Doug Martsch and Blood Lemon Appreciate It For What It Is

The Built To Spill frontman talks “making it” in music with the Boise band.

Melanie Radford, Lisa Simpson, and Lindsey Lloyd are the Boise-based rock band Blood Lemon; Doug Martsch is the frontman of the legendary indie rock band, and fellow Idahoans, Built To Spill. Melanie is also currently the bassist for Built To Spill, so to celebrate the release of Blood Lemon’s self-titled debut record — out this Friday — the friends and collaborators sat down to talk about the creation of it, and much more.
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music

Melanie Radford: So, I guess I just wanted to start with asking you, Doug, what you’ve been up to during the pandemic, and how that’s been going for you?

Doug Martsch: Yeah, just sitting around, doing a few little Zoom shows. Kind of recorded a record.

Lisa Simpson: Kinda. Just sorta. [Laughs.]

Doug: Really, it was like I casually made a record, for reals. 

Lisa: Did that feel good though?

Doug: Yeah. It was nice to have a project that I could procrastinate on so that watching TV or doing these other things that I had to do seemed more fun. I just kind of worked at, like, an hour a day or skipped a couple of days, or did one little thing. The next thing I knew, it was kind of done. 

Lisa: Yeah. That’s awesome. 

Melanie: That’s great. 

Doug: Yeah. So it was the first time I decided to make a record at home by myself on my computer. I decided to do that in December when the rhythm section recorded their tracks and then went back to Brazil. And so it was kind of a fortunate situation that I was already planning on doing that, but it took me ‘til June to even get started on it because I just wasn’t too inspired. It was like, Oh, god, I better start working on this. Slowly got it done, I guess. 

Melanie: Well, it’s nice that you got to take your time on it. 

Doug: Yeah. It is for me at this point in my life and career and stuff where I’m just not obsessive about music where I think about it all the time. So it’s taken a year. These songs are years old. 

Melanie: Oh really?

Doug: It’s all just a slow process. 

Melanie: So when you do write, do you normally write on tour? Are you one of those kinds of musicians or?

Doug: Maybe when I was younger, when I was always working on stuff, but it’s been a long, long time since I’ve played my guitar when I wasn’t supposed to on tour. 

Lisa: That’s fair. It gets exhausting. I don’t think everyone realizes how exhausting touring can be.

Doug: Yeah, there’s not a whole lot of time. Your down time, you want to do something different. 

Lisa: That makes sense. When are you releasing that album? When is it coming out? 

Doug: Well, hopefully by the end of the year. 

Melanie: That’ll be awesome. You recorded it all yourself except for the rhythm section parts, right?

Doug: Yep. Exactly. 

Melanie: So all the instrumentation you did from your home? 

Doug: Yeah. So Lê Almeida — who played drums in Built to Spill in 2019 — he’s got a studio and a record label and a couple bands in Brazil. And so he’s made a bunch of records. I really love his production style, and he’s kind of got some guts. He just has some cool ideas. So I’m curious to see what he does with it.
João [Casaes], the bass player, works in the studio quite a bit too. I’m not sure exactly how much work each of them does. João’s kind of Lê’s sidekick, but the more that I was around them, the more I kind of realized João’s pretty important and has a lot of vision himself, and skills, and might be a lot more part of it than I ever imagined.
So together, those two are right now working on stuff. I sent them half the tracks. I’m still kind of putting some finishing touches on the other half a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t really heard back from them, but that’s kind of how we are, we don’t have to communicate too much. So I’m curious to see what they end up doing. I sent them over stuff that’s where I would have mixed right now if I was mixing it. I’m not sure how much they’re going to deviate from that, how much I want them to. 

Melanie: I think that’s great. 

Doug: Sometimes you have an idea of how things should be, and then you hear something different and you say, No, I want it to be like this, but sometimes you love it. Or sometimes there’s kind of the combo where it’s like, No, I don’t really like this, but maybe I should go with it. You know? There’s definitely been a lot of that in my musical career where I didn’t care for something someone was doing with a song that I had written, but then over time it’s like, Oh, yeah, that really is the right approach to it.

Lisa: I think that’s one of the things that’s interesting about collaboration, having been in a couple of different projects — sometimes there are songs that you write as an individual songwriter that you bring to a group and you have to kind of let go of your expectations. You get a greater good out of it, hopefully. And then there are other songs where it’s like, No, not going to share that one because I don’t want this person messing with it, or what have you. 

Melanie: Yeah, if it’s an incredibly personal thing for you.

Doug: Well, there’s so much music that, when I was younger, I didn’t like and then later on came to love. So I kind of feel like I gotta trust people around me. If they’re saying something is good, maybe they have a point. We have our tastes, but there’s a little bit—

Lisa: Yeah. It’s in some ways similar to food and eating, your tastes will change over time. Those things you always love, it’s like comfort food, comfort music kind of stuff. There’s some music that it’s like, you have to know more about it, have a deeper understanding where it’s coming from to really appreciate it. Any kind of art, right? 

Melanie: I totally agree. I like how [Doug was] saying, how Lê and João are really gutsy with how they mix their stuff and I can totally hear it. And it reminds me so much of stuff that Zach does. So Zach House, who produced and mixed our record, kind of has this philosophy of leaning into the weird stuff, or leaning into the imperfections. 

Lisa: I love that so much.

Melanie: Yeah! It’s worked out well. And I don’t know, I guess I never thought about it before, but it’s kind of a liberating thing to embrace and accentuate the weird stuff that you did in a recording. So do you think Lê and João have a similar philosophy? 

Doug: Totally. Like something sort of — the drums might be a little distorted and crappy sounding and they just kind of go with it. Maybe even crank it, make them a little more distorted and let that be the sound of the song.
I come from a little more conservative background, but of course, I always appreciate that stuff. I always wished that I — whenever I hear something like that, I hear the Osees or something, I’m like, why don’t all of our records sound like this? Why do our records try to sound like Pink Floyd or something where you want everything to be all separate and clean and full, you hear the full tone of each instrument?
It sounds great where everything’s just mushed together. You can’t tell what’s going on. It sounds way cooler, but I don’t really know how to do that. And I kind of don’t have whatever it takes to do that.

Melanie: The bandwidth.

Doug: Exactly.

Lisa: Thank god for the people who do. 

Melanie: No kidding. But yeah, I feel like it really brings out the raw feeling, like the raw energy of a lot of records. I wasn’t expecting that that’s what we needed for our record, like we needed something that accentuates how raw we are in our songwriting and as a three-piece— 

Doug: Yeah, I think Zach really captured that on the record for sure. It’s kind of the perfect balance to me of sounding like a raw three-piece, but still sounding produced enough that you took some time. You didn’t just go in there and knock it out. There’s subtle, nice layers. 

Melanie: Yeah. And that was one thing that we talked about, because we weren’t sure if we wanted to do too many layers since we’re just a three-piece and it would be kind of different playing it live, but I’m really glad that we embraced all of the layering, especially like with “Bruise,” that beginning track of our record. When we first recorded it, we recorded it how we do it live and it sounded really bare bones. Which sounds great live but—

Lisa: It wasn’t very dynamic as a recording though. It was a little bland. 

Melanie: Yeah, it was bland.

Doug: There’s a really big difference between the two. It’s amazing, the difference. When you think the live version works so well, and then it doesn’t. [Built to Spill] tried to do that on a couple of our records. We’ve tried to just, “Let’s just do it live,” and that’s with three guitar players at the time. “It sounds great like this!” But every time it’s like… it just really falls short, it just doesn’t have the dynamics that you’re talking about. 

Melanie: Yeah. And it’s so bizarre. I remember with “Bruise” [initially] Lisa was saying, “If we were on a label, this would be the song that they would want us to take off the record.” And we were like, OK, we need to really work on this one then. 

Lisa: “What can we do to this?”

Melanie: Yeah. And we were talking to Zach and were like, maybe we should embrace some weird Cars-esque synth kind of noises and scratchy guitars and stuff. It was funny because we were making noises at Zach. Like, “What if we do something like a eee-eee kind of a thing. Wee-o-wee-o-wee!” [Laughs.] He’s like, “Yeah, I know exactly what you’re talking about,” and helped us do it on guitar parts and synths.

Doug: Like the snare sound thing?  

Lisa: Well, he had this great little analog synth that we would spend a half hour finding the right sound, and then we’d record it.

Melanie: And he had this oscillator thing of just crazy noises, just from turning a knob. And we used that like a bajillion times in the record. And it just gives it like that extra push, that one little sound.

Lisa: Some texture, yeah.

Melanie: Which was a huge learning experience for me, because I was like, Oh, this one little texture makes a huge difference.

Doug: There’s a lot of records from the ‘70s and ‘80s that are like that, where — The Cars is a good example — it’s so stripped down but then there’s just little things that. It’s kind of like when you’re a kid, it all just sounds complex and crazy. When you get older you’re like, Oh, that’s just a simple song and they’re adding this one little guitar thing or something that gives it a feeling of complexity. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot of that learning all those cover songs.

Lisa: I love playing cover songs.

Doug: How much simpler every song is than you imagined it was. 

Lisa: Yeah, more often than not, yes. And then there were other times where I was — like in Mostly Muff [the cover band precursor to Blood Lemon], there were songs that we were like, “Nope, we’re not going to be able to do this,” once we started trying to do it. Like the first year, it was “Panama” by Van Halen. Oh, my god. We were like “Nope. Really ambitious on this one, It’s not going to happen.” Like Gia [Trotter] barely played piano [at the time]. She was winging it to an extent. So the first year was probably the most difficult. 

And then over the time it was like, “Yeah, we can make this happen.” Like when we did a year of new wave stuff. That one was complex too, it was like, “Oh, OK. We need like three synthesizers and we definitely need this sound.” But like you said, it takes time to be able to pick out those parts and hear music in that way. Not everybody does that instinctually. It’s a learned skill and can make a big difference between even liking a band too. 

Melanie: Yeah, when you’re playing covers, that’s when you actually dive into the song and you’re realizing all of the weird layers that you were totally missing that are so integral to the song and the recording. So you have to make that decision of like, am I going to do exactly what’s in the recording?

Doug: “Am I going to hire a couple more ladies for the band?!” 

Lisa:  Which we certainly did one year! 

Melanie: Or figure out a way to make it your own entirely and just change it. Was that kind of what the [Boise] Cover Band album was like, or when you were writing that stuff?

Doug: Yeah. That started out as kind of invite friends over and jam out. And then after a few weeks, or a couple of months of jamming it was like, you can only do this for so long. “Let’s try learning a couple of songs and see how that feels.” A big part of it was an excuse for me to play bass, is why I was doing it too. So it’s fun to learn other people’s bass parts and stuff. But our thing with that was just like, let’s try to do some cover songs, but just keep them as basic and raw as possible. Like Ned [Evett] kind of joined the band a little late — Scott Schmaljohn was playing with us at first, when we started doing covers and then he got too busy and Ned came in. Ned came in and plugged in this big, giant rack of pedals and started jamming with us. And we were like, “No, that’s not really what we’re doing. Plug into your amp, maybe some distortion if you want it, but that’s it. We’re trying to keep it real, just what the songs are in the most basic sense.” Then I ended up overdubbing kind of layering it out a little bit just for my own insecurities, and, like what you were saying too, where sometimes it just needs a little more to have some dynamics and stuff. 

Built to Spill has done tons and tons of covers over the years. We always try to play it pretty straight. Here and there maybe we’ve tried to do something our own way, but we all pretty much wanted to just — we all kind of felt like you guys did where it’s like, this is what makes a song cool. What they did and how they did it, we want to try to emulate that. We’re not making a record of it though. That’s kind of pointless, but to do it live in front of people, you want to try to include all the cool little things that everyone remembers and loves about it. I feel like we were truer to covers than we were to Built to Spill songs. 

Melanie: No, that makes sense. You kind of have a right to do whatever you want with your songs. 

Doug: And I like to change them up, too. Like Bob Dylan, where he’ll change the chord progression and it won’t even be the same song at all.

Lisa: Yeah. But when you play a song thousands of times, it’s natural for that to happen. 

Doug: Yeah, it just evolves.

Lisa: It does. And you forget — like, we haven’t even been playing shows, but even between recording to now with our album coming out, it’s like, Oh, yeah, we recorded it that way, but we play it a new way

Melanie: Now we’re changing things here and there. 

Doug: Totally. You’re kind of always improving it to yourself in your own mind. Sometimes you are improving it. Sometimes you’re maybe making it worse, sometimes you’re just changing it and it’s not really qualitatively doing anything… I’m not talking about you guys.

Lisa: [Laughs.] No, I was just thinking back to when Finn Riggins was out touring all the time, there were a couple of songs that we changed significantly over the years. And then we’d go back and listen to an early live recording and be like, “Why did we change this again? Let’s go back.” 

Doug: Usually it’s like, “Why are you playing that part?”

Lisa: Right? Somebody else is like, “Hey, did you forget this is what you were doing in this song?” Yep, I did.

Melanie: “I did. I actually did.”

Doug: “Just be glad I remembered those other parts.” 

Lisa: Right? “Just be glad I played it every night.”

Melanie: [Laughs.] One thing I remember, going through our practices and comparing our recordings — Lindsey, you’re doing a lot of really rad stuff now on the drums, even more so. Your fills are like, you’re changing it up every time. Do you feel more comfortable in a way after we recorded it?

Lindsey Lloyd: Yeah. And I think having the recordings made it easier. It’s like, I know this song, like I really know it. It’s playing all the time in my head, where before it just wasn’t as embedded. 

Doug: Now it’s just like, “Oh, yeah, that’s just what that does.”

Lindsey: Yeah. I imagine that’s what happens when you tour a lot too, you just add and add. But even with “Black-Capped Cry,” just having to go back and be like, Oh, this is the beat that I played for the video that we’re shooting. I don’t play it this way anymore. 

Lisa: As we’re trying to play along. 

Melanie: Oh, my god. It’s so hard to play to your own recordings for a music video. I didn’t realize how hard that would be. 

Lisa: That’s a whole thing. 

Melanie: Have you guys ever made music videos like that? 

Doug: Yeah. I can’t think of off the top of my head, but definitely have done it a few times over the years.

Melanie: I feel like every band has had to have done it once.

Doug: Lip sync. 

Melanie: Yeah, lip sync to your own songs. It’s so bizarre. 

Doug: I always wanted to start a show lip-syncing one of our songs. Just to sort of mess with people a little bit. 

Melanie: That would be amazing. [Laughs.] So with songwriting, Doug, you have kind of worked in the past with your wife at the time, Karena [Youtz]. I know for me personally, it’s been really weird to see press stuff coming out about us and they’re like, “She’s the first female member of Built to Spill!” I was thinking about it and I’m like… I don’t know if that’s entirely true, because of Karena. She really had a huge part in writing lyrics in your past. So what was that like, working with another lyricist on songs? 

Doug: It was pretty casual, we didn’t really sit down and write songs together. She would say things off-the-cuff like, “We’re special in other ways, ways our mothers appreciate.” 

Lisa: All offhanded-like? Just little nuggets here and there? 

Doug: All day long! Then on top of that, she’s the funniest person. And then she’s also a poet and a writer as well. So sometimes she would give me a few pages of just stuff, just ideas. It was usually if I was kind of stuck on something. It wasn’t usually like, “Let’s write a song together.” It was mostly that I would say, “I need something that goes like this, has this many syllables.” That kind of stuff. She’d give me a couple of pages of something like that. 

Melanie: Like different ideas that she would write down? 

Doug: Yeah, exactly. But she also did a lot more than the lyrics. She came up with the band name with me and came up with album titles with me, like Perfect From Now On was kind of both of ours. Tons of stuff, just management kind of ideas and things, and album cover concepts, the first album, Ultimate Alternative Wavers, the Sears photograph of us was her idea. And then every time I ever did anything, I’d run it by her. I didn’t feel confident about something unless I kind of got her approval, like up until the last record where I’d play her things as we were working on them or whatever, and definitely the recordings. If she didn’t like the recordings, we worked on them some more. That happened a couple of times where I thought maybe we’re done [with the record] but then she’s like, “No, you need to go work on it some more.” We don’t really have totally the same musical taste, but she really got Built to Spill. She really did understand. And she has good musical taste, she listens to some pop radio stuff, but doesn’t like some other things that I like a lot. But we do share some things that we both love. But as far as Built to Spill goes, she just got it more than anyone, I felt like.

Melanie: It’s nice to have at least someone to bounce ideas off of, in that way. 

Doug: Totally. Another thing too, she wasn’t going to bullshit me. She was just brutally honest, but also supportively honest too. I completely trusted her to say what she completely thought. Not that someone else would lie, but other people might be easier audiences too. They just kind of like whatever you do.

Lisa: You need that critical ear though. You need somebody who’s going to, like you said, not bullshit you and just stroke your ego. I’m not here for that. I’m here for you to give me honest feedback. 

Doug: But if I was doing that for the Beatles or something, I’d be like, “That sounds killer,” no matter what it was. You just like it, whatever it is. Not bullshitting them, but just — but she didn’t like everything I did.

Melanie: That’s really great that you had that trust in her.

Doug: Definitely. Built to Spill would be a different thing if she hadn’t been involved in it, for sure. In a lot of ways. 

Melanie: In your relationship with Eric [Gilbert], do you think Eric kind of has the same brutally honest approach? 

Lisa: I’m probably more brutal with him than he is with me. [Laughs.] Yeah. I think we’ve always had that kind of relationship. Being in [Finn Riggins] together was really amazing and helpful and sometimes really challenging. He was always looking out for me, and we could write music together, which with Finn Riggins that was the first time we really successfully wrote songs together. 

Melanie: So wait, did you guys share lyrics and stuff too? 

Lisa: Sometimes, yeah. 

Melanie: And how would that work? 

Lisa: Well, Eric was a creative writing minor in college. He wrote all through college and he in and of himself is a great writer. He’s somebody that I find very inspiring. For example, “Wake” — I think I wrote my lyrics and he wrote his lyrics in that. One of the last tracks we recorded was “Force & Friction” and I wrote all the lyrics, except for one line that he was like, “Hey, I have this one line for that.” But even now, obviously with Blood Lemon, I’ll be like, “Hey, I have this song idea, I want to play it for you,” or that kind of thing. I rely on him heavily. I’m like, “Hey, listen to our recording. Hey, what do you think about this?” 

Doug: Is he critical at all or does he just pretty much love whatever you do?

Lisa: Well, I think he would say that he’s always been a fan. He did not play music at all when we first met. He and I were in a World Music class together at Johnson State College in Northern Vermont. That’s when we met, I played at a coffee house. This was back in the late ‘90s when folk rock was the thing. And I just played solo shows and stuff at that point. And he saw me play and we fell in love. And then he was learning how to play guitar… It was so great to start doing something that was way more rock & roll, way more in that indie rock vein. And just do something completely different and really collaborate for the first time. 

Doug: Was there someone you wanted to play guitar like or anything? 

Lisa: I think yes, but I was playing acoustic guitar and I was super, super into like grunge alternative. 

Melanie: That’s what I was into as well.

Lisa: It clearly influences Blood Lemon. 

Melanie: Very clearly. 

Lisa: The Breeders were one of my favorite bands in high school. When I finally heard the Pixies for the first time, I was like — I still am blown away by the Pixies. It’s so good. Just so good. Joe Santiago is one of my favorite guitar players. So good.

Doug: Yeah, you play like him.

Lisa: I got kind of swept up in college when I was listening to PJ Harvey and Tori Amos and Björk. It’s been really important to me to listen to women musicians. I love Radiohead and— 

Melanie: And not just women musicians. Those are really angular songwriters. They do weird shit. 

Lisa: And I was so into it, like, I love Tori Amos. And then I got into like Ani Difranco and — I don’t know, as much as I love all that stuff, like the bands out of the Northwest from the ‘90s, I got really into that folk rock scene too. And then I don’t know. I was like, Oh, I’ve been playing acoustic music for too long

Doug: When I first saw Finn Riggins play, I had gone down to the Neurolux to see Le Fleur play. I didn’t know Finn Riggins and one of the things that I loved was just your crazy noise guitar playing. Like, Woah, she’s just making some wild sounds. And not really using any pedals, just doing it with your fingers. Maybe EBow here and there.

Lisa: Yeah. I used very few pedals. I still don’t really use that many. I definitely use EBow on one song. I think it was just like, there was kind of that aesthetic of like Sonic Youth to an extent, like the use of sound. 

Melanie: The use of noise. Oh, man, it’s so hard to control chaos like that. And that’s one thing that I’m always amazed with is you’re able to really control feedback and just complete chaos of pedals. 

Lisa: Well, I try. 

Melanie: But it’s so great.

Lisa: I think my road to playing guitar was so different from the guys I went to high school with. There weren’t a lot of girls playing things like guitar and bass and whatever. And there were definitely guys doing it. It’s just this consciously unconscious gendered thing. So I wasn’t one of those people who sat and learned scales and learned how to solo like that. I never did. So it was just kind of working with what I had and what was inspiring to me. 

Melanie: I think you can hear that for sure.

Doug: A lot of people too, that make noise and weird sounds, just do it with pedals. And I love that you just did it physically, like Sonic Youth where they also didn’t use too many effects.

Melanie: It’s more of a natural feel.

Doug: It’s more just their fingers and their hands and just a natural way of going at it. It’s weird you talk about the guitar player from Pixies too. You kind of think he has a sound that’s based on some amps and guitars and stuff. One time a producer we worked and recorded with came in and did a solo on a song or something. Just plugged in any amp and any guitar and you could hear his tone just coming through just in the way he plays. You’d think it was a certain pedal, distortion pedal or something that gives them that sound, but no, it’s just the way people play mostly is how they sound.

Lisa: He does a lot of very, very melodic stuff and it’s clearly him playing, like you said, with the tone.

Melanie: It’s his personality coming out for sure. 

Doug: Yes. Simple and melodic. That’s like this Blood Lemon stuff where there’s so much melody. It’s like basically vocal lines being played on the guitar. Catchy. It’s great.

Melanie: I love it too. I think it’s really interesting — because you’re saying that you didn’t explore a whole lot or practice a whole lot with scales, or that it wasn’t necessarily your thing. So you were kind of able to tap into melodies that are very — what’s the word? Just surprising or unsuspecting because of that. And I think that’s great because I’ve definitely had issues of being stuck in a rut from going over my scales and wanting to stay in my box.

Doug: Or being afraid of being in the box. “I don’t want to play those notes because that’s just these obvious notes that go together.” Whereas you just hear them, “Oh, those notes go together.” You don’t worry about it being over simplified because it sounds good to you. Whereas technical people might be like, “Oh, I’ve got to put a fifth in here,” and kind of overthink it. 

Lisa: I feel like it’s a juggling act for me though. We all went to music school and I learned a lot of music theory – 

Melanie: Which is overwhelming. 

Lisa: It can be overwhelming.

Melanie: It was overwhelming for me. [Laughs.]

Lisa: I had the opportunity to take it, take it again, and then teach it. 

Melanie: That’s right, you taught!

Lisa: I taught theory one year and that just kind of ingrained some things in my brain. But one of the things that I took away was the idea that you learn the rules so that you can break them. 

Melanie: Yes, that was what they always said to me in jazz ensemble too. It was like, “You break the rules now after we pounded the rules in your head.”

Doug: Easier said than done.

Lisa: And sometimes I pull on those things when I just feel like I’m not pushing something hard enough or I want something different. And then other times I just would be like, it’s OKto write a three-chord song. Some of the best songs out there are three-chord songs. 

Doug: What was overwhelming to you about music theory?

Melanie: I had a personal breakdown in college when I was studying music, because learning—

Doug: It got too complex?

Melanie: It got really complex and there were things that I didn’t understand about certain things. And then I got really hard on myself for not understanding it, and then being like, Oh, maybe I’m not a good musician because of it. It’s so weird putting music, this creative thing that is so hard to grade or anything and putting that in an academic setting is so— 

Doug: Like mathematical? Is that kind of the problem you had?

Melanie: Yeah, it felt more mathematical, and I’m not a mathematical person. I’m not saying, with studying music, that it completely ruins your creative side, because I definitely got a lot of skills through it, but it’s just about finding that balance of trying not to be stuck in that box once you unlock these new skills.

Doug: You went to music school too. 

Lindsey: Mm-hmm.

Doug: What was your experience like? 

Lindsey: It was hard, especially the theory part.

Melanie: As a percussionist too. 

Lindsey: Yeah. Playing rhythmically — and I didn’t really play mallet instruments or piano or anything until I got to college. And so it was like, “Oh, modes…”

Lisa: It’s a whole other level of reading music then.

Lindsey: And then having to analyze and it was all so new. 

Doug: So you went to school as a percussionist, but you were required to learn other music theory and play other instruments?

Lindsey: Yeah. You learn the same thing as everybody else.

Lisa: Everyone learns the same music theory. 

Doug: Why did you start playing the drums? 

Lindsey: I came from a musical family, like everybody in my family sings and dances and theater. And I was more quiet, I think, and so I didn’t want to be like—

Doug: In front.

Lindsey: Yeah. And then we had close family friends, they were like a family band. And so the drummer of that, I would go to their shows and just sit there and watch, and he’d let me come play a song or whatever as a kid. So it was just like, “This is it!”

Doug: How old were you then?

Lindsey: Probably like 11, 12.

Doug: Did you want to play like anyone or you just wanted to play? 

Lindsey: I just wanted to play. I think a lot of my people I wanted to be like were just people I knew. So I never really thought to emulate someone famous. I was just like, Well, I have this friend and he’s really good, and he’s left-handed…

Lisa: Was there ever a point where you were like, “Yeah, we’re just going to make a living being a band”? 

Doug: No, no. Maybe just a couple of years ago and then the pandemic hit. [Laughs.] And then it was like, “Oh, maybe we’re not going to make a living as a band.” But no, it’s such a gradual thing. It just feels so tenuous and like at any moment it’s going to all stop. I kind of had a feeling when I was like 50 years old, I’m 50 years old, I’ve done this for a while. I feel like we just had a good tour, we were working on a record… I was thinking about it… It’s like the age that I am now, when I was a teenager, that’s how old Chuck Berry was. People making music in the ‘50s were as old as I am now!

Melanie: That’s one way to think about it. [Laughs.]

Doug: So I feel like I reached this point where I had been around long enough and even just — we never had a hit or anything, but just the handful of people are enough to keep a modest living for us. But no, it took a long time to think maybe I won’t have to go back to a day job. I didn’t imagine getting any kind of money out of this whole thing. I thought it was just going to be a money hole. 

Lisa: Right? Especially when you start out, it’s like, OK, how much is this thing going to be that you want me to pay for?

Melanie: That’s how it is right now. 

Lisa: [Laughs.] I know! 

Doug: Yep. It seems like it’s going well, though, for you guys, as far as that stuff goes. It feels like from what Mel was saying that this kind of stuff is paying off. You never really know if it will, or it’s hard to even quantify it. 

Melanie: Yeah. I feel like we’ve been part of a gamble almost, and we’ve just been getting really lucky.

Lisa: Yeah. I think our expectation was in the right place though. I was pretty adamant as we were talking about hiring a PR agency that, “Hey, here’s, what’s important to us. Not that everybody loves us, but the people have an opportunity to hear the music and make their own decision.” And that’s happening. That expectation is being met. 

Doug: You guys have been part of the music scene and played in bands, so you have a pretty good understanding of the industry. There’s something Calvin Johnson said to me a long time ago. He was talking about the Decline of Western Civilization movies and there’s the second one, the heavy metal one where there’s a montage scene of all these different rockstar guys and the interviewer’s asking them, “What are you going to do if you don’t make it, for people that are aspiring?” And they’re like, “Oh, we’ll make it,” just over and over again. Then he compared it to the first Decline of Western Civilization where that’s not even a question. It’s like, they’re making it. No, one’s making it in that way, but everyone’s doing exactly what they want to do and what they expect to happen and stuff. And you guys aren’t 18 years old like those guys were, but you still have that same attitude, a little bit. You can appreciate things for what they are. 

Lisa: Yeah. And I think otherwise you’re just going to be unhappy. 

Melanie: That’s something that I had to learn too, and it wasn’t even that long ago… I had to learn not to like kill myself over this stuff. And it’s such a huge thing, like doing social media and all of the business sides and weird promoting, I would get so bogged down from it in past projects. And it’s like, once you realize that you just want to do it for fun, [that’s the biggest thing], and actually make music that you really enjoy, it’s nice to not put any kind of pressure on yourself anymore. Just appreciate it for what it is.

Blood Lemon is a post-riot-grrrl rock band from Boise, Idaho. Their debut self-titled album is out April 2021.

(Photo Credit: Matthew Wordell)