Jonson Kuhn | New SCENE
You didn’t hear it from me, but word on the street is that Colorado-based musician Allison Lorenzen likes her meat just like she likes her records: Tender. So, with this in mind, it should come as no surprise that she has chosen to go with Tender as the title of her new solo album, which was released online through Whited Sepulchre Records and is available on Spotify and Bandcamp Right Freaking Now!
This marks Allison’s official return back to the music scene after a brief departure once her acclaimed Philly-based dark-wave duo School Dance disbanded. Her entire approach this time around has been different, to say the least, but that all bleeds over nicely into an album that itself is altogether different in the face of mainstream Top 40 music. Lyrics from the opening track “Birds, A Chapel” speak about the feeling of being a fish out of water and the reference serves perfectly as both a vulnerable introduction as well as an overall metaphor to Allison’s very personal, very thoughtful work.
Aside from the music itself sounding ethereal and soulful throughout, it also creates a kind of space for heavy reflection, and in a time when everything every day feels heavy and calls for reflection, the album feels right at home and is perhaps just a little of what we all could use. Whether the music grabs you personally or not, this type of fearless, independent expression should always be applauded as it reminds the rest of us that dreams aren’t simply waited on but rather built and constructed with our own two hands.
Listening to Tender is like driving down a beach in slow motion at dusk with your middle finger extending out of the window toward every one of life’s many upsets, disappoints, or setbacks, and different things are like exploding behind you in the distance and they’re in slow motion, too, but you’re too busy looking to the future and forgetting your past to notice or care. Eventually, the beach comes to an end, as does the album, so you find a place to get coffee and drive home with your lessons learned and wounds licked, ultimately deciding that maybe life’s going to be okay after all.
Allison was gracious enough to recently participate in a 7-hour North Forty Q&A session. It was intense, a lot of crying, a lot of screaming; if I’m being totally honest, very little of it had anything to do with the album at all, but what follows is the best of that 7-hour Q&A session.
TNS: Where does the title Tender come from?
AL: I love that the word is nuanced and can range in use from an adjective – sensitive, affectionate, gentle to noun- means of exchange or one who tends/ cares for. I was toying around with Tender Shepherd as a name for my solo project and played a few shows under that name before deciding on releasing music under my birth-given name but kept the Tender sentiment for the album.
TNS: This is a lot of “firsts” for you – seeing how it’s your first solo and first full-length album, but it’s also your first self-recorded. Recording your own album, that places you high up there with the likes of David Bowie, Dave Grohl, or Jonny Woodrose. It all seems like it would be quite the undertaking; can you talk a little about what the recording process looked like exactly?
AL: It WAS quite the undertaking and I learned so much along the way. I had fortunately collected the tools necessary for a recording setup before lockdown began. I also fortuitously ended up being in lockdown with my childhood piano. I had a couple of distanced meetings with friends who showed me some recording basics and I spent a lot of time researching recording techniques. For the most part, I recorded a skeleton of each song starting with piano and vocals, and built around them. My friend Dan Henry drove out from Philadelphia to add guitar and bass guitar to most songs and Midwife contributed to ‘Chalk’ and ‘Tentacles’.
TNS: I saw positive reviews for your song “Vale” in Goldflake Paint, FLOOD Magazine, 303 Magazine, and Various Small Flames. I know there was a team-up with Madeline Johnston of Midwife, but team-ups aside, why do you personally feel that particular song seemed to resonate with so many and/or received so much attention?
AL: “Vale” was the first song I released in almost 5 years and the first one since my former band, School Dance. I had help with PR in order to give the song the welcome party it called for. On the one hand, it’s a near-perfect song. On the other, I had help with PR. So, 6 dozen of one; half dozen of the other.
TNS: I read in Westword that you once upon a time performed in Denmark and Germany with a collective called Live Art Installations. The article talked about how that experience helped you understand the relationship between choreography and movement within compositions. Do you care to explain more about the correlation you find between physical movement and writing music?
AL: The creative energy I experience while dancing is the same creative energy I tap into while making music. Movement is integral to life and is everywhere. Allowing and revealing the movement within a song is part of the task of songwriting. I think a lot of musicians create their music with some level of awareness of how bodies might interpret it. For me, dance is like language, and the work that I have done in that realm has provided me with a vocabulary that allows me (the opportunity) to articulate and express in a way that I might not have been able to otherwise.
TNS: So much of the album feels reflective in the sense that a lot of the songs seem to be looking to the past and asking questions or coming to realizations, am I wrong about that? What were some of the inspirations behind the overall mood or feel of the album?
AL: A lot of the album is self-reflective and looks at past relationships and experiences with the overall aim of growth and experiencing wholeness. Although many of the songs appear to be outward-gazing, they inevitably circle back to my relationship with myself, which is at the core. Not all songs are relationship-focused, though. For instance, I wrote “Tentacles” in 2014 after watching Alien for the first time, and the second line refers to an experience I had when I was 3 years old, chasing a kitten in a driveway. In a way, my music is an expression of me processing moments in relationships with other people or with society; feeling sometimes disillusioned and hopeless and at other times overcome with awe at moments of sweetness.
TNS: Okay, no more softball; these are the harder questions. If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only take one song from this album with you, which one do you think it would be and why?
AL: “Chalk.” In what way are we not stranded on a desert island.
TNS: You stepped away from music around 2017 and then returned in 2019. So, I think what the fans want to know and, quite frankly, have a right to know, is what was going on between 2017 and 2019? Was it rehab?
AL: It was not; at least not in the literal sense.
TNS: Your song “Chalk”, I assume, after having watched the music video on NPR, is about the great American chalk shortage during the Civil War in where tens of schoolteachers across the country had to resort to writing on chalkboards in their own blood, is that correct? If not, can you explain what the song is about? Also, who directed the video?
AL: The video was directed by Jack Manzi of Silver Island Studios. I would like to invite and encourage the listener to have their own experience as to the meaning of the song, particularly with “Chalk.” There is certainly an element of haunted prairie aesthetic and implied blood-ridden chalkboards to be found within the video.
TNS: You had your official release show on December 4th at Fort Greene Bar in Denver with special guests Midwife and Bluebook at 7 pm. In three words or less, why that venue and why those special guests AND why that time?!
AL: Dream Release Show!
Be sure to follow Allison around on social media, it’s more appropriate than following her around in real life!