Throughout copious amounts of conversations and coverage, the album All My Love in Half Light from Lady Lazarus had a unique, powerful impact on so many individual listeners. A masterwork made with the utmost care from Melissa Ann Sweat, the full-length is about to be discovered by new audiences everywhere with news of the upcoming May 13 reissue of the album from LebensStrasse Records in Europe, featuring new unreleased material. Sharing a listen to one of her latest recordings, we premiere, “Rabbit's Road”; a song that reverberates the paths and dusty trails Melissa has traversed from her hometown of San Jose, then San Francisco, Savannah, Phoenix, L.A., to her current residency in Joshua Tree, California.
Beginning the walk down the street of “Rabbit's Road”, Melissa carefully applies sparse piano notes that allude toward the song's stretches of path into the wild unknowns. The notes reverberate slow walking hops, in the rabbit ear written progressions that tune the antennae toward the multitude of questions that surround where the road leads. Sweat holds on to every note and every breath in the embrace of lyric that floats like a ghostly companion down the road with the a calm and steadfast, “if you go… I will stay home.” Allowing the song to take shape through the spaces in between the notes, the piano keys resonate and the slight metal-tinted surface noise is supplanted by the nature of the tape recording. This is the first listen amongst a plethora of new material coming soon down the line from Lady Lazarus, and below Melissa answers a few more questions from us.
What inspired, and where is “Rabbit's Road”?
I've referenced filmmaker Kenneth Anger before as an influence, as with my music video for “Lapsarian” which was inspired by his film Puce Moment. Well, part of the inspiration for “Rabbit's Road” came from another of his films, Rabbit's Moon. I prefer the 1972 version with the kind of doo-wop soundtrack instead of the later version. It's a favorite film of mine and I was inspired by the idea in the film about someone pining in love and adoration of the moon… so far off, of course, that you will never attain it. A foolish act. In Chinese mythology, it's believed that a rabbit lives in the moon, and the rabbit is also a trickster figure in many other myths (even Alice in Wonderland!). The rabbit is the one who will lead you down a perhaps foolish, though wildly adventurous path that can possibly transform you and your life. In my own life as a musician, I often feel like I'm on this wild path, and in the song I'm sort of refusing to go down that road for a minute. The rabbit's calling, I'm entertaining the idea, but something in my inner world and home needs tending to. The adventure could wait in that moment.
You have talked to us about the splendor of working with traditional instruments, admiring how you can work with their “rawness and simplicity.” How do you continue to transfer the transcendental through these mediums in your structures, lyrics, intentions, and emotions in the subtext, scoring and songwriting of your music?
When I write songs, I sit down at the piano, exploring structures and tones that resonate with me and allowing lyrics and song ideas to flow naturally from there. Often the piano, my instrument of choice, just pulls these thoughts, feelings, and lyrics out of me. It's incredibly therapeutic and lends itself to my honest style of music. The subject of my songs are almost always a reflection of what I'm concerned with, processing, and working through in a current phase of my life. I'm mindful of the spirit, and I approach songwriting as if it were a prayer.
I'm happy that your album All My Love in Half Light is getting reissued from LebensStrasse Records, as everyone who hears it has their own personal and individual response to it, and I have always said that it needs to be heard by everyone. How does it sound to you a few years down the road now, then it did then, and how do you find it has helped to inform your recent writings and recordings?
Thank you, that's so sweet of you to say. I'm incredibly happy that LebensStrasse found their way to me. They've been so supportive in this re-release and are such great people to work with, so kind. When I listen to it, I feel the record still sounds very unique and fresh, and I believe it's music that people can keeping coming back to and keep close to their hearts. That's my hope, of course. I've mentioned in interviews that the album was sort of a spiritual house cleaning to help heal from past relationships and hone in my own unique powers. Since writing the album, I'm very grateful to be in a loving relationship for almost a year and a half now, and my boyfriend and I have moved to Joshua Tree where we're now living. Having a loving partner has certainly influenced where I'm at in life and in my songwriting, and I'm looking forward to sharing the fruits of these developments down the road.
How do you think your process has changed since recording Half Light?
It hasn't changed much, the songwriting process at least, although I do play more piano now than keyboard. I know that's shaping my music now in some powerful ways. Overall, I'm just in a much happier and peaceful place in my life, and this change is certainly influencing the subject of the songs.
We have always enjoyed your videos, like “Lapsarian“. Any other ethereal music videos in the works?
Yes! Please stay tuned…
Following your various travels from San Jose, to San Francisco, to Savannah, Georgia, to LA, and now to Joshua Tree —how do you feel the impacts and influences lent from these places have contributed to your own creative being?
Moving around has allowed me to be free in a way from my past and to explore different ways of being and different zones—it would be very hard for me to just live in one place. I'm too curious and life is too short, and travel (just as music is) is a large part of my spiritual, personal, and creative growth. San Jose is my hometown and comfortable, and my musician friends and creative community there welcomed me kindly when I was first stepping out into performing live. San Francisco was the place the project was born, when I first started playing music at 25, a difficult time filled with a lot of creativity but also working full-time and getting very burnt out. I knew I couldn't do both—pursue art and work as much as I was, so I chose to quit my job and travel across the country on the train. After a year or so living again in San Jose, I moved to Georgia and released my first album Mantic, so I felt quite wild and free then. Touring up and down the East Coast and South. Really making things happen and becoming involved in the creativity there. So many wonderful people welcomed me in Savannah, it was quite hard to leave. L.A. brought more opportunities like opening for Youth Lagoon at the El Rey, and being featured in the L.A. Weekly on the release of All My Love In Half Light. I also started seeing my boyfriend in L.A. and we're currently working on a book about the city together. I feel very peaceful now in Joshua Tree surrounded by beautiful mountains and desert, able to work on writing and music. Being in a good place now, I wouldn't have had my various travels and adventures go any other way.
Do you see ghosts of Gram Parsons, or see mirages of Emmylou, the Byrds, etc out there at all? Joshua Tree seems like such a mystical place for so many.
Haha, not just yet, but my boyfriend and I have been listening to a lot of Gram and Emmylou. There are so many wonderful things to do and places to visit here, Pappy & Harriet's, Furst World, The Palms in Wonder Valley… the famed Joshua Tree Inn in is just down the road, of course. We've been similarly awed by the beauty, magic, and mystery of this place. It feels ancient, and the desert seems to remind you how so many things are extraneous to our true happiness. So many things can crowd a life. It's the ideal place to simplify and just be. Recently, I came across a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry about living in the desert that I really like: “In the desert I am worth what my divinities are worth.”
What's next on the rising path from Lady Lazarus that we should be looking out for, along with the re-issue of All My Love in Half Light?
Something miraculous, I hope.
Lady Lazarus' reissue of All My Love in Half Light will be available May 13 from LebensStrasse Records.