Becky Stark is often compared to a fairy tale princess. However, I think fairy tale heroine seems far more accurate to me, for Stark is clearly an active agent in the beauty surrounding her and not simply the passive product of her circumstances and someone else’s bravery. She is the founder and lead singer of Los Angeles’ Lavender Diamond, the dreamy, psychedelic folk pop outfit known for their beyond whimsical whimsy, classically romantic charisma, and brilliantly conceptualized, albeit very ambitious, stage shows. They are sort of like a Disney movie… except their propaganda is far more positive. If twee is the postmodern version of hyper-sweetness, then Stark and Lavender Diamond are traditionalists.
Lavender Diamond’s second LP, Incorruptible Heart (produced by OK GO’s Damian Kulash), drops this Tuesda, 9/25, on Paracadute, and the band is appearing live this Thursday, 9/27, at Kung Fu Necktie. I recently got a chance to chat with Stark about the new album and just what inspires her. “I think it’s more wild. It went into a different space, sonically,” she tells me of Incorruptible Heart: “The space of this record is a little bigger than anything I’ve ever done. It’s a huge space.” The album is darker than anything the band has done before, but it only lurks in darkness so that its emergence into light is that much more glorious… and its conclusion sure does glimmer. “I felt like I couldn’t make this record because the songs were too sad. I didn’t want to make a sad record,” says Stark. She does, however, like the finished product: “I don’t think this record ended up too sad. I mean, it has sadness in it, but it has so much love in it too. It has heartache in it, but it doesn’t stay there. It transforms. Hopefully, when people are listening they’ll feel the transformation.”
While you would assume Becky Stark’s inspirations to be, like the band itself, very carefully constructed works of art, however, it’s actually the opposite. “Honestly, sometimes I find just raw experience to be so inspiring,” she tells me, adding , “Giving thanks for everything gives me a really inspired feeling,” and “The mystery of the wild beauty of the world: in nature, in the moon, in the ocean, in the plants, in children, in color. The world never fails to be a source of inspiration. It never fails to amaze me how beautiful the world is… amazing.”
Music is far from Becky’s only love and Lavender Diamond is far from her only output. In addition to performing as a vocalist as a child, she acted in musicals, starred in a feature film, and hosted a kids new program. As a student at Brown University she studied Literature, Art, and Semiotics. In her adult life she’s composed operas, studied dance, and acted in numerous films. She’s part of folk trio The Living Sisters, which includes Eleni Mandell and Inara George. She appeared as a character in The Deceemberists’ The Hazard of Love. She was part of the touring lineup of She & Him. She has a folk band with John C. Reilly. She’s also (half) responsible for Worldword, an animated series that’s been picked up by the newly-revived Liquid Television. I was curious what it is that inspires Stark to pursue any of her many given projects and what she told me was pretty existentially profound:
“I think the common thread, or the heart of it, for me is that in all of the work I do there’s a certain instinct I’m following. I’ll have a really strong desire for something to exist… I’m trying to express an emotion or transform an emotion. I’m trying to create a code for an energy. The main thing for me is the desire to be part of the healing and transformation of the planet… What I always want to do is try to invoke the unbroken in people. Art can do that and music can do that and it’s powerful. The earth is worthy of that… I, more than anything, just want to be a part of whatever could bring people to a feeling of oneness… There’s this illusion of separateness. Why we’re able to continue to destroy the planet is because of this illusion of separateness… I love to play and I’m trying to share the most liberated energy that I can. With the band, it’s a really beautiful and magical process… I guess I try to hold onto the possibility that the evolution of consciousness could allow for some liberation, which could result in a permanent shift, or a growth, and we are capable of that.”