Indigo De Souza releases a full-band, garage-rock album

MAKING MAGIC: Though Indigo De Souza started as a solo, acoustic artist, “I became bored of singer-songwriter life,” she says with a laugh. When she connected with musicians Owen Stone, left, and Jake Lenderman, right, her songs morphed into what she’d been hearing in her head. “I don’t even have to tell them what I want. They just know,” she says. Photo by Alice Epanchintseva

Because this is Asheville, synchronicity is not just a Police album from the early ’80s — it’s a way of life. When local musician Indigo De Souza, who had been following Columbia, S.C., transplants Elvis Depressedly (an indie-rock duo) on Twitter, and that band’s members Mat Lee Cothran and Delaney Mills mentioned they were looking for someone to rent the house next to theirs, De Souza went to check the place out, “partly because I needed a house and partly because I wanted to meet them, because I’ve always been a big fan,” she says. It was Cothran and Mills who showed her the place, and “we just became good friends first, and then we ended up playing music together, and I’m actually singing on one of the songs [they put out] on their last album.”

Elvis Depressedly will also perform at the release show for De Souza’s new, full-length record, which launches at The Mothlight on Saturday, June 23.

De Souza’s 10-track album is called I Love You Mom — a surprise for the musician’s mother, who created the painting that will be featured as the record’s cover art. (The mother and daughter have long collaborated on visual art: “When I was 5, my mom would take the drawings I’d do and blow them up really large on a canvas and paint them,” De Souza says. Her father is a bossa nova guitarist from Brazil.)

Though the record was still being mastered at press time, a rough mix of the track “Like Everybody Else” offers a hint of what’s to come. Warm, fuzzy guitars and crisp percussion under De Souza’s sweet-with-bite vocal recall ’90s-era Cranberries. This is more angsty, though; its pop instincts muddied and confessions colored with irreverence. But the coiled energy is there, as is the sonic explosion — the punch and snarl — around the 1:30 minute mark. “When am I gonna go back to school, like everybody else does?” De Souza sings. “When am I gonna start being cool, like everybody else is?”

For those mostly familiar with De Souza as the intrepid singer-songwriter, introduced to the Asheville scene at age 14, the rock ethos of this new album might come as a surprise. “I’d definitely been hearing the [full band] sound all along, but never had the right people to back it up,” De Souza — no longer a teenager — explains. “When I met Owen [Stone] and Jake [Lenderman] and realized we clicked musically, it was like magic.” Stone and Lenderman have been collaborating on each other’s creations for a while; Lenderman’s own project, MJ Lenderman, will open the Mothlight show.

Though De Souza hasn’t put out a lot of music, what she has released has been varied. “I used to hang out at Echo Mountain Studios and record there,” she says of her early work. “Since I moved on from there, I’ve mostly recorded in people’s basements or bedrooms.” Two EPs, available on Bandcamp, include a shoegaze project and a neo-soul effort.

“I feel like it’s confusing to people who I am, because I’m putting out a lot of different kinds of music,” says De Souza. “But I’m more excited about that than taking a one-sized approach.”

While she’s been advised to pick a genre and stick to it, “I’ve never been able to do that because my mind strays to so many different kinds of music,” De Souza says. “The people I’m working with inspire the type of music I’m making.”

The 2017 neo-soul EP, don’t cry just do, was in collaboration with Ethan Baechtold, “a jazz genius,” De Souza says. The dreamy, sonically collaged Boys, from 2016, includes contributions from local artists Ryan Lassiter, Michael Libramento and Andrew Costantion (the latter is also credited with the concept). But, “When I’m playing rock music in a basement with people, I tend to write more angsty-female lyrics.”

It’s worth noting that, across genres and lineups, it’s De Souza’s vocal — the crystalline high notes, the sleepy low notes and the honey ease with which she slips from one register to another — that defines and drives each project. Her delivery is intelligent and artful, unexpected but relatable. She doesn’t need to pick a style: She is the style.

For I Love You Mom — which De Souza describes as garage-rock with pop flair — “Collin Miller is the guy who made it all happen. He engineered it, [and] he’s also mixing and mastering,” says De Souza. “It was pretty simple. We did live recordings of the songs with all of us playing at the same time, and we added pretty stuff over the top.”

The release show will include not only some of De Souza’s favorite fellow musicians, but merch that she’s created (“I’m printing T-shirts with my own designs on them and tote bags,” she says). Local music fans might want to catch De Souza now while she still calls Asheville home: “New York City is where I’ve always wanted to be,” she says. “I really like the fast-paced energy and how everyone is working really hard and moving together … like a large organism.”

For an artist who has been pushing her own boundaries and stretching her skill set, it makes sense that stretching her wings would be the next step.

WHO: Indigo De Souza with MJ Lenderman and Elvis Depressedly
WHERE: The Mothlight, 701 Haywood Road, themothlight.com
WHEN: Saturday, June 23, 9:30 p.m. Free

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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