For Albuquerque, New Mexico new wave/synth-pop band Lindy Vision, family casts a shadow over everything. The trio — comprised of three Black Native sisters, Dorothy (Dee Dee), Natasha (Na), and Carla Cuylear — has spent the last six years honing their unique sonic palette, a mix of dark ‘80s new wave, bouncy synth-pop, and ethereal indie-rock that has drawn comparisons to Santigold, M.I.A., Devo, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and more. In that time, their music has landed them on bills supporting Spoon, Durand Jones and the Indications, A Tribe Called Red, Magic Giant, and more.
On their new EP, Adult Children Part II, Lindy Vision continues to create sweeping, synth-heavy soundscapes that provide a foundation for their introspective, emotionally raw musings on adult life after a tumultuous upbringing.
(Photo Credit: Cougar Vigil)
Lindy Vision is a trio of sisters — Carla, Dorothy, and Natasha Cuylear — making synth-pop in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They just released the second part of their two-part Adult Children album in March, and here, the three have a roundtable discussion about how their dynamic as sisters translates to their dynamic as bandmates, and how the book Adult Children of Alcoholics inspired the new project. Read it below, and buy the album!
— Annie Fell, Talkhouse Senior Editor
Carla Cuylear: Dee Dee, how did reading the book Adult Children of Alcoholics by Janet Woititz affect you, and what made you want to bring that book to our attention?
Dorothy Cuylear: It was actually gifted to me by one of my yogi friends. I’ve done a lot of therapy and counseling with people before, so they knew the background of our family dynamic, and my history with substance abuse. Nobody had ever given me a book like this — basically it highlights a lot of the challenges children of alcoholics face as adults, and a lot of the commonalities that they share.
For me, it was important to bring to your attention because it was a lot of what we had already experienced in our band. A lot of the fights we’d have, the emotional issues — [the book] kind of gave me a reference point. It was like, Oh, we’re not so isolated in our emotions and feelings, we share this with other adult children of alcoholics. I kind of used it as a tool of awareness for what we were experiencing, and it helped give me hope because I didn’t feel so alone. This is something that a lot of people who’ve had this in their family go through, and that’s why we’re experiencing it. Feeling alone or abandoned or misunderstood, or feeling the need to be validated are common emotions that normal people feel, but they can be exacerbated in adult children of alcoholics.
Carla: That makes a lot more sense, because when I heard you were reading that book, and that you wanted us to read it, I though, OK, whatever. Because I always kind of thought of us as adult children, since we grew up together and we have that same dynamic as sisters. You’re the oldest, so when we do have arguments, you always have the last say. That’s what I thought the book was going to be about, just being childish, but it actually brings up a lot of good adult topics that I think a lot of people can relate to.
Natasha Cuylear: I wanted to ask both of you: From the moment we started working on this project, did you think that it would have ended up where it ended up? Did you think it was going to go in this direction?
Dorothy: Most of our projects have always been organic, meaning, they take on a life of their own; Adult Children was no different. I didn’t read that book and intentionally make an album based off of it, but it was just the book I happened to be reading and the emotions I happened to be feeling at the time. And our band was really at a turning point, where I don’t know if we knew where we were going our what our goals were. So I think that book, for me, tied our emotions together and gave our emotions validation in a place I we didn’t quite understand each other as well. I think the book gave me hope in the sense that we have this back ground, we have this history, and we have this story to tell, but how do we tie that together? The emotions explored on the album really link back to the book.
But yeah, it fleshed itself out along the way. We decided to name it Adult Children while we were recording it, and usually when we’re making an executive decision like that and it’s unanimous — which is really rare for us — we know that it’s something we’ll go forward with. We didn’t question it, we trusted it was our intuition and that it was the path we were supposed to be on.
Carla: I didn’t know exactly, but this record felt better than the last record, Jute, I think because that mourning period — it’s always going to be there, we’re always going to miss our mom, so there was a little bit of continuation. For me, this album felt a little better because we were starting a new project. I just didn’t know that it was going to be two parts, or that I was going to be as dynamic, or that we’d have that strong of a title. I didn’t know where it was going, but it certainly felt better than the former record emotionally because we still stuck together after that, and were continuing with our lives as musicians, which I think our mom would have been proud of.
Natasha: I asked that question, too, because for me personally, when we were writing this album, I felt like the songs came first, and then it was interesting to tie everything together and see this theme and these emotions present in music we’d already written. It’s really cool to take music we’ve written and be able to make it this complete project when it didn’t necessarily start out that way.
Dorothy: I think you make something and then you reflect upon it, and try to make it presentable to your audience so they understand it. People always want to know, “how is your next project different from your last?” Or, “what makes it stand out?” I think for us, being vulnerable and more honest than we’ve been on any other record is what set this one apart from Jute or Lindy + Vision or Pink + Black. I think on a lot of those past records, we were trying to figure out our sound and establish our writing.
Carla: I think this record becoming two parts made it more authentic. There’s just no other way to be now, especially after that devastating loss of our mother. I think there’s something in this new songwriting that I think people are hearing finally, and it’s just more authentic.
Dorothy: Natasha — what ultimately inspired you for this album?
Natasha: I think as a guitarist, what I’m always inspired by is… other songs? [Laughs.] It’s tough being a guitarist, because you’re trying to convey an emotion through your guitar. I’ve always had a certain style and sound that I try to produce, and I always try to stay true to that. I know the guitar parts that I like and have spoken to me on other records. I always go back to Interpol’s Turn On The Bright Lights — Daniel Kessler and Paul Banks, I love. Radiohead and Coldplay — I listen to the instrumentation as much as I listen to the lyrics. I always want my guitar to have its own voice. It’s kind of hard to say where I get my inspiration from. I guess I’ve always been kind of drawn to more melancholy, sad things. I find beauty in the scores of movies like Melancholia and Eternal Sunshine. I’m always looking to evoke some sort of emotion, be it sadness, or with this record I even experimented with more upbeat guitar parts, which was new for me.
Dorothy: Yeah, I’ve noticed that a goal of yours with writing has always been to write something sad.
Natasha: [Laughs.] I don’t know if it’s always sad! I find beauty in sadness — without the sadness, I don’t think you’d be able to feel happy or joyful.
Dorothy: I think “One Big Party” really captured that melancholy feeling. That’s one of my favorite songs, and I give that a lot to the guitar effect.
Carla, what inspired you for Adult Children?
Carla: You two. I’m kind of an accessory — when you think about beats and synthesizers, I’m always trying to highlight what you’re doing to make it better and make the feeling come across. I always try to elevate your ideas, and on top of that emulate what I think is cool in art. Specifically, I like to do a bit of trickery, which is play the drum kit but also play drum beats at the same time. The listener doesn’t really know if they’re listening to a drum machine or a drum kit, and I got that from The Cure.
With “One Big Party,” for instance, I came up with the synth part and the beat first, and you guys came up with everything around it and made it a thousand times what it became. That’s where I start records: What are you guys doing, and how can I help it, and hopefully try to inspire some more stuff?
Dorothy: Since we make our albums together as a family, my next question is: How does your [place in the] birth order affect your writing in the group, or what direction you take?
Carla: Being the youngest, I guess you could say I’m the most willing to follow you guys. Our whole lives have been that way, where if you guys are doing something, I want to do it too. I always follow you, Dee Dee, the most, since you’re the oldest. When you went into pharmacy school, I wanted to go into pharmacy school; it’s kind of a similar nature in the band, where if you guys are doing something, I want to add to it.
Natasha: I think being the middle, I can go either way, with both Carla and Dorothy when we’re writing. I’m right in the middle of everything — I feel like when we’re writing, I feel torn between ideas. I’ve always felt like the mediator when we’re writing. As a guitarist, I feel like I have to bridge two competing ideas and unify things. I feel like that within our family dynamic, where there may be some discord, or not everyone is in agreement, and as the middle child I’ve had to bring people together. And sometimes I’m the one causing the issues [Laughs], but I feel like my role, and how I’ve always felt, is that it’s my job to be the voice of reason and bring people together.
Dorothy: I’m the oldest, so naturally I’ve taken on sort of a leadership role in our family, and it’s no different in our band. I do feel like with this album, I made it a goal to not write by myself, which was kind of a different take on it. Usually I’ll write something by myself and work on it for hours, and then I’ll present it to the girls. This album I wrote entirely with them, which was very different for me. Because we did work with a producer, Enrique Tena Padilla, who works with Thee Oh Sees, I really relinquished my grip with the band. I always feel the need to control things, but I was just trusting in the process. [Enrique] was going to play the role of oldest sister here, and I was just going to trust him; I wasn’t going to argue for any of my personal parts or lyrical things. He actually helped me with a lot of my lyrics — not necessarily changing them, but just changing the phrasing so that an audience could receive them a bit better and not get bored. I really appreciated it, because they were concepts I had never thought of.
Carla: Having an outsider talk to us about the songs helped us step back. We fought a lot less on this record — it was either “yes” or “no” from an outside person. Either it sounds good or it doesn’t.
I really like a lot of the guitar parts on the album — specifically, I like that you play notes a lot, not chords. Can you expand on guitar parts like “Abandonment,” and how you made it sound whimsical, and how you made “One Big Party” sound so dreamlike?
Natasha: In terms of my guitar style, I really had to step out of my comfort zone on this album. I think that’s because we were working with a producer and he had some thoughts about how I played guitar [Laughs]. But I learned a lot about how I play, and ways to vary how I play, because I play very simple. I like the simplicity — don’t think you have to be playing over everything. A couple notes here and there, placed properly, can create a big impact on a song. I’ve always liked that dreamlike [sound], like what Beach House does, and I was very specific with our producer about that. I think it comes out on “One Big Party.”
I was struggling more with the guitar part on “Abandonment.” Working with our producer, I scaled that part back so much, which I think is where you get that more whimsical [sound]. I’m used to playing… not like that. [Laughs.]
Carla: [Laughs.] I’d never heard it, that’s why I liked it!
Natasha: It was cool though, creating more variety with how I usually play, more movement in the guitar to help move the song along. I will say, from my perspective: This was the most challenging album to write guitar parts for. I think it’s because our music keeps evolving, and as an artist being in a band, I have to keep asking, how do I want to evolve as a guitarist and how do I evolve with the band?
Carla: I think we added you in a lot of the time — we made the idea, and then you came in and made it a different idea. You’d evolve the song, and we’d start writing more for it.
Dee Dee, because you’re a lyricist and most people listen to lyrics when they hear songs, how would you like listeners to receive the album?
Dorothy: I think I just want to be more understood. I hope people understand our band a little more. And with being understood, you hope that they connect with you on that emotional level. I guess being vulnerable and being honest with my lyrics — like in “One Big Party,” talking about feeling left behind or that you’re not somewhere you need to be — it’s just wanting to be understood. You write these words, and they’re words meant for somebody, for a particular person or a particular audience. I don’t always get to tell that person how I feel, but I get to do it in this band. I hope that person, or whoever receives the album, understands it a little better.
Even for our parents — it’s a testament to them, honoring them and telling them things we couldn’t always tell them growing up. I did feel abandoned growing up; I didn’t feel loved, I felt confused. It’s sort of communicating beyond this world, and talking to people you couldn’t have these conversations with.
Carla: My favorite lyrics come from “Poison” — did you have anybody in mind when you wrote that other than yourself? Because I actually relate to it myself with my past boyfriends, where I had that kind of dynamic where I was so consuming to them, like I was eating them up and I was their poison.
Dorothy: Yeah, Adult Children of Alcoholics talks about how your adult relationships can really affect your when you’re older. I noticed that we all didn’t always quite have healthy interactions with people, so it was just about being aware of the issues you have and knowing that I have habits I’m working on. We don’t necessarily get to it in the song, but it’s a hopeful song. I’ve had people love me despite those faults, if you want to call them faults. It’s like, “I’m telling you all of these problems but I’m still finding love, and finding hope in love.”
Carla: My favorite lyric is “kill you if you stay long enough” — you can be all-consuming if you have issues, and project them onto other people, so that’s why I thought it was the most important track on the record lyrically. It really does touch on incorrect relationships that some adult children of alcoholics might have with other people.
Dorothy: I think all of us have had extensive counseling and done a lot of personal growth and therapy. It is important to acknowledge that there’s a healing aspect to this album, and a healing aspect of your life. Even when you go through trauma, your life doesn’t stop where that trauma happened. You can keep going and continue to heal past it.
Adult Children Part II, along with Lindy Vision’s previous albums, is available for purchase now.