Shannon Lay on “Geist” and Taking Things Slow | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, September 28th, 2023  

Shannon Lay on “Geist” and Taking Things Slow

The Big Chill

Oct 06, 2021 Photography by Kai MacKnight Web Exclusive
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Three quarters of the way through our interview discussing Shannon Lay’s reflective new album, Geist (out this Friday on Sub Pop), Lay visibly exhales. Wearing a white Ramones T-shirt, Lay appears freshly scrubbed and fully relaxed in the kitchen of her recently acquired Los Angeles bungalow. But there’s another level of calm that is reached in speaking of the album’s beautiful penultimate track, “Time’s Arrow,” and a deserved break from a career spent on the road. Lay essentially spent all of the last decade on tour with her punk band, Feels; playing guitar in Ty Segall’s Freedom Band; and most recently in support of her solo career.

“I toured for most of my 20s and it was amazing. I learned so much about myself. But I think ultimately it’s not the life for me. I’m not a road dog,” Lay explains.

Certainly Lay hasn’t peaked as she faces the decade ahead, but her take on life has shifted. “Time’s Arrow” highlights this fresh perspective as the three-minute song patiently unfolds over what seems more than double that length. With the song, Lay speaks to relishing the present moment before it’s gone.

“The pacing of that song and the way the vocals are revealed throughout, struck me as the build of joy that can come from stillness. It’s a gentle reminder that things are always moving forward and that we need to take the time to appreciate where we are in the present,” Lay says.

Lay’s lyrics have always laid bare her thoughts and she’s open to discussing what inspired each of her songs. It doesn’t take a detective to conclude something life altering is afoot listening to her words on “Sure” and a gently reworked cover of Syd Barrett’s “Late Night.” To be clear, the songs have as much lovin’, touchin’, and squeezin’ going on as a Journey song.

“I’m deeply in love with my partner, that I reconnected with last summer,” Lay admits. “We were each other’s first kiss in middle school. We met up at a park and he walked up and I just knew. There’s my person. I found it. ‘Sure’ is kind of a thank you to him, for finding somebody that allows you to fully be yourself.”

Of course not every song on Geist looks completely inward. Given the challenges and opportunities that a worldwide pandemic has created, Lay addresses this most directly in the already released single, “Awaken and Allow.” The song starts with several a cappella verses written during a year of protest and change. “I liken the song to a promise and a prayer,” Lay explains. “It’s a reminder to be kind to ourselves, because this is not easy territory to traverse. We need to approach things with compassion and kindness for ourselves as it’s just such a tough time.”

Her fourth album of new material, Geist evidences Lay’s ongoing evolution. Her vocals have become ever more confident, leading to “Awaken and Allow.” With plenty of time on her hands, Lay was able to play the songs repeatedly until finally booking studio time. Also given the challenges of the pandemic, the album was assembled in mail-away fashion. Lay tracked guitar and vocals with Woods’ Jarvis Taveniere on the boards. Next, Devin Hoff layered on stand-up bass with each track’s final stop being with Ty Segall’s keyboardist, Ben Boyce. Boyce is credited in the liner notes as Dimension Revealer, which is an apt description of the depth he adds to the songs. The way in which the album was cobbled together across musicians in different locations, makes one think of the Telephone game played as a kid. But unlike the garbled results that were always the outcome of a message getting passed endlessly around, Lay’s original vision and therefore that of Geist’s comes through loud and clear.

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