Home – On the Line with … Lady Lamb the Beekeeper

– On the Line with … Lady Lamb the Beekeeper

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, also known as Aly Spaltro, is a phenom to be reckoned with. At the age of 18, she taught herself the electric guitar and how to write and record her own music. Now 23, Spaltro has a slew of expansive self-released albums to her name, a Folk Artist Of the Year award from the Boston Music Awards (2009) and recently was signed to the Ba Da Bing Records family—her debut Ripely Pine comes out on February 19. The music, lyrics and arrangements were all created solely by Spaltro with the help of producer Nadim Issa (Let ‘Em In Music). Her songs speak of human emotions, childhood games and fairytale creatures. Her live shows then have been known to silence noisy bar room crowds who stare up in awe at the tiny girl with the guitar whose voice has somehow managed to reach each corner of the venue, soothing and challenging it to awareness.

There is little Aly Spaltro cannot do.

Boxx Magazine contributor Ashley Brooks catches up with Spaltro to steal a glance into her mystic dreamworld of creation and manifestation.

Ashley Brooks: Congratulations on getting signed to Ba Da Bing Records! How did that come about for you?

Aly Spaltro: Ba Da Bing is a small label run out of New York by Ben [Goldberg]. Ben managed Beirut, and I went on tour with Beirut in spring 2011… We [Ben and I] got to be friends and talked a lot about music and what I wanted to do. When the record was finished, I only wanted to give it to Ba Da Bing. I didn’t want to look further. I finished it and put it in his hands and said “Hey, here’s the record. Do you want it?” and he said “Yes!”

AB: That worked out well!

AS: Yeah, I love the label and the people and what they’ve put out. They’re very passionate, hard-working and exciting, and that’s exactly what I wanted in a label. I didn’t want any big name-drop thing or some great roster that I thought was cool… I wanted a team of trustworthy people and that’s what I think they are.

AB: How has the experience of making Ripely Pine differed from your previous releases that you put out on your own?

AS: It’s like night and day. In the past, everything I’ve ever recorded was done either in my room or the basement of where I worked. Up until last year, it was all on a digital eight-track I had, though I recently branched out to doing Garage Band demos and stuff like that. I had this way of writing and recording where I would finish [a track] in a day or less, sometimes within an hour. It was very spontaneous, quick and present… That was how I worked when I was younger, even with paintings I would make. I never wanted to slave over anything. [Ripely Pine] was completely different. From rehearsals to building the arrangements to mastering, it took almost a full year. It was the most committed I’ve ever been to anything. Because of that, I’m extra proud. I’ve put so much into it with my partner Nadim [Issa]. It was just he and I, and our rule was no compromise. We would do whatever we needed to to make it sound right, which sometimes meant gutting the whole thing and starting over. It was a grueling process, but a rewarding one.

AB: How has your sound itself evolved throughout the years?

AS: When I first started [at age 18] I had no idea—at all—what I was doing. I banged on instruments and it was really strange music. My first recordings are really bizarre. I would use a vocoder. I had a song called “Lamb and the Swarm,” which was a weird Lady Lamb theme song. The early stuff was experimental and meandering. When I got a practice space, I got loud. I experimented with projecting my voice. Moving to New York was different. I don’t have a practice space there, so I had to learn to be quieter. I learned that my voice doesn’t have to project. I realized my range was higher than I thought… I expanded my palette and discovered I could do loud and quiet, nasty and pretty. Though the lyrics are always what’s most important to me.

AB: Where did the name Lady Lamb the Beekeeper come from?

AS: It came to me in a dream when I was 18 and just starting to make music. I was feeling overly inspired and creative, more than I had in my life to date at the time. I was having trouble sleeping because of that. At night, I would wake myself up by thinking about lyrics. I started to train myself to write in my journal… I had a notebook beside my bed to write anything. [Lady Lamb] was written in my notebook when I woke up… in a messy blob on the page. It was right at the time I wanted a moniker to start sharing music. I worked at a video rental place beside a record store and wanted to leave my albums for free on the counter, but I didn’t want it to get traced back to me, so that’s why I used the name.

AB: Do you get a lot of your inspiration from dreams?

AS: A ton. Sometimes I have dreams where I remember exact sentences that people tell me. Those fascinate me, and I tend to use those a lot in songs. An example would be a song I wrote a few years ago called “Almond Colored Sheets.” I dreamed of a room filled with a giant bed. I was laying a sheet on the bed, and a friend of mine came up to me and said “You know, almond colored sheets are best for dreaming.” I woke up and remembered. Like a little nerd, I went out and bought what I thought were almond colored sheets… it was like sleeping in an almond, and I wrote a song about it.

AB: Would you say that the album has an overall theme or is it more of a scattering of different songs?

AS: It definitely has a theme. The title of the record is Ripely Pine, which is a lyric from “The Nothing” [a song on the record]. It represents pining, as in longing—yearning, unrequited love and nostalgia. I put a lot of thought into the track order. The record sort of opens in an unresolved and bitter place, then arcs in the middle and the voice—my voice—becomes more reconciled toward the end. It ends up taking responsibility for its feelings, instead of staying in a place of blame.

AB: Pine could also a Maine thing, and you’re from Maine.

AS: Absolutely!

AB: What was your childhood in Maine like? Were you introduced to music from a young age?

AS: My dad is a guitarist and plays lead guitar. He encouraged me from a young age to play guitar, but I was so stubborn! He got me a kids-sized electric Strat when I was six. I would strap it on and walk around the house, but I didn’t want him to teach me anything. I grew up with a wide variety of music. I grew up listening to Billie Holliday, classical music, Journey, The Police, Diana Ross… I was influenced by my dad having a music room. All of that would add up to me turning out the way I did.

AB: What was your favorite album as a teenager?

AS: My favorite thing in the world was The Beatles. That started when I was five. My next door neighbor, who was also my babysitter, loved The Beatles. Now when I look back, I see that she was such a strange kid! She had an old vinyl collection, an old book collection, and she was just so cool. She had The White Album and we would lay on the carpet and listen to it all the time. My dad then gave me a little cassette of The White Album and that was my favorite thing.

AB: What are some of your favorites now?

AS: One of my favorite records is Neutral Milk Hotel’s On Avery Island. Right now I like Angel Olsen’s album Half Way Home. It’s so beautiful and I listened to it every day while on tour for five weeks. It’s mesmerizing. I’m a huge Joanna Newsom fan. It never gets old. My favorite album [of hers] is Ys

AB: How would you describe your shows to someone who’s never seen one?

AS: Usually what I tell people, though it’s confusing and no one understands… it’s just me, and I play electric guitar. I’m really loud and I yell a lot, but sometimes I don’t yell. If you like words and poetry, there’s some in there. I write sprawling songs that are really loud. (laughs) It’s really hard to describe. You’ll just have to come see!