Move out of the way because Beyonce is playing no games.
- Posted on Feb 20th 2013 4:00PM by Hilary Hughes
Before moving to New York two years ago, Spaltro was a regular fixture at a handful of rock clubs in Boston, where the primal screams of "Crane Your Neck" rang out over an enraptured, steadily growing fanbase. It was the basement of Bart's & Greg's DVD Explosion, the video store she worked at up in Maine, that Spaltro credits as the place that left the greatest impact on her writing, as it was there that she was able to "get loud" while working on her songs. (Later, she'd give away demos from the store's counter, adopting the Lady Lamb moniker so people wouldn't realize they were hers.)
"No one place has really inspired the songs lyrically," she tells Spinner, "although the songs were certainly written in part with the help of my situation in Maine. I was recording in the store's basement after hours, and my rent was really cheap, so living in Maine was really conducive to getting started. I don't think I would've been able to have been as loud as I was had I not started out playing in Maine."
And thank the Pine Tree State for that, because Spaltro's penchant for wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting stanza is a part so intrinsic to her performance that it rings as true through a pair of headphones as it does a stage monitor.
Pieced together from studio sessions and demos she recorded in her bedroom, Ripely Pine is a testament to the verve of a Lady Lamb set in that the record successfully replicates Spaltro's ability to leave her heart broken and bleeding onstage. This quality proved to be a bit of a bear to bottle up, as channeling the impassioned peak of her live performance was something she refused to settle on -- especially considering that half of these songs formed over the course of several sets that involved nothing more than Spaltro and her guitar.
"It was really challenging for me to figure out how to best represent these songs with more instrumentation while still maintaining their energy and the loudness of the solo performances," she says, recalling her time in the studio with producer Nadim Issa. "My relationship to the songs definitely changed throughout recording them, because I was taking songs I had known for years as solo songs that I knew had a potential to be bigger. That meant that in the studio, parts of the song would stay pretty verbose, but other parts would really expand and become these epic arranged pieces I had heard in my head. It was an in-depth and sometimes frustrating process, figuring out what exactly the songs wanted."
Spaltro and Issa had a "no compromise" rule when it came to pursuing Ripely Pine's perfection: A smoother, crack-free vocal take didn't necessarily trump the validity of an imperfect and emotional one, as heard in the mournful strains of "Regarding Ascending the Stairs."
"That was a live, full take, and there were others that were technically better," she says. "My voice was maybe prettier, or something. It's very subtle and some people may not know that it's there, but I actually cried during that vocal take. I'm slowly pulling it together as I finish the song, but you can hear the emotion in my voice. We went with that as the final take knowing that it was better to be the most sincere and honest we could be than picking something because it was ... glossier."
Ripely Pine may include material that dates back to those demos taped in the video store basement, but Spaltro is confident that her debut is one that accurately portrays her strength as a musician while revealing the road she took to get here.
"It was tricky, trying to pick what songs I wanted to put on this album," she says. "I knew going into it that this was going to be considered my debut and the first thing that a lot of people hear, especially since it's my first record coming out on a label. I picked the songs that I felt represented me well, but also the ones that were nagging at me for years to be finished. I got a lot out of all of the years that I was performing solo, but I knew that those songs -- most of these that didn't exist at all as recordings, just as demos or radio performances -- weren't fully defined. I really wanted to complete these songs and close the book on them sonically. I wanted to finally define them."