Interview: Automatic Loveletter
Fri, 27 Jun 2008 10:14:59
Automatic Loveletter Videos
Automatic Loveletter singer Juliet Simms has "rock star" written all over her—in the best way possible. She slowly saunters up to an outside table at Doughboys Bakery on busy Highland Ave., during a bright, hot summer afternoon in Los Angeles. She's wearing a vintage Led Zeppelin t-shirt, featuring an acid-washed wizard below the "ZOSO" symbol. Looking straight ahead with her piercing blue eyes, she exclaims, "Dude, I've been scoring on EBay lately. I've gotten a vintage Led Zeppelin shirt and a vintage Pink Floyd shirt for only 15 bucks each. Both are completely authentic. It's rad!" Most girls in their early '20s wouldn't be super excited at this prospect, but Juliet isn't most girls. She was born with music constantly on her mind, and after spending five minutes with her, that's lucidly clear.
She clutches her iPod closely, and sips a glass of water, as her various necklaces shine in the sunlight. She's also got a warm smile that strangely complements her cool, sassy nature. She's funny, charismatic and extremely smart. Given her place as frontwoman, it makes sense why Automatic Loveletter is so good. The band's music has a warm, ethereal tone that embraces the listener. Spacey guitars segue into vibrant piano melodies, while Juliet's catchy and entrancing vocals carry huge hooks to pure aural bliss. Tracks like "Hush" and "The Answer," from the band's debut EP Recover, are alterna-pop gold, with lush verses and infectious lyrics. Right now, they're crafting their Sony/Epic debut in Los Angeles. The album's due out in 2009, but Automatic Loveletter's about to take a break from the studio and head out on a summer-long Warped Tour stint. The day before they leave, Juliet took some time to hang out with ARTISTdirect over "Rice Krispy Pancakes" at Doughboys. Over the course of our conversation, she delves deep into her creative style, why Willow is the greatest movie ever and much more.
Automatic Loveletter has such a distinct style. The music's got a real "space rock" vibe. Where are you coming from creatively?
Well, it depends on what I'm writing. When I get inspired by a boy or something, I try to write music to the feeling of the lyrics. I like the melody and the music to match what I'm saying, and give off the concept of what I'm talking about. I think that a song shouldn't be something you just listen to. It should be something that you feel and something that affects you. I guess that's where I'm coming from.
Would you say that it's a really organic process?
It's natural to feel, right? I'm just jotting my feelings down. I'm the writer of the band, and I'll do occasional co-writes, or collaborations, with other artists or writers. I write different ways. I'll write a poem, and I'll just add a melody to it. Or, I'll just be goofing around on the guitar, and I'll come up with a chord progression, and then I'll write lyrics. I just start on my feelings [Laughs].
Do you tend to read a lot when you're writing?
I used to read a lot. I listen to a lot of music. I love Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones. I love music so much, and I just listen to a lot of songs. I have a general concept when writing lyrics. It's not something I think about. It just comes naturally. I can't explain it. It's just in me. It's like if someone can cook really well or something like that. They don't think about it.
Are there any themes that specifically appeal to you?
I definitely write more when I'm sad. I get a lot out of myself then. I guess that's when it's easiest. However, I can write happy songs or controversial songs. The world inspires me a lot. What's going on with the planet—war and people being depressed—definitely does inspire me.
You translate it personally though, and every thing flows according to your one, cohesive vision over the course of the EP.
Yeah, I could agree with that! I like what you're saying about my EP. It makes me happy. I can't wait for you to hear the record version of "Hush." We're working on the record now, and we re-did "Hush." You're going to shit yourself when you hear it, dude! It's ridiculous.
How are the new songs for the record coming along?
I'm so happy with what's coming out. The label's flipping a lid, and they're freaking out. I'm just having so much fun in the studio. We recorded the EP a few years ago, and we've toured so much since then. I feel like I've learned so much about touring, writing and recording. My vocals have gotten better, and I've grown so much as an artist. Now, being in the studio, I'm really confident. I have so many ideas, and it's really easy to portray those ideas. It was a mistake that we hadn't been touring years before the EP. The EP's great, but if we toured a lot before, it probably would've been a little bit better. It shows in the new version of "Hush." I'm really excited. I think "Parker," "Unhearted," "Shut Your Mouth" and "The Answer" will all be on the record too, as well as some new songs. We even did a cover for this record. We did "Voices Carry" by 'Til Tuesday from the '80s. They're Aimee Mann's original band. It's so badass. It's just fuckin' rad.
Do you have a title yet for the album?
I want to wait for the perfect title. I'll just know it, when I have it. That's how the title Recover hit me. I was in an airport, and I was thinking of album artwork. I was thinking about the concept of the EP—what the songs mean, how it starts and how it resolves. The EP is like a band-aid. It rips you open, and then heals you. You're fixing yourself and recovering.
Is it hard making a record right now, since there's more pressure in this industry than there's ever been?
It's been really crazy, because everyone is on this record really hardcore, [from the label end]. There are red carpet events and so much stuff going on. It has to be "It." It has to be fucking amazing. It's, "Go big or go home." Yeah, the pressure of having it be amazing is there, but it just is. It's just fucking rad. That's what reduces the pressure. I know it's amazing.
“It rips you open, and then heals you. You're fixing yourself and recovering.”
You don't have any of the Hollywood pretense that a lot of young artists at major labels immediately adopt upon signing a deal.
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