A Fork in the Road
By Tamara Vallejos
Watch out, Californians: Lucy Michelle is on a mission to make you her fans. Part of her master plan includes kicking off the New Year with a string of nine dates around the state, including a free show at Pappy and Harriet’s today. The other part of her diabolical scheme? Writing heartfelt tunes inspired by life, love and family, and her recent marriage that combined all three. If her past work with the eclectic and endearing Minneapolis-based Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles is any indication, you all might as well give in to her now.
Much-loved on the Twin Cities scene, the Velvet Lapelles have dropped four albums since forming after a jam session in 2007, each one spicing up the band’s folksy foundation with a staggering range of influences. While so many other folk-loving groups are content to mournfully croon and strum their acoustic guitars, the Velvet Lapelles go for whimsical instrumentation—accordion, ukuleles, cello, bells—and infinite moods. The contemplative moments are mixed up with foot-stomping gypsy rock, sing-songy pop songs, and a slew of subtle nods to everything from blues to post-punk.
“We had no idea of our direction when we started,” says the 25-year-old Michelle with a laugh. “I think we’re still kind of figuring that out.”
Yet despite the band’s wonderful anything-goes discography, Michelle found herself penning songs that didn’t quite fit with whatever fork in the road the Velvet Lapelles are currently on.
“I kind of had a crazy year and wrote all these songs that turned out really different from what I’d been writing for my band,” she explains. “The band has gone a little more electric and atmospheric, and this was more straightforward Americana, alternative country. And it felt important to me that I take full ownership of these songs.”
The result is debut solo record Attack of the Heart, produced by friends and veteran musicians John Munson and Chan Poling, who gave her a refreshed perspective on the recording process. With all the mixing and mastering completed, Michelle says she hopes her supporters will come through for her on Kickstarter, where she’s been raising funds—the target amount is $5,000—for the final steps of the self-releasing process (at press time, backers had donated $5,125 with fundraising scheduled to end on Jan. 8). The odds look to be in her favor; at the start of 2012, over a hundred backers donated $7,847 to fund Heat, the newest record from Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles.
“I’m putting my heart and soul into this project in the hopes that people will hear it,” Michelle writes on her Kickstarter page—which is a big reason why she’s also headed to the West Coast, with its huge population, laden with passionate music fans and plenty of industry contacts. A promoter suggested a residency in California for the band, but the timing instead worked out for Michelle to do her solo gigs in the area, as the Velvet Lapelles take a break following several months of touring in support of Heat. But aside from being a financially “risky endeavor,” as Michelle puts it, it’s also a big personal milestone.
“I’ve never actually performed solo outside of Minnesota,” she says. “I’m not quite used to it. You have to command the stage, and I always have a lot of respect for people who can do that. I’m hoping I can, too.”
Lucy Michelle at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown, (760) 365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com. Thurs, Jan. 10. 8pm. Free.