A collection of radiant reckonings set to a soaring dream pop soundtrack, Lauds’ debut album ‘Imitation Life’ is a spirited record of self-reflection and discovery on the road to cathartic enlightenment.
Stream: “Misplace a Night” – Lauds
Listening to Lauds’ debut album is a bit like running a marathon, and after 26 miles, finally seeing the finish line up ahead on the horizon. You’re still in the thick of it – mind focused on each breath, body dripping with sweat, legs pretty much working on autopilot at this point – but relief is coming. You’ve found that beacon of light in the darkness, and it’s getting closer and closer with every passing second. Soon, you’ll be free. Soon, you’ll be at peace.
In Lauds’ case, the marathon is the stretch of time known as our 20s, and the finish line is a sense of place, belonging, comfort, and contentment in the world. Most of us are still figuring out what it means to be, let alone what it means to be here now, but it’s easy to feel like everyone else has their lives figured out while you’re only pretending. Even so, the Wilmington, North Carolina-based band seems to trust that things will work out for the best; that we all eventually sort out these rhetorical, nagging questions of purpose and identity, make peace with our inner demons, and find our own personal meanings for being alive. There is a light in this darkness… There is a light that never goes out.
A collection of radiant reckonings set to a soaring dream pop soundtrack, Lauds’ Imitation Life is a spirited record of self-reflection and discovery on the road to cathartic enlightenment. We may or may not ever find true nirvana, but at least we’re trying – asking the questions, searching our souls for answers, and putting in the work.
We sweat the show
You don’t like to know
What’s softly sifting, lifting
Hours from the time
Head up in lights
Misplace a night
There’s something drifting empty
Restless on the air
When it’s toxic
Words are caustic
I say I won’t
But always crawl right back
Released January 20, 2023 via Wilmington-based indie label Fort Lowell Records, Imitation Life is a soaring, stunning, and utterly soul-stirring deep dive into life itself. Marrying dazzling dream pop with visceral post-punk, jangle-pop, and noughties indie rock, Lauds’ debut album is as dazzling as it is dynamic and as enchanting as it is exhilarating: A rollercoaster ride of emotionally-charged sonics and sonically-charged emotion.
Active since 2023, the five-piece of co-songwriters J. Holt Evans III and James McKay Glasgow, bassist Gavin Campbell, multi-instrumentalist Boyce S. Evans, and drummer Ross Page have found their niche in a lush, blissed-out sound that recalls such alternative greats as The Cure, The Smiths, Slowdive, and The Chameleons. The found that strong footing over the past few years, releasing two EPs EPs (2021’s Lauds and 2022’s II) that effectively set the scene for what would ultimately result in their first LP (select tracks off both EPs are also present on the album as well).
“I think that each of the EPs we put out kind of showcased different aspects of our sound,” Lauds’ J. Holt Evans explains. “We wanted the record to capture all of those elements, while also highlighting the advances me and McKay felt like we were making as songwriters and collaborators… After the release of our second EP on Fort Lowell we really wanted to push ourselves to make a cohesive artistic statement as a band, and thought that putting out a record was the way to do that.”
“Part of the reason we used earlier releases on the album was because it made the album feel more cohesive sonically and thematically,” McKay Glasgow adds. “A lot of the songs on this record were written at a similar time but recorded or reworked over longer periods. We wanted the songs to be different enough from each other where it didn’t feel monotonous but, like many of our favorite albums, we wanted them to have an overall sonic landscape that is recognizable from song to song. Some people don’t like that similarity in a bands music, but we do.”
Imitation Life arrived at the top of this year on the heels of a singles campaign that saw Lauds teasing out the songs “24” and “Somehow” – two standouts that highlight Lauds’ musical spark and their lyrical prowess.
“Are we up? Know what’s recommended. hit the pavement, sparks contended, but I’m not sure that I’m who I was before,” Evans sings, his voice a seductive hush complemented by glistening guitar riffs, driving drums, and immersive, spellbinding synth work. “Just fake it, you’ll make it, I know what to say,” he goes on to sing in the chorus. “I trusted you, but I can’t see it written in the sky.“
“It’s about overcoming anxiety and self-doubt and showcases a haunting keyboard line that chases along throughout the song,” Evans says. “I wrote it in grad school a few weeks before my 25th birthday and now looking back on the lyrics at 27 I hear myself expressing frustration about trying to break free from the vices that kept pulling me down at the time. Musically ’24’ features jangly interwoven guitar melodies and a pulsing rhythm section characteristic of the Lauds sound. My inspiration for the track was to sound like New Order covering ‘Boys of Summer’ by Don Henley. I’m not sure we got there but I’m proud of where we ended up.”
Glasgow even goes so far as to call “24” his all-time favorite Lauds song. “To me this song captures the emotional vibe of the album,” he shares. “There’s a determination to figure things out even with all the internal insecurity. I think it’s relatable, even though the lyrics are at times pretty abstract. It’s somber but uplifting and the synth and guitar parts really vibe with those themes.”
Of equal note is the album’s beautifully cathartic and captivating finale, “Misplace a Night,” a tender harmony-laden exhale whose Tristan Turner-directed music video is premiering today on Atwood Magazine. “I think it’s about feeling warm and safe holding someone you care about the next morning,” says Evans. “You still have the feelings of anxiety and regret but they’re overwhelmed by a feeling of peace and belonging.”
We sweat the show, I’d like to know
What’s ever aching breaking
Scattered cross your mind
When it’s toxic, words are caustic
I say I won’t, but always crawl right back
When it’s toxic, words are caustic
I say I don’t, but always come right back
When you’re toxic, fears are caustic
I say I can’t, but always come right back
If this album really is all about finding our personal guiding lights and coming to terms with life’s ambiguity and emotional turmoil, then “Misplace a Night” concludes the record with a breathtaking moment of that long-sought after peace of mind. Tranquility is temporary and serenity is fleeting, but for a second – or rather, for four minutes – it feels like Lauds have finally found what they’ve been looking for all along.
Of course, those goalposts shift quickly and our inner voice never shuts up entirely, so there’s plenty more existential introspection and reckoning to be done, but with their debut album, Lauds have truly lit an intimate, resonant, and reverb-drenched fire. From its bookends “Parallel” and “Misplace a Night” to the charmingly contemplative “Rust,” the propulsive, pulsing “Don’t Mind,” and of course the utterly intoxicating and absorptive “24,” Imitation Life is an endlessly inspiring and invigorating listen.
Get lost in Lauds’ debut album below, and get to know the band even better in our intimate interview with McKay Glasgow and J. Holt Evans III where we discuss the genesis of Imitation Life, the music scene in Wilmington, the benefits of brooding music, and more!
Stream: ‘Imitation Life’ – Lauds
A CONVERSATION WITH LAUDS
Atwood Magazine: Lauds, can you share a little about the story behind this record?
McKay Glasgow: Lauds started when Holt and I met because I had recorded an album with his dad before. We roped Holt’s youngest brother, Boyce into the mix on drums. Short term he also played third guitar and strings for some shows and then we got our buddy Gavin to play bass even though he’s still the best guitar player in our band. That’s always a hard sell. We also recruited Color Temperature’s Ross Langdon Paige to play drums at one point but he moved to Brooklyn and we went back and have stuck with the four piece of me, Holt, Boyce, and Gavin. Other friends have filled in for shows at points and our pal Jeff Corkery, aka Dulce Hombre, co-wrote the song Distant Images on the album and has been a big collaborator with artwork etc. It’s been a labor of friendship and a lot of Holt and I arguing. At points other people have gotten involved arguing. Holt’s dad engineered the record and helped when the arguments were going nowhere.
J. Holt Evans III: Would agree with that. Lauds started as an outlet for me and McKay’s songs and has become a real band I guess over time. We put out some singles while I was back and forth between Chapel Hill and Wilmington for grad school and were excited when James Tritten approached us about releasing an EP with his label Fort Lowell Records. After the release of our second EP on Fort Lowell we really wanted to push ourselves to make a cohesive artistic statement as a band and thought that putting out a record was the way to do that.
What was your vision going into this record, and did that change over the course of recording this?
Glasgow: We definitely didn’t want to rush. We took our time with all of the stuff we have put out. Part of the reason we used earlier releases on the album was because it made the album feel more cohesive sonically and thematically. A lot of the songs on this record were written at a similar time but recorded or reworked over longer periods. We wanted the songs to be different enough from each other where it didn’t feel monotonous but, like many of our favorite albums, we wanted them to have an overall sonic landscape that is recognizable from song to song. Some people don’t like that similarity in a bands music, but we do.
Evans: I think that each of the EPs we put out kind of showcased different aspects of our sound and we wanted the record to capture all of those elements while also highlighting the advances me and McKay felt like we were making as songwriters and collaborators.
What's the music scene in Wilmington like, and has it impacted your sound or songs in any way?
Glasgow: The music scene in Wilmington is really fun right now. Bands on SUCK ROCK Records are great: Doggy Day Care, Lawn Enforcement, Ridgewood etc. and some new venues have opened up that have brought renewed energy and excitement to the scene. There is definitely a punk/ DIY ethos to a lot of the younger bands. We like our friend Colin’s band Spiral alot. Similar songwriting to us but spikier and more abrasive.
I definitely think the coastal scenery makes its way into our songs, most obviously on songs like “Sandpiper” (from the Lauds EP), but even on this record on tracks like “Somehow.” The music isn’t beachy to us, but we all grew up by the ocean and have a lot of experiences around the ocean so it makes its way into the music. I love to surf and fish and I got Holt pretty into surfing while he was living in Wilmington. I like to think that some elements of surf rock on the track “Distant Images” may have been influenced by that.
Evans: To me “Distant Images” sounds more like Lauds on a carnival cruise excursion… Wilmington has a unique energy to it that I feel like made its way onto the record. Downtown is old and cobble-stoney and sits right on the river. It really comes alive at night and definitely becomes the go-to haunt for everyone in our band on weekends. The city lake is a wild place that’s essentially a gator-infested swamp and I did a lot of my writing for the album while house sitting for a buddy who lives next to it. The back cover of the record is a picture I took of algae and moss on the lake.
What is it about the dream pop / shoegaze / post-punk genres that initially attracted you to them?
Evans: My dad played the first two U2 records too many times for me in the car on the way to basketball practice as a kid and probably created a monster. I think I always loved the way the guitars and drums seemed to be propelling those songs without necessarily being like distorted classic rock. Getting older and starting to play guitar I realized it wasn’t much of a stretch to learn how to play some of my favorite Joy Division, Bauhaus, Swell Maps riffs etc. I think it was always an energy thing though. I’ve always wanted to write upbeat songs and we’ve always wanted to be an upbeat band.
Were any bands from that space your 'guiding light' or an inspiration as you went about finding Lauds' own sound these past couple of years?
Evans: For sure. I didn’t get obsessed with shoegaze until like my late teens but the combination of noise and pretty melodies created by bands like Ride really appealed to me when I was first starting to write what would become some Lauds songs in grad school. Honestly that band is a massive influence on us. A record like Going Blank Again is a pinnacle of rock music to me. Noisy but immediate and irresistible songwriting. Awesome rhythm section with two incredible songwriters in Andy Bell and Mark Gardener. Deerhunter have that as well with Bradford and Lockett Pundt. It’s definitely something McKay and I aspire to.
Now speaking about the album specifically, what do you love most about the sounds you were able to achieve on this record? What excites you about the Lauds listening experience?
Evans: I think we are really proud of just the vibe that we were able to capture with the production on Imitation Life. We love chorus and reverb and probably always will but I think with the help of Holt II in the studio we were able to find a balance to where the guitar melodies and vocals can carry the songs without over-reliance on effects. Sometimes we get labeled as a “retro” band or whatever and I can’t stand that. We really wanted to avoid cliches like adding crazy compressed snares, warbly chorus, etc. that are hot right now and focus on the strength of riffs and songwriting to make the album a cohesive experience for the listener that doesn’t sound dated.
Why the title “Imitation Life”?
Evans: It’s a line that I sing on the song “Distant Images.” I didn’t have a lot of direction in my life when we were recording the album and had a lot of decisions ahead of me regarding my future and too much free time. I think the phrase came about from hours scrolling posts/stories and seeing friends that looked like they already had their lives figured out in their 20s. It’s a totally ridiculous and cynical response, kind of lashing out and (unfairly) ascribing their happiness to just making choices that imitate what society says is a “good life.” I pitched it to the guys and they liked it, but in hindsight I realize it was just an expression of pure jealousy. [laughs]
How do you feel Imitation Life introduces Lauds and captures your artistry?
Glasgow: This album is something we feel really proud about. It took a long time to finish but we were able to put a lot of thought into every part of these songs. We definitely overthought some of it too! haha. But often doubt and disagreement are part of the process to make it good. We sifted material and let go of some songs, but we found a shared vision for these 10. It captures the best of where we’ve been as a band so far.
“Misplace a Night” is the last track on the album. What is this song about to you, and why end the album with it?
Glasgow: To me the song is about staying out too late and then overthinking about how one spends their time to the point of toxicity. It’s about ‘wasting’ time doing something that probably isn’t going to pay the bills but is often fun or challenging. It’s also about being nervous before shows, wondering if anyone is coming, and realizing that people really don’t care that much about you but they do want a good time from you. When we were all living in town, we had many nights out, drinking beers and wondering why we fill the time out of our busy lives to stay up this late. And we had a blast doing it and are still very much at it although things get more complicated as we seem to keep accruing more and more responsibilities.
How do you feel the music video for “Misplace a Night” elevates the track? How, to you, does it add to the song's experience?
Glasgow: This video essentially shows us misplacing several nights around Wilmington, haha, sometimes in rather unfavorable weather. There is also some footage from shows scattered in there and practices in our space. We really let the videographer, Tristan Turner, have free reign to just come hang with us in different places we enjoy. We threw out a couple words, ‘southern’, ‘gothic’, “shadowy” and Tristan nailed it while tying in some of his own themes with the overlays and cool framing. We didn’t want it to focus on who we are as much as the places and vibe. Watching it feels like you are sort of getting lost in the night with this random cast of characters. That’s what shows felt like, especially during the period when we wrote this song.
What inspired you to open the record with “Parallel”?
Glasgow: I feel like the conventional wisdom is that the American attention span dictates that you put your catchiest pop song first on an album, but figured if we were going to lose people on the slow build up to the intro of this track, we had to live with it. It just felt like the opener to us. It eases in and goes out with a bang. The following track picks up the pace quickly from there.
I know a lot of these songs were originally released on your previous EPs; which of these are you proudest to have on your full-length album?
Glasgow: We chose the 5 previous releases strategically, largely based on when they were written and how they meshed with the 5 “new” tracks. I personally feel proud that “Cedee Lamb” made the cut because it was a song we had to rework and even considered dropping at one point. We finally got it right and it fits well as a darker track instrumentally and thematically.
On the sunnier side, we really thought about not including our first single “Don’t Mind” because it was the pop song people who came to our shows really knew and were ‘too familiar with,’ but some older, wiser heads were basically like, “in reality, no one has heard your music and that song should be on there.” And that was the right call.
At the same time, which of your newest songs are you most excited to have out there?
Glasgow: I really love “24.” To me this song captures the emotional vibe of the album. There’s a determination to figure things out even with all the internal insecurity. I think it’s relatable, even though the lyrics are at times pretty abstract. It’s somber but uplifting and the synth and guitar parts really vibe with those themes.
As a lyrically forward band, do you have any favorite lyrics in these songs?
Glasgow: I really like Holt’s verses on “24,” particularly the one that starts, “I wake up and taste the sun outside…” When I heard that lyric I knew what he meant and it gave a good feeling. I also have grown to appreciate verse 2 of “Ceedee Lamb,” “a sudden tugging on the dusty strings. There a mad dog wild and running off his leash.” That kind of imagery appeals to me because those images are rather benign but with that instrumentation you get a sense of the desperation of someone’s fragile self image coming unhinged. I feel like we had a pretty good grasp on the language we used on the album and didn’t try to overstep lyrically. We like psychology and we wrote about our own small experiences in an honest way.
We like psychology and we wrote about our own small experiences in an honest way.
What do you hope listeners take away from Imitation Life? What have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?
Glasgow: I hope they enjoy the experience of listening to it. I hope there are some moments in the songs that give them a good feeling or maybe even remind them of something in themselves they want to think on. The album is brooding, but there are many uplifting moments. It’s full of generally optimistic reflections.
Lastly, who are you listening to these days that you would recommend to our readers?
Evans: We are loving new music out of North Carolina right now. Wednesday and MJ Lenderman’s rise has been fun to watch. The entire band really loves Rat Saw God. We’re also really looking forward to the upcoming record from Truth Club, as well. On my end l’ve just been listening to a lot of heavier shoegaze stuff and a lot of extreme metal.
My girlfriend lives in Denver, CO right now and I’ve just been freebasing Denver bands most days: Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, Primitive Man etc. Primitive Man, and Full of Hell’s split record has been my AOTY so far. Would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Extra Life EP by that band Crushed. Has gotten A TON of plays from me. The song “Milksugar” is an absolute banger.
Stream: “Misplace a Night” – Lauds
— — — —
© Mary Hannah Riley
:: Stream Lauds ::