Since they’re one of two diamond-centric bands featuring exquisitely-voiced singers with connections to the Decemberists that emerged around the same time, I’ve been guilty of confusing Lavender Diamond with the similarly-named My Brightest Diamond in the past. If you’re in the same boat, it’s actually fairly easy to break down: although the singers from both bands appeared on the Decemberists’ 2009 “indie opera” The Hazards of Love, Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond) is the angel-voiced one who played Margaret, while Shara Worden of the more intense My Brightest Diamond was the wicked queen.
The stage set, what of Lavender Diamond? Stark’s own band released Incorruptible Heart, a follow-up to their 2007 debut Imagine Our Love, last month. It’s a dreamy, gorgeous affair (see the video to “Everybody’s Heart’s Breaking Now”, above); produced by OKGo’s Damian Kulash and featuring a string quartet and horn section.
Becky was good enough to answer some questions for Last Year’s Girl, and her brain is as beautiful as her music.
Who’s in the band, and how did you get together?
Well right now it’s me, Steve Gregoropoulos and Ron Rege, jr. Jeff Rosenberg plays with us too these days, and he used to be in the band but he quit and then he came back. It’s a little complicated! Jeff Kwong plays bass with us sometimes, too.
Years ago I had a dream about the band and then – we all just found each other. The dream was so powerful that I always believed it was meant to be real. It took a few years for it to unfold. I was playing in a psychedelic doo-wap punk band with Ron in Rhode Island. Then the two of us moved to LA. In LA I had been working on an operetta with Steve and playing folk music with Jeff. I realized that we should all play together! It took a little convincing but once we all got together it was instantly magical!
Three words to describe your sound…
Clear, melodic, wild
What influences you?
Hmmm… Well I’m influenced by the beauty of the earth, the enthusiasm and humour of children, the love and connection of family, the courage of people fighting for justice. Recently I’m very inspired by the Rolling Jubilee which is an evolution of Occupy Wall Street. There is such deep economic injustice in the american system and I feel very influenced by the people working for change.
Musically, lately I feel very influenced by Leonard Cohen. His poetry is just breaking my heart! Also in my life I have been very influenced by Miranda July, Prince, Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Cyndi Lauper, Dolly Parton, Lightning Bolt, the Ballet Russes- oh so many influences!
It’s been a good five years since we last heard an album under the Lavender Diamond name – how long have these songs been in the making? Was it just a case of trying to find the time to get back together as a band?
Well some of the songs started to live years ago and some of them came to life recently, but I guess they’re all from someplace eternal – that’s how it feels. Lavender Diamond has a funny magic – it’s a way to share a specific kind of love energy. And I guess it just wasn’t the time for it in the time between our two albums. I was singing with the Decemberists and I started a women’s choir, and I was doing other things. But suddenly it was time for Incorruptible Heart! I just couldn’t live without it! We just came together again like magic, it’s really the only way to describe it.
What releases/shows do you have planned at the moment? Any Scottish dates on the horizon?
We have a Pacific Northwest tour planned for December. No Scottish dates at the moment but I hope we can come back there soon!
And what are you listening to at the moment?
Right now I’m listening to the birds singing. Seriously! I’m sitting at a cafe outside and there are so many birds just singing and talking to each other and it sounds so funny & lovely! But in terms of human music these days I’m listening a lot to Ella Fitzgerald. Her voice just soothes my soul. I just love to sing along!