Portland based shoegaze band, LAZY LEGS‘ “Moth Mother” set a heavy, sullen mood with their sophomore album, Moth Mother. Filled with thick distortion, ghostly vocals and songs that deal with anxiety, trauma and other mental health issues. Today, in conjuction with the brand new vinyl release on Tartarus Records (coming on September 25th), we’re giving you a special track by track commentary from the band, along with their take on local alt music community in Portland, and some new music recommendations worth checking out.
Lazy Legs is Laura (bass/vocals) and Michael (guitar/vocals), a duo based in Portland, OR. Their sound fluctuates between shoegaze, grunge, slowcore and doomgaze. The two met in Chicago, and after releasing their first EP they began playing shows within the local DIY music scene. Also building up material in their bedroom studio for their debut album, VISIONDEATH, which dropped in mid-summer of 2016. The album garnered modest attention from internet shoegaze circles and indie music blogs.
Taking some time off of the band, the duo planned a move from Chicago to Portland, arriving in the fall of 2017. The move coincided with a shift in their sound, which was just beginning to evolve from the psychedelic atmospheres of shoegaze to the more raw, grounded territory of slowcore, grunge and doom. In spring of 2018, the band released their third EP, Tremor, which bridged the gap between their old material and their new direction. Easing in to their new life in Portland, the two utilized a more gradual approach to their next set of songs. From summer of 2018 through late winter of 2019, the duo worked on and completed their sophomore album, Moth Mother. After an opportunity to release the album in early fall of 2019 dissolved, the band decided to self-release Moth Mother on cassette towards the end of the year.
Moth Mother is a departure from the band’s previous work, leaning into more raw, darkened territory. Crushing blocks of guitar distortion stand next to calm interludes, all coated by pensive, reverb-laden vocal harmonies. The album strikes a balance between gentle resignation and smothering depression, whilst maintaining a serene sense of catharsis. Songs such as It’s True are emblematic of this feeling, seemingly perfect as the soundtrack to a prom night ending in tears.
Recorded entirely in the duo’s home basement studio, Moth Mother offers a dose of lo-fi shoegaze, grunge, slowcore and doomgaze, with big influences from True Widow, Duster and Low.
Comments the band: “We’ve been making music since 2014, starting in Chicago. Over the course of 6 years, we’ve made three EPs, two albums and a split. Weird to think about in hindsight. In 2017, we moved to Portland to pursue some life goals. Somewhere in that time period is when we started working on Moth Mother.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when we started working on it (possibly the end of 2017), but the album was definitely finished by the spring of 2019. We were looking to get it out on vinyl, but our initial attempt at that didn’t work out. So, we decided to release it ourselves on cassette in November of 2019. We’ve self-released all of our discography up to that point, so why not? That said, we were lucky that Tartarus Records eventually found our music. They’ve been so awesome in helping us get a vinyl run for the record. Ever since we finished mastering it, we’ve held strongly to the idea that the album needed the vinyl treatment. It was just a matter of how and when.
We wrote, recorded and mastered Moth Mother in the basement of our Portland apartment. We take a very unceremonious approach to recording our music. All bass parts are direct-in with an amp sim, all guitar parts go through my pedalboard and then direct-in with an amp sim, all drums are arranged midi patterns using acoustic drum samples. It’s cool because you have total control over the tone and space of your songs. The vibe of recording studios and figuring out gear, mic placements, etc, gives me a ton of anxiety just thinking about it. Even my pedalboard is pretty simplistic, I have a nano Big Muff and Rat 2 for distortion and then I use a Zoom CDR for light vibrato/chorus to give the tone a little bend. That’s about it. Everything else is overdubs and saturation plugins.
𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑎𝑙𝑏𝑢𝑚’𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑚𝑒𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑟𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑑𝑒𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑑 𝑜𝑓 𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑚𝑒𝑑 𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑙 𝑡𝑜 𝑖𝑡𝑠 𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛.
We don’t typically set out with grand concepts. We operate as much as we can on feeling and intuition. Even how the tracklist came about wasn’t a conscious effort but it did end up having two fairly distinct sections. The first half is about coming to terms with your flaws and accepting that you have to work on yourself. The second half is about the fallout of that understanding. It can make you feel worthless and sink deep into depression. You have to strive forward knowing that it’s going to be a hard path, and even with all this effort, there’s still the chance you’ll feel helpless.”
Asked about their thoughts on the music scene in Portland, Oregon, LAZY LEGS offered the following:
“Honestly, we hadn’t committed enough time to the music scene in Portland to give an accurate vibe of how it was going pre-pandemic. We’ve gotten the basic rundown of the city being exponentially gentrified and turned into an antiseptic version of itself – plenty of small venues closing or having to relocate. But on the flip side, we’ve seen just how supportive and friendly people in the DIY music community are here.
COVID obviously changed everything. All the major and minor venues in Portland shut down or are operating on a limited livestream basis. They know they’ll be the last to reopen, which is not a fun position to be in. Luckily, the state of Oregon recently provided funding for venues within the state, but that’s not the same situation across the country. Venues are permanently closing all over the U.S. because they can’t get federal funding even just to stay afloat.”
Track by track commentary:
Michael: It’s the oldest song on the album by far. We wrote it detached from the planning of Moth Mother, but our enthusiasm for the song never waned. The song is about accepting that friends, family and partners all come with flaws, and the beauty of surrendering to that. Sort of a soft take down of unfairly idealizing other people in your life.
Laura: It’s my favorite bassline on the record. I tend to make bass parts that have spindly motion to them – this one plays nicely against the basic chord progression of the guitar.
Laura: The song is about slipping back into old, damaging behaviors after trying to be more responsible for yourself. On top that, there’s a tendency to pretend like you’re still doing well, even though you know you’ve gone back to your familiar vices.
Michael: The ending on this track was a huge surprise to us. Backslide’s structure started out pretty normal, but it felt kind of unfinished for whatever reason. So we messed around with feedback and ambient guitar overdubs to end it as a transition, but ultimately decided to bring it back and go big instead. Definitely my favorite ending of pretty much any of our songs.
Michael: Hands down my favorite song on the album. It’s our biggest foray into doom territory, just real thick and heavy. There isn’t actually any specific meaning to this track, it’s all mood and energy. For a while, I had no solid ideas for the melody. Just a little bit of an outline of something. But Laura came in and made the notes flow in a way that gave it this soft sadness. It was a cool counterpoint to the heaviness of the guitar and drums.
Michael: The structure of this track is interesting – there’s some variation with the distortion breaks in the verses and the punctuated bridge before the chorus. If I recall correctly, it’s another older song that we kept coming back to, so it ended up on the album. It’s about coming to terms with your faults and finally allowing others to give you perspective on them.
Michael: We wanted the midway point on the album to signal a change in tone and theme. I’m a fan of making transitions, so I reversed some guitar parts and added a choppy delay to them, to give it this disorienting, stretched out vibe.
Laura: To me, this track sounds like a moth flapping its wings. I think’s its great because that goes along with the shift in the album’s mood. There’s surrender on the first half and now it’s shifting to depression. It goes with the overall moth theme, a transition from one state to another.
Laura: This is definitely my favorite track on the album, and has my favorite vocal harmonies. There’s a soft darkness to it that symbolizes the onset of depression. The comfort of having no expectations put on you, but the simultaneous disgust you have with yourself.
Michael: I feel like it evolves more than our other tracks. It’s not common for us to write a song with that many parts, but this one felt right for it. I like the impact of the distortion on this one.
Laura: It’s about coming to terms with someone who abused you. Looking for a way to forgive them but also make sure they feel the ramifications of what they did. It’s one of those tracks where the meaning of it was subconscious, kind of materializing after the fact.
Michael: We went for a slightly odd time signature. It gives it this kind of choppy motion which suits the theme.
Michael: I really like the harmonies in the chorus, very yearning. “Wax” is a meditation on impermanence, specifically with your own personality. Things change around you and you inevitably change with them, regardless of any effort to go against that. When I initially wrote the verse guitar lines I thought of a melting candle, barely lighting a dark room, so the name seemed fitting.
Laura: The intertwining guitars in the verse kind of hint at the direction we’re going with our next album, a bit more spindly and ornate.
Laura: I think the bassline sounds like flapping moth wings, that kind of low fluttering sound. The song is a mood piece about feelings of hopelessness. When your depression is so bad that you can’t help but feed into it, almost like a moth to flame. My longtime friend Gina is a talented violinist, so we had her come in and improvise violin parts. They came out so wonderfully.
Laura: I wrote “Pit” with the idea of being absolutely at your lowest point emotionally, as a continuation from “Glow”. Even in your most depressive state, you know you have to keep marching forward and trying to do better, to be better. You have to pull yourself out of this hole and you have to do so knowing that it’s a hard path forward with no guarantee of feeling better. I originally didn’t think about having strings on it, but Gina suggested trying out some ideas. I’m glad she did, because her violin parts are beautiful. They really amp up the sadness.
Michael: I’m particularly a fan of the end half of this song. You get the first big moment with the distortion and drums coming in, then the wave of strings. It gives you this feeling of overwhelming sorrow, which I love.
Extra: 2020 music recommendations:
Pure X – Pure X
Pure X have been a long time favorite of mine, I’m annoyingly obsessed with them. They’re an Austin, Texas band that have this super languid, laid back space rock vibe but it’s informed by so much genuine emotion in the vocal melodies and lyrics. It’s really like magic. Their new self-titled album has been a great antidote for the unending trepidation that this year has brought. It’s cathartic and meditative instead of just being escapist. The band is at its most emotionally vulnerable on this one.
Cape Coral – Karma Cleaning
Cape Coral recently put out a mega-banger of a future funk album, chocked full of thick and bouncy funk. It’s impossible to not want to dance in a sweaty Miami night club when listening to this record. Excellent samples, sticky basslines, sparkling synth leads – it’s all expertly arranged and curated.
Hotel Pools – Still
When it comes to synthwave, I prefer the chillsynth side of things. Hotel Pools is an absolute master at it. Extremely chilled out, arpeggiated analog synths and solid beats, all coming together for an atmospheric groove that’s as hypnotizing as it is relaxing.