If you think that being one of indie rock’s biggest breakout artists of 2018 is glamorous, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan is here to set you straight.
“Learning to take care of your body is really hard, and just being optimistic and doing this job every night, learning to take care of my voice — there’s just so much,” Jordan says on the phone from what she calls an “endless supertour.”
Over the past year, the 19-year-old Maryland native has gone from playing cramped bars to being announced as support for Matador labelmates Interpol at Madison Square Garden, something that slips her mind in between gearing up to announce her first appearances in Japan and preparing for a fall European tour. It’s a lot to take in for someone who’s fresh off the release of her debut album. Lush, released early this summer, follows the Habit EP, which had her taking time off from high school to play SXSW.
“The songs on Habit were never meant for any big audiences, but they’re still pretty raw,” she says. “I think it’s just part of my nature as a writer, and a lot of the literature that I like and the music that I like is like that, and I think that’s just sort of how I write.”
Jordan is known for her admiration of ’90s royalty like Fiona Apple and Liz Phair, but she also names Grimes as her dream collaborator and lists the Velvet Underground as her all-time favorite band, which she describes as “rock music in its purest form.” A classically-trained guitarist since the age of five, she’s found her own style in between doing everything from Green Day covers to middle school jazz band.
“I spend a really long time on each song, upwards of six months for some,” she says. “I just get really uncomfortable starting and finishing something in a short amount of time. I feel like all songs, for my writing process, just need a ton of time to breathe. I feel like if I’m obsessively working on something for days on end, then I’m just not reflecting on it objectively. But it’s nice to write something and put it away for a really long time and come back to it and just make sure it’s something I still feel like is worth picking up.”
This might come as a surprise to some listeners, considering how distilled Snail Mail’s songs sound, crystallizing teenage feelings that never fade. On tracks like “Pristine” and “Golden Dream,” she takes on tiny, momentous truths — sometimes parties are always the same; sometimes they contain their own universes.
“Lush is how I experience things,” Jordan continues. “I think getting specific is sometimes kind of hard, because you don’t necessarily want anyone involved in the experience to be like, ‘Oh, this is about me.’ I think it’s just something that came with being alone with a notepad for long enough and just being like, ‘Well, this is what I want to write about, and I’m just going to have to step up to the plate and do it.’”
Lines like “Pristine”’s “I know myself and I’ll never love anyone else” immediately conjure cathartic singalongs, and her tearjerker anthems have earned her a particularly devoted fanbase. Thanks to social media, they’re also connected to her in ways that would have been unimaginable to her ’90s icons in their early careers.
“In San Diego, this person DM’d me on Instagram and they were like, ‘I’ll exchange you a copy of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers signed by Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee if you give me a guest list spot’” she recounts. “So of course I gave them a guest spot.”
Jordan is quick to talk about her reading habits, citing Miriam Toews’s All My Puny Sorrows, Eileen Myles, and Kathy Acker as favorites.
“Now, I feel like I’ve been delving into fiction more, because I’ve just been so busy with working and being out on the road, I just want to read other people’s fake stories,” she laughs.
Life on back-to-back tours comes with other adjustments, and Jordan’s other methods for dealing with travel stress include using a meditation app and listening to white noise. She’s also thinking about Lush’s follow-up.
“Any time I’ve been writing, I’ve been in the car with headphones and a portable amp and it just sucks,” she says. “Whenever I really have time, I like to write by myself, I’m not a super collaborative type of person.”
She’ll get the months on end she needs to write eventually, but she has to go around the world first.
“It’s pretty daunting and it’s hard to get yourself into the mindset of, because it always feels like, ‘When am I going to recharge?’,” Jordan says. “But the good thing about it is I feel less pressure to write and be something. I’m kind of just taking it one day at a time right now because it scares me less.”