Golden Record, the debut from Montreal’s Little Scream, is an album of rich and surreal pop songs, from the subdued textures of “Black Cloud” to the eerie and layered vocals that provide an anchor for “The Lamb.” It’s a distinctive and sometimes haunting work, instantly memorable yet possessing the ability to get lodged in the listener’s mind long after the last notes have faded into the air. The fact that Little Scream (known in some circles as Laurel Sprengelmeyer) is also a visual artist prompted this conversation, which encompasses music, literature, painting, and the areas in which all three disciplines overlap.
The artwork for Golden Record comes from one of your paintings. Does your painting predate your music, or vice versa? How intertwined are the two?
In a lot of ways, yes, painting predates songwriting for me. Even though I started learning instruments as a child, I didn’t start writing songs really til I was 15. My great grandmother, grandfather, and mother all painted. I started learning about classical oil painting techniques when I was about 12. They’ve always been on separate tracks in my mind. But that’s been changing recently, as I’ve started to notice how complementary they seem to be. The album cover is a good example of that – I initially hadn’t intended on using one of my paintings for the cover art, but when we were looking at cover options and listening to the songs at the same time, it seemed to capture the atmosphere in a way the other images didn’t. I’m working more on the convergence of those things, music and visual work — it makes a lot more sense to me now than it ever did.
Your website features a “Story” section, which currently reads “Story time coming soon…” Does your creative output also extend into prose?
As in many areas of my life, I have ‘great’ ideas about how I want to do things, but not always a lot of time to execute them. I couldn’t just put a regular old bio there. Oh no. I have to make it be this weird prosaic hyperlinked document that in my mind is awesome but that I probably won’t finish for 2 more months. So yeah, I guess that’s a long answer for saying that I like prose, and one day in that story section will be some interesting prose thing about my life.
What have you been reading while on tour?
Right now I’m reading Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman and Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. I’m reading Puig because my friend Kaveh and I are working on ideas for short video pieces inspired by the imaginary films described in that book, which is something we eventually want to fold into the visuals for my live show. And I’m reading Murakami because while I was on tour in Germany with Timber Timbre I finished Patti Smith’s Just Kids and I was so eager to share it with someone that I gave it Taylor Kirk and he swapped me the Murakami for it. I’m enjoying both. Spider Woman is such a good read, right from the first few lines.
What are some of your favorite books? Have they had any effect on your music or your art?
My oldest favorites include Miracle of the Rose by Jean Genet, Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky and yes I know, teenage existential cliché! The Stranger by Albert Camus. All writing by Joseph Campbell and Kurt Vonnegut I find incredibly comforting. I sometimes put myself to sleep listening to recordings of them read. John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath is a book everyone should read right now, or re-read if they haven’t read in awhile, it’s incredibly poignant for our time. And I’ve said this before recently, but Patti Smith’s Just Kids has reinforced my commitment to a life of art making in a really pure way, while Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose is reaffirming my suspicion that I am actually a curmudgeonly old man trapped in a lady’s body. I love reading and it’s hard for me to separate out how what I read has an impact on what I make, because it’s all so tied together. But in the past, the connection has often been very literal — for example, when I was in University I made a giant drawing of Jean Genet that the University purchased, and I used to treat canvases and paper by writing over the entire surface of them before covering over them with images in the belief that the words behind them, though unseen, would imbue the pictures with a powerful secret meaning.
(Photo: Bradley Guiterrez)