It was such a treat to have Ashley Eriksson, sweetheart of LAKE (also probably the sweetest-sounding band I’ve ever heard), stop by the K office to talk with me! We discussed her musical beginnings, songwriting, and the relationship between her visual and sonic art.
You just recently went on a small weekend tour with The Hive Dwellers, and LAKE is about to hit the road for a west coast tour. Do you enjoy being on the road? Are there any essentials you need?
Calvin said recently in an interview that he needs a mug. I totally do that too! I feel lost without it. It’s this beautiful thing that you take around with you. It is fragile yet so practical. There are so many things about it that, I think, tie everything together. There is so much when you are on tour that is disposable- disposable everything! When you play at a venue, there are plastic cups for beers, you’re at gas stations… you just feel the waste more intensely than usual.
So, you have been living here in Olympia.
We were in Olympia all winter, living with one of our band mates in an apartment. Usually we live with Eli’s parents and sister in a little house on Whidbey Island.
What is your favorite thing about living in Olympia?
Definitely the co-ops! Also, I can’t picture working with a record label any other way- having K so close is just so intimate.
What is your musical background growing up?
My family is very much into education but music was always around. We had a piano and I was always encouraged to take piano lessons, but I had a really difficult time doing things, following the model of doing academic things. I always really loved conversations and projects in music, but piano lessons were just really hard for me— I just wanted to play by ear and have fun. It was kind of traumatic-I felt kind of traumatized by piano lessons. But I always listened to music a lot and just blissed out with headphones.
I remember in junior high school I was in yearbook class and I had a crush on this guy I knew from years before who was in the class. We went around the room saying what our interests were. When it was his turn he said “guitar and drawing” and then it came to me (I really wanted to learn guitar!) so I said “guitar and drawing”. Then the girl behind me said “guitar and drawing!” [laughs] I was like, “oh no!” but then we ended up becoming friends. She and I had kind of a fake band, just playing covers. I would bring lyrics but we never did anything with them. It was more just hanging out.
What are the overall inspirations and influences for LAKE’s music?
It must be more environmental than we realize. People are usually always uplifted by our music- it was a goal of ours, but now we just do it naturally and unintentionally. It is so common now to hear people say, “There is just so much darkness in music these days! The world is just going to shit!” They are so relieved that somebody is making more uplifting music.
I noticed a few songs from your solo release is featured on LAKE’s self-titled album.
More and more it has changed from being just my songs, to Eli’s songs, to Lindsay’s songs, to us all connecting with each other. Since Eli and I are so close, we do this thing where we write songs together on many levels. A lot of songs, he’ll write the the music and I’ll write the lyrics…it’s incredible. Growing up doing art I always had a really hard time doing things with other people. I know in the beginning of the band, I had parts, they were rigid parts and “you have to play it this way and this is why!” But then over time, it becomes so much more about other people and their contributions. It’s exhilarating to bring less to the table and to have more fleshed out by the others.
You are a visual artist as well. Is there any crossover between your visual art and your music?
I think very visually when it comes to music. I feel like I work a lot with images and colors and rhythms and to me, they are the same language. [As a visual artist] I think a lot about color, contrast, and symbols when I’m walking around and looking at stuff. I often find myself flipping through books and reading the images rather than words. Or when I’m surfing the internet, I use Google images more than I use regular Google. When it actually comes to creating visual art, however, I find it to be extremely difficult to execute something to be the way I want it to be. I enjoy the process, mostly, but am usually disappointed with the result. Painting the light on someone’s face, or the way it reflects on thousands of leaves, is somewhat soothing to recreate, but I might not make it to the end result before my arm hurts too much or I am ready to work on something else. If I am inspired to draw, or paint, I might just opt to “paint with my eyes” and just appreciate the thing in the moment.
Music, however, and songwriting, give me a theater for my visual art, which is far more satisfying. I suppose that part of the experience of visual art is the silence that surrounds it, or the thoughts you have when you are looking at it, or making it. So, obviously, one medium informs the other. I like the feeling of saturation when it comes to writing songs. Does that make sense? For a whole song to feel like a room filled with yellow afternoon light with dust floating around. It could also be described as the sedating overwhelming emotion that hits you when a songs starts, and stays until the end. When the words and images can be one with that feeling, then I am happy. I usually write the music first, or Eli writes the music, so it is a matter of finding the right images and words to match the music. Not that every song is going to be like this, but I think my most successful ones achieve this. At least, that is my experience. But to get back to visual art. I am always expanding my visual vocabulary. When I come upon an image which can represent an emotion, or mixed emotion, then those are very useful when connecting all of these ideas together within the context of a song.