There’s a scene in the 2009 movie Adventureland where actors Jesse Eisenberg and Ryan Reynolds are talking in a car while Lou Reed’s “Satellite Of Love” is playing in the background. For movie and music fan Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan, the scene and the song made quite an impression. It sent Lindsay down a rabbit hole of discovery of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground’s music and inspired her to learn more about alternative rock and the guitar. Consequently she uncovered and fell in love with the shoegaze distorted sounds that Kevin Shields was crafting with My Bloody Valentine and the wonderful white noise beaming out of the amps of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore.
Lindsey has gone on to forge a fabulous career herself. Since releasing her debut EP Habit in 2016 and the acclaimed debut album Lush in 2017, her brutally honest tales of teenage life have resonated deeply with an audience hungry for authentic songs that they can latch onto. Lindsey understands their world and vice versa. Snail Mail’s 2012 album Valentine has further cemented her place in the music world and with a wiser mind and a deeper understanding of what she wants her career to look like, Lindsay now turns her attention to the writing and recording of a new album.
In a realm where Lindsey is constantly surprised by the opportunities that arise due to her involvement in music, recently a pinch-me moment was offered to her that she couldn’t refuse. In Fender’s latest video clip extolling the virtues of their new Vintera Series II guitars, Lindsey can be seen strumming (on a Vintera II 60s Stratocaster) the opening chords to Satellite Of Love and singing those famous lyrics “Satellite’s gone up to the stars”. Standing to her left, noodling notes on a Vintera Series II Jaguar is one of her guitar heroes Thurston Moore. “He was really nice and cool, and just listening to him play was just like … there’s a lot of moments in this job where I feel like it’s surreal or whatever, but every so often there’s one or two moments where it’s beyond surreal,” Lindsey says of the experience of making the clip with Thurston.
Building on the success of Fender’s original Vintera series launched in 2019, the new Vintera II offers players a chance to embrace the vintage essence and sound of Fender’s iconic instruments from the “golden age” of sound, while remaining adaptable for modern compositions.
We’ll find out more about the Thurston Moore video experience and the Vintera Series II further into this story but for now let’s go back to the start of the conversation between Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan and Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips, who wanted to know a little more about the Baltimore-raised indie artist.
GP: Hey, whereabouts are you today in the world?
LJ: I am in North Carolina. I just moved here and I’m moving in right now, so I have some friends here helping me and yeah, I’m in the dining room right now.
Relocating is probably one of the worst things that you can do as far as I’m concerned. I guess you’re not a fan of that either?
It’s been a bit of a struggle. I think I’m trying to move away from city life. It is just not for me. I think I struggle more with it than I thought I ever would. I don’t like loud sounds or crowds or anything, so I just moved out into the woods basically and just trying to come out here to write and record, and I think it’s maybe the best thing for me.
You find that under those conditions you’d be a better writer?
Hopefully. I just moved here a week ago, but I tend to thrive under solo circumstances. I tend to hermit away when I do my best writing. Nature and non-city living feels like it’s more for me and I feel motivated by having my own space where people can’t really hear me or neighbours can’t hear me, and there’s no roommates. I just want to be able to experiment and not be embarrassed.
What were the albums that you played over and over growing up?
I’ve always been a really big Oasis fan. My sister had a bunch of stuff on iTunes and I would just go into that and steal and put it on my iPod and Oasis has always been one of my favourite bands. Paramore, I got into Paramore when I was really young. I saw them for the first time when I was eight. I mean, the Beatles for sure. I guess it depends how young we’re talking because then in middle school I started to get closer to where I am now with exploring music and getting into the Velvet Underground and I don’t know, I’m trying to think where it all started. It’s kind of hard. I feel like there’s so many. My Bloody Valentine is a band that’s been influential on me since I was pretty young up until now, and probably forever, those are the first ones that come to mind.
So a band like My Bloody Valentine … how would you get into them? Were you a reader of music magazines?
I was a Tumblr user as a young teen and I found all my community and fellow music fans on there. And just that explore dive was maybe my first introduction into Shoegaze. Yeah, I still love that band so much. I found St. Vincent pretty young, which was cool. She was such a guitar virtuoso and she started classically, which is the same as how I did. So I didn’t really have very many guitar heroes who were women. St. Vincent was cool to me. I really liked her songwriting. And then to see the classical intro and that she went to Berklee and stuff, and you can hear it in her music. She’s a really good player. That was an early intro for me and Joni Mitchell as a guitar player, just super inspirational to me.
You were a teenager when your first album ‘Lush’ came out. You grew up in public, at least musically anyway. Was that a difficult thing to cope with?
Definitely. I think having anything recorded in any way is just embarrassing, where it’s like you want to grow and become the best version of yourself always. I feel like I’m still not always showing the best version of myself, just because it’s important to me to just keep growing. And I think that mentality it’s funny when there’s records of you being (out there) in any type of way. I mean, you feel like there’s interviews where I say things that I look back now and I don’t even agree, but I’m just like, well, that’s not how I feel now.
It’s funny as a teenager because it’s just like I had so many ideas and things I wanted to say, but now as an adult, I just feel like my priorities are a lot different and it’s interesting to look back. I just feel very different. And it’s funny because the sincerity that I felt in the things that I was saying when I was a teenager, it just felt so intense and real. And now I’m just like, well, I look back at those things and I think it’s kind of funny, but … I’m happy that I was being myself but I feel like I’m a completely different person.
Your second album Valentine came out in 2021 and now you are about about to release some demo versions from those sessions. Why did you decide to do that?
I got really into demo stuff during covid … just because there’s nothing else to do. I’m a perfectionist in that I don’t want to have anyone coming into the studio without an idea of what I want, orchestra, whatever. And so I just got ahead, just bought my first synth. I was making all of these synth cards and stuff and harmonies and that whole process. If I’m being completely honest, I feel like those demos… I like them more than how the record came out because it’s so me. There’s no one else in the room saying anything. And when I look back, I just think my gut is the best producer for anything where I’m like, yeah …this was my song.
Taken from the ‘Valentine’ (Demos) EP, out November 3rd
And I think the demos, a lot of the lyrics are completely different. This just feels exactly how I want it to sound. There’s a lot of strange sound effects and stuff where I was like, well, I want this to sound like a lightning strike … that sounds like the Blue Nile or something. Having other people’s opinions is cool when you’re in the studio trying to make a finished product but looking back, I like where my own brain took me. I think it’s really cool. I really hope people listen. I feel like it’s the most raw, most sincere versions of anything that I’ve ever made
So that type of thinking … are you taking that into the next album as well?
Yeah, honestly, I feel like I have a lot more of a DIY mindset where I just want me and my band, the guys who have been in the band since day one to sort of just work it out together. And then I want to co-produce and we’re thinking of having our friend produce, who’s same age as us and who is a young talent that is undiscovered, where it’s just like there is no power hierarchy. We’re all just friends with a lot of ideas as music fans. Often-times, I feel like working with producers that have a rich discography or whatever, it’s like I’m a bit intimidated where I don’t want to argue back. And I feel like this time I feel pretty grounded and I want to be equally as a part of the production process as anything. I just don’t want to let anything slide by. I feel really strongly about the producer being our age and our friend.
You were five years old when you were given a Fender Squier. When did Fender the company first make contact with you in regard to working with them?
Fender started working with Snail Mail probably like 2018 or 2019. We did a Fender ad and they started sending us stuff for free, which is cool. I was playing a red Jaguar for a while, and I feel like that sort of became a signature thing, and it was the coolest thing ever. I mean, of course, as a guitar player, just to start getting all this attention and getting offers to customise things, it’s like any guitar player’s dream.
The relationship with Fender has now grown into a promotion for their new Vintera II series and you’ve just shot a clip with Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth. You’ve been a Sonic Youth fan for a while haven’t you?
That was one of my first favourite bands ever. I had a Sonic Youth shirt that I made myself of the Evol cover with an iron-on that I used to wear every single day in high school. I think a lot of Snail Mail songs, you can just tell which Sonic Youth song they’re ripping off…that’s one of my favourite bands of all time. It kind of started it all… I just feel like that’s my biggest inspiration. That’s one of my all time favourite bands. So doing that was really cool. I mean, even just jamming with Thurston, it just felt like we were in Sonic Youth or something. And everything he plays is so Sonic Youth, which is cool. He was really nice and cool, and just listening to him play was just like, there’s a lot of moments in this job where I feel like it’s surreal or whatever, but every so often there’s one or two moments where it’s beyond surreal. It’s one of the coolest things we’ve ever done. It was really cool. And just deciding what song to play was intimidating. And he was the first to suggest Velvet Underground, which I probably would say is my first favourite band of all time. And so even just deciding on a song together was insane. My first choice was Heroin. I didn’t realise he already had a cover of that song, and he brought me the vinyl of those covers. Me and my band and my girlfriend were just listening to it. It was just cool. We were just on the same page in so many ways. It was like, of course he already has a Heroin cover, it’s the best Velvet Underground song. But it was fucking cool. I was really geeked out. I was starstruck.
Satellite of Love was the song that you recorded for the clip. How did you agree on the arrangement?
That was the first Lou Reed song I ever heard from the Adventureland soundtrack. I’ve been a big movie fan my entire life and music too, but sometimes I feel like movie shit influenced music shit. And that was where I found out about Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. Him and I were just sending suggestions back and forth … we were just kind of fanning out about Velvet Underground. I wasn’t even sure if he was necessarily sold on it every day. He had 10 suggestions, it was hard to land on anything. But yeah, we landed on Satellite. We had 24 hours, not even 24 hours, a few hours the day before to practice together in a practice space. I think it ended up cool. And we only ran the song four times and then we just recorded it. So it was a trip.
You were playing a Vintera II Strat in the clip!
Yeah, It was a Strat. I started with a Jazz … then we switched to some kind of seventies Strat. I’ve been playing a lot of Strats lately, and I told Jason, who’s our Fender guy that I’ve been in Stratland lately. I was playing a Jazzmaster and Thurston was playing a Jaguar, which is actually a funny point of contention where I was like, are we supposed to be switched? Then I hit up Jason, and he was like, it kind of feels like a funny joke to me. He plays Jag and you I play Jazz. Then during the shoot I was handed a Strat and they were like, this is the period accurate one. I’ve been loving having a Strat lately, so that’s been my main live thing and also they had the cool sunburst, which I was loving. I never imagined myself with one of those, and I was just like, wait, this might be the guitar for me.
You had been using the Jazzmaster. What did you enjoy about that, the shape … the tone?
It’s the tone. We’re shifting our dynamic all the time because me and Ray and Alex are the band currently. We’ve been playing together since high school and we always get a fourth or a fifth member and then we’re always changing them out. And recently in Europe we kicked out a member mid tour and we became a three piece again. I was like, I can’t stand this guy. Let’s just do it. He was a real pain in my ass and I was like, even if we sound like shit, it’d still be a better vibe … I started playing Jazzmasters when I realised about the space … it feels just feels more appropriate. I’ve always felt like Snail Mail has been about kind of filling space live because we started out as a three piece and I kind of wrote all the songs almost as if I was going to play with no one else. Some of the bass parts are in my thumb and a lot of the leads are in the rest of my hand. When we’re in the studio, it’s so much of me adjusting to there being other people to play the other parts. So the fuller sounding the guitar, it’s kind of more likely it is to come out during the Snail Mail set and I really like us as a three piece. Honestly. I feel like it feels the most true to the project and how I see it.
You toured Australia in 2019. What are your memories of that tour?
It was awesome. We were at the beach, we were seeing all these beautiful birds and getting all this awesome food. We had a good amount of time on that tour to just go around and just see stuff. And it was one of the few international tours we’ve been relaxed, which is kind of interesting. I remember being just like zen. I was like, well, this is beautiful. And everyone was really nice to us and we had amazing breakfast every day and played our show and got along with the opener and all the fans and just like, it was one of the most relaxing tours we ever did, which is insane. It was so far away. You remember the journey being kind of insane but the actual tour itself just being so relaxing, I was just like, wow, the show could be shit and it wouldn’t matter because this vibe is just awesome. So that tour was really cool. I really want to go back.
You played Coachella this year. What was that experience like?
It was cool. It’s our second Coachella technically, and it’s funny …especially because the grounds are so big, they’re insanely big. And I had this one night where me and my girlfriend were trying to find the shuttle back to the hotels and it’s so big, it’s like miles large and we could not figure out where to go. And we were walking around for two hours straight asking all the security where to go to get the shuttle. We got different directions every time, all with confidence, never like ah, I’m not sure. And eventually this one guy, this vendor who had worked for Budweiser or Heineken maybe saw us walking around for so long, he saw us twice within two hours and he picked us up in the Heineken van and drove us back to the hotel, which was a blessing. We ended up walking back to the parking lot with the crowd in what seemed like this insane dust storm. But Coachella is cool. I mean, I love the food, I love the dessert. I love being on the hunt for celebrities any day. But yeah, it definitely has its challenges. I remember the first Coachella we ever played, the big thing was, we played the Beyonce one. You need to leave the parking lot before Beyonce finishes because if you don’t, you will not get out for hours. It is insane. So it can be a little bit of a logistical nightmare, but it’s fun. I find myself stressing about the logistics a little too much.
So what’s on for the rest of this year and into next year?
I just moved into this house. I bought a house and I’m far away from anyone I know and I’m trying to just write. I’ve been feeling really good about everything that I’ve been writing. And I have my band here. We’re trying to work out album logistics and we’re going to Japan in January maybe, and then we’re going to do a Japanese vacation right after that. And then that’s it. I think we’re just trying to really focus on the record, which I’m really excited about. I’m ready to just get down to business. So I feel like halfway through this touring cycle, I started being ready to work on the record. And yeah, I’m excited to do creative stuff rather than touring.