Lemolo Meets

Why one of the city's most talked-about up-and-comers doesn't call Seattle home.

In Poulsbo, it's easy to find quiet. In this Kitsap County city a short drive from Bainbridge Island, you can hear the wind caress tree branches, waves chatter on rocky shores, and an occasional orca spray as it chases salmon into Liberty Bay.

South of downtown is the tiny neighborhood of Lemolo, stretched between the shore and Highway 305 along Lemolo Drive and out onto a nub of a peninsula with clusters of houses shaded by thick stands of evergreens.

It's in the neighborhood for which their band is named that Lemolo's Meagan Grandall and Kendra Cox often write and practice, drawing inspiration from their picturesque surroundings or the dancing antics of a 6-year-old neighbor, Isabella—who someday wants to be in the band, but for now has to settle for inspiring the lyrics to "Whale Song": "You were just dancing to sing, all along."

"It's much easier to sit down and write here," says Cox. "We practice in a bedroom with a big bay window. In the summer, we can take a break and go back to the beach."

"Or we say 'Let's go longboarding,' " Grandall adds.

It's not uncommon for neighbors to ask the pair to open the window so all can hear the dreamlike scenes Grandall spins into song, and the spare drumbeats and crashes of cymbal Cox uses to punctuate mood.

On a recent Saturday afternoon at Cups Espresso in downtown Poulsbo, a barista asked, "Are you famous yet?" Cox smirked, and she and Grandall laughed it off. The two have spent hours among the shop's half-dozen tables, designing album art and building their website as their band rises from relative obscurity. Two years after first playing together, they're opening sold-out gigs with The Head and the Heart (April 29 at Showbox at the Market), and recently performed live at an in-studio session on KEXP and signed with a booking agent at Artist Home Booking, presenters of Orcas Island's Doe Bay Festival.

Grandall grew up playing piano, taught herself guitar, and headed to coffee shops for solo folk gigs before befriending Cox in 2007 at a Poulsbo kayak shop. Two years later, Grandall convinced Cox to dust off a drum set she'd gotten at age 14 and, with two other friends, took the stage at a Seattle University battle of the bands, placing second behind a metal band. It's been slow progress since, but the two say they've reached a place where preshow jitters about whether or not they're good have receded into more confident concerns about nuances of performance.

Grandall wrote all their earliest songs: slower, tense numbers highlighting her smoldering, yearning voice with acoustic guitar or keyboard accompaniment. Cox, who plays drums and keyboard, has since joined the songwriting process, and brought a penchant for rocking out. The resulting work, including singles "Open Air" and "Whale Song," are brighter and more layered, but still intentionally simple.

Yet the sound that will define the band's debut record—which they hope to release this summer—is still very much up in the air. New bands and fresh listens to favorite female vocalists—to say nothing of new equipment—constantly inspire new ideas. And though the more they collaborate, the more their interests become similar, they're finding it hard to know when to stop and actually make their album.

"I wonder if we ever are going to be in a place where we have a specific sound," Grandall ponders.

For now, they're making ends meet with part-time jobs and rent-free living, Grandall with her mother in Lemolo and Cox with her aunt in Renton. The band's performances pay ferry fare and other band-related expenses. Cox plans to move back to Poulsbo in the summer, and the two are hoping to tour.

But there's still the matter of making their record. They meet nearly every other day, sometimes in Renton, but most often where it's easier to write—where they can play in that Lemolo bedroom, stare out at evergreen trees, and find a quiet, Grandall says, that she couldn't find when she lived on Capitol Hill.

"I can only write a song if it's quiet," she said. "I used to take a guitar to the beach with me. Having that quiet space creates that platform to be really creative."

music@seattleweekly.com

 
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