Lera Lynn: Building A Mystery


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So would she dabble in movies or television again? “I would love to, that’s really fun,” Lynn says of her acting aspirations. “I always dreamed of writing for film, I would love to do more of that too. To be a compelling performer of any kind, you need to try and get inside the world and relive the experience. I think acting and musical performance and so many other things are all related in that way.”

“We were all intrigued and mesmerized by Lera’s appearance and performances on the last season of True Detective,” says Bruce Warren, program director at Philadelphia’s WXPN. “When she was featured on World Cafe with David Dye last September with a full band, we were even more impressed with her versatility and depth of musicality. She’s a star waiting to reach a much broader audience.”

True Detective also brought a new practice — co-writing —but Lynn generally enjoys crafting alone, sometimes retreating away for a few days in a remote place to focus on her work. “I hate writing, but I love having written,” Lynn says. “There is nothing more satisfying than having written a song.”

Despite the inspiration she finds in being solitary, her partnership with Grange is also an integral part of her sound. As a pedal steel player and instrumentalist to the likes of Crow and Lang, he’s been with Lynn since her early days, forming an impenetrable unit.

“Josh and I play really well together,” she says. “When we are in the studio, it’s like we are sharing a brain. We both know what the end goal is and he really understands the aesthetic that I want to achieve. Whenever I get stuck, he always has the perfect solution. He doesn’t allow me and he doesn’t allow himself to overdue anything.”

After releasing The Avenues, she somewhere found the time to release an EP, Lying In The Sun, a collection of five songs that show a tighter stylistic leap between her older material and what would become Resistor. And from the first few notes of “Shape Shifter,” you realize that, once again, Lynn has morphed her sound – not so dramatically that she’s unrecognizable, or so the music she is making is not a logical chapter in her book, but still quite different from anything on her first two LPs. Evoking everything from Fiona Apple’s When The Pawn to 90’s girl bands like Veruca Salt and The Breeders, it spills over with delicious angst.

“When I first started working on that song I was thinking of Neutral Milk Hotel,” she says. “I wrote it on acoustic guitar, and was strumming it, palm muting. I played it for Josh and he said, ‘That song sucks.’ Finally we settled on the one you hear. It’s an odd song. It has a lot of different things going on stylistically. It’s pop, right?”

Sure is. It’s indie pop in its greatest form, pared down with piercing plucks of her Guild guitar, a restless beat and covertly cool “yeah’s.” It’s not at all country – it’s not even Americana, really, and neither is most of Resistor – but Lynn’s delivery and approach to mood and tone is so universal through all her work that while there’s much surprise to be found on the record, it’s thrilling instead of jarring.

Take “Cut And Burn,” which “has a Kurt Cobain-y” thing to it, she says. It’s not an exaggeration – there’s an aggression that links straight to Nirvana circa Unplugged, where Cobain himself made a case for punk as a singular form of American art worthy of alignment with the folk greats. Lynn isn’t trying to sound grunge, but she does spin stories of vengeance and karmaic retaliation, oozing through in her honey-kissed lower register. Another track, “What You Done,” is so menacing that, when it’s over, you’re just happy you weren’t the one who done wrong. Remember: Lera Lynn ran out of zero fucks to give.

There is a song at the end of Resistor, the Liz Phair-evoking “Little Ruby,” that’s full of Lynn-style intrigue, about a beautiful waitress named Ruby who is really so much more. It’s not really clear what makes her special or who the narrator is, even, but that’s all intended. Lynn’s not taking the easy road, and she expects her listeners to do the same. “It’s meant to be a mystery,” she says with a coo.

Unapologetic, no?

Song Premiere: Greater Pyrenees, “Close”