When Steffaloo, nee Steph Thompson, and I sat down on our respective computers (Steph at work, me at home) for our interview on November 14th, I knew from our previous emails that this down-to-earth and laid-back musician would be a super-coolio person to chat with, and I wasn’t wrong. Steffaloo and I talked about everything: her family, her sound, her passion for music, her modesty, a super-secret upcoming project, and my adoption into her family.
Inyourspeakers: Hey! How are you?
Steffaloo: I’m great! A bit tired, but great; you?
IYS: I’m great, thanks for asking! I understand you’re busy, so I’ll try and make this quick for you.
S: No worries! It’s pretty slow right now so we’re golden.
S: Thanks for wanting to do this interview with me.
IYS: Are you kidding? I’m thrilled that you wanted to!
S: I’m always flattered anytime anyone wants to feature anything I do. (Laughs)
IYS: Inyourspeakers is psyched to have words with you!
S: Well, I’m glad to do it!
IYS: I saw that growing up, you sang at church functions with your mom and sister and then moved to L.A. just about 6 years ago. Who was it that influenced you to say, “Ok, that’s it, I’m going for it?”
S: Oh man, it seems like forever ago that I was debating whether or not to move out here. [But] my big brother was actually a huge influence in helping me gain the courage to get out here [in L.A.]. I was living in Boulder [CO] after college and living in a small apartment by myself. I’d wanted to move out here for so long. One day, I literally just woke up and said, "That’s it, I’m leaving." Two weeks later, I packed as much as I could fit in my small car and drove out to L.A. with my big brother (he flew out to Colorado to drive back with me) and as far as music, I don’t think there was ever really an "I’m going for it" moment. It kind of just slowly happened.
IYS: I love that story; my big brother and I always bonded over music.
S: Music was always present; I was always singing or playing music somehow. I think one day it just happened that someone else liked hearing what I was making.
IYS: It’s obvious that music is in your blood.
S: Yeah, it’s always been a big part of our family. I’m glad you relate to that; it’s definitely been with the support of my family that I am where I am today.
IYS: SoundCloud calls your music “warm, youthful and with a certain kind of wonder in all of your songs.” While I find this to be mostly true, I find your themes both enlightened and sagacious, and the music itself stripped down and simply put, pretty. How do you find that balance between the sweet and lush lyrics and your spared down acoustics?
S: I guess I never really gave much thought to the way my songs come across. I started playing the way I did, in my room with just my guitar, because I didn’t know how to play anything else. I think I was content leaving most of my songs the way they were--just bare recordings--because it was most honest; it was the most "me." Really, playing what I did was really just my way of staying sane; it was so cathartic and therapeutic for me.
IYS: I was going to ask you that!
S: I think I focused on the vocals and lyrics to make up for the fact that I wasn’t that good at playing the guitar.
IYS: How cathartic was the process of your first album, Meet Me in Montauk, compared to your second?
S: I think they were both equally therapeutic but in entirely different ways.
IYS: The lyrics on "Would You Stay" seem to be more freeing in a way…
S: With the first album, I really put no effort into making it sound "good" or professional in anyway, I didn’t care, and I just wanted to share it I guess. It was therapeutic in a sense that when I wrote most of those songs (on Meet Me In Montauk) I was really in the thick of becoming who I was, really trudging through the muck of just becoming a real human. (Laughs)
IYS: And you released it independently.
S: This last album (Would You Stay) was a bit more of a mature outlook on that; while I’m still becoming myself, I feel way more real and comfortable in my own skin. So hopefully that’s a little more apparent [on] the second album, plus I gave more attention to the songs themselves and how they sounded. (Laughs) “Would You Stay” is definitely a song about letting go, so [yes], in a way, it was very freeing.
IYS: The sound is most definitely unique: the sounds of rainfall, the white noise. How deliberate is that? Is this your trademark?
S: My first "album," yes. I just posted it on Bandcamp and had no idea that anyone would ever listen to it. (Laughs) It’s funny really, how something like white noise and whatnot can become a trademark, like it’s a fad I’m trying to make a statement about. Really, it’s just my "poor man’s" solution to making music. The songs on Meet Me in Montauk were literally all made on my MacBook using the computer's built-in mic. (Laughs) Talk about ghetto!
IYS: It’s really not! I love it. I think it’s an amazing quality that you’ve added to your sound.
S: This album, (Would You Stay) I used a better mic, but it’s still pretty ghetto. (Laughs) I just love how people think I did it on purpose.
IYS: I honestly didn’t know and was curious. I think it’s super-coolio!
S: Yeah, I like how you asked me that [because] it always cracks me up. Leave it to the hipsters to turn my Kristen Wiig “I’m Poor” on Bridesmaids moment into [something]. (Laughs)
IYS: (Laughs) I love that movie! I read that you would like to collaborate with Feist, an artist you get compared to often. Is there another artist that you would love to work with?
S: I think there are a lot of people I’d love to work with. I’ve mentioned Youth Lagoon, I don’t know why but I think it would be amazing to do a song with him. That’s such a hard question to answer because really I’d be honored to work with a number of people. I’m always very humbled when anyone wants to work with me on something. (Laughs)
IYS: Metals (Feist’s fourth album, released in 2011) was one of my favorite albums of last year. Also, you’ve been compared to Mazzy Star--well, I’ve compared you to Mazzy Star. (Laughs) When I first heard you, she popped into my head.
S: It blows my mind anytime anyone compares me to Feist. (Laughs) Basically, [it’s] the best compliment ever. (Laughs)
IYS: Back to being humbled when people want to work with you…you did! Blackbird Blackbird, Stumbleine. You are very humble. But you are very good!
S: I just like to sing is all. (Laughs)
IYS: I listened to your Daytrotter Session a couple of times and just love the way you bring your audience in. I liken it to sitting in a room with you while you strum your guitar. It’s very intimate. Is this deliberate, or is this just me?
S: (Laughs) It’s not so much deliberate as it is just…me I guess? (Laughs) I don’t know. For so long, it’s just been me and my guitar, which I think automatically lends itself to a level of ‘intimacy’ with the people listening to it.
IYS: I really think that that is a huge thing for a lot of listeners today. People need to feel that their musicians are right there, speaking to them, and that you’re that artist.
S: Jeff Buckley once said; “Music comes from a very primal twisted place. When a person sings, their body, their mouth, their eyes, their words, their voice says all these unspeakable things that you really can’t explain but that mean something anyway. People are completely transformed when they sing or when they make love. But it’s a weird thing; at the end of the night, I feel strange because I feel I’ve told everybody all of my secrets.”
IYS: What a beautiful thing to say, and dangerous. Do you feel good singing out your secrets every night?
S: Thank you so much, and yes, it really humbles me when people say stuff like that because really, this is just me. I’m not the best musician in the world, I’ll be the first to tell you there [are] a ton of people out there way more talented than I am; but I love singing and I love making music and I just love music. I would rather have honest music over music that’s well-produced or heard by 50 million people, you know?
IYS: Quality over quantity.
S: Some nights, it feels shitty singing and letting everyone see those pieces of me. (Laughs)
IYS: I can’t imagine.
S: Some nights I don’t want to share anything and it’s weird [because] I find that it’s those nights that I sing and play the best. I’m 10 times more vulnerable than I already was going in. (Laughs)
IYS: That’s twisted. I wonder why.
S: Yeah, it’s a strange thing. (Laughs) I think it has to do with the fact that on those nights, I’m completely and utterly connected to my deepest secrets, my deepest feelings, and hiding them is all I want to do, so they are heightened in a way and it comes out in my playing as this otherworldly thing that is so much bigger than me.
IYS: I can understand that; not the ‘getting up on stage to sing’ type of vibe, but yeah!
S: I’m sounding like a weirdo talking like that about music! (Laughs)
IYS: No, you don’t!
S: It’s really just what Buckley said; "It’s very primal and twisted." (Laughs)
IYS: You sound passionate and you sound like a musician!
S: Well, thank you, anywhoo… (Laughs)
IYS: What do you do on your downtime, besides strum that guitar? And who takes those pictures on your Tumblr account? Is that you?
S: Oh, let’s see: well, L.A. is never lacking in things to get into, that’s for sure. I love going to shows. My little brother and I go to at least a couple of shows a week, so that’s always fun. I take photos [so] yes; most of the stuff I post on Tumblr is stuff I’ve taken. I [also] spend as much time as I can with my family.
IYS: You’re a very talented photographer!
S: Thank you! It’s great [because] I not only love my family, but we all have similar artistic minds so we’re oftentimes getting into things together or making things. (Laughs) Really, I just love creating things so that’s usually what you can find me doing in some way or form.
IYS: Will you guys adopt me? I’ll be Jennaloo.
S: (Laughs) Yes!
IYS: Awesome! I’ll be in L.A. tomorrow!
IYS: So, besides your tour dates, what’s next for you, Steffaloo?
S: [Besides my full-time job that is boring and lame], what’s next? Let me see…I’d love to do a legit tour at some point in my life. Hopefully, I’ll get to that place and be able to quit my job and just go.
IYS: Which you will…
S: Aside from that, I’ll be coming out with another album in the spring next year with MUSH [Record Label]. It’s going to really amazing, [that’s] all I’ll say. (Laughs)
IYS: I am sure it will be!
S: I suppose I’ll just keep on doing what I do until I feel I shouldn’t anymore. (Laughs)
IYS: No more hints?
S: It’s too good a surprise to give away just yet. (Laughs)
IYS: Aww, dammit!
S: I just want to be doing as much as I can, ya know? The more I can get myself into, the more I learn, and the faster I get better.
Steffaloo does keep getting better, and the hush-hush project she’s working on? You’re not going to want to miss it. As modest and self-effacing as Steffaloo is, her music transcends levels of talent that other artists who have been around longer do not compare to. Additionally, it will not surprise me in the near future when we are quoting Steffaloo, just as she quoted Jeff Buckley. Steph Thompson is going places, so remember this name: Steffaloo; endearing, charming and sweet Steffaloo. There’s this, too: Headlining the Hangout Music Festival (or Put Name of Festival Here): Steffaloo. I like the sound of that, as well.