Speaking about the album in our review, we wrote, “‘Letter Blue’ is the sound of a band enjoying what they’re doing and having fun with it, and despite the occasional misses you can’t help but enjoy it right alongside them.”
We got Kelly Zutrau to tell us even more about it…
Over and Over
This was a full song at one point but Joe cut it up so it was just this little piece and we felt like it said what it needed to say in those 30 seconds. Using it as the opener was a choice to give some context and narrative from the beginning.
On Your Side
‘On Your Side’ is about the feeling of embodying unconditional love as a special and fleeting experience. Even though it sounds contradictory, unconditional and fleeting, it’s about that duality. I often find myself in more ambivalent places in relationships and then when it happens, it’s epic, like planets and trees and rivers and then, like that, it’s gone again. I think I wanted to capture it as a way of holding onto that feeling.
This song came about pretty naturally and quickly, Rob Ackroyd from Florence + The Machine played me a couple tracks he had been working on and one of them was a very barebones version of what would become ‘Clementine’. It was just that main synth line over a beat and I felt so inspired by it I asked if I could try to write over it and got the lyrics and melodies figured out that night. A month or so later we were able to go out to the Almanack Arts Center in Nantucket to finish it and Marty wrote that beautiful guitar part and Joe worked on all the sounds and percussion and brought it more into the world of the other songs. It’s one of my favorite tracks from the album because of the levity in it. It’s about feeling ambivalence in a relationship and pushing yourself to feel something decisive even when it doesn’t come naturally.
After touring in 2019, all I wanted to do was get back into the studio with Chaz Bear (Toro Y Moi). I had worked with him on his album and toured with him and was so inspired by him especially how his music translated into a brilliant live show. I knew I wanted to make music that would be fun to play live and so we started writing far cry together. It’s a sad dance song and it’s probably the most fun song to play in our set right now.
Blades Of Grass
I was at an Artist residence in 2020 when I wrote ‘Blades Of Grass’. Dealing with overwhelming depression and anxiety. I remember just feeling so sick of myself and everything looked flat to me, every physical thing I looked at looked like suffering embodied to me. I was sitting in the grass in a really beautiful field and all these pieces of grass were bent over in the wind and I just started writing the song in my head. I went back to where I was staying and took out my autoharp and got the song down in a couple hours. It was one of the ones that came very quickly because I needed to write it to get it out of my head so badly. I sent it to Buddy Ross and he texted me back really quickly that he loved it and he really connected with the lyrics on a personal level. We had so many versions of the song but eventually ended up making a very simple version just focused on the vocals and strings.
Bound (featuring Blood Orange)
This was the last song to make it onto the record. Me and Dev had a session at Electric Lady in the city and it was so fun and generative. We had a bunch of songs started and then this one just came together really quickly. I’ve always admired Dev’s work as an artist and a writer and to get to be a part of that was a really exciting moment in the process. I think the way the chords come in right out of the end of ‘Blades of Grass’ is one of my favorite moments on the record.
We went out to SF to keep working with Chaz and ‘Only One’ came together right before lockdown in March. We were still really trying to find the sound at that point and Chaz played this really fast drum beat that I thought would never work for us even though it was so cool it just sounded so fast to me. But then we started putting these slow sad piano chords over it and all of a sudden it felt like it could be a wet song and I wrote the rest that night. We went back into a proper studio in SF called Different Fur and we were all just ecstatic recording the final vocals and stuff, we were bounding off the walls because it felt like a breakthrough in the process.
The Letter Blue
I was thinking a lot about my life in general and as a musician and just trying to take stock in the last 10 years and what I have to show for it. Looking back on almost a decade of touring the world and putting out music and what that means to me. What I found in the process of making this third album is the most meaningful part of it is these relationships that you form with the people you work with, these very intense intimate relationships you have after spending countless hours days months together in a van or bus or plane or dressing room. I think the song is about accountability to those people and guilt for where you might have let them down. It’s also just about the kind of sadness of being alive and getting older that is subtle but pervasive and very difficult to describe with conventional language for me. So I was using words in this different way kind to try to describe that feeling. “Time for somebody new, want it spelled out in black, I think the letter blue”.
I wrote this song towards the end of the process with Joe and Marty. I was spending a lot of time working in California at the time and rereading The White Album by Joan Didion and I kept thinking about water as a metaphor and as a literal thing and all the power it has over our daily lives and that’s how it started. I wrote the basic core of the song on autoharp and then we took it to Dreamland Studio in upstate New York and changed the chords around and figured out all of the instruments with some friends of ours. It was one of the harder songs to finish, we kept getting it 90% of the way done and then starting over because we couldn’t quite finish it. I think it acts as one of the more cathartic moments on the album, we just end up going all out with the instruments and the singing at the end and it’s a good release from some of the quieter more restrained moments I think.
Step into the light for the very first time. ‘Larabar’ was a little breakthrough in the album process, the first song that came together that everything else formed around. We made it with Buddy Ross in LA and Portland over the course of a year. It’s about a relationship cycle that becomes a loop - eventually a feedback loop - obsessively repeating, breaking up, getting back together, breaking up again. How memory distorts reality, solitude vs. company, accountability, guiltiness, loving someone who left and what to do when they come back and on and on etc.
‘Letter Blue’ is out now via AWAL.
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Despite the occasional misses you can’t help but enjoy it right alongside them.
Lifted from their forthcoming album ‘Letter Blue’.
Listen to new track ‘Larabar’ now.
The tracks follow last year’s ‘Still Run’.