Lazenlow discusses new album, forthcoming wedding, and performing dark indie pop for children ahead of 7th St Entry debut
Flip Rushmore is celebrating the release of their new EP, Choose Your Villains Wisely, at the 7th St Entry on Wed., Aug. 10. Lazenlow, comprised of Gillian Needham, Mike "Ghost Channels" Ryerse, and Mo Bluntz, is a featured guest on the bill. Gillian and Mike got on the phone with Flip's Alex Smith to discuss Lazenlow's Entry debut and much more.
Alex: I’ve seen allusions to an album being mixed.
Mike: I’m in the finishing process. Which many know: five percent finishing takes 95 percent of the time. I’ve been fine-tuning stuff, then putting it away for a week, then fine-tuning stuff. Right now, it’s 10 songs. We worked on around 20 songs for this particular batch and cut it down to 10 we feel really strongly about. It’s definitely our most electronic-leaning record. We put the guitar to the side. It’s still there, but it’s electronic first. Four to the floor. Beats and stuff. But still very much our dark style. We’re super excited about it.
Alex: Do you track everything at home?
Mike: Yeah, so, Gillian and I are engaged. We live together, and I built a studio in one of our guest bedrooms.
Mike: Thank you.
Alex: When did that go down?
Gillian: He asked me on New Year’s Day, actually. The first day of our vacation. We’re getting married next year in September. So, we’re excited. We’re having our engagement party tomorrow [before press time].
Alex: So, if you’re tracking everything in your own studio, doing all the mixing work. Do you need to step away for awhile before re-listening, or are you listening to the same song for several days in a row?
Mike: No. I think the first few weeks when you’re doing the intense stuff, yes, it’s every day. But it’s been a really important part of my process, to stop listening to it for a couple weeks. Don’t even think about it. Then pick a weird scenario. Put it on headphones. Listen in the car. Our lil’ old record player we have. Bluetooth. It’s important to switch things up because it keeps it fresh, like you’re hearing it for the first time. It’s very important to shelve stuff, and then come back to it, because you don’t know what it sounds like when you’re too close to it.
Alex: That makes sense. You guys seem very invested in visual content. TikTok. Twitter videos. Which, you know, OK, other people do that, too, but I feel like it’s something you emphasize.
Gillian: We’ve gotten some coaching from Mark Mallman. He’s been a mentor for us, as far as creating content and how to corner that market. “At this point, if you’re not using TikTok to promote your music, you’re doing it wrong,” is how he presented it to us. There isn’t a lot of original music getting posted on there. It’s not necessarily to promote our own music all the time, but to get peoples’ attention of who we are. Mark says if you use your own music, it shoves you down to the bottom of the algorithm [laughs], so it’s just another way we’ve tried to gain traction with people who don’t know us.
Alex: TikTok seems like, man, you just need *one* video, and then you’re kind of in. Then you can build up that following and the algorithm likes you a little more.
Mike: I was a house DJ and producer for a long time. It feels like the same kind of thing when Soundcloud was really new. It was like, anything could go. One famous artist would repost your song, and you were riding a huge wave. I did so much work on getting my Facebook and Soundcloud numbers up, and now those are completely useless. There’s nothing I can do with either of them; nobody uses either one for anything.
Gillian: The young kids are super anti-Facebook. Even Instagram and Twitter, they’re not using those anymore. And it’s the youngins that are bringing things to that viral level.
Alex: That’s how it’s always been.
Mike: That’s fair. They’re the ones with disposable cash that drive it. And you get really, really obsessed. Unless you stay with music in your older age, everybody thinks the music from when they were teens was the best, because that’s what you emotionally connect with the most. That’s why everybody’s like, “music was the best in the ‘60s or the ‘70s or whatever…”
Gillian: …‘90s. [laughs]
Mike: There’s probably kids saying the 2010s were the best.
Alex: To each their own.
Alex: You mentioned a past life as a DJ … what’s the origin story of Lazenlow?
Mike: We met through mutual friends, and we hit it off right away. It took a few weeks to get here to come see me--
Gillian: —I was playing hard to get. [laughs]
Mike: I remember one of the first things I said to her. I heard her singing, and I said, “Hey, I produce music for artists, and I love your voice I’d love to work with you. I’d also love to take you out for Cuban food. But if you don’t want to do the Cuban food, I’d love to still record with you."
I think we worked on a Frank Ocean cover a couple months into dating. And then we wrote "Smoke and Mirrors," which was our first release, and we’ve been off and running since then. We met our drummer…
Gillian: I’ve known Mo [Bluntz] for a long time. He was one of my very first friends when I moved to Minneapolis. I knew he was drumming and wasn’t actively involved in any bands at the time, so it was like, “Hey, Mo, you wanna come on down?” And he did.
Alex: What kind of style does Mo bring to the group?
Gillian: Oh, he’s got so much flair. He’s drummed for Me & My Arrow. Jacob Grun. He’d also been touring with Astronautalis. He’s honed in on hip-hop-type beats. He’s extremely loud. [laughs] He’s the loudest drummer I’ve ever met in my life, and he brings so much energy to what we’re doing. He brings another dimension to it, and he’s so fun to watch live.
We played Infected Mushroom, and he knocked over his kick drum, somehow got up, ran, and put it back together and was still on time. He literally did not miss a beat.
Alex: I saw you played the Stone Arch Festival without him [the festival banned drums this year due to a location change].
Gillian: It was a little bit different. And I don’t think we’ve ever played in front of children. It was fun. There were five or six little girls that were only a couple years old, dancing in front of the stage. ... Our music can be kinda sad and a little bit angry.
Alex: How did you feel the children responded?
Gillian: They were having a great time.
Mike: It was a small tent, so everybody was either sitting in lawn chairs, or they were sitting criss-crossed on the ground. The kids were running around in circles at the front. It was a great time.
Alex: Circling back on the new material, are there any themes or threads as you wrote the song?
Mike: The instrumentals bring a sense of tension and unease. We write the instrumental first. I make the beats. And then we have a vocal melody, and then the lyrics to fit the melody. That Swedish pop method of songwriting. I think because [our songs are] more on the dark side of things, the lyrics create this sense of dread. It’s still about relationships and things like that, but more of the darker side of those things.
Gillian: The working title is ‘The Panic Button.’ Everything in it is just a little bit edgy and nervous. And I think that reflects how, collectively, we’ve been feeling through the pandemic. That wasn’t intentional by any means, but it does reflect the general sense of dread in our world right now.
Alex: You’ve teased it quite a bit at this point. I want to hear some more.
Mike: You’re gonna be teased for at least a couple months. We haven’t finished the mixes yet. And once it’s mastered, we’ll start trickling out the singles, because that’s the way the world works right now. I think 2023 is when you’re gonna hear the full thing.
Get your tickets here for Flip Rushmore's EP Release Party featuring Friend Dog and Lazenlow. And be sure to stream Flip's new EP, Choose Your Villains Wisely, on Spotify or wherever else you listen to music.