Emily Shreve's new EP will haunt you in a good way.
The first time we saw Emily Shreve was at the June Boulder-in-the-Round. Her haunting vocals captivated us during her performance, so when we heard she was releasing her new EP, Bliss and Gravity, we wanted to catch up with this Denver-based singer-songwriter. Recently, we had that chance! We chatted with Shreve about her use of dream-like qualities in her sound, why the best parts of recording always happen after midnight, and about what’s next for this intellipop and avant-garde influenced artist.
Bliss and Gravity feels like a dream sequence painted for your audience in the form of stirring vocals, flowing piano pieces, whispery lyrics, and ambient sounds. Talk to us about what inspires you to inject this dream-like quality into your music.
I’ve always been one to use dreams as my inspiration and I love them because they can be weird and impossible, and they can make no sense while simultaneously making perfect sense. I like music that is transportive and takes you out of your normal mindset. Not that normal life is so bad, but it’s important to take your brain to other places. I think that is what good art does, and what a good musician does. They create a moment in time that everyone is a part of; they captivate you and pull you in and take you somewhere you haven’t been before, or haven’t been in awhile. I want to keep going further into dreaminess and go to some different abstract places.
Bliss and Gravity definitely accomplishes those affects! Speaking of- your howling vocals on “Falling Down” seem to do just that to this listener- to push us deeper into your story; your sound. What was the process like recording this particular track in the studio?
“Falling Down” and “A Temporary Bliss” were actually intended to be instrumental pieces, but I decided to add vocals the day I recorded the piano for those tracks. The vocals were the only part that weren’t technically recorded in the Differential Productions studio. Michael Zucker and I finished a session late, and I was still in music mode, so I used the studio at my dad’s house just down the street to play around with some layers. I was just experimenting, but I ended up writing and recording the vocal part that night and getting it right the first time. I stayed up until 3 am layering everything, and then I found a wav file of a rainstorm on the computer I was using. It just worked so well sonically when I added it, and it fit poetically with the whole concept of the album. Sometimes the best things happen after midnight when you have a microphone.
It sounds like you really got experimental with it, which is awesome. We read in your Colorado Music Buzz interview that you are looking for venues other than noisy bars to perform in, due to your music’s haunting and intimate aspects. Has finding such venues been a challenge for you in the Denver music scene? Where are some of your favorite spots to perform?
I’m not sure I have a favorite yet. I love places where people go to actually listen to music and you don’t have to compete with normal bar noise. Syntax Physic Opera and Mercury Cafe are great spots. There are also places that normally host heavier bands, but that I really like playing, like Lost Lake Lounge or Seventh Circle. I really enjoy nonconventional, intimate settings like house concerts. I once played a backyard speakeasy too, where I got to perform outside, which doesn’t happen often since I am married to my Kurzweil. Anywhere that already has a piano gets major points from me too.
Tell us about one of your very first intellipop influences.
Ahhhh the genre game. I love it so. I’m not sure that I fit into intellipop as it’s often defined, but I like and use the idea of intellipop because I write pop song structures, I use abstract lyrics, and I’m not afraid to change time signatures or use a polyrhythm every once in a while to make a song really creepy (like “Insanity”). I love music that is simple and well written (Andrew Bird, Tori Amos), and I also really love progressive “out there” avant-garde music (Bjork, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum or anything Carla Kihlstedt is on).
Sweet! So beyond your upcoming EP release party for Bliss and Gravity at Mercury Cafe on August 28th, what’s next? Any other big performances on the horizon? A tour? A music video?
I will be doing a music video with the very talented writer/director Olivia Carmel. We actually met where I work and it seemed a little serendipitous that she already had an idea for a video for one of the songs from Bliss and Gravity. We’ll be exploring the visual interpretation of some of the lyrics on one of the tracks. I’ll be booking lots of shows locally for the coming months, and I’m rearranging my life to set myself up to tour by next year. In the meantime, I am really excited to be an introvert this winter and dive into composing another album.
That’s our chat Beat kids! Now go get dreamy with Emily Shreve’s music here, and don’t forget to hit up her EP release party next week. Event details are right here. And you can get info for pre-ordering Bliss and Dreams if you click me.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.