THE SITUATION I'm sitting in the back of The Stumbling Monk on Capitol Hill with 24-year-old songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Whitney Lyman. She lives a block away in a house she shares with an accordionist and an enigmatic calico cat named Josephine, owner unknown, who comes in through her bedroom window and sleeps with her every night. Lyman has blue eyes and a tattoo of a snake eating its own tail—an ouroboros, symbol of eternity—on her wrist. The image came to her in a dream she had of an eagle flying above a snake; the snake poisoned itself by eating its tail so that when the eagle ate it, it would die too. Lyman considers both the snake and the eagle her spirit animals.
WHITNEY LYMAN With Yards. Comet Tavern, 922 E. Pike St., 322-9272. $6. 9 p.m. Tues., Oct. 16.
HOW SHE GOT HERE Lyman teaches music lessons for a living. She also sings and plays the synthesizer and various percussion instruments in the polyrhythmic pop band Pollens. She and the band's five other members met while attending Cornish College of the Arts, where they played in the school's traditional Indonesian metal-percussion ensemble, Gamelan Pacifica. Earlier this year, Lyman completed Wandering, Wondering, which she calls her first solo album "besides the things that I never want anyone to hear." Lyman played guitar, piano, banjo, and vibraphone on the record and had a host of musician friends (on violin, cello, trumpet, trombone, and clarinet) play on the tracks, giving the songs an eclectically orchestral sound.
SHOP TALK In June, Pollens signed with Germany's Tapete Records, and they'll tour that country in December. After the two-week stint is done, Lyman's planning to hang around Europe for another couple of weeks, including over the holidays, even though she doesn't know anyone there. "I'm a big fan of solo adventures," she says. "Like my album title is Wandering, Wondering, and it comes from that. I enjoy going for walks at night, with no direction."
BTW: Next to the snake tattoo and the spirit animals, Lyman admits to being "pretty New Agey." She reads animal tarot cards and is also interested in gems and crystals. When I ask about a large ring on her left ring finger, she demurs, "It just feels comfortable on that finger," but eventually explains, "This particular ring is a moonstone—it's an inspirational stone, it's got a good feminine energy. And the left hand is viewed as the receiving hand, so if you hold a stone in that hand, I think you're more likely to feel its energy."