When Emma’s Lounge first coalesced around Logan Venderlic and his Heart Heavy album a couple of years ago, no one had any idea where this project might end up going. Seeing them open for Dangermuffin at Isis Music Hall in November of 2016 was a revelation for me, but not because they were particularly musically profound at that point. It was, more simply, because they were just having so much fun.
Almost two years later, and probably a hundred shows in between, Emma’s Lounge is a rising star on the music scene. As their musical abilities and artistic input have become fully realized, and with a few changes to the lineup, they have begun to make a name for themselves as a tight, technical band that is still a hell of a lot of fun. Saturday they are releasing their new album, Confluence, for the hometown crowd at Asheville Music Hall.
What an album it has turned out to be.
Trying to describe their sound isn’t easy. They draw on a variety of influences, tactfully spreading them over the entire album rather than trying to create overly proggy and experimental songs. I had a chance to sit down with Logan Venderlic (vox, guitar), Mackenzie Richburg (drums), and Emma Forster (fiddle, vox, mandolin) and, somehow the conversation veered from songwriting into a little listening party.
The thing is, Emma’s Lounge’s first album was written entirely by Venderlic, so this album, a truly collaborative effort, marks a certain self-realization as a band. The track “Get Out of Your Own Way,” one of my favorites on the record, is one of the first truly collaborative tunes they have written.
We gave it a spin, and shot the bull, and this is what I learned.
Venderlic, as usual takes point in setting the scene. He is a storyteller through and through, detail-oriented and to the point.
“So Meg wrote this chorus before we even got together, I guess she was just singing it while walking and wanted to use it for something, so we knew that was where we were starting. I thought it was a poppy, bright chorus so my reaction was to write really dark. I started writing about hearses warming up…”
“And a bag of lye,” Richberg interjects. “I love Brendan‘s (Bower: bass, lead guitar, vox) bass on this,” she continues.
And now they are all right back in the studio in their heads. “I’d be remiss to not mention Brendan pulled double duty,” Venderlic admits.
But before they can get too far down memory lane, the tempo changes, and Forster lights up.
“Listen to where it slows down and gets that BOOM BOOM BOOM,” she says effusively. “I grew up as a big fan of Chicago and we knew we needed the song to go somewhere else. I think in musicals, so I was like… Cell Block Jam. Then that ‘oooh’ part was MacKenzie’s idea…”
“…my one claim to fame on this album,” Richburg chuckles in her usual, happily self-effacing style. “What I had in my head was shorter and less involved…”
“…but of course Meg had to sing all the notes,” Forster finishes for her. “With how low it goes, it really almost goes into Fleetwood Mac territory. I have a naturally low voice so it was wonderful to use that in this song.”
As they pull through the jam, Venderlic explains that they tracked Brendan’s guitar then reversed it. Catching up with Bower a couple days later, he explains: “Somebody had the idea to copy the lyrics at the end with the guitar, and that was interesting because I had to not only play the notes in backwards order, but I had to play them in backwards rhythm.”
“He learned what he wanted to play and then how to play it backwards really quickly,”Venderlic gushes, clearly enjoying working with this just-turned-21 wunderkid.
As the song turns heavier Richburg chuckles, “I would be happy if half of the album was just this nasty rock stuff.”
“And did you know,” Venderlic adds, “that the way the word buried is pronounced is totally Emma? Meg had to change the way she says it to harmonize.”
Forster rolls the word around a few times in her mouth like cigar smoke and laughs, “It’s that Pennsylvania Dutch accent you guys,” even as the song is fading out in the background.
In the end, this is only the second time they have listened to the song together, and they clearly enjoyed the little trip down memory lane. I wrap it up feeling grateful for that experience, and a little giddy to see them at Asheville Music Hall this weekend.