On “Romantic Cancer,” her latest release as Globelamp, psych-folk influenced singer/songwriter Elizabeth Le Fey has adopted a much more stripped-down sound than her previous releases. Le Fey’s powerful voice can effortlessly bounce between being ethereal and aggressive, and minimalism in the instrumentation lets it truly shine. Originally from California, Le Fey headed to the East Coast to make the album, recording in the Catskill Mountains at Bohemesphere Studios.
Could you discuss the reasons behind the stripped-down sound of “Romantic Cancer”?
Elizabeth LaFey: Yeah. It is definitely stripped down. I have two other albums, and they have a lot of overdubs and all that. I like that, but when I perform, I perform alone as Globelamp. When people see me live, it’s me with my guitar or keyboard, so I wanted to have one album that sounded truer to what I sound like live. I wanted my discography to contain a stripped-down album that didn’t have a bunch of stuff on it. I like overdubs, but I feel like people also go overboard nowadays.
For me, I like stripping it down and finding the minimalism in it, just with the song structure and how you can frame words or melodies instead of cramming as many overdubs over it as you can. That is fun too. I don’t always want to make a stripped-down album like this, but I felt like it was good to have it in my collection because the other ones are really psychedelic, and it’s a lot of overdubs and me singing. That is cool, but I wanted people to have an album that felt more like seeing me live.”
Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens and Neil Young have albums where it’s just them and their vocals and singing. Folk singers were my inspiration. Everybody always wants me to add more stuff, but when you listen to some Bob Dylan albums with your headphones on, all you can hear is the vocals sometimes.
Were they ever times when you avoided doing something in order to stay within that concept?
Elizabeth LaFey: If something comes to me when I’m creating something, and I like it, then I’ll use it. I definitely added some things. There’s accordion, and I didn’t really know before if there was going to be. If something sounds good, yes, I will add it.
Unless I have a really strict vision about one song; maybe that will happen to me sometimes, but I’m usually pretty open-minded. Except when other people try to come in and add stuff on there that I don’t want. But if someone suggests an idea and we’re in the middle of recording, and I like it, I’m not opposed to that. I’m not somebody who’s completely like, “No, this is how it has to be. I already have it all mapped out.”
I did have it all mapped out with what I wanted it to sound like, but I’m open to people’s suggestions if they don’t take over. A lot of people, when they record me, they hear their own version of the song. They’re like, “Oh, I can hear this in it. I could hear that. I could hear …” It’s like, “I know. Everybody can hear their own version of what could be the song.”
For me, recording it was kind of a battle because the recording engineer always wanted to add more overdubs. I think he was used to working with people who do that more. I don’t think he had ever worked with a solo artist who was making psychedelic folk.
It ended up working out. He realized that my method actually worked. He thought I was just lollygagging around or something, but I wasn’t. I know what I’m doing. I’m not the same as a band, it’s just me. It’s just one person.
Do you think that recording in the Catskill Mountains had an impact?
Elizabeth LaFey: Yes. It was nice because it was winter and cold and I got to be trapped away, recording all the songs. I’d been practicing them for so long that I could record them really fast. They were songs that I had done and had memorized. I’m from a place where it doesn’t snow, so it was snowing here and it was all pretty and it was nice to be able to make an album in the winter here and to see snow and be secluded. The songs were already written, so it was nice because I could get them done really quickly.
But the recording environment affects things. This time, I came prepared. My other albums took forever to record, and they were spread out for months. This time, it was like, we just got together for two weeks straight and recorded it. I had never really done that before, just recorded the whole album really quickly.
Every other album I’ve done took a long time to record. So, this was nice to actually go in and record; I actually recorded more songs that aren’t even on the album. I’m just going to use them on the next one.
Did you write the album has a whole, or were there previously unrecorded and unreleased songs used?
Elizabeth LaFey: Yes, a few of them. Like this one song on there, “No Hesitation.” That’s a song I’ve been playing for a few years live and people always ask if it is on a CD. And I’m like, “It’s not on the CD.”
People had been listening to me for a while, and they’d heard that song. That’s kind of a good, nice feeling to be like, “Somebody already knew the song and wanted to hear it.” There are some songs that nobody really ever heard except when I put it out. The second song, “Everything’s a Spiral,” was one of the first songs I ever wrote and it had a different name before. It was on my EP a long time ago, but it never got a proper release.
I felt like it needed a proper release. Anyone who’s a real Globelamp fan knows it’s a really old song. It’s one of the first songs I ever wrote that didn’t ever get a place on an album. So, I put it on there. Some songs, like “Look Out Mountain,” I’ve never really played for many people. Same goes for “Charmed”; I haven’t played that for many people. I’m a live streamer too. I livestream a lot, so I perform online. Some of my fans online have heard some of the songs, but it made me question my next album.
Do I want them to know all the songs next time? You know, it’s making me think about that now because a lot of my fans already knew a lot of the songs. I feel like it might be kind of fun if they don’t.
How often do you livestream?
Elizabeth LaFey: I try to every day. Well, fans for me are why I’m able to make music because I don’t really have that much support from the music industry for some reason. I’m kind of blacklisted for speaking out about Foxygen, the band I was in. The lead singer hit me in the face. Got a five-year restraining order on me that he’s trying to renew right now, that I’m trying to fight him against in court. So stuff like that, which is kind of dumb. (Click here for more info / make a donation to help cover legal fees.)
I don’t know why that would make the music industry not write about me. For some reason, they’re like, “Oh, we can’t talk about this.” It’s very weird and pretentious. For me, my fans are honestly the reason why I continue making music. I don’t even have any budget and I don’t have any manager. I don’t have a touring manager. I don’t have anything.
My fans are the ones who have given me most of my money to do things, like record. They’re everything to me. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything. The music industry hasn’t really supported me much. My fans are the ones who have been there for me. They’re my support system.
Since you thrive on direct communication with fans, have you ever considered moving away from album releases and just making songs available to fans as you create them?
Elizabeth LaFey: Oh, I love albums. I think they hold power in them. I’ve always loved albums. The theme, the picture to look through it. It’s like its own world. Singles are cool too, I guess, but that’s another reason why I love Taylor Swift. She’s one of the biggest pop stars in the world and she still pushes people to buy CDs.
What happens when we lose somebody who’s a multi-millionaire pop star who actually pushes albums, not just singles? Once we don’t have someone like that in the music industry anymore, I bet albums are going to be obsolete because they’re already going out. It’s nice that someone like Taylor Swift, who’s super big, believes in albums too. Her albums are always thematic. She’s all about an album for the same reason I am. We like to look through it, open it up and have your own world, like a storybook. You know, when you were little, you used to look at the whole album.
Songs are cool too, but there’s nothing like a full album. It’s like a book with chapters, and that’s why I like her too. Even if people don’t sound like her, she is helping smaller artists by continuing to push albums. A lot of people aren’t. It’s going down the other way. But when somebody’s superpower is still pushing for us to make albums, it helps smaller artists a little bit, you know?
If she wasn’t up there doing that, then maybe they would be in the dust even quicker. A lot of people lose appreciation for the whole album. That’s why she didn’t put her stuff on Spotify for a year. She wanted people to actually get the album. I know that can seem selfish, people say, but also it makes a point. And it helps smaller artists. She doesn’t have to do that. She can make whatever money she wants, but I like that she does that sometimes. She helps other artists get compensated.
She doesn’t need the money or doesn’t need that stuff, but she does deals. I think it’s cool, and I still always care about albums. I have no problem making a single, though. I make random songs all the time, but I like to make the aesthetic. I like making worlds and visuals. When I make an album, I like to have it all together like that. It’s nice to curate it and to give it a theme.
What made you decide to use the name Globelamp rather than your own?
Elizabeth LaFey: Growing up, I really liked Cat Power, and I liked that she went by Cat Power instead of Chan Marshall. I thought that was interesting because people always thought it was a band and I always thought Globelamp could turn into a band. It could change. I don’t like the idea of it just being my name because what if I wanted to change it? I like to be ambiguous. If somebody reads it, they don’t know if it’s a band or what, instead of it just being my name.
Where did the name come from?
Elizabeth LaFey: I got the name Globelamp from the book Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block. I’m actually friends with the author now. It’s crazy because the book inspired me to make my band name. She has a Globelamp, and there’s a chapter in the book called Globelamp. I thought it was really cool and I loved it. I ended up meeting the author, and she wrote my bio. It was really awesome for me to be able to meet the woman who inspired my band name.
I realize it’s kind of hard to say. I didn’t ever think it was until I was telling people on the phone and they’re always like, “Glowlamp?” They never know what I’m saying. I’m like, “Man, I guess Globelamp can be hard to hear or something.”
What is in the future for you?
I’m working on the next stuff. I talked to the old guitarist from Third Eye Blind, and he told me he would be on one of my songs. So I’m working on a song right now for him to be on it. His name’s Kevin Cadogan. He’s the original guitarist of Third Eye Blind who helped write their masterpiece self-titled album. He wrote “Jumper,” “How’s It Going to Be.” He wrote all the hits, so to have him agree to be on it really was exciting for me. I know it’s a different style than mine. He’s going to make up a cool guitar and a soloing part over something. He won’t change the style. He’s really good at making up tunings and playing in different chord progressions, so I’m really excited to see what he makes up.