’Tis the season for The Album Leaf
This winter California has seen more than its share of torrential rain, and The Album Leaf offers the kind of soundscapes which provide a perfect complement to the wet season; there isn’t a better song than “Shine” to have a track of forceful pitter patter layered beneath it. Indeed, Jimmy LaValle’s project is distinct mood music, and it will be coming to the Crepe Place for two nights this week, Tuesday, Jan. 11 and Wednesday, Jan. 12.
Although The Album Leaf may lend itself to distinct emotional interpretation, instrumental music is a funny thing. The electronically-based project has increasingly used vocals on latter albums, but in the absence of words, the emotion that one may project upon a given song may well have no relation to the feelings originally infused in it. Ironically, “The Light” may be the perfect soundtrack to a rainy day. But for all we know it was conceived on a sunny summer afternoon.
“There are songs that I’ve had that I feel [were written] when I was in a good space and happy,” says LaValle. “Then a lot of people think those songs are really sad and vice versa. I think it’s really cool how that works.”
In this way, it seems like it doesn’t matter what emotions the songs of The Album Leaf were first born of. Rather, what many fans seem to respond to is just the fact that there is genuine feeling inculcated into each keystroke, drum beat, and bow bend. Much like the stereotype that all lyricists want to leave vagueness in their poetry for the listener to read into, LaValle, too, seems to revel in his songs’ ability to reach people in whatever way they choose to experience it.
“It’s a lot of different feelings and emotions,” explains the longtime San Diegan. “I think it’s primarily where my head is at that given moment when I’m writing that song; that’s pretty much how I’m expressing it for myself. The beauty of it is that anybody else can grab whatever they want from it and feel the way they want to feel, just because there’s really nothing telling you how to feel.”
This is why The Album Leaf carries such a populist appeal, and why the music can be likened to Fischer-Price—My First Electronic Band—because for many fans of indie rock, The Album Leaf is a stepping stone to more esoteric computer glitch. But it’s also how Mr. LaValle has been able to support himself financially.
Before starting his band in earnest in 1998, LaValle worked with an advertising firm composing commercial jingles—a period which he says almost robbed him of his creative flair. But conversely, if you turn on the television and see Michelle Obama, yes, that may well be “The Light” in the background, as Album Leaf tracks have been used in numerous advertisements.
“I would rather have been doing my own stuff, rather than mocking other people’s work,” LaValle recalls about his former nine-to-five. “The other side of that is how you make money, or make a living or a career out of playing music. Those kind of things help the situation.”
However you like to think about LaValle’s music, context to future releases may well be right in your backyard. LaValle recently moved to Boulder Creek while his wife attends grad school at UC Santa Cruz, and it’s certainly not difficult to picture his songs framing a drive up to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, sunlight cracking through the trees as soft ambiance wafts out of your car speakers. Because of the close proximity, The Album Leaf performed at the Crepe just last year, but this show presents the project as it’s never been heard before.
“With this show I’m doing it by myself with a string quartet and a small brass section,” previews LaValle, who had played with the same backing band for eight years. “That right there is a different experience, playing the songs in a different way. It keeps things exciting, and creates a little more mystery.”
The Album Leaf performs at 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 11 and 12, at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. For more information, call 429-6994.