Land of Talk frontwoman Elizabeth Powell talks
Sometimes it pays to put things into perspective and remember what made you want to do something in the first place.
After a brush with losing her voice while touring last year, that’s the lesson Elizabeth Powell, frontwoman for the Montreal indie trio Land of Talk, learned.
After what she described as a devastating break-up with her boyfriend and the scare of losing something as precious to a singer as her voice, Powell said she needed some time to pour her innermost feelings into a project and to relax, reconsider her priorities and go back to why she started playing music in the first place – to have a good time.
She began experimenting with the computer program Garage Band last year while on the road and played songs without amplifiers into her laptop’s microphone, adding digital guitar effects and drum beats.
Powell said she never expected her personal tinkering to transform into real material, but that when the band played her songs and matched live music to what she had created on the computer, they struck gold.
What resulted is “Fun and Laughter,” a four-track EP on Saddle Creek, the band’s first release on the Omaha label, which was put out this fall.
The group has been touring since October and did a run of shows on the West Coast before swinging back east for a brief run.
They play in Boston on Wednesday, Burlington, Vt., on Thursday and at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Friday before finishing out their stint in New York City.
Powell said that the tour for “Fun and Laughter,” has, fittingly enough, been nothing else but that.
“It’s been pretty awesome,” she said of the shows.
“This tour seems like there’s a lot more fun, a lot more laughter,” she went on. “I don’t want to sound cheesy, but it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe we’ll title the next album ‘Rich and Successful,’” she joked.
Powell said her experience last year promoting Land of Talk’s full-length debut album, “Some Are Lakes,’ and doing double duty singing in Toronto collective Broken Social Scene, wore her to a raw point and forced her to do some reflecting on her goals and desires.
“Last year was such a grind, I was singing with both bands, I ended up almost having to get surgery, it put a lot in perspective,” she said.
“I kind of know what’s important to me now and what’s not worth getting stressed out about,” she said. “I freed up some emotional space so I could be happier on this tour, I’m just enjoying.”
Powell said “Fun and Laughter” is a product of some intense emotional turmoil, and was something she felt she needed to put out as a form of catharsis.
“I just wanted to get those songs out,” she said. “Those four songs just needed to be released ASAP for personal reasons.”
Powell said she was pleased at the responses to the new EP.
“I’m super happy with the songs, with the way everyone’s receiving it, people who we know are our fans,” she said.
But on how she feels when she hears it?
“I don’t listen to it, I think you should tell me that,” she said.
“Fun and Laughter” is certainly something of a departure from the band’s earlier work. Slower and often more melody based, the songs feature Powell’s characteristic rich harmonies and a broad range of dynamics, but seem more calculated and less intense and ripping than “Some are Lakes” and the group’s first EP, “Applause Cheer Boo Hiss!”
The EP opens with “Sixteen Asterisk,” an even-tempoed song where Powell muses on her increased recognition and on life’s obligations and stresses. The song crescendos to a building point of tension with snare drums and well-matched guitar and bass, but never rocks in the way the band does on earlier songs like “Corner Phone” and “Speak to Me Bones.”
It then transitions to “May You Never,” which starts slowly with a dreary piano line and a haunting, dulled opening vocal sequence before kicking into a livelier, more energized chorus, reminiscent of work from Rilo Kiley or Cat Power.
From there, the EP shifts to “As Me,” another slow song relative to much of the band’s work. Powell’s voice is smooth and coos softly throughout the song, which features a characteristically downward slanting guitar sequence and light, steady drums.
The last song is “A Series of Small Flames,” which Powell said might be the biggest departure from previous work the band has made. Powell plays a light guitar and recorded the drums herself, and sings a high, soft tone throughout the song, which has no real bass and features a background echo of high, distant vocals.
Land of Talk plays Friday with Surprise Me Mr. Davis, featuring The Slip and Nathan Moore at the Iron Horse Music Hall. Tickets are $14 at the door. “Fun and Laughter” is in stores now.
Sam Butterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.