From 2011 to 2020, SAAM’s Luce Foundation Center has hosted Luce Unplugged, a free, monthly concert series that celebrated the work of local musicians. Now, during the pandemic when in-person events are restricted, we’re teaming up with a local music podcast, Hometown Sounds, to continue to bring you music and conversations from your favorite DC artists. In our January episode, we’re talking with Emily Carlson, Alli Vega, and Matt Wright of dream pop group, Lavender. Read on for excerpts from Lavender’s conversation with Paul Vodra and Anthony Porreco of Hometown Sounds. To hear the full interview, visit hometownsoundsdc.com.
Hometown Sounds: You formed this band in college and you've continued to play together after graduating. What has it been like to balance being in a band with developing your post-college lives and building your careers?
Alli: We were all living together our senior year and then we crash landed into adulthood after graduation. We were in a state of flux because our other guitarist, Sam, had moved to New York and our lead singer, Sophie, moved to Austin. That's when Trent joined the band, and we were all trying to figure out our jobs and our lives. There was this one day that we got to open for Wolf Alice at Rock & Roll Hotel. That was an incredibly cementing moment for us as a band. All of us were like, oh my God, this is it, this is so cool.
Emily: I think Lavender helped me transition into adulthood. It gave me something to focus on outside of work and something to aspire to outside of my job. It’s also something that still grounds me in positive friendships. I had such a positive college experience because of these people. My first year of teaching second grade was hard, as it is for all public educators, but teaching is pretty much the same thing as performing. You get up in front of people who may or may not feel like listening to you at that moment, you gotta get their attention. You gotta be engaging in some way and you gotta give it your all. Lavender was a good constant to have in the midst of all the chaos. Like, at least I can still go to band practice. At least I can still be with people that mean a lot to me and do something that I genuinely love.
HS: You mentioned a triumph for the band, opening for the Grammy-nominated Alice Wolf. I read in the Washington City Paper profile of Lavender that you were one song short of the set list requirements and that you all stayed up really late the night before the show to write a new song.
Alli: We did. I think that everyone else in the band had been like Allie, we can't write a song in one night and I was like, yes, we can, we definitely need one more on our set list. It's called “Short on Time” and honestly, it's one of my favorite songs to play live. It's super fun. It makes you cry because it's extremely sentimental. That song was written for Sophie moving to Texas so we were all already in an emotional state, but it went off super well and we played it that show. I was saying to Emily, that show was the best night of my life. I'm going to have a firstborn child someday and I'm still gonna be like, nope, we'll file this best night of my life.
HS: How has Lavender been coping with the pandemic and the lack of in-person performances? What have you been able to do?
Matt: In March, right before the world shut down, Emily and I had just started our own side project called Nolo, after my roommate's cat. We had just played our first show at DC9. It was so much fun and then literally the world shut down right after that. The next time we all saw each other was sometime in April or May.
Emily: We got together and we recorded an acoustic version of Berlin to celebrate hitting 100,000 streams on Spotify. That was a couple months into the pandemic and it was very surreal to be back to playing these songs that we had written in such different circumstances and be to performing them with our friends. Even though it was to an iPhone and it wasn't to an audience, it was really nice. Since then, I feel like sometimes you have those days where you're like, great, I have nothing else to do today so I'm just going to sit down and work on music. Then other days you're just like, I feel paralyzed. I don't know if you guys feel the same way.
Alli: Yeah, this year was rough for me. Emily's been watching me crawl out of the nothingness that I was doing for months on end. I got really into video games this year. I finally crawled out of that and started working on some music again. I've been doing one riff a day, which is a She Shreds magazine Instagram challenge where you do one riff every day of January. Trent has been following along and doing his own from New Zealand, which is super cool. He's doing a great job too and he's been super supportive, even from halfway around the world. It's been really nice. Things started off really dark, but have been slowly getting better and more productive.
HS: Tell us about filming the music video for “Adrenaline.” It looks like you’re having a ton of fun!
Alli: I didn't even realize the camera was there most of the time. We drove to the Arlington County Fair and we just messed around the whole day. It was also such a hot day. It was an incredibly hot day, but because we were filming a video, we all wore like jeans to look cool.
“Adrenaline” was kind of like my baby. It was the first song that I had decided to try to write a real baseline, rather than doing a synth bass. I came up with that little groove first and I think that I put some sort of drum machine dance beat underneath it. I remember when I showed everyone in the band, Trent looked at me at one point and said, Allie, that synth sounds like a microwave, we can't use it. I was like, no, I love it.
HS: Tell us about your experience with the DC music community. What do you think makes DC and its music scene special?
Matt: We all chose jobs, right out of college, that were very stressful and time consuming. It was so nice to have the DC music scene there for us when we were playing shows as Lavender. It was like this big family. Everyone knows everyone. It's big enough that there are a ton of people in it, but it's small enough that you can make really solid friendships. I really appreciate that comradery in the DC music scene.
Alli: Everyone's so kind and so happy to be there and share in so many amazing venues around DC. We have had so many amazing experiences here. I can't picture it anywhere else. The DIY scene and the venue scene have been really incredible. It has been really fun because you start running into the same people at say, the 9:30 Club or other shows, and you realize that you have more in common with them than you thought you did. It’s really cool to build on those friendships.
Luce Listening Party with Lavender drops Friday, January 29.