Superstar cemeteries and haunted libraries: how musician Lael Neale channels Hollywood’s darkish aspect | Music
In the video for Lael Neale’s current single, In Verona, she takes us on a woozy stroll by means of the streets of Hollywood. Alongside grainy footage of the Stroll of Fame, we discover her drifting by means of the mausoleums of Hollywood Eternally, a star cemetery on the identical block as Paramount studios, as she hypnotically chants about “good loss of life”, prayer and purity. As ritzy as any purple carpet premiere, Hollywood Eternally is the place stars comparable to Rudolph Valentino, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney share a last resting place with the writer Eve Babitz, director Cecil B DeMille and rock stars Chris Cornell and Mark Lanegan. Neale likes to pop in from time to time. “I like going to the graveyard – I really feel like that’s the Harold and Maude in me,” she says, referencing her favorite film, Hal Ashby’s cult 1971 movie a couple of death-obsessed teenager.
Neale additionally enjoys a stroll across the sprawling Forest Garden memorial park. “It’s the Disneyland of cemeteries,” she explains. In addition to housing the crypt of Elizabeth Taylor, it has a Scottish-themed marriage ceremony chapel and a five-metre-tall duplicate of Michelangelo’s David. “It’s made to be a spot the place you go and have this expertise, which is so Hollywood.”
Neale’s upbringing couldn’t have been farther from this type of brazen bluster and the ostentatiousness so endemic to her adopted residence of LA. The singer-songwriter and occasional watercolourist grew up on a farm in deepest rural Virginia, the place her Grateful Useless-loving dad raised grass-fed beef cattle and her mom launched her to the music of the Remedy and Beastie Boys. Though nobody in Neale’s household carried out professionally, there was – and nonetheless is – a barn on the farm that moonlighted as a music room.
“It’s the place dad would get stoned together with his pals and play,” says Neale. “However it’s fairly dirty. It’s additionally the place he works on his tractors and there’s lots of instruments round, so it has this greasy tractor odor … ”
Transferring again to Virginia through the pandemic, Neale helped out with the chickens and recorded her third album, Star Eaters Delight. It’s a singular, boldly bizarre proposition, and one which proudly carries the faint trace of tractor grease. Half of it comes on like cult 70s people artist Karen Dalton hanging out with the Velvet Underground and Suicide, whereas the remainder presents considerably extra trendy balladry, inserting her extra on the earth of Angel Olsen and Cat Energy.
Though its lyrics circle spherical loss of life, holy water, purity and prayer, the fuzzy, hypnotic, eight-minute In Verona was written after Neale noticed the critically unacclaimed 2010 movie Letters to Juliet, a Romeo and Juliet-inspired romcom starring Amanda Seyfried. Shakespeare it was not. “I watched about quarter-hour of it and I might really feel my mind atrophy – it was so horrible,” remembers Neale of seeing it along with her mom throughout lockdown. Regardless of its relentless banality, it in some way nonetheless sparked Neale’s creativity. “So I left, however then I felt unhealthy as a result of we had been gonna do that good mother-daughter factor, and I used to be like: ‘I’m out of right here!’ Then I began writing the tune.”
In Verona’s self-directed video was partly impressed by Baz Luhrmann’s tackle the story, 1996’s Romeo + Juliet, a pivotal a part of Neale’s sonic and visible training. “I noticed it after I was in my early teenagers, and I used to be simply listening to issues just like the Beatles at the moment. That launched me to Radiohead,” she remembers. “There’s this wonderful alchemy that occurs when music goes completely with movie – it’s the identical with Harold and Maude and that Cat Stevens soundtrack.”
A few of the footage got here from when Neale and her boyfriend had been residing in a past-its-prime Twenties lodge turned condo constructing. “It was a extremely distinctive place, simply a few blocks away from the Stroll of Fame, and it was extremely low-cost; filled with musicians and artists and unusual older individuals who’d been there for ever,” says Neale. “It was really the lodge that the Black Dahlia lived in.” Would we be proper to counsel that such a historic Hollywood landmark was probably haunted? “Undoubtedly,” confirms Neale. “We Palo Santo-ed the room [by burning the plant] to clear the power – to not be too Californian – after which a few weeks into our keep there we came upon that the final man there nodded out within the window and fell and died.”
Neale, who moved again to Los Angeles this January, has lengthy been interested in the stranger aspect of the town, embedding its eerie edges and her extra magical experiences into her unearthly sound. After the discharge of her first, extra standard people music album, 2015’s I’ll Be Your Man, she found the Philosophical Analysis Society, and began placing on gigs at its tucked-away complicated within the Los Feliz neighbourhood.
Based within the 1934 by a Canadian mystic referred to as Manly P Corridor, it boasts one of many world’s largest collections of esoteric literature. “To only stumble right into a library that’s filled with each single e-book you may probably dream of – and there are some locked away which might be from the 1600s – is de facto unimaginable. It felt like a hidden secret that not many individuals knew about.”
In addition to pursuing her extra otherworldly pursuits, Neale spent the following few years nannying, working in espresso outlets and, pointedly, not releasing music. In actual fact it wasn’t till 2021 that Neale launched her second album, after signing with the famed indie label Sub Pop. The experimental and stripped-back Acquainted With Evening was written largely on an omnichord, the retro 80s digital instrument, in place of the acoustic guitar on which she wrote her 2015 debut. “I used to be actually looking for the suitable sound between 2015 and the album that got here out in 2021. It was like a pilgrimage for the right individual to work with and the right technique to make it,” she says. “In about 2017, 2018, I made a complete album on my iPod Contact, which was only a voice memo, principally, and that was step one to realising that I wanted to have a extra rudimentary method.”
That album was by no means launched, nevertheless it set in stone Neale’s idiosyncratic method (“Not an enormous studio, not this fancy producer, not a bunch of drums and bass”). It’s a imaginative and prescient that’s much more realised on Star Eaters Delight, the place swirling soundscapes and her unnerving falsetto make for one thing really mesmerising – to not point out decidedly spooky.
Star Eaters Delight is out on 21 April.