New York singer/songwriter Laura Stevenson has recently begun referring to herself as an, “unfunny Woody Allen.” The designation comes from the popular existential musings that would seem to be the biggest inspiration behind the brand of whimsically woodsy indie folk pop found on her upcoming release, Wheel (out April 23rd on Don Giovanni Records). The album somewhat quirkily ponders life and death. I recently got a chance to chat with Laura and upon asking her about these things, she quickly clarified that it’s really quite a bit less academically heady than people seem to be assuming: “I don’t really read a lot of existentialist books. I’m just dealing with the humanist question of, ‘Is life important?’”
Wheel is Laura Stevenson’s third record and she seems to think it’s most accurate in capturing the sound of her band (Laura Stevenson & the Cans): “I think it’s more mature songwriting and I think this album really captures what we sound like live.” She also thinks that the album is her most cohesive narrative to date.
“It’s not like a concept album, but it’s not just a collection of songs. It has a path. It finishes where it starts. It’s a wheel.”
And the path of Wheel doesn’t go exactly where one would expect. The album begins with “Renee” a delicately morose song, equal parts alt. country and 90s coffee house, but then quickly picks up the pace, with the elegant, yet infectious, pop pep of songs like “Runner” and “Bells and Whistles,” and the epic melodrama of “Eleonora.” The album seems to re-invent itself every two-three songs, exploring a variety of genres and emotions, but manages to come off far less as “confused,” and far more, simply, “human.” And while Wheel might explore some of the less uplifting aspects of the human experience, it often seems to do so from a somewhat sunny place. The album was produced by producer/engineer/musician/technician Kevin McMahon, known for his works with the likes of Titus Andronicus, The Walkmen, and the Felice Brothers. I asked Laura about her thoughts on the producer (and her favorite works of his), of whom she is clearly a big fan.
“I really like The Seer, by Swans – a really intense experience, but so beautiful. I also really like Frightened Rabbit’s Midnight Organ Fight and Titus Andronicus’ The Monitor… He’s worked with a lot of bands with very different sounds. He’s worked with a lot of noisey bands, like Swans, but also a lot of sort of countryish stuff. He was very dynamic and was able to get the sound we needed. We knew he could do anything.”
Laura Stevenson and the Cans are about to kick off a months’ worth of live dates and they are kicking them off at Philthy’s very own Milkboy, this Friday, April 19th, for a show I would not recommend missing. Laura describes her performances for me as, “Very dynamic and emotionally-driven,” and tells me she’s really excited to be back out on the road: “I want to see people experience the songs live.” And when it comes to what she’s hoping for in 2013… Well, Laura proves to be an endearingly simple kind of girl: “I just want people to like the record… All I know is my friends like it… but they have to… because they’re my friends.”[youtube http://youtu.be/X-GMtVxhJd4]