Artist and musician Laurel Sprengelmeyer came to Montreal around 10 years ago the way many people do. She was dating someone from here, moved, fell in love with the city, and stayed on. In 2011 she released her first album, The Golden Record, an art-rock, folk, and pop blend produced by Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry and accompanied by Mike Fuerstack (Snailhouse), Becky Foon (Silver Mt. Zion), Patty McGee (Stars), and Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire, Bell Orchestre). Rainfall, traffic, and wind chimes are just a few of the ambient sounds that made their way into its tracks. Now patiently working on her second album, she talked to us about it’s current state. She’ll be debuting some of the new material at Breakglass studios live recording events this Friday.
“Right now I’m working on my second record, tentatively titled Dance in the Void,” she says. “It’s taking a bit longer than I planned.” Her pace is partially due to her approach of sculpting and taking time to make a record like a piece of visual art. She also wants it to reflect where she’s at in life. “I look at recording as land posts, real things that stand there and make a mark where you’re at as an artist in the moment. It takes time to make a document that reflects where I’m at the time and what I want to be doing musically.”
Her previous album more closely reflected her work as a solo performer and was strongly informed by her work as a visual artist. “When I started Little Scream, I was working solo and as a solo performer. I think what I was going for was solo performance as a visual artist, and that informed how I approached performing at the beginning. It was kind of performance art. It was raw emotional content. I was influenced by solo performers to make that raw, emotive experience. I approached making [The Golden Record] as a painting and building up layers and atmosphere. When I toured it, I had to learn on my feet and on the road with new ensembles that were changing all the time. Painting is an individual pursuit and that was how I approached everything. Working with other people was a learning curve.”
The experience changed her approach. “After that first experience of that record, I feel I have a whole other approach for it,” she says. “It’s a real brain switch.”
Her new band includes a fixed core group who will be playing with her at Breakglass Studios, as well as several guests. But having a core band isn’t the only way she’s evolved. She also had to adjust to becoming a full time musician. “The first album was songs that I’d written over the years. It was a quiet project on the side of everything else,” she says. “Coming into this record, becoming a full time person in music, just approaching writing was different. Before a song would just come to me and I’d write it every few months or so. This time it was cool for me to think beforehand, ‘I’m a songwriter, I’m going to sit down and write music and spend time doing it, and not do it spontaneously.'”
Another change is her involvement in the recording process. “I was way more involved in the recording process and taking control of it. I learned bout engineering and working with professional engineers. I’m into that and getting way more into the technical end of things.”
Her interest in the engineering end of making a record fits with her work as a visual artist. “This record is shaped and reshaped. That’s where it resembles my painting process,” she says. “I love working on things. Sometimes it comes out just right there how you want it and the key is not fuck with it too much. Other times, it’s just having the things you know feel great and shaping everything around it to make those parts shine. It’s very layered, much like painting.
I asked her if there was a particular song that embodies this process and she pointed to one tentatively titled Looking at Your Lover. She explains how her little sister Lily was visisting from the Midwest and Perry had a guitar riff that he looped. “[Lily] started grooving to it and shouting out these words and I got my phone out and recorded what she was staying. She’s got this cool brain that can go off on things. We played it a bunch and I cross stitched a song based on the cool inspiring moments and the lines from my little sister and the cool guitar riff,” she explains. “I really love how everyone brings in their strengths and I take different parts of things and make it in to a real song with structure and narrative.”
The overall result she describes as a combination of “gentle introversion” and more “ambitious and dancey songs with references to Prince and Tina Turner.”
The live at Breakglass event seems ideal for Laurel Sprengelmeyer because of her introverted nature. She says, “The writing and shaping comes from internal processes. That’s why I love performance because its where I force myself into the world and make myself get out of that shell. I’m a naturally introverted person and there’s something exhilarating and challenging about putting yourself out there. It’s confidence building that spills over into other areas of life when you push yourself to do things. There’s an edge and excitement to that.”
Little Scream performs at Breakglass Studios on June 13 at 8 p.m. $15.