Lavender Diamond — Incorruptible Heart (Sept. 2012)
Location: Providence, Rhode Island ~ Los Angeles, California
Album release: October 2, 2012
Record Label: Paracadute
01. Everybody’s Heart’s Breaking Now 3:37
02. Dragonfly 2:54
03. I Don’t Recall 3:02
04. Just Passing By 4:21
05. Teach Me How To Waken 4:12
06. Come Home 3:31
07. Forgive 3:24
08. Light My Way 3:58
09. Oh My Beautiful World 3:28
10. There’s A Perfect Love For Me 2:12
11. Everybody’s Song 4:06
12. All The Stars 5:28
• Becky Stark — vocals
• Steve Gregoropoulos — piano, vocals
• Ron Regé Jr. — drums
• Jeffrey Rosenberg — guitar, vocals
♦ M. Ward: additional guitar
♦ The Calder Quartet: strings
♦ Damian Kulash: production, additional vocals
♦ Dave Fridmann: mixing
• Devon Williams — guitar, vocals
• Jeff Kwong — guitar
• Elvis Perkins also played guitar on the band’s first single.
Website: http://lavenderdiamond.net/ / Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/1351822335/posts/4732491554190#!/lavender.diamond
LD on Matador Records: http://www.matadorrecords.com/lavender_diamond/
About previous album:
• “Remarkable vision...a genuinely beautiful, beguiling record, recalling the Carpenters and Kate Bush.” — Mojo
Birth name: Rebecca Ann Stark
Born: 1976, Culver City, California, U.S.
• While living in Providence, Rhode Island, Stark began performing as Lavender Diamond in a play that she and puppeteer Xander Marro wrote, created and toured with called Birdsongs of the Bauharoque inspired by the work of artist Paul Laffoley. A self~produced CD of Stark’s songs accompanied the tour in a hand~sewn, silkscreened sleeve. Lavender Diamond grew into a four~piece band after Stark relocated to Los Angeles. With the help of local patrons Brian Kaneda and Josh Scuteri, Lavender Diamond self~released a four~song EP and performed at L.A.’s ArthurFest, at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and at the CMJ New Music Seminar in New York City. In 2006 Lavender Diamond signed to Rough Trade Records in Europe, and Matador Records in the U.S., and toured and performed with The Decemberists for three weeks.
• Becky Stark performs solo and has a band called The Mystical Unionists with drummer/cartoonist Ron Regé Jr. Regé draws and Stark writes a Lavender Diamond comic strip entitled Peace Comics. Rege furnishes the band with all of its artwork.
• In November 2007, they released a cover of Madonna’s song “Like A Prayer” on a charity/tribute record, Through the Wilderness
• In March 2009, Becky Stark was featured on The Hazards of Love, a rock opera album by The Decemberists.
• In July 2009, SPIN magazine released “Purplish Rain”, a 25th Anniversary Tribute to Prince’s “Purple Rain”, with Lavender Diamond covering “Purple Rain”.
• In 2011, the original Lavender Diamond lineup reunited for a few concerts in the Los Angeles area. They are currently recording the band’s second full length with Damian Kulash of OK Go for release in early 2012.
Lavender Diamond seeks world peace
By Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer
Posted 4/27/2007 3:08 PM |
NEW YORK — As Becky Stark, the ebullient lead singer of Lavender Diamond, performs “Open Your Heart,” she sings a chorus of “Oh oh oh oh oh oh.”
• With each “Oh,” she flashes her palm outward, alternating each hand, as if giving gentle, imaginary high~fives to the audience. She just might be. After all, Stark is on a mission to bring joy and peace to the world.
• “Dancing should be the number one priority of the nation,” the 30~year~old singer says.
• She laughs when saying this, but she’s not joking. For Stark, Lavender Diamond is a vessel to inspire positivity and love. Though the group performs melancholy torch songs, Stark endlessly spouts her vision of a brighter future.
• “Oh me, honestly, it’s like the difference between thinking the world is round and thinking the world is flat,” Stark says. “We’re at that kind of moment where we really have to understand that everyone is totally connected and everyone is important.”
• Stark is a classically trained soprano who, when told her ribcage was too small for operatic singing, turned to pop music. The influence of a classical approach is still evident in Lavender Diamond’s debut album, “Imagine Our Love,” due out May 8 on Matador Records.
• The band includes Steve Gregoropoulos (a classical pianist), guitarist Jeff Rosenberg and drummer Ron Rege Jr. Stark calls “Imagine Our Love” a country~pop album, but acknowledges their music isn’t easy to categorize.
• “I still get flabbergasted,” she says. “Folk? Classical punk? Um, nursery rhymes? It’s peace rock? No, no, no. Love music?”
• Stark grew up poor outside Washington D.C. in Maryland and was raised as a Unitarian. She says she felt ostracized because her mother was a stripper.
Her musical world opened up when a classical teacher heard an 11~year~old Stark singing and took an interest in her. He took Stark on a student for five years, only to then inform her that she wouldn't physically make it as classical singer because of her tiny ribcage — a limitation Stark compares to a four~foot tall person trying to play professional basketball.
• But she learned about another side of music as a teenager when friends took her to see the band Fugazi in concert.
• “For me, discovering that punk existed, it was like church,” she says.
• She then attended Brown University in Providence, R.I. where she began writing and performing punk operettas. After college, she infused herself into the city’s music scene and her “Birdsongs of the Bauharoque” was especially popular, yielding a national tour in 2003.
• The play’s main character, played by Stark, was a bird~woman named Lavender Diamond, whose job was to invent peace on earth.
• “The character of Lavender Diamond became my voice,” she says. “That was, to me, a metaphor for the sound of the original unity of life.”
• Stark’s dreamy, existential musings on the nature of life may sound bizarre (as she'll admit), but her sincerity and innocence is utterly disarming. One can imagine she would in less than an hour, transform the most cynical of people into wide~eyed optimists, rhapsodizing on the simplistic beauty of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
• She says her perspective was born out of depression and poverty.
• “I reached a point in my life where I couldn’t survive anyway, so I had to try something else out of shear necessity,” Stark explains. “As soon as I made that choice to just give from my heart out of love in the service of peace, my whole life just went like (raising her hand upward) ssshhuuu!”
• “Now, I know that and I practice that.”
• When Stark moved to Los Angeles, she began playing in duos with each of the musicians who would join together in Lavender Diamond. But it took some convincing.
• “We’ll be a pop band — like Blondie!” she told them. “We’ll make really beautiful, amazing music and it will uplift people and it will be really idealistic and we’ll send love energy through the radio!”
• “And they were like, ‘No way.’”
• But Stark inspired them nevertheless, and Lavender Diamond released a four~song EP in 2005 titled “Cavalry of Light,” on which Elvis Perkins played guitar. The disc was led by the glorious “You Broke My Heart,” which — like many of their songs — culminates in a high~pitched crescendo. Performing it, Stark will often jokingly point at individual audience members while repeatedly singing “You broke my heart.”
• This brings up an important quality in Stark: She may want to sing crystalline melodies that sound like “the resonance of everything” — but she’s also very funny. Performing dressed in vintage gowns, she’ll tell stories in between songs and congratulate the audience on achieving world peace.
• Her stage persona can be in contrast to her songs. “Imagine Our Love” is filled with simple ballads of love and sorrow. On “Oh No,” she wonders, “When will I love again?” On the melancholy jaunt “My Shadow Is a Monday” she coos: “My heart is in a shadow without you.”
• Her religious upbringing informs some of the lyrics, as well. On “Side of the Lord,” she sings, “Oh, I must be on the side of the Lord, but I don’t know if I’m to the left or to the right.”
• “Comedy doesn’t really have any meaning without sadness,” Stark says. “The most meaningful comedy comes from some really serious pathos.” Stark is then prompted to discuss the relative brilliance of the Steve Martin film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”
• One story she relates seems destined for between~song banter. In a coffee shop recently, she overheard a customer asking for change. The guy behind the counter replied, “Poof! You’re an aardvark!” — causing Stark to double~over in laughter.
• So if Stark has her way, world peace will arrive on the wings of torch songs, Steve Martin and aardvarks.
Ron Regé, Jr.:
Birth name: Ronald J. Regé, Junior
Born: December 5, 1969, Quincy, Massachusetts
• Cartoonist and musician from Plymouth, Massachusetts.
• Ron played drums and trombone in his high school band. He continued to tinker with music in college and built a variety of instruments for a course in art school. Bits of Ron’s 4 track home recordings appeared on releases by Boston indie rock band Swirlies, and more extensively in various related lo~fi projects with friends. Regé continues to record and perform solo as the Discombobulated Ventriloquist, and appears on releases by the Yes Girls and the Mystical Unionists. He currently plays drums in the Los Angeles~based group Lavender Diamond.
Ron Regé blog: http://ronrege.blogspot.cz//Jeffrey Rosenberg:
Birth name: Jeffrey Rosenberg
Born: June 21, 1974
Origin: East Lansing, Michigan
Instruments: Guitar, Bass, Drums, Voice, Piano
• Jeffrey Rosenberg is a guitarist/vocalist/drummer who has been in a number of bands in Los Angeles, CA, Brooklyn, NY, San Francisco, CA, and Providence, RI. These bands have ranged from soft anthemic folk (Lavender Diamond) to other less touchy-feely creatures: noisy, bombastic rock (Pink and Brown) to experimental art~pop (Young People) to instrumental soundscapes (Tarentel, Lumen, solo music). John Dwyer and Rosenberg played in a few different projects together from 1996 through 2003, including Tar~Aiym Krang (featuring Brian Gibson of Lightning Bolt). Rosenberg and Dwyer were both original members of and contributors to the Fort Thunder art and music scene in Providence in the late 1990s.
• Rosenberg left Lavender Diamond in April 2007 to focus on work and family.
In 2010, Rosenberg teamed up with Steve Gregoropoulos and Ron Regé Jr. of Lavender Diamond to form a dark and somewhat new wave band named Daylong Valleys of the Nile. Soon afterward, the three rejoined singer Becky Stark to reunite the original Lavender Diamond lineup for a few concerts in 2011. They are currently recording the band's second full length with Damian Kulash of OK Go for release in early 2012.
Review by Fred Thomas (Allmusic.com)
♠ Upon their emergence in the early 2000s, Los Angeles~based Lavender Diamond were immediately lumped into the "New Weird America" movement that included warped indie folkies like Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, and Vetiver, among many others. The band, based around the creative force of bandleader Becky Stark, wasn’t quite all the way weird, folk, feral, or drugged~out enough to fit into the confines of the New Weird ghetto, but their achingly positive songs soared with childlike simplicity and a crushingly beautiful straightforwardness in Stark's lyrics and lush vocals. Maybe the nakedness of the songs weirded people out enough, and not offering enough of a context or a gimmick to fit in with the Sufjan Stevenses or Clap Your Hands Say Yeahs of that particular moment in time, Lavender Diamond were shuffled off to sit with the weird kids at the freak folk table. Returning after a five~year space between records with Incorruptible Heart, all the elements of Stark and company's uniquely direct sound have been brought into higher definition, still relying on both playfulness and open~hearted honesty in the songwriting, but bringing with it a refined sophistication absent on earlier work. Songs like the piano~driven "Forgive" and "Oh My Beautiful World" with its update on girl group sounds bring Stark’s voice into the forefront, as usual, but here they bear a sadness or world~weary understanding that was missing in the band’s more naïve songs. Production was handled by OK Go’s Damian Kulash Jr. and Flaming Lips collaborator Dave Fridmann, and it's apparent from signature blown~out drum sounds and a combination of dazzlingly psychedelic yet crystal~clear touches. While being relatively spare, Incorruptible Heart sounds huge. “Light My Way” flirts with electro~pop, but sounds a little out of place next to more stripped~down songs. M. Ward shows up to duet on the whimsically upbeat "Perfect Love," which may be a little too giggly and cute for its own good in comparison to the rest of the album, which comes off in turns as mysterious as some of Kate Bush’s moments of storminess or as somber as Nick Drake’s early orchestral pop bummers. Album opener “Everybody’s Heart’s Breaking Now” sets the scene of the album with its gorgeously simple electric piano and melancholic ripples of delayed percussion and pulsing electronics bounding like rocky waves beneath Stark’s voice. Lavender Diamond still aren’t weird enough for their wild~eyed brethren, but maybe a little too weird (or more likely not quite disposable enough) for Target commercials. Incorruptible Heart exists, much as the band does, in an in~between space that's not easy to pigeonhole. There’s always been an inexplicable brightness to Stark’s songs, and here that light is near blinding, even when the songs themselves aren't particularly happy. This long~labored album is a thoughtful and contemplative breed of off~kilter pop that becomes both more interesting and increasingly complex with repeat listening. © Photo: Becky Stark. Credit: Ariana Delawari¶ A short list of what lives forever: Vampires. Werewolves. Cheetahs struck by lightning at midnight. The timeless pleasures of a perfectly ripe fruit. Oh, and Lavender Diamond.
¶ Becky Stark, the band’s frontwoman with just a touch of darkness to her smiling beatitude, attested to as much the other day, sitting outside in the sunshine at Fix Cafe in Echo Park. “Lavender Diamond can’t end,” she said, though there were a few years where even she doubted it. "It's a resonance of love and love is eternal."
¶ Since 2007, when LD’s album "Imagine Our Love" was released on Matador Records, Stark has kept busy with other projects, like the Living Sisters, her harmonic collaboration with Eleni Mandell and Inara George, and the L.A. Ladies Choir, an ever~shifting cast of women exploring melody and feminine power. “For a while,” she said, “I had such a deep need to sing harmony with women. I didn’t want to hear my voice alone.”
¶ But earlier this year, her needs changed and it was time to reassemble the sparkling eternals, including Ron Rege Jr., Steve Gregoropoulos and Jeffrey Rosenberg, who’d been out of touch with Stark for a while. The first spring night they played together again, they wrote something like six songs. It’s been a fruitful bounty ever since, with the band expecting to have a new album of songs out sometime in the fall.
¶ The new songs, Stark said, take a range of identities — some are dance songs, some are “super~operatic,” some are spare, and some others still are wild country bumpkins. But they are all united by one experience: heartbreak. “These songs are really simply expressive of those feelings," Stark said. "I'm just letting it be that way without trying to create any resolution.”
¶ Stark also pointed out that there is joy in the songs too. "There is humor in how outrageously irrational it is to love so strongly and create so passionately.”
In the meantime, in addition to Stark's recent outings with fellow troubadours Tom Brosseau and John C. Reilly, you can catch Lavender Diamond this weekend playing a rare set at McCabe's. Stark was kind enough to give one of the new songs, “Waiting For,” to Pop & Hiss for downloading and singing-along purposes. It sounds like it should score the scene where Carole King holds hands with a heavenly sprite and they use a footbridge (the coolest kind of bridge) to cross over a raging sea into an imaginary world that's sometimes good, sometimes evil. Yes, it's that scene that's now in your head too.By Rachael Maddux; September 21, 2012; Pitchfork / 7.0
¶ If you ever thought Lavender Diamond would make a second record, Incorruptible Heart is probably not the one you would have expected. Their first, Imagine Our Love, came out in 2007; at shows around the time of their debut, Becky Stark, the band's lead singer and general aesthetic ringmaster, flounced around onstage in gauzy pink dresses, warbling about love and light and roses. When I saw the band play in 2006, even the (male, otherwise stoic) drummer sported pigtails. The band’s aggressive cuteness almost overshadowed the actual substance of their music — wide~eyed theatrical~folk with a keen ear for mood and melody, hooks as big and bright as Stark’s doe eyes.
¶ These new songs are shadowy and spacy, a little bit lost, maybe even a tad sexy despite themselves — all brighter and richer than their predecessors. The overall tonal shift could spark suspicions of identity crises born of trend~hopping, but the gap is bridged by everything Becky Stark has had her hands in over the past five years: performing in the dusky, tight~harmony trio the Living Sisters, recording some country songs with actor John C. Reilly, running a community choir in Los Angeles. It would be easy enough to call these “side~projects,” but it’s more helpful to think of Lavender Diamond as just one nook in Stark’s glitter~spackled pantheon of boundless creative joy.
¶ Stark is such a force, her voice — and by that I mean both her artistic perspective and her rich, bendy soprano — so singularly beguiling that it’s easy to forget there’s anyone else involved in the band, but for the new album she’s again corralled pianist Steve Gregoropoulos and drummer Ron Regé Jr. (he of the pigtails), plus producer (and OK Go frontman) Damian Kulash. (The album’s out on OK Go’s Paracadute imprint, too.) The record's palette initally seems to be less a palette and more like every pigment close at hand dumped onto a canvas at once, but with repeat listens a certain logic emerges, elements bobbing and weaving in and out of view a fuzzy horn section, a teasing metallic guitar, swooning strings, the ominous drone of some gargoyle chorus. There are hints of the plainclothes percussion and school~play piano that defined Love, but they're swaddled deep in sheets of warm neon fuzz. Stark’s vocals have a tendency to get buried, too; her song structures are plagued by a nearly paralytic tendency towards lyrical repetition which, coupled with the haze of Kulash’s production and the more understated delivery she often favors here, can have a soporific effect.
¶ Love is still Stark’s main lyrical concern, but here she fixates on its darker sides, its absence. “Everybody’s heart’s breaking now,” she laments on the opening track, her voice nearly cracking under the weight of all the world’s sorrows; later, she’s driven to desperation: “If I gave away everything that I owned, would you come home, would you come home?” It’s hard not to compare this record’s “I Don’t Recall” with “Oh No”, which opened the band's debut — the phrase “oh no” leads off and is repeated throughout both songs — but this is a subversion, not a retread. On the original, Stark countered heartbreak with precocious bombast: “When will I love again?” she asked over and over (and over and over), like love was a foregone conclusion requiring her only to stand with open wide arms until it came around the corner. But here we find Stark flat on her back, refusing to stand up, let alone brush herself off. “The life we shared is gone/ And it’s hard without you,” she sings, her words and her voice heavy and frank.
¶ There’s nothing so unnerving as an optimist in defeat, and Incorruptible Heart sits with this tension — at least in its first half. The record’s sequencing is either totally obvious, totally smart, or a complete accident. Either way, Stark spends tracks one through seven in mourning, walking through fires alone, contemplating what went wrong and what might have been; perhaps appropriately, a track called "Forgive" is the turning point. The sun breaks free from the clouds and she’s out spinning in the fields again: “Oh my boys and my girls/ I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you,” she declares over a steady Spector drumbeat on “Oh My Beautiful World”. Stark’s back in love, or at least back in love with love itself. It would’ve been nice to see her languish in the mess instead of tidily packing it away, but man does she tie up some pretty bows.
© Becky Stark [Rebecca Stark], founder of the musical group Lavender Diamond. Picture taken during her supporting role of The Decemberists “Hazards of Love” concert set. Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, in the background on keyboards. Author: Boris Kafka; June 8, 2009
|Lavender Diamond — Incorruptible Heart (2012)|