta respond to this email and finish this song, then I walk out the door and someone’s like ‘Hey Mom!’ <laughs> and I’m like oh hello person my age…’son?’ I think it’s really sweet, usually people are pretty respectful and excited, which is great. Playing to a crowd of people who don’t care or are too cool to care is so hard. So I actually like my ‘stans’, they’re great.
You started Snail Mail when you were still in High School. Was it something you tried to keep secret from your teacher? And how did they react when the band started to gain attention?
Yeah, it’s just an annoying conversation to have and I was in junior year when they found out they were like ‘ok whatever’. I think they all thought I was a little stoner with messy hair which I actually wasn’t. I was a very good and very studious, and I didn’t even start partying until after High School. The next year Snail Mail started to pop off and then they were all like ‘DoN’T fOrgEt mE’ and stuff.
When you reached the end of school did you ever consider dropping music and following a more conventional career path? What do you think you would have become instead?
Definitely like an English teacher or a writer. I was gonna do English with a minor in Music but ideally I would’ve loved to take some classes in writing or something. I definitely considered it. I had an agent in High School and I told them that I was just gonna put it off for a couple years and go to college in New York. I told the label I wasn’t gonna sign and that I was gonna go to school but then a couple weeks later I was like ‘nah, that’s dumb’. People will usually tell you that if you have the opportunity, then you have to exploit that. You can go back to school whenever but the wave is not always available for you to ride on so you gotta take it as it comes.
On a completely different note, do fans often mishear your lyrics? Do you have a favourite incorrect one?
Yeah, they always mishear them. I don’t know about a favourite one... But I know Ray, the drummer’s friend, always sings ‘baked beans’ whenever we play Pristine. I think he actually thought that was the line at first, which is really far off, but cute nonetheless.
I always hear the lyrics ‘even when it’s love’ in Full Control as ‘Steven Wentsworth’
You know actually, in the studio I had this long debate with the producer about connecting the words ‘lost’ and ‘even’, so in order to make it the way he wanted it to be I said ‘Steven’ in the studio. <laughs> So actually, you’re not wrong. It just makes it sound more flowy. There’s a couple songs we did that on but then changed them back to the original but for technicalities sake, I did say into the microphone ‘Steven when it’s love’.
If you could steal a band member from any band, who would you choose?
My friend Emily plays bass in Angel Olsen’s band and she’s SO good. I love her, I love being around her and if that wasn’t really throwing Angel into a pit, I would love to steal Emily. I would have her and Alex both play bass because I don’t think I could live without Alex in the band. Maybe if I were to have somebody play an instrument that we don’t already have, like an orchestral instrument, maybe someone that plays strings.
Any 2019 releases that we should be listening to right now?
The Tierra Whack album is coming out this year, the new FKA Twigs is probably gonna be really good. I’ve heard the new Clairo record, it’s really good. I really like that new Faye Webster album. God what else came out this year? Weyes Blood was cool, I think you would really like that. The new Big Thief is cool. SASAMI! Have you heard that yet? Check it out!
Snail Mail is on tour this year. You can see India play guitar with the band here.