Lilac Shadows’ serene soundscapes don’t exactly recall the Triangle area. They don’t particularly recall anywhere on Earth, really. Do the rings of Saturn have a soundtrack? If not, their latest EP, A Shallow Madness, may be a worthy candidate.
But interstellar vibes aside, the psychedelic/shoegaze/pop group has found solace in the unpredictable, cooperative Triangle music scene that covers Raleigh, Carrboro, Durham and Chapel Hill.
“I love being a part of the scene here,” says Sam Logan, guitarist and vocalist for Lilac Shadows. “It’s a really collaborative scene. The downside of that is that everybody in the scene is in like five different bands, so it gets very incestuous, but also that’s kind of fun, and you can jump around projects and there’s a lot of room to collaborate and do weird stuff.”
Logan began playing around 2007 while attending UNC-Chapel Hill. He played with Carrboro indie-pop outfit the Huguenots, and formed Lilac Shadows after that group broke up in 2011, aiming to show off his more somber side.
“The Huguenots were a lot poppier, and I guess more of a sunny kind of ‘60s pop band, and so I kind of wanted to go a different route and do something a little darker and a little moodier,” Logan says. “Based on that and then also the headspace I was in after that band broke up, I was kind of just writing darker things.”
But Lilac Shadows didn’t end up as a plodding celebration of misery. The tunes on A Shallow Madness and the single “Turn It Off” feature dynamic shifts in mood and a preponderance of infectious vocal melodies.
“I always gravitate towards music that does have a good melodic sense, so I think no matter what shape the songs take, that’s always going to be something I’m conscious of is trying to make it something that’s memorable in a melodic way,” Logan says. “No matter how many layers of weirdness I try to add to a song, it’s gonna’ probably still have something melodic to it at the end of the day, just because that’s what I grew up listening to and appreciating in songwriting.”
With the ear-worm vocal-lines out of the way, the next songwriting aspect Logan says he wants to focus on with Lilac Shadows’ new material is consistency.
“Some of my favorite bands are able to take pop melodies and do really weird things with them in a short span of time,” Logan says. “So I think that’s what we’re really trying to do is just boil down the direction that Lilac Shadows … originally started to do and just make it more concise.”
Nathan Price, a staple of the Triangle scene, has played in many local bands, including lo-fi indie rockers the Lollipops. He joined Lilac Shadows a little over a year ago, providing more guitars and occasional keyboard lines. He says that Logan would often come to practice with demos of songs in need of some tweaking.
“Sam definitely comes in with some pretty cool ideas a lot of the time. Some of the songs he almost has completely done when he comes in,” Price says. “He’s a really good drummer and guitar player, so he can finish those things up sometimes pretty quickly if he gets a good idea. And then sometimes he’ll come in with just a guitar part and we’ll figure it all out from there.”
But Logan says he hopes to shy away from shouldering the burden of songwriting alone. Lilac Shadows wrote an album that they plan to release in January and have already begun writing more new songs, many of which make up their current live set. Logan says these songs have been more collaborative.
“In the last few months … I had a whole bunch of new songs that were mostly sketches of things, like a bassline or a guitar part or a melody, rather than trying to come up with them on my own, I’ve been more interested in actually writing songs with a band and having people help me finish the songs,” Logan says. “That’s totally new for me. I’ve never written songs that way before, so it’s been really awesome.”
The new record will come out on DiggUp Tapes, a local indie tape label co-founded by Price. DiggUp Tapes has been an important venue for Lilac Shadows and other Triangle bands to get their music out to a larger audience. The label sells small runs of their tapes at live shows, and puts nearly all of their releases up on Bandcamp for free. The mission, according to Price, isn’t profit, but rather exposure.
“We definitely prefer people to hear it,” Price says. “It’s pretty much just a couple of us that help with DiggUp Tapes, so we’re just trying to do what we can. The goal right now is not for DiggUp Tapes to turn into Merge … it’s for one of the bands on DiggUp Tapes to move up to something like that.”
Until the album release, Lilac Shadows are workshopping the new songs on the road. By toying with improvisation, ambiance and general band interplay, Logan says the tunes will mature more naturally.
“We’re definitely trying to push ourselves. … The whole set is not entirely planned out,” Logan says. “We’re playing a bunch of shows in smaller DIY spaces and more experimental venues where we can try to figure out where these songs need to go and … sort of build ourselves more in this atmospheric sense.”
Lilac Shadows play the Apothecary with Kovacs & the Polar Bear, Lonnie Walker and Jonah-Parzen-Johnson on Oct. 5 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $5-7. For more information, visit http://ashevilleapothecary.info/.