Johanna Samuels’ Double Bind was recorded in her Bed-Stuy apartment, and conjures clear and elaborate visions Carole King. Samuels’ (mostly) piano-driven songs are poised, elegant and collected, allowing her to shine in all the best ways as a singer songwriter. Release on July 22, the record isn’t content to stand on the shoulders of ’60s and ’70s greats, it stands toe to toe as an effort that demands its own considerable place in rock history.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Samuels to discuss the record, and this is what she told us about it.
When did you begin writing the material for Double Bind?
About a year and a half ago… with the exception of “This Place,” which I wrote about four years ago.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
We had a pretty straight forward plan of attack in terms of the recording approach for all of the songs but a few. “Real Tragedies” and “Almost” ended up being wild cards… just because we had to build them more from the ground up, without a lot of basic tracks. But in both instances it ended up opening things up for improvisation, which for me is the most enjoyable part of making music.
Which of the songs on the album is most different from your original concept for the song?
“From Above You” definitely.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Yes, a handful of really talented ones:
Kelly Pratt (Beirut, Arcade Fire, St. Vincent and David Byrne) played all the horns on “Chanson”. Stephanie Brown (Lips) played the Juno synth. on “From Above You” and “Chanson”. Emily Holden played strings on “For You To Do” and “Please Say Some Good” and Mary Page (Jumpers) and Sean Pierce did some yelling on “Your Door”.
Who produced Double Bind? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
It’s engineered and produced by our drummer, Fen Ikner (Lips, Jumpers, Calexico). He absolutely impacted the sound of the record in so many ways. He played a bunch of instruments and essentially enabled the execution of the sound I was hearing in my head. He’s an extremely musical guy in an effortless way and is a great collaborator. He’s a wonderful person and friend too.
Is there an overarching concept behind the music that ties the songs together?
In the broadest sense of themes, I’d say: Love and Independence thrown in a blender. All of the songs on the record are about people I love. But at the same time, I wrote them attempting to figure out how to take better care of myself.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
Some of them are newer than others, but we’ve played them all live at this point. People in the audience sometimes sing along with “Chanson” at shows so maybe that one, “Give It Up” and “Double Bind.”
(Visit her here: http://johannasamuels.com/.)