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Snail Mail talks young fame, Victorian aesthetics

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APRIL 11, 2022

“I’m here to stay with my DIY, silly band name,” Snail Mail, or Lindsey Jordan, laughed in an interview with The Daily Californian. “It’s stupid!”

Snail Mail, Jordan’s indie rock epithet, arose from a serendipitous teenage whim. Playing house shows in her adolescence, Jordan wanted a name that would stand out on a flyer and selected one of the first to come to mind. Little did she know that, after the release of her EP Habit, her career would quickly take off, pushing her into the limelight at the age of 16.

“It wasn’t like I was preparing myself to be a rockstar,” Jordan said. “My whole life it was something I wanted to do, but in that moment, I wasn’t expecting it to happen so fast.”

With two full-length albums behind her, Snail Mail isn’t going away anytime soon. Her debut Lush paints a poignant picture of teenage life delivered with mature lyricism and honest introspection. Her smooth belt ripples through the darkness, speaking to lived experience with refreshing candor. 

“It wasn’t a matter of rising to any occasion or anything,” Jordan said. “It was kind of like, I already have so many songs now, the only occasion I have to rise to is finishing the album — which was hard, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t the mental olympics that Valentine was.”

With time and pressure, Jordan has grown only more resilient. Rather than crumbling beneath the weight of young adulthood, she coalesces with new brilliance, artfully braiding the strands of love, heartbreak and vital dissatisfaction. In her sophomore album Valentine, she boldly pursues new musical routes, forging her own path through the ever-expanding terrain of indie rock.

“There’s definitely month-long stretches where I’m on this inspiration wave, and I feel motivated and excited,” Jordan said. “And then there’s times when I’m like, ahh, I should be working towards my next thing, and that’s when I don’t push myself. It has to be out of the pure passion that I have for songwriting.”

Throughout Valentine, Jordan cultivates a rich Victorian aesthetic, from the frilly neckline on the cover to the “Phantom Thread”inspired music video for the title track. Very insular in her creative process, she maintains the integrity of her vision from start to finish, no matter how obscure. 

“I’ve definitely shown people things that they just don’t really get,” Jordan said. “I think that’s the thing about music. If you work with a producer, you have to make sure they really understand your vision.”

In the music video for “Ben Franklin,” Jordan evokes the sterile American opulence she associates with the photography of Tina Barney. Dancing around an aged mansion with a snake and a golden retriever, she evokes an outward ennui that conceals her inner strife. Even the track title, originally intended as a placeholder, revels in the esoteric. 

“When we were finishing it up, I was like, I can’t bring myself to change it,” Jordan said. “It’s just fried. It makes no sense. It has nothing to do with anything.”

Due to a combination of the pandemic and a recent vocal cord surgery, Jordan went a stretch of two and a half years without a live performance. Though she expresses excitement at the opportunity to perform again, she still experiences the nerves of getting up on stage. 

“In Idaho, my wrists were shaking so bad,” Jordan said. “I get such bad manifestations of physical anxiety, especially since I haven’t done it in so long.” 

Returning to the stage feels like rekindling an old flame. After her recent performance in Boise, Jordan feels as though she has located a missing piece of herself and her adult identity. 

“Even just flying to the one show in Idaho, I was like ‘ahhh,’ ” Jordan shared. “It was like no breakfast anywhere in sight in the morning and walking through the Panera drive-through on foot. I was like, this is a familiar feeling. Something has brought me back to equilibrium.” 

Coming of age is hard enough. Coming of age in the spotlight during a global pandemic is even harder. In many ways, Jordan still struggles to navigate her identity, and she refines her creative process and vision to reflect the way in which she exists in the world.

“I feel like I’ve done so much changing as a person, as everyone has, and then to go back into my profession that I did before, I’m like, woah,” Jordan said. “It feels completely different. Not completely different, something is the same. But it’s weird.”

Snail Mail may have sprouted from “silly” adolescent impulse, but under the glow of the spotlight, Jordan only continues to grow, blossoming with vibrant, organic beauty.

Lauren Harvey covers music. Contact her at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

APRIL 11, 2022


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