Aly Spaltro, the force behind Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, is a perfect example of the adage “great things come in small packages”. Although she stands a mere 5’2″ in stature, her huge voice and poetic lyrics make her seem at least six feet tall. After seeing her live at TT the Bear’s Place in Cambridge, MA (check out pictures of the show taken by Kathrynoh below) it’s hard to say what exactly her strengths are. I was equally blown away by her vocals and her lyrics, as well as the fact she could completely rock on the electric guitar. She stood up by herself with an assortment of instruments—acoustic and electric guitar, banjo and harmonica—and absolutely killed it. Although she didn’t have a backing band, I never felt the performance was lacking, probably because she plays not only with her instrument but with her entire being. She makes you feel each song, even if you don’t want to. I’m pretty sure she is Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan’s love child.
With poetic lyricism comparable to indie favorites like Neutral Milk Hotel and Death Cab For Cutie and a voice akin to both Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper has depth beyond her years. Her song “Up In The Rafters” is a perfect example of her old soul feel. It’s a tradition-style song that sounds like it’s been sung for hundreds of years, and her song “Crane Your Neck” has that old ’60s folk-rock feel that perfectly showcases her impressive lyricism and ability to melt faces.
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper is somewhat new to OurStage and is currently competing in the Lilith Local Talent Search to win a chance to perform at Lilith 2010 and took some time to talk about what it’s like musically growing up in Portland, Maine, how she turned local touring into regional touring and what we can expect from her in the coming months.
MD: Can you tell us a little bit about how Lady Lamb the Beekeeper came to be? Who are some of your musical influences?
LLTB: I began writing and recording music in late summer of 2007. I had deferred from college to go on a year-long trip to Guatemala, and when that fell through last minute, and I was faced with being in Maine all year. I decided the one thing that would make me happy would be to start making music. Around the time I first began recording, I was keeping a notebook by my bed, training myself to write my dreams down in my sleep. One morning I woke up, and “Lady Lamb the Beekeeper” was written on one of the pages. I began recording and compiling music under the moniker.
I would say my biggest influences stem from growing up listening to my parents’ albums and classic rock and oldies radio stations—The Beatles, CCR, Mama Cass, Billie Holiday, Journey, Otis Redding…I went through a short phase when I was about 12 where I didn’t listen to music at all and felt completely uninspired and unfulfilled by it…but when I was 14 I discovered Neutral Milk Hotel. I’d never been more instantly affected by anything I’d ever heard. I was in tears before the first song on that record (“On Avery Island”) was over. It may sound a little silly, but I felt as though within thirty seconds of that record crackling through my speakers, my life was complete, and everything I had been needing in music and everything I loved about music was reinstated. I think in many ways, they’re my biggest influence because they re-inspired my passion for lyricism and raw, vocal emotion in a way that no one ever has.
MD: How long have you been touring around the Northeast?
LLTB: I live in Portland, Maine and have been venturing south more seriously since this past November. Prior to November, I had played a handful of shows in Massachusetts, Vermont and New York, but very few and far in between. This January I decided I needed to focus more time on leaving Portland and playing outside of Maine more frequently. I try to play in Boston a few times a month, and am working on getting to New York more often.
MD: Can you tell us a little bit about how you established yourself in the local Portland music scene and then moved on to playing more regionally?
LLTB: I started out playing an open mic night in Portland when I was 18. I lived 30 miles north in Brunswick at the time, and would venture down on Wednesday nights to play a few songs at a little bar. The first time I went, I was so nervous I got in my car several times to leave before my set time. I finally talked myself back into it and played last at around 12:45am. I met some good people who encouraged me to come back the following Wednesday. I kept going. The people who went every week became familiar to me, and I felt really good about myself and the music I was playing and hearing. I think I had my first show at a bigger venue a few weeks later. Once I got the taste in my mouth, I continued to write new material and play out as much as possible. I started to book myself outside of Portland once I had gained the confidence to leave the little venues I had become comfortable playing regularly.
MD: In your opinion, what are some pros and cons of starting out in a relatively small, but really vibrant music scene?
LLTB: In my opinion, the only con to starting out in such a small scene is the seeming lack of opportunity. Sometimes I feel like the Portland scene is a really well-kept secret…we’re all tucked away creating this music, and we all support each other and are rooting for one another, but no one outside of the community is aware of what is being produced here. It seems as though we are meant to leave Portland to find any sort of national success or recognition…but on the other hand, there is no shortage of pros in starting out here: it’s a very tight knit community of friends. We all appreciate one another’s projects, there are endless collaborations and there is a lack of competition amongst bands. We all go to one another’s shows and support new endeavors. It’s a warm and sincere scene to start out in.
MD: What specifically do you like best about the Portland music scene?
LLTB: My favorite thing about the Portland music scene is the passion of the musicians who live here, and the people who come out to shows. Portland is small enough, and slow-paced enough for a musician or artist to be able to make exactly what he or she wants to make without the pressure of a huge and competitive scene. You are able to present yourself in an honest way in the Portland scene; you can completely be yourself. It’s just a very welcoming place to create. It isn’t jaded or over-saturated or watered down. Musicians in Portland are open and earnest, and the people who support them really listen. I think the best part about the scene is the sense of family..musician to musician, musician to audience, venue to musician and vice versa.
MD: How do you go about booking your shows both around Maine and outside of Maine?
LLTB: Lately, I’ve been laying low in the Portland area as far as playing shows because I’m about to record my next record and want to focus all my energy into it..mostly these days all my booking opportunities come from the relationships I’ve built with venue owners and through friends in the New England area. A lot of times I will be contacted by people who have seen me play a show in their area, and they may be bookers themselves or have a friend on tour they’d like to make a bill with. Any opportunity to reach a new or different audience is a good one, and I really love venturing out and playing new venues and towns.
MD: So far, what has been your favorite venue to play?
LLTB: My favorite Portland venue is SPACE Gallery. I love everything about it, and the people who run it and book it are phenomenal. I feel completely at home there. Sometimes I get Space withdrawals if I haven’t been in a while to see or play a show. My favorite venue to play in the Boston area is Lizard Lounge. Playing there feels like being back in Portland—a huge sense of community just within the venue, and wonderful people who run it.
MD: What can we expect from Lady Lamb the Beekeeper in the next couple of months?
LLTB: Over the next couple of months I’ll be making my new full-length record, so stay tuned for its release in late summer-early fall!