Selling out two shows at the Columbia City Theater might not be a big deal for an established band on a big label, but for an unsigned duo from the tiny town of Poulsbo, Washington, it's pretty major. Then again, Meagan Grandall and Kendra Cox, who make up Lemolo, have always had lofty ambitions for their dreamy, piano-driven indie pop. The band quickly earned lots of attention from the Seattle music scene, including gigs opening for The Head and the Heart, as well as slots on Bumbershoot and the Dave Matthews Band Caravan Festival. We chatted with Grandall about the band's rise to success, the process of making their first record and where they hope it will take them. Lemolo play the Columbia City Theater on June 29th and 30th.
Can you talk a little about the process of paying for the album and deciding on a producer? We started talking about the record about a year and a half ago with Shawn Simmons. That's who we produced and recorded the record with and he was kind of our magic man. It's been about a year and a half since it was in our brain. The recording process alone was almost a year. Paying for it was a big challenge. We didn't do a Kickstarter campaign or anything. Most of it came out of Meagan's personal money and the band fund. All the money we make at shows is going into paying for the record, but it's expensive to make a record -- especially on your own.
It's pretty amazing to be able to sell out two shows at the Columbia City Theater before your first record is even out. What wisdom can you impart to other local bands about building a following? First of all, thanks for the compliment. As far as building a fan base in Seattle, we have a lot of people to thank. Kevin Sur, who runs Artist Home and books for Doe Bay has been a huge, huge help to us as far as booking goes. We have a lot of bands to thank too. The Head and the Heart booked us on a couple of shows with them that really, really pushed us past the point we had ever been before. About a year ago, we played at Neumos with them and it was a sold out show and we'd never played a sold out show. We'd only played Neumos once before to maybe like 50 people. You have to find those people who can be mentors and who have been through it and pick those brains. I think that's something we're really good at doing.
Are there any guest musicians on the record? Nope, it's just me and Meagan the whole way through. I think there's one song where Shawn Simmons snaps his fingers.
How will you gauge the success of the record? Are there personal benchmarks for the two of you? I work a part-time job and Meagan now works full-time for the band. She's the manager basically. Ideally I'd love to get to a point where I can quit my job and be focusing on the band. Another benchmark would be to have it be picked up by a label. We would be ecstatic. And the third benchmark would be to go on a really extensive national tour. I think sometimes when we tell people this, they're like, "Wow, you're expecting a lot." But I believe in setting yourself up for it and if you really go for it you can get it. It's just a lot of hard work getting there.
Did you shop the record before deciding to release it yourselves? Not really. We sort of came to the conclusion that we really wanted to get it out and we didn't want to wait and that our fans didn't want to wait. There have been lots of bands who put records out and then get picked up and I think that it's possible so we made the executive decision to just do this and keep moving forward. We felt like if we waited and waited for something to pop up, that wouldn't necessarily be moving forward, which is something we always try to do.
Is there a band or bands that you'd like to model your career after? In Seattle, I'd say we definitely look up to the Head and the Heart. They are so kind and they've done a lot of good things for a lot of people. To me, that is the true essence of doing it right -- really paying it forward. With all the success they've gotten, they've taken so many local bands on tour with them. We went on tour with them. They're taking Bryan John Appleby out, Curtains for You. That's really inspiring to us. As far as more national acts, I think a band that is really inspirational to us is Warpaint. They put out a five-song EP and toured with it for like a year, which I think is incredible. They really built their sound up and put out a full-length record which was totally different. I always think that's an interesting leap and can be really risky. They're just really cool, badass girls and they stand for cool stuff.
Do you guys have special things planned for the record release shows? A lot of secrets! We really just want it to be a big party. I want everyone there to have so much fun. The bands we picked I'm really excited about and they're bands that I think are just incredible. Sometimes I think, "Why are they opening for us?" This is our first real headlining show where we're in control of a lot of stuff and that's new for us. And really humbling.