Laura Stevenson / Photo: Rachel Brennecke
Earlier this year, Laura Stevenson released her fifth record The Big Freeze. It’s a masterful record that is undoubtedly her best, and rare in the way that it demands to be heard in its entirety, with songs building in intensity to a stunning finale (Hawks, Big Deep, Low Slow and Perfect). More than ever before, Stevenson’s lyrics are front and center, unfolding during repeated listens. The Big Freeze centers around its minimalist orchestration, and sounds the brightest in the darkest confessional moments.
After leaving DIY punk band Bomb The Music Industry!, Stevenson began releasing solo records in 2010 with her debut LP A Record. Since then, Stevenson has steadily been improving and diversifying her sound, weaving between ornate folk, pop punk, and classical orchestration. Before The Big Freeze, Stevenson released the excellent records Wheel, and Cocksure.
Stevenson just released (along with former Bomb The Music Industry! bandmate Jeff Rosenstock) a Neil Young covers EP called Still Young.
Who: Laura Stevenson / Adult Mom
When: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10
Where: George’s Majestic Lounge, 519 W. Dickson St.
Cost: $14-$16 + fees at Stubs.net
More: See the Facebook event
She’s just started a tour with Adult Mom that makes a stop in Fayetteville on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at George’s Majestic Lounge.
I asked Laura some questions and here goes…
Hi Laura – What are you up to at the moment?
Hi! This week I’m starting to hunker down and practice for the tour – we all have a rough idea of the set-list, I think it’ll be fairly easy to dive back into the songs. We haven’t played together since the Spring so it’ll also just be a nice reunion.
The Big Freeze is one of my favorite records of the year, and I think Low Slow is one of your best songs. The record feels like a new chapter – does if feel like a game changer for you?
Oh thank you so much! Low Slow is one of the older songs, I couldn’t figure out how to get it right until this record – I’m really glad it made it on there. I think the record was definitely a shift for me – recording is something that I’m starting to enjoy more, I’m able to be more present and have an understanding of where the songs want to go. It was a great experience making that record with Joe Rogers (who is one of my favorite people in music).
What’s your favorite song on The Big Freeze to play live? Do you ever have fears about performing your more personal songs?
Favorite one to perform with the band is probably Living Room, NY. It’s so fun when everything comes in and the strings swell and it honestly sounds a lot like the record so that one for sure is a good one for me. Sometimes it’s a little scary to perform more personal songs, but if the audience is actively listening and with me, I feel really supported and it’s beautiful.
You’ve been alternating between touring solo and with a full band – what are the pros and cons of each?
Pros of performing with the band is that it feels so much bigger and the instrumental parts can really unfold, when I’m solo – I kind of cut the instrumental parts out and hum them (if it’s a string melody or horns or something) so that is obviously less fun – but I do love playing solo because I can get lost in the songs more and take them at a specific pace and it’s a lot more intimate.
What have you been reading and watching lately? And does that seep into your writing?
I always have a book of poems next to my bed, that I can pick up and browse through – right now it’s Yeats (I bought it on my recent trip to Ireland), and that has been really nice. That for sure seeps into my writing. As for things I watch – it’s a lot of garbage tv that I have on in the background so it’s not so quiet in the house… but nothing inspiring. A lot of House Hunters International and home improvement shows, cooking shows, dumb shit like that. When that starts inspiring my writing, I will make very bad records.
I love the new Neil Young covers EP – How did that come about? Did your favorite Neil Young song make the cut?
Oh thank you! We had been talking about doing that for what feels like forever. I think with our schedules being so crazy and Jeff always has projects going on, it just seemed like a fun pipe-dream but then it just happened and it was really fun and easy. My fave Neil song is probably “Already One” ,that song is just so beautiful. That isn’t on there, but I don’t think I’ll ever touch that one. It’s so perfect the way it is.
How do you stay occupied in the van on tour? And what’s the first thing you look for in a new city?
We listen to a lot of podcasts – if I’m doing a lot of solo driving I like to listen to 99% Invisible, Cocaine and Rhinestones, Comedy Bang Bang, stuff like that. Sometimes we will do an audiobook if it’s a bigger group and it’s a fun little adventure for a couple days or a week if it’s a long one. We listened to Helter Skelter one tour, and we did The Stand, those were both super long but engaging and obviously scary. The first thing I look for is probably coffee. Or a place I can go get a green juice to feel a little healthier.
Have you been to Fayetteville Arkansas? Anything you’re looking forward to doing in our little town?
I haven’t! Wilson Park looks really cool- it might be too cold to do outdoor things when I’m there but I’d take a little stroll there if I have time.
Are you a holiday person? If so, How do you celebrate? Any wacky traditions you’d like to share?
Yes. I love the holidays even thought they are crazy stressful because my mom’s birthday is 12/20 and my dad’s is Christmas day, so it’s always chaos. I think the only wacky tradition I have is running around like a madwoman all over Long Island (where most of my family lives) trying to see everyone and somehow declaring that I hate Christmas by the 26th but then instantly forgetting that and looking forward to it all year afterwards.
What’s your favorite song from 2019? What makes it special to you?
Oh man my friends in Personal Best released a great song called “Jennifer” – such a ripper of a chorus. I’d say that one. It’s special to me because they are my buds and I’m proud of them for writing such a good one.
What are your plans for 2020?
Well, I’m doing some shows in early January and then my partner and I are expecting a baby in late March/early April, so mostly probably hanging out and gestating, hopefully doing some writing in the meantime because I won’t have any time for a little bit.