“An Art Project With Multiple Layers”: Getting to know Carol Cleveland Sings ahead of their new album Effervescent Lure
Thomas Hughes and Gretchen Lohse are longtime creative collaborators in the regional music scene, the former a solo artist and former leader of the indie-folk ensemble Yellow Humphrey, and the latter a member of DE indie pop favorites The Spinto Band. Over the past year, they’ve worked together under the banner Carol Cleveland Sings – a delightful synthpop outfit with a penchant for dazzling, retro-stylized music videos.
Fans of The Magnetic Fields will find a lot to like in their sound, but the look of their project is just as crucial, and the Carol Cleveland Sings Vine channel is clever, fun and very popular. Hughes and Lohse, both visual artists in addition to musicians, use it to tease song ideas while also playing on pop culture touchstones like Pokemon and Stranger Things.
With its visual identity firmly established, Carol Cleveland Sings is stepping out with its first full-length of recorded music this fall. This morning, it announced the release of Effervescent Lure on Humble Twin Records. To mark the occasion, we’re premiering the song “Black Canvas” – which was teased in six-second format this spring on Vine. Lohse says it generated a lot of excitement and questions about when the full track would be available. Listen to it below, and read an interview between Hughes, Lohse and myself about the genesis and scope of Carol Cleveland Sings.
The Key: The two of you have both been involved in numerous musical projects over the years. How does Carol Cleveland Sings differ from your past pursuits?
Thomas Hughes: I think the two of us have been used to performing within larger ensembles and this is more self-contained.
Gretchen Lohse: It is more of an art project with multiple layers. It feels like there are more components than just live performance and they sneak into everyday life.
TK: The band seems to shoot off from the portability of Gretchen’s solo work that Thomas collab’d on. Is that the case?
GL: You’re right – It’s not a big production…unless we would like it to be. It’s nice to be able to grow or shrink depending on need.
TH: Since this is a project that originated at home with a small assortment of odd instruments, we try to continue that feeling when performing live. We even bring along decorations from our living room.
TK: There seems to be an element of character-acting and role-playing in this, at least as far as your retro styled videos go. Feels in a way like how David Sweeny is David Sweeny during the day, then becomes Johnny Showcase when he hits the stage. How much of that element of CCS extends beyond the video world?
TH: There is a fair bit of artifice and it’s something I want to embrace. I like that we can pretend to be a French synth pop duo from the 80s for one song and then transition to dark psychedelia on the next.
GL: There’s freedom to being able to preform as someone who is slightly different from your every day self who has to deal with folding laundry or picking up groceries for dinner. It’s fun!
TK: Obviously, the visual component is a huge part of it — CCS feels like a multimedia band. Do you think it could exist independent of the Vines and videos?
TH: Sure, the band was always rooted in music and gradually other elements were added. Some of our favorite musicians have strong visual and design components, so it’s hard to separate them.
GL: The music could exist on its own but that would truly be a different band.
TK: Speaking of Vine, you’ve both become prolific Vine-ers (correct terminology?) in recent years, and if I’m not mistaken you have video backgrounds prior to that. Can you talk about the craft of creating something that’s both bite size and lends itself to perpetual motion, and how that compares to a pop song?
TH: Haha, that is true! Both Gretchen and I have backgrounds in photography and film production which has been helpful in making these audiovisual compositions. It’s both challenging and exciting to write within the constraints of a six second loop. It’s a puzzle just like attempting to piece together the verses, choruses and bridge of a pop song.
GL: Each form of art is interesting and it seems silly to only concentrate on one since they can all connect so nicely. One leads to another. I think it’s hard to separate art and life.
Effervescent Lure is available on September 30th via Humble Twin Records; the album can be pre-ordered here.