Chastity Belt’s Lydia Lund on Greenhouse Gardening, Surfing and Existential Doubt | Listen Up!
It’s been a breakout year for Chastity Belt, the Seattle band which has grown into its voice in the past few years and was recently written up in the New Yorker on the strength of its album Time To Go Home.
Musically, that voice is droning and jangly. Ideologically, Chastity Belt is feminist, with a viewpoint that is often funny but with songs that can also be serious and direct about everyday existential crises.
We took pictures at Capitol Hill Block Party and later phoned guitarist and sometime singer Lydia Lund (far right in the photo) to talk about “Lydia,” a what-does-it-all-mean song which lands someplace…indistinct.
Other topics of conversation included avoiding seasonal affective disorder by gardening, feeling the ocean’s power while surfing–and we learned about the taste of the Peperomia plant.
Nordstrom blogs: You grew up in Maui and now live in Seattle. There’s another band in Seattle, Tacocat, who sings about wishing for a bridge to Hawaii from Seattle, to escape the rain and dreariness of the Pacific Northwest. How do you feel about this hypothetical bridge?
Lydia Lund: I think it’d be pretty cool, as long as it didn’t take too long to cross through some kind of teleport system on either end. I work at a greenhouse, the Conservatory, so that’s my personal bridge to Hawaii. Surrounding myself with hot weather-loving plants.
Do you work at the Volunteer Park Conservatory?
I don’t right now, actually. I’m a seasonal gardener for the City of Seattle. So I’m at the will and whim of whomever needs help. Right now I’m at the Japanese garden. I started at the Volunteer Park Conservatory. I think it totally helped, mentally. But I’ve never had serious seasonal affective disorder. I don’t think Seattle’s as bad as people say it is that way. But maybe that’s because I work at the Conservatory every winter. And we leave on tour, too, so I’ve never had to stay in Seattle all winter long.
Do you have a favorite plant right now?
I really like Peperomia plants. They’re groundcover. Certain ones are native to Hawaii. Actually they grow everywhere, and we have them in the Conservatory. They put out these pepper stems. When you eat black pepper, that’s a giant version of this plant. They’re pretty. And if you rub them into your teeth you can taste black pepper. They have a little stalk that looks like a tail, or something. Kind of has an anthropomorphic quality to it. In my mind. Little mice tails sticking out of the foliage. Please don’t make it seem like I’m a total weirdo in this interview. Just being mahself. Just being my cool self.
What do you miss most about Maui?
The ocean, the hiking, the natural environment. And the chill vibes. I miss that, too.
Are you a surfer?
I’m not really a surfer. I started getting into surfing only after I moved away from Maui. Growing up I only surfed one or two foot waves. And it’s not until you surf four or five foot waves that you can understand why people are so excited about surfing. The waves are so powerful. You get completely pummeled. It’s kind of awesome. You make it out to the other side and are just like, I had so much fun–and got totally owned by the ocean.
When did you start playing music?
I played guitar by myself growing up, and tried to play with my best friend in high school but it just sounded so bad. Until I met Chastity Belt, I thought I was incapable of playing with other people. Musical chemistry is not the same thing as friend chemistry.
Do you have any guitar heroes? Players you model your game on?
I don’t model myself on anyone. But I love Joni Mitchell. And I really loved The Strokes growing up. That has influenced. Poppy, easy licks. That’s when I first became aware of guitar as a separate instrument, rather than just listening to music, was The Strokes.
Do you want to share anything about the song “Lydia” from Time To Go Home?
I came up with the lyrics in a really nice moment when I was out on a solo row in the Puget Sound. It was a typical, What am I doing with my life? And I went out rowing, and tried to make sense of my life. I don’t think anyone is safe from existential doubt, no matter what’s going on in your life.
Over time, Chastity Belt has become known for its public image. There was the promo photo of the belt made of meat. The promo photo that looks like family photography from the ‘80s is hilarious. And I notice that you all tend to wear pretty regular clothes but somehow make a statement. Do you think about fashion?
I think I do the most in the band. I’m a super visual person. It matters to me. I do gardening. That’s an aesthetic thing. My mind works like that. As for our collective fashion being a thing…I think it being so normal is the thing. I don’t know. I think that people like that we’re totally ourselves, and not trying for anything. I think it’s appealing because most people want to be lazy that way and still come off as cool. Totally be yourself, and people respect you for it. That’s how I feel about our band in general. We’re just four friends who happen to have friend and musical chemistry. We’re not trying to be too cool. Because we’re not. At least, I’ll speak for myself. I never felt pressure to do anything besides what comes most naturally. I feel super grateful.