Lael Neale on Finally Touring, Working with Tape, and Music Aficionados of Britain (5/7 at The Dolphin)

“A lot of reviewers in the UK seem to really get what I’m going for, to move out of the female singer/songwriter thing and more into the Joy Division/Velvet...

“A lot of reviewers in the UK seem to really get what I’m going for, to move out of the female singer/songwriter thing and more into the Joy Division/Velvet Underground thing,” says Sub Pop recording artist Lael Neale during a recent phone chat.  For instance, The Guardian says, “Half of it comes on like cult 70s folk artist Karen Dalton hanging out with the Velvet Underground and Suicide, while the rest offers somewhat more modern balladry, placing her more in the world of Angel Olsen and Cat Power,” and Shindig! adds, “feels metropolitan and voracious (conjuring scenes where lo-fi, post-punk, and avant-garde were in deep conversation) and flirts with the noisy and angular.”  They’re discussing Neale’s Star Eaters Delight, her third LP and second for Sub Pop, which dropped April 21st.

We first met Lael Neale in August of 2015, shortly after the release of her debut full-length, I’ll Be Your Man, which I described as, “hazy psychedelic folk that is equal parts sunny sonic sensibilities and morose and outlaw-esque when it comes to sentimentality,” but which Neale tells me is pretty far from the music she’s been making in recent years.

“I kind of don’t even count I’ll Be Your Man, just because that was so long ago…  I feel very different, which is why I kind of disassociate with that album now, not in a bad way, but I felt like a totally different artist then.  When that album was made, I was still figuring out who I was as an artist and a musician.  My producer for that album, Marlon Rabenreither, took those songs and put them into his template and form, but over the next six years I was searching for my sound and form.”

This current chapter of Lael Neale’s career began in April of 2020, when Neale left LA (her home of recent years) for her family’s farm in rural Virginia, where she crafted the songs of both Star Eaters Delight and Acquainted With Night, her second LP and first for Sub Pop, which dropped in February of 2021.  Neale worked with producer and accompanist Guy Blakeslee on both of her most recent full-lengths (in addition to her most recent music videos, two of which you can see here), which she tells me do share a lot of similarities: “This one, similar to Acquainted With Night, was recorded on a tape machine [Blakeslee apparently brought the machine to her house and taught her how to use it, so that she could record the music on her own, whenever inspiration struck.]  Part of finding my sound was deciding I wanted to record on a cassette machine.  For this one, instead of a 4-track, it was an 8-track, but it was missing one track, so I guess it’s a 7-track [laughs].”

However, Neale also admits that the albums have notable differences, as well.  “The Acquainted With Night album, the intention behind it was that it sounded like it was live from the church basement,” she tells me, going on to say of Star Eaters Delight, “There’s more to it…  The last album was much more of an inward reprieve, while this one has a broader palette of sound and feeling.”  She also admits that Blakeslee was a little more evidently present on this one: “There was much more contribution from Guy Blakeslee.  I still wrote all of the songs, but he did more with production, instrumentation, and arrangements.”

In addition to Guy Blakeslee, Lael Neale seems to have an equally meaningful relationship with the folks of Sub Pop (Home to PHILTHY friends, such as…  Ya know what? There are WAY too many to list, so just click the “Sub Pop” tab at the bottom of the page.)  “It’s the greatest gift I could imagine.  They’re truly the best,” Neale tells me, before going on to clarify that that relationship also marks a first for her: “I’ve never worked with a label before, and I just feel I’ve landed in the best hands possible.  They’re just so competent and enthusiastic!”  She also enthusiastically admits to being a big fan of a lot of her labelmates: “I really love Weyes Blood; I think she’s brilliant!  And I’m really into Father John Misty!  And Beach House are amazing!”

Lael Neale is currently on a US tour, which will wrap this coming Sunday, May 7th, right here, at the Dolphin Tavern.  Although you may have seen Neale last June, opening for Kate Bollinger at Johnny Brenda’s (I definitely did!), she tells me that this is her, “first real tour.”  The show will be comprised of her and Blakeslee performing songs from the last two LPs as a duo, with Neale on guitar and Omnichord and Blakeslee, who, “can kind of play the part of a couple people.”

And just three days after her stop in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, Lael Neale will be in the UK for The Great Escape festival, which kicks off a nearly month-long European tour, and includes a few stops she’s especially amped about: “I’m really excited to be in both London and Paris again.  The London show is sold-out – and I’ve only been there once – which is really exciting!  The London people just seem to really get what I’m doing, and Paris, too.”  She also tells me that there’s an exceptionally big July tour announcement that’s coming very soon, but which I can’t share quite yet…  However, she tells me that I can let you know that she’s also currently planning a tour with Escape-ism, the current solo project of Ian Svenonius of D.C. legends Nation of Ulysses and the Make-Up.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.