by Michele Zipkin
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, AKA Aly Spaltro, knew that she wanted to dedicate her life to music when she decided to forgo college to pursue songwriting. This kind of decision is always risky, but with her certainty in wanting to take this route, there was no denying it. “When it came time to go to school I was so invested in music that I just kept doing it and didn’t end up going. I’ve been doing it nonstop since then,” Spaltro shares.
When it comes to music, or any creative endeavor for that matter, it takes time to fully hone your craft and bring any one particular work of art to life. Spaltro is starkly aware of that fact. She was in no rush to bring her dream to fruition. She started by teaching herself how to play guitar and record songs while she was working at a video store in her hometown of Portland, Maine. When she got off work at 11pm, she would camp out in the store until all hours of the night playing guitar and singing, and experimenting with bass, keyboards and looping pedals. After spending five years playing and writing enough songs to comprise seven albums, she finally decided to take her music to a studio and expand her horizons in terms of bringing her vision of her songs to life.
The name Lady Lamb the Beekeeper is certainly a distinctive one that sets Spaltro apart from the rest. But apparently she chose this unique moniker rather coincidentally. She explains, “When I was eighteen, I kept a notebook by my bed where I wrote a lot of poetry. When I woke up one morning that was written in my notebook.”
Spaltro marches to the beat of her own drummer when it comes to the lyrics and structure of her songs. Her melodies, chord progressions and rhythms are unique to her alone, and that’s how it should be with songwriting. To get a feel for Spaltro’s music, you just have to listen. Her melodies start in one place and end up in a completely different one. Moods and rhythms can start out gentle and serene and blossom into violent animals. But that’s not to say she hasn’t had some influence from other artists. A few bands that veer off the beaten path in terms of song structure have inspired her as a songwriter.
“When I started it was The Fiery Furnaces, Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel- bands that write non-formulaic songs that have really long and weird structures. They helped me believe that I could do that, and it could be accepted. You don’t have to write a song so formulaically,” insights Spaltro.
Ripely Pine is Spaltro’s first studio album, but she has written several albums prior to recording this one. The record is a collection of songs that showcase many styles, and that team with visual lyrics and arresting instrumentals. Spaltro arranged all of the songs on the album and it’s obvious that she’s skilled in this art, as we can feast our ears on beautiful string interludes and horn melodies as well as abrupt changes in rhythm and tempo.
“It’s a lot of songs about heartache and longing, a lot of metaphor,” says Spaltro. “I was really into spoken word poetry and stream of consciousness in high school so that’s where I got my style from. I wanted it to be really lush and epic when it wanted to be, and minimal when it wanted to be. I wanted it to have a wide range of style and instrumentation.”
The record was made at Let ‘Em In studio in Brooklyn with producer Nadim Issa, and this producer/artist pairing could not have been a better one. “We had a lot of the same ideas, we were very in sync in making sure the album as a whole was full of a lot of feeling, honesty and rawness,” Spaltro says.
As an artist, it takes a lot of drive just to write songs and record them the way you hear them in your head, but it takes even more perseverance to get your songs heard and to gain respect as a musician. In this day and age in the independent music scene, originality is key.
“With the Internet today, it’s designed to find what’s buzzing- people go through music so quickly. The attention span has changed, and a lot of bands get too gimmicky. It’s important to stay grounded and set your own goals.”
This young artist has no misunderstandings about the reality of thriving in today’s music industry. She is well aware of the determination it takes to write songs, make records, and earn the respect of listeners. “It’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of dedication. I’ve been working really hard at it for years. You don’t see the payoff right away, and if you do, that’s not necessarily a good sign. I find that I set my own pace.”
Catch Lady Lamb the Beekeeper at World Cafe Live in Philly on Sunday May 12th.