Psychic Love's Laura Peters Plays Like a Girl
We spoke with the LA DIY entrepreneur and bandleader about depression, disco balls, and her debut LP 'The Hive Mind.' Stream it in full on Noisey ahead of its Friday release.
That artist Laura Peters—the brains behind LA dream grunge project Psychic Love—has had time to release an album is a feat unto itself; that it happens to be one of the more promising and refreshing debuts in a sea of staple LA psych and surf rock is just icing on the cake.
In just a handful of years, the musician and graphic designer has gone from shyly performing for an audience of her friend's pets—the prospect of performing for actual humans was long her "worst nightmare"—to a DIY entrepreneur whose projects include her pop-up label, Artless Fiction (which released indie-electronic star Robert DeLong's debut Just Movement), opening the DIY space Vega's Meat Market out of her Echo Park home, and working alongside likeminded women musicians to present Play Like A Girl, a monthly showcase of female artists at the Echo in LA. In between, Peters and Psychic Love have remained a reliable live presence in the local scene, making the rounds at residencies and hitting the road for a West Coast tour earlier this fall. Peters' first album, The Hive Mind, is finally due out this Friday via Play Like A Girl Records.
Peters describes her music "as if Nancy Sinatra had a love child with Frank Black," and her songs tell stories that capture the subdued sweetness of melancholia, offering a surprisingly jangly and surreal take on depression. It's full of rose-tinted warmth, even when creeping into the coldest and darkest corners of Peters' daily life. On tracks like "Pink Parlour," she invites listeners into the space behind closed eyelids looking towards light; on "Midnight Cowboy," it's into her living room to watch a movie on the most beautiful day of the year, collectively leading us to introspective moments that will make you grateful Peter's is no longer just playing for cats and dogs.
Read our interview with Peters below and stream The Hive Mind exclusively on Noisey.
Noisey: Give me a shortlist of all the things you've got your toes dipped into right now.
Laura Peters: Currently it would be my band, Psychic Love, Play Like A Girl, which is the female advocacy—it's like a feminist collective? I need to find a better way to describe it in conversation. I started throwing shows at my place in Echo Park, to sort of promote the record, and that's [become the venue] Vega's Meat Market.
When did you start doing that?
I started it last January. We have 12 songs on the record, so we did 12 shows, each show had two other bands playing with us, once a month for that year…The shows and taking a year to build this momentum behind it was our effort to do a full album and not be squirreled away and then come out with something and then nobody's been aware really of what we've been working on. I think it was important for us to sort of create some context for it. I'm ready to put it out I think, finally [Laughs].
You have a pretty unique perspective, being somewhat of an entrepreneur with your own space while also being very involved with helping to plan a monthly showcase at an established venue like the Echo.
I realized, the way I approached music is really sort of odd in that I started playing bass in middle school, but I didn't play for people. I played music for a while, but not for humans.
Pets… It's just something that is—was —it still is, but not so much now, literally my worst nightmare. I always wanted a band, but I couldn't figure out how to have one [Laughs]. It's almost like—you know when a dog lies down after going around in concentric circles? That's like me zeroing in on music. "I'm gonna do it! I wanna…I'm gonna do it…now!" And it took a while. So Psychic Love is my first band and the first show I ever played. And before that I was just like, inching closer, like, "I'm gonna make friends with a bunch of musicians. I'm gonna learn about it that way." And all of this was just putting something between myself and being exposed to it, really.
How long ago was this?
Three and a half years ago. It's something that I want to know—I want all the information I can get because it's something intimidating to me. And I think that the more I understand all the sides of something, it becomes less daunting. It is no longer my worst fear, now it's so fun.
What was the process of creating The Hive Mind like?
This is the result of my final circle before I sat down [Laughs]… When I came to LA, I did some other things, [like] acting, that could possibly be scary and vulnerable, and nothing like that has anywhere near the effect that music does on me. I think it's definitely personal in a way that its terrifying, but also its a way to express something, so now that I'm actually doing it and it's something I love, it is this amazing outlet and really significant part of my life.
Can you talk about some of the record's subject matter?
It's funny, I realized, essentially they are all variations of songs about depression, which is something that has been a reality of my life and runs in my family. I don't think I realized it until I listened to it again and was like, "Wow that's the theme!" I think that's why it took me so long to get to. There's no place to have that conversation in a regular, constant way. The problem with talking about something like depression is that people instinctually—and it's from a positive place—they wanna know why or what's causing this so they can make it that not that way. Rather than it just being this existing state. So there's not a very comfortable way of discussing it. But this is something that I feel like is an acceptable way to communicate that feeling.
Lyrically, how do you go about communicating that feeling?
I realized the way I write lyrics too is kind of secretive, where it is exposing myself, but then I almost create symbolism to put a buffer in between. "Midnight Cowboy" is one that I wrote with [former band member] Erick [Jordan], and we had a copy of that movie [ Midnight Cowboy], and it's about watching this movie in the middle of the day in the summer when everyone is out doing things and probably having some fabulous life montage. Whereas when you experience something like depression, sometimes it's hard to get out and do those things, so you might find yourself watching a movie on the most beautiful day of the year. The song "Pink Parlor," when I say "pink parlor," it's a strange way of representing what you see when you close your eyes and it's light out. It's like you're looking in, so you say, "I'll be in the pink parlor." I'm a pretty visual person, colors are really a big part of how my imagination works.
I hear you've been using Vega's Meat Market as a way to find the artists who eventually go on to perform at Play Like A Girl—how did it go from being something you used to promote your own work to, essentially, becoming a DIY venue?
Well, part of the issue, and I think this plays into the same things that motivate Play Like A Girl, and continue to motivate Vega's Meat Market, is that it can be frustrating playing shows at a venue that, in theory, their whole point is to present music—and it doesn't have to be a terribly involved thing—but there are still places that have bad sound systems, and the lighting is a bummer, and the tables are set up so the audience feels uncomfortable the entire time. It's a performance, so attention to that kind of thing, I feel like that can really [affect] the experience of the performer and the audience. So, selfishly, when we were getting the space ready to start doing shows, the first thing I did was go downtown, and there's this street downtown where you can get suspicious DJ equipment—you know, it may or may not have fallen off a truck—and I may or may not have bought five disco balls.
Ah, so that's the secret to running a successful venue.
I wanna look good and sound good when I play. I think that's something that enhances the whole experience. And, because we were doing this [Play Like A Girl] as a showcase, we wanted to have it on our own terms…The way that Vega's is set up, and all those things that originally were selfishly motivated because I was presenting my own work—I think because of all those factors, all the bands that played there really enjoyed playing there, and have continued to want to do that. So that's why I've kept throwing shows. It's just seems like an environment that feels good.
Tell me a bit about your label, Artless Fiction.
At this point, I would call it a pop-up label. It was an interesting experience where a good friend of mine, Matt—this was prior to me performing—was living in this house in Azusa and it was all these music majors that were going to Azusa Pacific University—majorly the ones, because it's a Christian school, that had given up and all kind of banded together by not really relating to religion. I would drive out and hang out in Azusa, and they had a recording studio out in their garage, and I liked them all and was really fascinated by it. And one of the roommates in this house was Robert Delong. Robbie was developing his solo electronic thing—I remember one of the first shows he did was at a sports bar in Irwindale, I think—and we were having this ongoing situation where we knew all these talented people, let's take Robbie, who wasn't necessarily a self-promoter, but incredibly talented. We were basically frustrated that the stuff we were hearing didn't seem all that great, you know, when the stuff on the radio is just not doing it for you, but then you know this person who's great. So Artless Fiction was the record label we created to release Robbie's record.
Catch Psychic Love's album release party tonight at the Echo in LA at 8 PM.