Thursday, March 29, 2018

Louise Page: From Salty to Sweet at Shangri-La's Fool Fest 2

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 8:51 AM

click to enlarge Louise Page - KAITLYN FLINT
  • Kaitlyn Flint
  • Louise Page
Memphis-based songwriter and pianist Louise Page has been busy of late. She released her first EP, Salt Mosaic, last September, and, after a winter of steady gigging in support of the EP, she and her band will open the festivities this Saturday at Fool Fest 2, Shangri-La Records' spring sale and mini-festival, which doubles this year as a 30th anniversary celebration for the store.

“I have deep family roots in Memphis. My mom is from here,” Page says. The singer/songwriter moved to the Bluff City from central Pennsylvania to study creative writing at Rhodes College, where her grandmother matriculated when the college was still called Southwestern. “I got a degree in creative writing, which I now use to write songs,” Page muses. “It’s not what I thought I’d use it for.” Page’s songwriting prowess is on full display on her first EP, which mixes folk-inflected numbers with indie-rock laments of heartbreak.

Salt Mosaic opens with “Little Coast,” a plaintive wish for a new beginning. Piano runs and Page’s haunting vocals come in first. “I want to cut and run away,” she sings, “I want to rewire my disobedient brain.” Then the rest of the band joins in, bringing the energy up to match the fervency of Page’s lyrics with horn squeals and guitar arpeggios. But Page’s lyrics — and her voice — are the star of the show, and they remain so for much of the EP. The band, which includes a horn section, a violin, guitar, upright bass, and drums, adds details at just the right moments, giving Page’s voice textures to work with.

As a song, “Little Coast” stands on its own, but it also works as a thematic starting point for Salt Mosaic, whose songs share themes of endings and beginnings, of stripping away layers to reveal the essential self. “The name Salt Mosaic comes from the fact that the songs I ended up picking to record are all pretty much about broken relationships, be they romantic or friendships,” Page says. “I used to have really bitter, salty feelings about those experiences and those people.” Page elaborates on the cathartic aspect of songwriting, saying part of the process is “taking those bitter, salty feelings and turning them into something beautiful.”

Simple Sugar is sort of the aftermath of Salt Mosaic,” Page says of her planned sophomore release. “One of the lyrics for one of the newer songs is ‘When you’re used to salt, everything tastes sweet.’” As with Salt Mosaic, Page will track her new, sweeter batch of songs at Young Avenue Sound. Calvin Lauber will reprise his role as engineer for the Simple Sugar sessions. “The first EP was kind of experimental. I was figuring a lot out,” Page says, expounding on the two EPs’ complementary relationship. “In my head they go together; they’re kind of a pair.” But Page says that, while Salt Mosaic collected songs she wrote over a span of six years, from age 18 to just weeks before the recording sessions, the songs on the new EP are “all songs I’ve written since September.” She thinks that will lead to Simple Sugar sounding more streamlined than Salt Mosaic, which, true to it’s name, has a collage-like eccentricity, an eclectic mix of quirky but complementary colors.

“I’m just a classic band kid. That was my group in high school,” Page says. “I was in marching band, and concert band, and choir.” Music has always been a part of her life, Page says. She started playing piano as a child in central Pennsylvania. Her parents bought the piano for her older siblings, but Page, the youngest, was the one to embrace it. Page began taking formal piano lessons, and in the fourth grade, she joined the school band and took up oboe as well. Citing her classical training, she counts Claude Debussy among her influences, which also include contemporary artists St. Vincent and Fiona Apple, who share an experimental streak that appeals to Page. “They both take risks,” Page says, then adds, “I want my music to have a personality.”

The Fool Fest show kicks off a busy spring for Page and her crew. She’s playing Lucero’s annual Block Party at Minglewood Hall on April 14th before she and her band return to the studio to begin tracking Simple Sugar. This summer, they head out on a 10-day east coast tour, to New York and back.

Fool Fest 2 featuring Louise Page, Negro Terror, Model Zero, and Alicja-Pop at Shangri-La Records, Saturday, March 31st at 2 p.m.

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