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Lionlimb on the New Album'Limbo,' Following Intuition, and Embracing the Past

While rooted in reality, New York singer-songwriter Lionlimb is creating otherworldly vignettes with his words and atmospheric folk-tinged tunes. The project helmed by Stewart Bronaugh unveils its third album, Limbo, tomorrow, a ten track collection of songs written during the pandemic and looking towards nostalgic influences while simultaneously yearning for an escape. Equally suitable for a sunshine drive and a melancholic night of reflection, Limbo accurately captures the feeling of feeling stuck in between while chronicling the songwriter's love and loss. In an interview with Stewart Bronaugh just ahead of the album's release, he provided insight on the making of the record, lessons he's learned over the past eight years since Lionlimb's inception, and his affinity for art and analog media.

The songs on Limbo are rooted in personal experience with grief, loss, and addiction, but these experiences translate through the lyrics in a way that makes them feel universally relatable. What did your lyric writing process look like when working on Limbo?

Yes, I just like stuff that is classic like old soul love songs. I like to imagine them being about other things though. or multiple things, so it doesn't have to have a definitive meaning. and can live whatever life you want it to. I feel like the trend now though is hyper specific lyrics so its probably not doing me any favors haha.

There is a through-line across the album of natural imagery to describe being overwhelmed by a greater force, from hurricanes to deep water. Where did this motif originate when writing the record and was it deliberate to carry it out throughout the entire body of work?

It was definitely not deliberate; the lovely Michelle kim who wrote the bio for the record is the one who kind of brought that to my attention. I don't have concepts for making songs, I really just play piano or guitar and sing and whatever feels good coming out I keep pursuing. 

The feel of Limbo is influenced by a variety of mid-20th century sounds, from 70’s Italian film soundtracks to the soul and pop ballads of the era. Where did your fascination with this nostalgic media come from and what made you decide to incorporate those sounds into the record?

I've just always been more interested in the past. It's just comforting to me looking at old photos or watching old movies. Maybe it's because the present is so anxiety inducing, plus everything looks and sounds better to me. Nothing compares to analog mediums. 

Besides your solo work, you spent years as a member of Angel Olsen’s touring band, who is an artist whose music shares a similar kind of ethereal, limitless, and atmospheric aura as your own. Are there any inclinations, influences, or lessons from that experience that you’ve brought into creating Lionlimb tracks?

Yeah, I've learned a lot from Angel. I think the biggest one is just following my intuition. I mean ultimately thats what being an artist is. She doesn't worry about what other people are up to. 

A lot of the record consists of duets, which feels like it came together so naturally. Was this an idea you came into the writing process with, or was working on a particular song a turning point in incorporating more female vocalists on the project?

I just always write melodies that are hard for me to sing. My vocal range is so small but I like melodies in higher registers. It's really a bummer. But your voice is just an instrument and you gotta work with what you have. I just love vocals, I'm definitely going more in the direction of vocal heavy, but I don't really like my voice that much. It's just really fun have other people bring their own flavor to what I'm doing. It's like I'm trying to make a curry without garam masala.

The album art captures the themes of the album perfectly, living in the in-between and trying to escape the pain and loss of reality. How did the art come to be?

Picabia is one of my favorite painters and that painting has been the background on my phone for years and I still haven't gotten sick of it, so I thought that was a pretty good test. Rhat painting was made 102 years ago if you can believe that. It feels so fresh and inspired to me. 

I know your philosophy behind making music is super intuitive, unafraid of unconventionality and making mistakes - and that makes the record feel even more raw. Was that an approach you’ve always had or something that you have grown into with time and experience both performing and producing?

I feel like with all the tech available to us now I have to constantly push back against making music in a programed/calculated way. I've definitely fallen into traps before working on the computer, and I think it's produced my worst music. It's fun to mess around but ultimately I feel like I'm just twisting knobs and not writing a song. Some people thrive doing that and make really inspiring stuff, i just don't think I'm wired for it. My favorite records are recorded mostly live anyway.

Lastly, if you had to name one song that best encapsulates Limbo, its sounds, and its themes, which would it be?

Probably "Runaway." It was the first one I made for it and it definitely led me down a path for the other songs. 

Lionlimb's new album, Limbo, is out on May 24 via Bayonet Records.


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