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Lavender Blush: A Seasoned Dreampop/Shoegaze Artist Blooms Anew

Lavender Blush
1 September 2021

Lavender Blush – Photo Credit: Kyle Baudour

Lavender Blush was formed in San Francisco in early 2016 around the nucleus of Ryan Lescure (vocals and guitar), Sam Hewatt (bass), and Chris Howard (drums). Since then, the band has released a string of home-recorded EPs and singles on their own Blue Aurora Audio label. In late 2020 their first LP, The Garden of Inescapable Pleasure, was released by the seminal indie pop label Shelflife Records.

Lescure, an alumnus of like-minded bands Moonbeams, My Red Dress, and LSD and the Search for God, serves as Lavender Blush’s primary songwriter. In addition to Lescure, Hewatt, and Howard, their current lineup features Chris Manchester on guitar and Julie Lynn (also of Slowness) on guitar and keyboards. They are often joined live by frequent collaborator Ana Ramundo (also of Lovenote).

Their upcoming second LP, You Are My Moonlight, is scheduled to be released on January 28, 2022.

The vinyl version will be released on Blue Aurora Audio, while the cassette version will be released on Shelflife Records.

Lescure began writing and recording the music for these songs during quarantine – a time where he was unable to gather with the rest of the band or access the rehearsal studio that contained most of his instruments. After a few months of home recording, he was able to access the rehearsal studio but still could not be joined by others.

Because this made collaboration much more difficult, Lescure is the sole instrumentalist on the recording. Amelia Lauren, Sophia Campbell, and Ana Ramundo separately recorded vocal contributions that were later added to the mix. Kyle Baudour mixed the album, which was mastered by Simon Scott (of Slowdive). The album art was designed by John Conley.

The lead single off the album is the title track, and it releases today. You can purchase/stream the song below:

Ryan Lescure of Lavender Blush
Ryan Lescure of Lavender Blush – Photo Credit: Amelia Lauren

We asked Ryan Lescure about the enchanting upcoming album and what is was like to create and record the LP during the pandemic:

Hello Ryan! How is the upcoming album different than your previous one?

“The clearest difference is that I take more risks on this album. One of the biggest risks, for me at least, is that my vocals are no longer buried behind the music or shrouded in reverb and delay. Our debut LP marked the first time where my lyrics were printed on the album’s sleeve. Prior to that, I don’t think my bandmates Sam and Chris really had any idea what I was singing — even though they had heard me sing some of those songs for years. Fortunately, they approved of my nonsense!”

“With this album, I think my lyrics are intelligible without needing to be read. This is really the handiwork of my friend Kyle Baudour who mixed the album. He is a genius when it comes to producing pop music. It was initially an intimidating thing for me to have my vocals and lyrics be so centered, but I think the songs are better because of it. It might, however, open me up to being psychoanalyzed.”

“Besides that, I took more risks in the songwriting on this album. The straightforward noise-pop dimension of our debut LP is what feels safe to me as a songwriter. I tried to step away from this a bit without adding needless complexity. Compared to our debut LP, this album has greater variety in the structures of the songs. I used instruments a bit differently and sometimes even prioritized synthesizers over guitars, and drum machines over acoustic drums. The upcoming album contains some sounds that are largely absent on previous Lavender Blush recordings. There’s some melodica, piano, and acoustic guitar. Listen closely and you can even hear the world’s most beautiful instrument, the woodblock, on one of the songs.”

What are some of the themes of this new album?

“My friend John Conley who created the art for the album described it as much darker than what we’ve released in the past. I agree. These are mostly songs about the multidimensionality of love and the fact that love does not exclusively relate to positive emotional states.”

“This includes self-love, or the absence of it. Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, and feelings of self-worth. During the quarantine, I felt all these things quite intensely. Working on these songs was emotionally fulfilling for me and really helped me take care of myself until I could start therapy again. Many of these songs lyrically have a hopeful dimension that explores the things that I do to keep myself afloat. This includes things such as spending time with loved ones, spending time in nature, and listening to music.”

“I also attempted to use songwriting to banish some of the negative emotions I was feeling at the time. I think I was successful, but these emotions are thematically written into the music in some ways. Listeners might get a sense of my feelings of detachment, isolation, and insecurity. I imagine that these very uplifting themes will cause droves of people to drop everything to listen to the album!”

“I promise that I didn’t make a third Joy Division album, though. I like major chords far too much for that. Indeed, some of the songs are straightforward happy love songs that are ideal for gazing longingly at a loved one as fluffy cumulus clouds drift lazily overhead. Some of the songs are ideal for quizzically studying oneself in a toothpaste-flecked bathroom mirror. Rumor has it that I may have even attempted humor on the album once or twice.”

What genres/styles can we expect?

“We are a band that reveres shoegaze, dream pop, and post-punk without really doing any of those styles so straightforwardly ourselves. Some of the songs have distortion pedals that are cranked the whole time. Some songs don’t have distortion at all.”

“The c86 and Sarah Records scenes have been hugely influential on my songwriting. I’d say that their influence is more in style than in sound, though. I admire the ways in which many of the bands associated with those scenes valorized being thoughtful, sensitive, and kind. In my opinion, there is a certain authenticity in the fact that many of these groups bucked social norms about what constituted “proper” gender performance, emotionality, and musicianship. I try to be as authentic as I can be in my songwriting. This includes making musical decisions that sound interesting to me, but might not be so commonly done. This also includes trying to lyrically express what I feel, even when I feel things that are uncertain, unflattering, cruel, or shameful.”

What was it like creating this album during the pandemic?

“While I had some difficulties with my mental health during the pandemic, I was fortunate in many ways. I didn’t lose my job, I was able to safely work from home, and my loved ones and I were in good physical health.”

“At the start of the quarantine, I tried to fill some of my idle and lonely time by making music. I only had access to the instruments that I had in my apartment which were a Fender Jaguar and an Organelle synthesizer. I played around with these instruments for a while, but I really didn’t feel like I was in the mood to fully write or record anything. It was hard to find motivation.”

“One day, I happened to come across an online comment that was written by one of my friends who plays in the San Diego band Quali. He was offering advice to a musician who was having difficulty overcoming writer’s block. My friend suggested spending at least five minutes every day recording something, even if it isn’t ultimately great. I liked that suggestion, so I tried it. It’s since become a kind of mantra for me. Some of these songs spilled out of me in a single five-minute session. Some were much more gradual. Either way, this advice has helped me become more productive and it has reminded me to set aside a little bit of time every day to do the things I love.”

What was it like recording the LP?

“It was cathartic for me. It helped me exorcise some intense negative emotions. I was initially going to keep these songs to myself because of how personal they are, but my excitement to share them quickly overwhelmed that sentiment. I think that this album contains the most directly personal songs I have ever written.”

“I recorded these songs on my computer and used this quarantine moment to become more familiar with Logic than I had previously been. Being that I only had a synth and a guitar at the start of the quarantine, I was able to create structures and minor melodic details for entire songs before I had any inkling about what the bass or the drums would be like. This freed me up in a certain way. By the time I could finally access these instruments in my studio, I had spent months thinking about different possibilities for those instruments. I exercised more patience than usual and tested things out using synth basses and drum machines.”

“One of my favorite things about this record are the backing vocals. Amelia, Sophia, and Ana are all much better singers than I am. I am so honored that they contributed their amazing voices to these songs. There will be more of this in our future recordings.”

“Once I finished recording everything, I sent my preliminary mixes to Kyle and he improved them to such an extent that I consider him to have been my co-songwriter. While my favorite thing about his mixes is how he produced my vocals, he also did a stellar job introducing a spaciousness to the mixes that contrasts with my ultra-dense mixing style. He also has quite a knack for improving transitions within songs. His work on “Banshee” and “Don’t Leave Me” are my favorite examples of this.”

“Finally, I am so honored that one of my musical heroes, Simon Scott, mastered the record. I’m obsessed with Slowdive, but I initially reached out to him to master our Sundays single because that song was substantially inspired by the songwriting in his previous band The Charlottes. I’m thrilled with the way that the mastered record turned out and it’s so cool to have one of my musical heroes even know about my music!”