Lindsey Jordan shines confidence, range and growth. And she’s just getting started.
In 2015, a little-known band from Baltimore named Snail Mail opened for my high school band at a living-room size venue in Washington, DC. Standing in the audience of approximately ten people, I was immediately struck by then 16-year-old front person Lindsey Jordan’s strong voice and intricate guitar parts, certain that she was bound to be destined for bigger stages.
My suspicions were proven right when Snail Mail’s first EP Habit was released on Sister Polygon Records in July 2016. Just a year later, the band went on tour with Priests.
Now, only three years after that tiny show, Snail Mail has toured both the United States and Europe, signed to Matador Records and released their first full-length album Lush on June 8th. Though Jordan notes that she now has more resources and much more time to put into the music and shows, the songs still have the same incredible level of intricate and varied guitar work that made me so impressed with Habit. Jordan has a confidence that comes from years worth of experience in music, something that she has even at 19 years old.
She Shreds caught up with her and discussed getting over the intimidation of gear, becoming an independent decision-maker, and potentially playing music for penguins.
Do you tend to write the guitar part or the lyrics first?
I almost always write the song completely out in guitar and I arrange the entire thing and write a vocal melody and do the lyrics last.
Which do you find to be easier to write?
I find myself wanting to work on lyrics more and in that way it’s easier because I feel more motivated. It’s so hard to write melodies and chord progressions that sound new and exciting to me to the point where I want to keep working on them so I’m always scrapping guitar songs that I write. But if it makes it to the point where I’ve written and arranged it and written a vocal melody, usually the song is confirmed.
I’ve seen you play a Fender Jaguar, Epiphone Wilshire, and a Danelectro. What do you usually look for in a guitar?
I’m pretty loyal to Fender stuff. I play two Jaguars right now onstage alternating because they’re really sturdy and I have a good idea as to how to get the tone I want. I really like the Epiphone Wilshire and the Danelectro but for pretty much any amp or pedal board that I put [the Jaguar] through, it sounds sick. So that’s my ride or die guitar.
What kind of pedals and amps are you using right now?
I use this old vintage crate tube amp that I got from my friend’s dad and got refurbished. I use a phaser from this North Carolina company called Rabbit Hole FX that’s really, really awesome. I use it for just one song. I found it and I tried it at a guitar store in New York and I was like “this is so cool.” And then I use a Boss Chorus, and an EarthQuaker Palisades boost and a tuning pedal. I’m in the market for a compressor but haven’t gotten one yet. Pretty minimal chain.
Do you think about gear or is it not so much a priority for you?
Growing up, I was really intimidated by it and scared to get into it and then some point, maybe even this year, I realized that I have so many different options. I was always really intimidated by all the choices, but now I think it’s just exciting. I would hope to eventually have a bigger pedal board, but I just want to make sure that everything on there is completely necessary.
I think people put a lot of weight on it. It’s cool to have your tone but you can have the worst guitar tone in the world and still have good songwriting.
Do you wish you had been a famous ice hockey player instead?
Sometimes…back when I played hockey, I really threw myself into it and I would wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat and have a nightmare about missing the final shot in overtime. I started having those dreams again recently but I literally hadn’t even thought about hockey in years.
Do you like touring?
I love touring. I think it’s incredible. I love seeing new places and getting to play every night. At times it does feel like a nine-to-five and I kind of like that. We have band call at a certain time, get breakfast at the same types of places, drive all day, load in at a certain time, and then we soundcheck. You have to teach yourself how to live like that. It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to see new places and play every night and see friends all over.
If size and mileage weren’t factors, what would your dream vehicle to tour in be?
A really cool sports car, like a Lamborghini.
Do you still feel connected to the Baltimore scene that you came from?
I like to keep in the new about what new bands are coming up and a lot of my favorite bands are Baltimore bands. I wish I had more time to go to shows and more energy to hang out when I’m home. I keep in the know through friends and the internet and stuff, I just don’t really get to gigs very much anymore.
Has it been important to you to have mentors in the music industry?
I don’t really consider anybody as a mentor. I have friends that I look up to a lot that were really helpful in the process of making decisions early on, but now I feel pretty independent in my decision-making. I have a team that I really trust that I work with. I will go to people and ask about things that I am really not sure about, but I like to be confident and strong in my independent decision-making skills.
Do you imagine “Lush” to have a certain role in the lives of listeners?
I think there’s a really broad listening base for Snail Mail. I like to think that people will take the songs and find meaning in them in a personal way and everyone can do what they want with them. The songs all have extremely specific personal meanings for me so I hope that they do for other people too, whether that means that you’re driving around or, like, playing sports, I don’t know, then that’s cool with me.
What’s your dream place to play a show that’s not a venue?
A zoo where they treat animals really well but inside the penguin exhibit and all the penguins get earmuffs so the sound doesn’t bother them.