Progress Report

Progress Report: Becky Stark

NAME: Becky Stark
PROGRESS REPORT: Performing with the Decemberists, performing and recording with the L.A. Ladies’ Choir, prepping an album with The Living Sisters, recording an album with Lavender Diamond.

Lavender Diamond isn’t just Becky Stark, and Stark isn’t just in Lavender Diamond. Her most high-profile gig was her recent appearance with the Decemberists on The Colbert Report, and the singer/songwriter’s actually been working on three other musical projects, ranging from the 10-plus member L.A. Ladies’ Choir to a still-in-the-early-stages solo album, which, as far as Stark’s involvement goes, require opposite amounts of attention. While writing her solo album (not out until 2010) makes her happily nervous, the choir she started last year makes her happy precisely because it can go on without her. Stark says she started writing songs a couple of years ago for a hypothetical choir of a dozen women or so. She got together a group of friends to cover Yoko Ono’s “Sisters Of Sisters” at ArthurFest, but decided to form a real choir to coincide with the opening of the short film Become A Microscope – 90 Statements On Sister Corita. Since that performance, the choir has played more shows with a lineup that ranges from 8-18 women. “Now the Ladies’ Choir has a life of its own,” Stark explains. And because the band has a fluid membership, it can record and perform without Stark. Still, she can’t wait to perform with them again, due to her love of literal (and figurative) harmonies. “It’s so fun to sing together and create sharing experiences for ourselves and other women in our community,” she says. “It’s just a great thing to do.”

Still, if she spent too much time with the L.A. Ladies’ Choir, Stark might not have time to write and record the two other albums she’s cooking up, one with her new band The Living Sisters and another with Lavender Diamond. The former band involves Stark, L.A. singer/songwriter Eleni Mandell, and The Bird And The Bee’s Inara George. Stark assembled the Living Sisters for the same reason she started the choir — she loves the transcendent feeling she gets from singing with other people. “The way it feels to sing harmony, it’s ecstatic! It feels like bliss, total bliss,” she says. The band’s first LP, The Living Sisters Love To Live, took eight months to record, whenever the trio wasn’t busy with their other projects. As someone who loves pure, unadorned vocal melodies, Stark found it hard to let her songwriting partners add more instruments and new arrangements. “I’ve learned so much from Inara and Elaine, recording together. Both of them have really broad, complex, sophisticated sensibilities. I don’t really have that,” she says. “After we had done the singing, Inara and Eleni brought in all these musicians to play and we added all these fancy things. At first I was really nervous about it because I was like why is there so much things happening? There’s things happening!”

While she’s just in the beginning stages of writing her solo record, Stark sees it as another way to become a better collaborator, whether with the choir, The Living Sisters, or Lavender Diamond. By learning to confidently write songs on her own, she’s hoping to bring a whole and fully-formed sensibility to her work while she records. So far, it sounds like Stark and her band are feeling more adventurous. She describes the record, which they’re recording at Justin Burrill’s studio in Echo Park, as “magical.” Most of the tracks were unfinished when they began, so the songs have gone on “really wild” detours, Stark says, with some sounding “classical and operatic,” or turning into faster, dance pop tracks. They’re producing the record by themselves, for now. Lavender Diamond are taking a break from playing shows while working on their followup to Imagine Our Love, but they’ve played a couple of the new songs before: “Teach Me How To Waken,” which they wrote with Zooey Deschanel debuted at a She & Him show, “All The Stars” came out at a Rilo Kiley show. Stark’s looking forward to playing “Calling On My Nation,” a new one that Lavender Diamond hasn’t played outside the studio. “Now I am inspired to hurry and finish our record. Actually that song makes me really want to play some concerts!” She’s not sure about a release date, but, like all her projects, she’s hoping it’ll come together naturally — and blissfully. “We haven’t decided exactly when its coming out so … it’ll have to find its way into the perfect moment.”

[Photo by Alia Penner]

Some footage of Becky and Zooey from last summer:

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