Lael Neale on “Star Eaters Delight” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, May 29th, 2024  

Photo by Raina Selene

Lael Neale on “Star Eaters Delight”

The Simple Life

Sep 18, 2023 Issue #71 - Weyes Blood and Black Belt Eagle Scout Photography by Raina Selene and Alexandra Cabral Bookmark and Share

If Lael Neale’s second album, 2021’s Acquainted with Night, was an attempt to find space and calm whilst surrounded by the neon and noise of Los Angeles, then her follow-up, Star Eaters Delight, is about reaching out from isolation and looking to reconnect with the world. As COVID restrictions began to impact travel, Neale moved back to her family’s farm in rural Virginia. “It genuinely is in the middle of nowhere,” she explains, “even the driveway is about two miles long, and it’s an hour from the nearest big town. After living in L.A. for so long, I began missing people and a sense of community. So this record certainly comes from a more agitated state.” Neale is quick to point out that this isn’t a “pandemic record,” although clearly, it did have an influence. “I was definitely feeling frustrated at being constrained, so I guess there’s that tension going on.”

She wrote and recorded steadily over a two-year period, working with her longtime musical collaborator Guy Blakeslee. It was Blakeslee who had been crucial to Neale when forging her own minimalist approach to recording and production. “Guy just gets it,” she says, “he’s the first person I’ve worked with who was sensitive enough to know how to create space around the songs.” Indeed the low-key production style of her recent work is in marked contrast to her 2015 debut album, I’ll Be Your Man, which had more of an on-trend acoustic singer/songwriter vibe with a subtle Lana Del Rey undercurrent. “It’s not that I disliked the way that album sounded,” Neale reflects, “it just sounded a bit too similar to other things that were around at the time. I didn’t feel it was really representative of my own true voice.” It took Neale a while to find that voice but when she first heard an Omnichord it was the lightbulb moment in terms of making the stylistic shift that’s apparent on her second and third albums.

Explaining her approach to Star Eaters Delight she continues, “Minimalism can be a hard thing to maintain as there’s always a tendency when you make something new, that it needs to be a little bit ‘more,’ and although this album is, I was still mindful of being able to give the songs space and create something that you can drop into that isn’t overburdened with noise.”

Photo by Alexandra Cabral
Photo by Alexandra Cabral

Neale’s poetic lyrics touch on the mythical and the spiritual, she references Shakespeare, Emerson, and the Bible (which she hasn’t read) and she agrees that the stunning “In Verona” is the centrepiece of the album. “It has themes that all the other songs revolve around. I use archetypal language because I feel it resonates, I also kind of like the fact that people can still get upset when you reference Jesus. I’m not religious myself but quoting something he may have said—‘cast no stone’ was such an important line for me, something I kept returning to when I saw the divisions, arguments, and judgements being made throughout the pandemic.”

When we discuss spirituality, it’s not of the traditional religious variety but Neale’s work is clearly influenced by her love of nature. “That’s something my parents taught me, that nature was a space where you could commune with something greater than yourself.”

Creating space for herself also involves how she engages with technology. “I do use technology of course, but I intentionally don’t have a smart phone, I deliberately created a barrier. Without getting too sci-fi we are all becoming so permanently fused with technology you wonder what’s coming next? A computer in our head perhaps?” Neale laughs. “But I want to preserve my humanity and exist in more of a state of wonder and mystery, which technology can often take away. I do feel like we are already seeing the pendulum swinging, there’s certainly a push back and a desire to live life more simply again.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 71 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

Read our 2021 interview with Lael Neale.

Photo by Alexandra Cabral
Photo by Alexandra Cabral

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