"I just got detention..." is how my conversation with Lindsey Jordan of Baltimore-based solo project Snail Mail started off this past Thursday afternoon. Beforehand, I did a bit of research to find out more about her and her band. Had I actually had time to read her Pitchfork interview prior to speaking with her, I would have known that Jordan is seventeen years old and wouldn't have been so taken aback by her "detention" comment. I proceeded to tease her a bit for experiencing success at such a young age, but all jokes aside, with a release as brilliant and emotionally forthright as her EP Habit, she rightfully deserves all the attention and fanfare it's brought her.
Jordan wrote Habit after school in her suburban Baltimore bedroom, joined by drummer Shawn Durham and bassist Ryan Vieira. Her candid style of writing and the circumstances surrounding its creation bring to mind Liz Phair's legendary Girly-Sound tapes, which were recorded by Phair in her childhood bedroom in the suburbs of Chicago. Unlike the Girly-Sound tapes, though, Habit boasts a slightly more polished production. Like Phair, Jordan exhibits mainly monotone vocals that intensify when she howls the particularly poignant parts of her songs. "Shutters on my house... keeps the sunlight in. If that's not enough to keep the people out, then I don't wanna know what's on the other side," she wails on "Static Buzz," a likely narrative that describes the imminent fears that come with breaking away from the suburbs and sheltered habits of youth. On Habit's opening track, "Thinning," she sings, "Haven't felt right in a week and I'm thinning out... And it hurts bad. I gotta get back." A pain many of us know all too well, I fell in love instantly.
Currently taking lessons from Mary Timony of 90s noise-pop group Helium, Jordan has been playing guitar since the age of five. Timony told Pitchfork, "I can't take any credit for her skill - she was already a really great guitar player before we started meeting..."
Describing one's influences is always difficult, but Jordan citied Weyes Blood, Palehound, Jay Som, and Julie Byrne as a few contemporary artists whom she finds particularly captivating. "I think there's a lot of really awesome stuff being put out today... if you look at just 2016 and 2017 in general there's so many exciting things happening with music."
Still, music evolves - for better or for worse. When I asked Jordan where she saw the future of music headed she took a particularly optimistic stance: "A lot of work needs to be done... I think people are trying to make music in more diverse and inclusive spaces. People are making lots of different and new DIY spaces and are making them into music communities for people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to say how they feel or put music out. I think a lot of this has existed for a long time... but I would say that [as compared to the past] there are a lot of people working towards making spaces safer and more inclusive for all different types of people. Music in general is always changing and evolving and recycling - in a good way."
We discussed how nostalgia informs music and how currently, 90s nostalgia is in full swing. Her band's name in itself conjures up prior eras and had me longing for simpler times - I was immediately reminded of a series of tween novels I picked up from my elementary school's library in the fourth grade; P.S. Longer Letter Later (1998) and Snail Mail No More (2000). I can't say exactly why those books stuck with me, though I assume it has something to do with all of the excitement I felt towards the array of new technology that was coming to the forefront at the time (nothing made me feel cooler than the fact that I could be reached on my very own AOL account/AIM screenname). Jordan, however, settled on her band's name for a much simpler reason. “I was thinking of names that rhyme. I just thought it was cute," she mentioned in her Pitchfork interview. "They slide around in the dirt. I’ve always been a fan of snails—not to eat." Her songs are wise because they exist in the present while looking to the future to reflect on feelings yet to come, "Baby, when I'm thirty, I'll laugh about how dumb I felt," she sings on "Dirt." Not many seventeen year olds are writing lyrics this perceptive.
Lyrics like "Oh, garden slug, what would you give to live like one of us? Or would you rather wait in the shade? Just the same as everyday..." make it easy to forget that Jordan is still in high school (rather strong evidence that more young peoples' voices need to be heard). Her disposition was striking; she was humble and surprisingly easy to talk to - almost as though we had spoken before and were rekindling an old friendship. "The success [of Habit] is really exciting... it's crazy. I didn't really see it coming... I just wanna make the best of it."
Jordan and her band plan to begin recording their first full-length record this August. Currently, Habit is sold out of its exclusive cassette release from Sister Polygon Records, but the label is expecting a repress soon. Until then, give it a listen below, or purchase a digital copy here. Snail Mail tours this summer with praised indie-pop duo Girlpool. I assume tickets will sell out quickly (possibly stemming from my admiration for both bands...) so act now and purchase 'em below! See you in Chicago.
06-02 Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle -----> TICKETS
05-23 Los Angeles, CA - Teragram Ballroom -----> TICKETS
05-24 San Francisco, CA - The Chapel -----> TICKETS
05-25 Portland, OR - Mississippi Studios -----> TICKETS
05-26 Seattle, WA - Neumos -----> TICKETS
05-27 Vancouver, British Columbia - The Biltmore -----> TICKETS
05-31 Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry -----> TICKETS
06-01 Iowa City, IA - The Mill -----> TICKETS
06-13 Durham, NC - The Pinhook -----> TICKETS
06-14 Atlanta, GA - The Masquerade (Hell Stage) -----> TICKETS
06-15 New Orleans, LA - Republic -----> TICKETS
06-16 Houston, TX - Walter's -----> TICKETS
06-17 Austin, TX - Barracuda -----> TICKETS
06-20 Phoenix, AZ - Rebel Lounge -----> TICKETS
06-21 San Diego, CA - Che Cafe -----> TICKETS
06-22 Pomona, CA - The Glass House -----> TICKETS
Portrait photography taken by Glenford Nuñez, via Pitchfork.