Words by David C. Obenour
Born out of a period of personal strife and reimagining, Body Double is the effort of ex-Mansion singer, Candace Lazarou and collaborator and bassist, Noah Adams. Sharing the bond of sobriety, the two navigate bleak landscapes with the clarity of survivors. The resulting debut album, Milk Fed is a raw affair that mixes pop sensibilities with noise experimentation and detached but entirely aware vocals.
Off Shelf: How you’re holding up? Between wildfires, a long due reckoning on race in this country, the election and COVID, it’s a pretty wild time to be alive.
Candace Lazarou: This past year was already hallucinatory for me, and everything else just seemed like an escalation. It made sense that everything was nonsense.
Noah Adams: This is definitely the most bizarre time I’ve witnessed. Heartbreaking in a lot of ways but hopefully something beautiful will come from all of this. People seem pretty resilient and determined to stay and fight through it. I think we’ve been holding it together pretty well, all things considered.
OS: The two of you have been quarantining together for at least part of this time. I was wondering how this concentrated time together has changed your relationship, both personally and as a band.
CL: Shelter in place is a pretty good team building and breaking exercise. Doesn’t it seem like all the romantic couples either broke up or eloped by month three? Body Double got a better sense of who likes to do what in the band in all the realms tangential to songwriting… like videos, being on the internet, artwork, etc. Some things drive me less crazy than Noah and vice versa.
OS: Candace, Milk Fed was born out of an intense period of grief and change for you. I was wondering how these songs resonated with you and the place you’re in now that the album is being released.
CL: I used to read a lot of music interviews when I was a kid, and a prevailing theme was artists being loathe to talk about whatever album they were tasked to promote. “I made that record a year ago man, that’s old news, I’m just here to play”, etc. I don’t know if musicians complain as much in interview now as they did in the 90s, but I personally learned to love talking about songs I’ve written.
I take a really long time to understand the things that are happening around me. The bigger, more impactful the situation, the longer it takes. Looking back at these songs has been helpful in parsing how I related to losing people and parts of myself, and what I did with what was left over.
OS: Noah, the press release alludes to some of the personal issues that Candace was working through in these songs. As a cowriter in Body Double, I wondered if you could talk about how it was like living out those experiences together and putting them to music.
NA: Well Candace and I have a strong bond in that we have both struggled with addiction for a long time and are now sober – hopefully for good. With Milk Fed, I just tried to be as helpful to the process as possible, being patient and understanding if things got unusual or emotional. We tend to balance each other out in that way. When one of us is fearful and insecure, the other is hopeful and confident. We’re big fans of one another and even when it doesn’t feel like it, there’s an understanding that that is the truth.
OS: COVID has really up-ended so many things in our lives. How has it been releasing Milk Fed into a world where you aren’t able to go and support it like you normally would?
CL: Last year I interrogated friends that were “professional musicians” or employed in the music industry in some way. All my questions boiled down to “Why would you do this for a living? Are you nuts?” Most musicians I knew had at least one unrelated primary or supplemental income. It seemed weird to me that people were getting asked for autographs but also worried about paying rent while they were on tour. I’m too old to think that the “romance” of being a rock n roller makes up for the stress of living paycheck to paycheck if someone else sees profit.
It looked like I could either stretch myself really thin by making a living in another field, or I would have to work with friends to invent a new way of being in a band. With the advent of shelter-in-place, everyone is getting that very same assignment. The punks are ingenious when it comes to working under poor conditions – it’s not like you are born thinking “crowded, moldy basements are my preferred venue.” You just come to feel that way because it means venues can’t act as gatekeepers to you playing live to your friends. I believe we can collectively find a way to make music that is more robust in a crisis.
OS: In your previous band Candace you were the singer but in Body Double you play a number of instruments. Without trying to sound too abstract, do you think that has changed how you approach writing songs or how you experience playing them?
CL: Of course! Being the music boss is way harder than rolling into practice an hour late and writing a vocal line and lyrics. It means tracking many, many more threads in the construction of a song. It’s worth it though. I get to make whatever changes I want to anything I want, from structure to arrangement to production. There are lots of drawbacks to doing it this way, but nurturing a song at every step of its development allows for a singularity of voice in a way a more evenly collaborative project does not.
OS: What do you find yourself missing most about being able to perform in front of an audience?
C: Reaching out and touching somebody. I still sing into a hairbrush in the mirror though.
OS: It sounds like Body Double was a real exploratory project for the both of you. Allowing yourselves to go and try things that you hadn’t been able to before. What do you think you learned from this freedom from expectations?
NA: I came in to the project with only the expectation of playing bass live. I didn’t anticipate being a co-writer, so that was a nice surprise. Because I try to practice having a freedom-from-expectations mindset, I was mostly able to just roll with whatever happened. That’s kind of tough mindset to have especially when my songs are being produced by Candace. If I’m fighting for a certain sound or change in a song that I wrote, I have to make sure I’m fighting for it because it’s right for the song and not for my ego. Sometimes the answer isn’t clear and we have to fight a little until it is.
CL: I don’t think I fully escaped my own expectations when I was writing this record. I had to stare at a stolen copy of ProTools every day and think “This is it! No one to answer to. You’re free to do whatever! That means you can’t blame anyone else if this sucks!” Eventually I had to train myself to also say “You like playing instruments and configuring all the little parts, and a good album is just a nice side effect.”
OS: While the instruments may be familiar, you’ve got some amazing sounds and textures that you capture on Milk Fed. Whether it’s distortion, vocal effects or synthesizer, there are just these sounds that do such a great job conveying emotion. Were there any moments or sounds that really stood out to you from recording?
NA: During the mixing session, our engineer Joo Joo Ashworth introduced the Eventide H9 into the process. We liked it so much I bought one for Candace after the record was done. Also I think using “wrong” pedals for “wrong” instruments was effective. “That’s not suppose go be used for that”. Well, it is now.
CL: There’s a video Adrian Belew did in the 80s called Electronic Guitar where he runs through his rig and gives really great advice on extended technique and processing, like “don’t use more than 3 effects” and “imitate animal sounds”. I watched that video and fucked around until I found something I called elephant guitar – you can hear it on The Floating Hand and a few other spots on the album. I know when I’ve found a sound I like when it simultaneously upsets me and makes me laugh.
OS: How do you see that sound evolving now that you’ve laid a foundation with your debut album? Or is there a foundation?
CL: The only musical conceit I’m married to is writing pop songs that don’t make me snooze, and I feel free to change style as I see fit as long as my bandmates will suffer it. That being said, Noah and I both landed on “louder, harder, noiser, faster” for the next record. I have some icky noises to expel, and I want to increase Chase’s lung capacity. I want to freak out. What a nice thing it is to have a band to do that in so it doesn’t happen at a family dinner.