Originally hailing from San Francisco, the constantly evolving alternative dance trio Lemonade just released a new album in May, and are currently embarking on a headlining tour. The band consists of vocalist Callan Clendenin, drummer Alex Pasternak, and bassist Ben Steidel. Back in 2005, Lemonade already had their very first show booked before any material had been written; they improvised their first live set after rehearsing for only two weeks as a band. Luckily, the show was well received. After playing a few more shows, Lemonade eventually signed with True Panther Sounds, which released the band’s self-titled full-length debut in 2008. The band subsequently moved to New York City, and began experimenting with a more relaxed, R&B-inspired tone on 2010’s Pure Moods. EP
Still signed to True Panther, Lemonade’s latest album Diver was released on May 29th of this year. Diver is a soothing, straightforward electronic pop album in contrast to the noisy, raw dance-punk energy of their earlier work. Following last year’s tour with Neon Indian, Lemonade is now heading shows in the U.S. and Europe with support from NY art-rapper LE1F. They will be performing with Water Borders on Sunday, June 17 at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco.
We caught up with Lemonade via email to discuss their new album and current tour. The band also sheds light on their transition between San Francisco and New York, as well as the inspiration behind their dynamically shifting sound.
TBB: Having formed in San Francisco, how does it feel to be returning to the city to perform? Any time for nostalgia?
Lemonade: The coast itself makes us feel nostalgia and we try and take in as much beauty as possible before we return to all the concrete and whatever in New York. Playing in SF is nice when we get to see the smiles on our old friends’ faces, some of whom have seen our first shows. As far as the scene goes, too much has changed to even be recognizable.
TBB: How has moving to New York City influenced you, either as individuals or as a band? Is it much different from SF?
L: We are such different people these days. New York really pushes you and sculpts you in so many ways that I don’t think we really had imagined. It is still really inspiring, but of course some days you wake up and think “why on earth did I move here?” but then you go outside and start buzzing off of everything and you remember that you are now addicted to constant stimulus. Musically I would say that our interest in Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis grew as a result of riding the subway and seeing the steam rise out of manholes.
TBB: Early Lemonade shows were largely improvised, how has your performance style changed over these past four years?
L: Diver is almost entirely electronic so the improvisation that takes place in a live performance is within the form of each song. Our songs are more structured and though there is variation, we’re trying to stay fairly true to the recording by using the same samples and synth patches. It’s a huge departure from the early days, but we weren’t really inspired by noise anymore. The biggest challenge and inspiration to us was just writing something that felt solid. We started craving it even. Now that we have accomplished that sometimes its like… Maybe we should draw this out into a drone at the end and start pounding on some drums.
TBB: What can fans expect from this current tour, which is supported by LE1F?
L: The live set sounds remarkably close to the album, and it also looks better than ever before. So far the shows have been awesome in NY so we are excited to see how other parts of the country react. LE1F is a really amazing artist who has never toured like this, so it will be a new and exciting experience for all.
TBB: Your new album Diver takes a pretty dramatic shift from 2008’s self-titled debut. Was this a conscious decision made by the band, or just the natural progression of your songwriting?
L: It’s been a very natural progression, and if you take into account that the songs from the first album were all written well before that album’s release, we’ve had a lot of time to develop as a band. The most conscious choice was not to fear pop songwriting and more considered arrangement, and just to not limit ourselves in any way. We knew it was going to be a surprise to some people, but there was really no other way forward that would feel like we were challenging ourselves. The first album was a result of experimentation really, and in some ways so is this record, only we are experimenting with R&B and pop in the context of new age and current electronic music and everything else. If you look at the electronic music that we are inspired by it has changed in similar ways, but more importantly it just keeps changing. You have to keep moving. Kinda like a shark.
TBB: In terms of sound, what direction will Lemonade be heading in after the release of Diver? Are there any deciding factors?
L: A lot of this album comes off as moody and ethereal and blue and evokes swimming pools at night and solo drives in convertibles and all of that. It may have been a phase, we are not sure. We can assure you though that we will have some more dance tracks soon. We wanted to get this album out of the way so we could focus on dance tracks for a little while because they are less draining to write and record. We really don’t like to limit ourselves and are constantly getting really excited about new ideas so it could go any direction. I think that people should expect more surprises. Lemonade has never settled on any idea for long.
TBB: What have you guys been listening to lately?
L: A massive range of stuff as usual. Last tour a month ago we listened to a lot of Art Of Noise, Hyetal, Justin Martin, Elite Gymnastics, Recloose, Saint Etienne, Lazer Sword, Funkystepz, Ill Blu, Julee Cruise, Chromatics, Scuba, Jodeci, some 90’s progressive house and trance, some old exotica compilations, Santo & Johnny, Pet Shop Boys. We can go on tour for a month and never repeat anything we listen to and we will probably download new music most nights at the hotel.