Aly Spaltro began playing music in her hometown on the coast of Maine when she was 18 years old, jamming in secret and teaching herself as many instruments as she could get her hands on. When her collection grew too large for her room, she asked her boss at Bart & Greg's DVD Explosion whether she could keep her new equipment in the store's basement. "He was the first person that I ever told that I was writing music," she says, on the phone to discuss After, her new album as Lady Lamb (hear it below). "I basically asked him if, after my closing shift, I could lock up and then stay and play there after hours, and he was really supportive."
Every night after 11 o'clock, Spaltro would go down into the basement and start her "nightly routine": She would take all of the instruments out at once – guitars, bass guitars, banjos – and arrange them around her, picking up whichever one appealed at that moment and recording as she went. "It had a huge influence on how I write music because I could be so loud," she says. "I feel very fortunate that in those early years, I was able to crank my amp and plug in a mic. I was 18, you know, so I had a lot of feelings."
Now 25, Spaltro lives in Brooklyn and is preparing to release her second studio LP, a collection of surrealist folk rock that grounds the dream-like imagery of her past work in the hard specifics of concrete events. Although she doesn't find the city itself particularly inspiring, the new environment left a clear impact on the sound of the record. "I've written a handful of softer, quieter songs, just from having to be quiet in an apartment," she explains. "But then I'd realize, 'Oh, my voice didn't have that kind of range or softness to it [before].' That's been helpful."
Nevertheless, After marks a return to the initial creativity Spaltro experienced in her basement practice space all those years ago. Rather than recording the songs live with a band, she tracked the guitars, bass, keys and banjos herself, then brought in string and horn players to add a new layer of instrumentation. The process took about two months. "The big difference with this album is that I went into the studio with a very clear vision of what sounds I was going for," she says. "Most times I end up doing a lot of subtracting. I'll make things really, really big and then one of my favorite parts is figuring out what sections need to become minimal again."