06.2810 Questions with Erika Lloyd of Little Grey Girlfriend
Mash up a foundation of classical training with years of honing a pop sensibility, mix in a generous portion of creative originality, a splash of quirk and top it off with the liquid silver of Erika Lloyd’s voice and you get one of Brooklyn’s more unique indie bands – Little Grey Girlfriend.
Bringing to mind other stylistic trailblazers like Regina Spektor, Bjork and Joanna Newsom, more for a simpatico of fearless approach and extensive range than a similarity in sound, Little Grey Girlfriend is ready to take their show on the road this summer, kicking things off with a tasty 70′s power-pop inspired single, Lovesick For The World. The track is free for a limited time over on Bandcamp, so go snag it and listen while you read Erika’s answers to my 10 questions!
1.Do you remember writing your first song(s)? How does that compare to your songwriting process now?
As a little music student, I always preferred to write songs on the piano rather than practicing the music from my lesson books. I started writing full songs with lyrics in elementary school. They were mostly R&B pop influenced songs with stories about things of which I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. For instance, I co-wrote this song with my friend for the seventh grade talent show about our gangster boyfriend who got shot. No kidding, those were really the lyrics. (We did win second place.)
In high school I got a little better about writing honest songs from life experience and did everything by ear, just voice and piano. Because of my upbringing with popular music, the songs were often made up of common chord progressions by default, but had some interesting twists. These days I still write a lot by ear, but do know the chords and their relationships as I go along because of my music degree (Voice Performance Indiana University.) I don’t let textbook rules of voice-leading or common progressions ever change what I do, I’m just aware of them now and sometimes use them to help me through a rough spot. I’m not one of those people who can write a composition from my head right to the staff or lead sheet. I always have to be sitting at the piano, even when I’m arranging music for other instruments in an already finished song.
I’m also a melody-first kind of writer. The harmony supports the line and pushes it in new directions. Brad, our keyboardist who co-wrote a large amount of our music, is more interested in harmony than melody, so we write really well together.
2. Where is your favorite place to sing?
It depends on what I am singing. In a choral or recital setting I love singing in the sanctuary of the church where I’ve had a choir job for a couple of years. The acoustics are gorgeous. With Little Grey Girlfriend the best club we’ve performed in, as far as sound goes, was Arlene’s Grocery. The balance on stage was crystal clear and the engineer was extremely attentive. Clearly hearing my voice bounce back at me makes all the difference in the world for my confidence level at the time, which can really affect a performance. The place I sing most often is in our living room, I mean, recording studio, which has nice small-space acoustics.
3. What’s the hardest thing about performing? What’s the best thing?
The thing I get most nervous about as a singer is memorization. I’ve performed hours of memorized music at a time, other people’s music in other languages, and yet I still worry that I’ll blank out on lyrics I wrote myself that I’ve been performing for years. Oddly, what’s made me a lot less nervous about that was actually blanking on lyrics in a show, only to realize that few people noticed and no one cared.
The best part of performing is the return from the audience. I am so happy when I can get a crowd to dance or sing along. The rush after stepping off stage is also fantastic. If I could bottle that feeling to sell, I’d be a rich lady.
4. What things are you passionate about besides music?
I am also a painter and graphic artist. I love living in a city with so many galleries and museums, not to mention the most amazing street art. There is inspiration everywhere here, everyday. I’ve been lucky this year in having some really interesting commissions right in a row. When I sit down to paint I don’t normally get up for at least 6 hours, which in the alternate realm of painting-time feels like about half an hour. The music I listen to while working is very important and I’ll always remember what I was listening to when I look at each section of the painting that correlates.
5. What is the one thing (besides your instruments) you can’t leave for tour without?
Snacks on snacks! Anyone who’s ever traveled with me in any capacity knows that I take great pride in being on cooler duty. I’ll make sure the band is always well fed and stays hydrated.
6. What is your favorite way to relax?
I’m a sitcom junkie. We don’t have a television, but don’t let that fool you. I watch way more “television” than any of my friends, just online. Laughter helps me relax and all of the ridiculous plot lines keep whatever my current stress is about in perspective. I’ve also been watching the same shows over and over for years now which is comforting because Monica’s kitchen or Blanche’s living room feel like home, no matter where I am or in what new unfamiliar situation.
7. What are you most excited for with the tour?
Seeing all of the people along the way. This is our very first tour with Little Grey Girlfriend so we’ve set it up to be playing in places where we already have strong support systems and good draws (band members’ home towns and alma maters.) I’m hoping to see all sorts of people from high school and college that I haven’t seen in a long time.
8. Any new projects currently or on the horizon?
I am always writing music and have about half of a new album worth of material right now. I’m not sure if we’ll record anything until fall 2012 though, because Brad and I are getting married next summer and planning the wedding will be my project for a while!
I have to say, a lot of the work being done for this group has been outside of the creative aspect of being in a band. We’ve been a self managed band for five years and it’s a full time job booking, promoting, budgeting, networking, and producing, while also doing all of the song-writing, album artwork, poster design, making of music videos, recording, mixing, mastering, performing… I guess our biggest project when returning form tour will be trying to get a manager or small label to take us on. In this highly saturated market of awesome bands in Brooklyn, it is harder than you would think to get an established management team to commit to you (or even notice you.)
9. Do you have any pre-gig rituals that help you prepare for a show?
As many times as I’ve done this, and as unnecessary as it might seem now, I always sing through the entire set by myself the day of a show. Even if I just rehearsed it with the band, I still do this. I guess I’m a bit superstitious that if I don’t keep that habit, something will go horribly wrong.
Also, if I’m at all nervous I clean the heck out of our apartment. I don’t get nervous for LGG all that much anymore though, which is a great great feeling.
10. If you could create a musical super group with any artists, living or dead, who would you choose and what would they play?
Ah, that’s a great question. It would have to include Björk, David Bowie, Elizabeth Fraser, Kate Bush, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Enya, Joni Mitchell, and Jeff Buckley. Mike Patton would write all of the music for the album and Phil Spector would produce it. I think it would be a ton of vocals, providing the orchestral texture too. I’d have them all play many percussion instruments and when they felt like it they would trade off on piano, organ, synths, guitars, harp, and bass. I’d also make sure to have plenty of studio string players around, only the best for my group.
What’s your favorite sandwich?
Peasant bread, olive oil , salt & pepper, mozzarella, avocado, and tomato. Excuse me for a second while I eat a snack.
What’s your favorite hot drink?
Do you have pets or a favorite animal?
My son Benjamin (He’s a cat and he is my favorite guy.)
So there you have it! If that whet your appetite for more of Little Grey Girlfriend, you can start by check out this music video for their song Fulfill:
If you are reading this elsewhere, you may need to come to the blog to see the video.
Then be sure to check out the band’s official website http://littlegreygirlfriend.com for their tour schedule, the latest band news, more photos and videos, and of course links to buy their music and connect on all the social networks.
I’ll be kicking off this week’s Lyrical Venus with a feature set by Little Grey Girlfriend, so tune in to KRUU right at 9am Central Time US to hear all four songs and get a real sense of the fantastic, dynamic range of this band that actually deserves the descriptor “unique”.