First Impressions: Lilac Shadows

Photo courtesy of Lilac Shadows

Durham’s Sam Logan recieved his first exposure as part of The Huguenots — a very good band doing a very common thing. They were four fun-loving college kids playing precise Beatles pop-rock with few embellishments and an array of irresistible hooks. That band dissolved last year, not long after the band’s members graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill, and Logan began recording new songs as Lilac Shadows. The initial demos color his catchy melodies in nervy distortion, lo-fi blasts that put late, strung-out nights in a tuneful light. The newly released Shallow Madness EP delivers on the demos’ promise, mixing’60s pop with 90s shoegaze and a penchant for 80s back beats. It’s an intoxicating mixture, at once hypnotic and unsettling. Shuffle‘s Jordan Lawrence caught up with Logan via e-mail to discuss the band’s arresting sound and its promising future.

Shuffle: You had been living on demos for more than a year before the release of your new EP. How does it feel to finally have a properly recorded debut?

Sam Logan: The sense of relief is huge. I knew that we had to put something out in order to sort of announce our arrival, and I was really nervous that we would take forever and make the same mistakes I had made in the past. Not only were we able to put something out in a decent time period but I’m really happy with it and it doesn’t feel rushed to me. My life the last couple of months has been worrying about meeting deadlines and still making a good product and somehow we were lucky enough to pull that off.

Shuffle: The EP isn’t quite as big and fuzzy as your demos, more precise than overwhelming. Why did you go in that direction?

SL: The demos were done on a super lo-fi 8 track so a lot of the fuzziness was the result of that machine. A lot of the earlier songs were the result of the transition between my old band the newer stuff and one of the first things I did to make that change was to make everything louder and dirtier. I think once the band started playing live we were able to refine that sound a little bit and create something that was a little less reactionary. The newer songs are a bit more precise but hopefully still have some of that early power.

Shuffle: Somehow with this dirtier, darker sound, you’ve only made your hooks catchier. Tell me about the decision to maintain your melodic approach within this aesthetic. 

SL: I’m not really sure, haha. I have always loved a good melody above all else, and I’m really glad that I’ve been able to write songs that are very different from my old stuff but that still have memorable hooks. I love noise and fuzz and drone and all that, but I still think it’s really important to have something underneath all those layers. Mostly it’s just been a nice challenge to try and keep the melodies good while doing something entirely different on top of them.

Shuffle: You have a pretty close relationship with Derek Torres and his T0W3RS project, each of you helping record the other’s output. How has having that kind of ally helped as you’ve gotten Lilac Shadows to this point?

SL: It’s funny just how close Derek and I have gotten considering how big the rivalry was between our old bands. I think once we realized that we had a lot of the same songwriting goals it was only natural that we helped each other realize them. T0W3RS and Lilac Shadows are really different but I think the songs come from similar places. I think that our respective projects wouldn’t be where they are now if we hadn’t been helping each other out, pushing each other to keep things interesting, and keeping each other sane in the dark depths of recording.

Shuffle: Do you feel like you’ve found the sound that you want, or do you want to evolve it further?

SL: I hope to never get to a point where I’m completely satisfied with where we are as a band or where I am as a songwriter. Anxiety fuels about 75 percent of Lilac Shadows.  So as long as the world continues to be a threatening place to people and their ideas I think this band will continue going in darker and more interesting places. I’m not really as interested in nostalgia (and nostalgic sounds) in the way that I used to be, and I think as long as we can convey the sense of unease that everyone seems to be feeling these days the band will make sense.

Shuffle: What’s next for Lilac Shadows? LP? Tour?

SL: For now we’re just going to play a bunch of shows to promote the EP and then take a long break over the summer. I have a lot of new material I want to finish, and we just re-added a second guitarist after playing as a four-piece so we’ve been working to fine tune that and maybe even bring back some of the earlier songs. The goal is to be a well-oiled machine come Hopscotch with plenty of new material. We’ll be doing some light weekend-warrior style touring when we can. All of us have 40+ hour/week jobs. After Hopscotch we’ll probably start to record our full-length.

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