Lindsey Jordan isn't a typical cookie-cutter musician. With a distinctive point of view and grit as Snail Mail, she broke into the music industry to critical acclaim upon releasing her debut record Lush at just age 18. What makes it a standout is her sincere attitude towards romance. No sugarcoating. And instead of diving towards pop, the American singer-songwriter expressed these emotional reflections through indie rock's expansive styles. This brilliance has scored her a major deal with Matador Records and even gotten bestowed the title of 'the future of indie rock'.
Now she's back with its follow-up, Valentine. On her sophomore album, Jordan remains real by embracing vulnerabilities but gets more dynamic and intense on illustrating them. After all, the current 22-year-old spent a month and a half in a rehab facility late last year which she later referenced on her latest single 'Ben Franklin', providing a catharsis for her.
Valentine is co-produced between Brad Cook (Big Red Machine, Whitney) and Jordan herself. While Lush highlights the heady blissfulness and naivety of blossoming love, Valentine hits hard on the bittersweet reality of heartbreak.
We caught up with Jordon to uncover Valentine's true image beyond its fantasy facade and why she allows passion to fuel her work.
ESQUIRE: Tell us the origins of Snail Mail.
Snail Mail: It’s the name of the band, sort of, but it’s my project. I thought the name was catchy when I was originally trying to think of band names to play house shows under. I never thought I’d be stuck with it!
ESQ: What is the blueprint for Valentine?
Snail Mail: The name “Valentine” comes from the childlike association that one has with Valentine’s Day and first loves. When I think of Valentine’s Day, I instantly think of trivial, but sweet things like roses, candy, heart-shaped cards. The subject of a lot of the album is breaking away from that fantasy and looking at love for what it is: messy, not always perfect, between flawed humans, and never exactly what you expect as a child. The contrast between the title and the subject is what makes it so devastating.
ESQ: Describe your conceptualizing process and how do you follow through with a potential idea?
Snail Mail: For me, it’s all about making sure the song is great at its barest [from] and then fine-tuning it after. It’s always important for me to put songwriting first above everything else.
ESQ: Who are your influences in music and what’s queued on your playlist lately?
Snail Mail: Elliott Smith has always had a massive impact on my songwriting. Other influences include My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths, The Sundays, Life Without Buildings, Oasis, The Velvet Underground, etc.
Lately, I am really into City Pop and jazz as well as rock stuff, pop stuff, hip hop, R&B, and indie. Some artists I have been listening to nonstop as of recently are Helvetia, Spirit of the Beehive, Oscar Peterson, Kimiko Kasai, Akiko Yano, MF Doom…
ESQ: On ‘Ben Franklin’, you sing “Post-rehab, I’ve been feeling so small.” What made you be honest about such experiences in your compositions and convey them through music?
Snail Mail: It was a hard decision, whether or not to put that line in the song, but I wanted to provide context that I think is crucial to the narrative of the record and the hardships which made creating it so rewarding. Without it, I don’t know if I would be clear-headed enough to process this album to the best of my ability.
ESQ: How do you wish to comfort listeners with Valentine and provide escapism with its relatable narrative?
Snail Mail: I always want people to be able to relate to my lyrics and find comfort in knowing that sometimes even the most confusing and brutal feelings are not abnormal or need to be experienced in secret. The same goes for mentioning my rehab journey. People should never be made to feel afraid to get help. It’s prevalent.
ESQ: Why is it that musicians often produce their best work yet after experiencing a heartbreak or affairs that deal with love?
Snail Mail: I think that passion inspires art. Letting myself feel things fully and using music to cope with my feelings makes it, all the more, real and honest. No matter what the subject is, it’s hard to break through into that honest place sometimes and breakups make the strong feelings come out.
ESQ: What's the most memorable incident while recording on the album.
Snail Mail: The most memorable song to record was 'Forever (Sailing)' because I was in a rush trying to make the record long enough and felt the next addition needed to be a banger (the hardest type of song to write, trust me). I was working all day and night at my producer’s house, writing whenever I wasn’t recording, trying to get this thing right and eventually I ended up buying higher-end recording gear for my apartment so that I could finish it alone! It felt like a miracle when I finally completed the song.
ESQ: Looking back from Lush to now, what’s the most remarkable moment as a musician and expressing what you believe in?
Snail Mail: I’m not trying to be a kiss-up, but it really might have been our Asia tour a few years back. I could not believe the entire thing was sold out and that everyone knew all the words. It was also the most fun anyone in the band has ever had travelling. I tried to really take it in because I knew that was happening, which resulted in one of the most surreal moments of my career.
ESQ: What are your hopes for the future as Snail Mail and Lindsey Jordan? Are there common goals for both?
Snail Mail: There are definitely common goals for both, though they don’t always intersect. My common goal for both is to keep making and performing music while learning how to be not as hard on myself, so I can achieve career longevity. 🙂
Valentine is out now for purchase and streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.