We interviewed indie rock musician Lindsey Jordan, better known as Snail Mail, on her second studio album Valentine which sees the artist continue to grow with her brilliant songwriting and evolving sound from the guitar-driven 2018 debut LP Lush.
Leaning towards a far refined pop production full of synths and strings away from her moody guitar that dominated her 2018 debut LP Lush, Snail Mail continues to chronicle her experiences with fame, love and relationships on her sophomore release Valentine.
The highly-lauded 22-year-old frontwoman, who has rightfully earned her place as an icon for the future generation of indie rock musicians, has crafted 10 new songs that exudes emotional vulnerability and maturity yet impressively doesn’t give too much of herself away.
While shorter than her first record, her honesty and confidence enthralls fans for 30 minutes straight as she laments with her obsession of lost love, and heartbreak that many young adults may go through varying degrees.
We sat with Lindsey to hear her talk about her latest body of work as well as recalling her adventures touring around Southeast Asia three years ago.
AsiaLive365: Hey Lindsey, how are you? You’re about to release your highly-awaited second studio album Valentine! It features a more mature and evolved sound from your guitar-driven songs heard in your debut Lush LP.
How would you describe the album in one sentence?
Snail Mail: That’s not easy! Valentine is a self-reflective piece detailing the last several years of my young adult life, communicated through indie rock, pop, trip hop music.
AL365: What are some elements in your songwriting and production process that you feel have evolved from the last record?
Snail Mail: I think my lyricism has definitely grown. Working on it, I was trying to be very intentional about evolving as a lyricist, like it takes so much conscious effort. I knew I had more to offer.
I think the arrangements are more concise and powerful, and they’re shorter. Some of the songs started much longer and then I was like, ‘It would be pro of me to consolidate these, to get everything that I need to say out in a shorter period of time.” I’m actually really proud how short the album is, even though I know maybe that’s not what the fan’s perspective is. For me, I love that the record is 35 minutes long.
AL365: Do you always look to personal experiences to base your music from?
Snail Mail: I think it’s all over the place in that regard. Lush was based on personal experiences, and Valentine is also very personal experience-core. Coming into my own as a songwriter, I really discovered that it felt more interesting for me to write about things that were emotionally topical in my life. It’s easier for me to divulge into it.
If I was writing from the perspective of a character, it would be harder for me to stay interested over time. Not only in the songwriting process, but also at the studio and on the stage. I’m just trying to keep it down to ‘what can I explode about emotionally’.
AL365: Which artists are you currently listening to?
Snail Mail: I’m always listening to a lot of Elliott Smith as long as I can think of. A lot of Oasis and Alvvays. Some older Smashing Pumpkins stuff I haven’t heard. A lot of Drake. Life Without Buildings has been massive for me within the last couple years. They’re one of my ultimate favorite bands nowadays. Some Dean Blunt, The 1975. Been leaning to pop and jazz lately.
AL365: You’ve released a new single called ‘Madonna’. It sounds knee deep in religion. Are you a religious person?
Snail Mail: I was raised very Catholic. I hold a lot of it dearly in a way that’s complicated, that if I think too much about it, I would just feel stressed and sad. Any steps that I took away from organized religion, I just felt a divide once I started to come into my sexuality and just be a gay woman.
A divide is there, whether you wanted it to be there or not, and I definitely think a lot of the morals I’ve taken away with me still sits deep which is what felt fun about ‘Madonna’ as I have this bank of information in my brain that I don’t have any use for other than it was cool. The subject of the song being this person on a pedestal just felt right to use the God metaphor.
AL365: Let’s talk about the record’s title track. The first line of the chorus is ‘So why’d you wanna erase me, darling valentine?‘ How did you come up with that?
Snail Mail: Well, it was playing upon the idea of being super engulfed in a relationship to the point where the other person’s your whole life. Like ‘Damn, when this ends, I’m gonna be fucked.’ This song is talking about a cut-off like ‘Holy shit! Damn, we were just in love and now we’re never gonna talk again.’ Fully erased like how can you do that? Total shock to the system.
I was like writing that song in the midst of experiencing that in a relationship. When nothing else can be said to the other person, sometimes it feels like you get the last word for your own self by making a song. It’s the same as getting out of an argument and then you’re in the shower thinking about so many things you could have said. I had all these good comebacks but now it’s too late.
AL365: Your lyrics always seem personal but also in the sense that you don’t give too much away. Was it difficult to find that level of balance in your songs?
Snail Mail: My boundaries just keep on moving. Lush is personal but it’s also impersonal that I never even once said ‘she’ one time. I’m talking about girls in a lot of those songs but I didn’t wanna go there. And then there was also rehab.
I always have to check with myself. Do I want to have a conversation with my parents about this? It is a real toss-up sometimes. Lyrically, I do sometimes but then information sharing-wise I don’t. I take it only as far as I’m willing to take it in the songs.
I set the boundary hard at that line, but the line is pretty far. I feel like I’m going in pretty deep but still protecting my integrity and autonomy. It helps to not be on social media because I feel like I’m down to give a lot of myself away but no more than what I’ve given in the music.
AL365: You’ve mentioned that you got out of rehab and the song ‘Ben Franklin’ deals with that. Why name it like so?
Snail Mail: The title is based on that “presidential type beat” meme. Before I slapped vocals onto the track, it kinda sounded like that meme and then I got too attached to the title to change it! It means nothing!
AL365: I had a listen throughout the whole album and my personal favorite would have to be ‘Light Blue’. Beautiful soaring vocals with a dash of folk guitar. Can you tell me more about the song?
Snail Mail: I wrote that song when I was 19 for my girlfriend at the time. It almost didn’t make it on the record but I felt this song totally fits in the universe. It’s really nice to put a Snail Mail song that just has no negativity in it. It’s a cute song. Sometimes I want to be earth shatteringly sad but sometimes I just want to be cute and endearing. Beautiful song, I’m very happy and proud about it.
I had some renewed excitement about it when we were adding in cello and stuff. It’s cool to take the song to a new degree so I don’t have to be sick of it because it’s been in my repertoire for several years now. Nice choice.
AL365: What would you say is your favorite song in the album?
Snail Mail: ‘Automate’ is my new favorite song on the album. I worry that ‘Automate’ is gonna be underrated. It gets the job done for me. I love the lyrics, and the ending is my favorite part on the record. That one stirs the most emotion in me.
AL365: The cover art for your debut album Lush has this aesthetic of red and blue that I felt matched the record’s themes of heartbreak.
For Valentine, both the cover art and music videos share a similar hazy, peach-like color scheme. Was it a deliberate choice and did you find the visuals play an important part in your music?
Snail Mail: It was definitely a deliberate choice to go with a portrait that looks like an evolution from Lush! My outfit is styled by Alexa Lanza (genius) and the colors and lighting were the brainchild of our photographer, Tina Tyrell (also a genius).
After seeing that photo, amongst the bunch we took that day, everyone involved with the project unanimously chose the cover because it’s -that iconic-. Visuals in my music are becoming more and more important to me everyday and it is deeply rewarding to work with such talented people.
AL365: You toured around Southeast Asia in 2018, how was that experience like?
Snail Mail: It was sick. It was one of the best tours we’ve ever done. We didn’t expect anybody to be at the shows. We were flying so far and I was like ‘Why the fuck would anybody know Snail Mail out here?’ But every show in the entire tour was great and we got to meet everybody afterwards which you don’t usually do because it’s tiring. It felt so exciting because the crowd was so awesome, they knew all the words in every song and they were rowdy in a way that I love.
It was cool, I’ve never been to Asia at all. It was interesting because we usually have a tour manager but here we didn’t. We were just like ‘Oh my God, Google Maps doesn’t work, what the fuck are we gonna do!? Where are we gonna go for dinner? Where are we?’ That made it kinda fun.
AL365: What’s next for you, besides the release of the album.
Snail Mail: We’re doing some late night TV stuff which is very nerve wracking for me, but I guess it’s exciting for the future of the band. Some touring coming up in America and Europe. I’m really excited for the record to come out! Whatever happens will happen and all I know is I’m super busy for the next year. I don’t know details!
AL365: Hopefully we get another Asia tour!
Snail Mail: I actually have asked my booking agent about it like we REALLY have to go back to Asia. So I think it it’s it’s in the cards it’ll happen.
AL365: Great, thank you so much Lindsey!
Snail Mail: Thank you so much! This has been great!
Snail Mail’s second album Valentine is out now.