Megiddo 20th-Anniversary Vinyl Reissue

I was a teenager living in Charlottesville Virginia when I wrote the songs on Megiddo. Writing a song was like a magical therapy session for me (it still is). I was what they called an ‘at-risk’ teen, and it often felt like music saved me. From myself. From the effects of my dysfunctional childhood, raised by unstable divorced parents. The particulars of my family’s dysfunction had forced me to grow up quickly and I entered adolescence disillusioned and angry. I felt at a distance from everything, like I was sitting back with my arms crossed, watching the world’s tragicomedy of fakery, hubris, cruelty, and weakness. 

As middle school turned into high school I was hungry for art and experiences that could mirror the longing inside of me for a deeper truth. I found Classical Greek plays and mythology. Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’. Sylvia Plath’s poetry. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. John Lennon. Nirvana. 

I became fascinated by religious wars, murderous cults, the holocaust. How could people be so wrong? How could they be so blind to their own evil? I adopted an attitude of nihilistic hedonism. 'Life has no meaning so you might as well try to enjoy it while you can.' I ingested any mind-altering substances available. My best friend and I loved to say: “Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse” with a sardonic sneer and a long drag off a cigarette. 

That was the mindset and worldview of the person I was when I wrote the songs that became Megiddo, on my unplugged electric guitar, singing at a whisper, sitting on my bed in my mom’s house late on a school night.

“Lauren Hoffman’s record was beautiful without throwing up on your shoulder, but it never got the exposure it deserved. I don’t think her record company knew what a good thing they had” – Rob Sheffield (Rolling Stone).

To celebrate it’s 20th anniversary, I am releasing a special, limited edition vinyl reissue of my 1997 album Megiddo, originally released on Virgin Records. The album was recorded on 24-track tape and will be re-mastered for vinyl from 1/2-inch tape for a warm analog sound! Along the way I’m going to tell you the unlikely story of how an angry underachiever wound up releasing a major-label album while still a teenager, and you’ll get exclusive updates of how the project you are helping to fund is going. In addition to the vinyl pre-order, you can also pick up some goodies that I buried in a time capsule back in 1997 – 7" Vinyl singles, EPs, headshots, t-shirts – as well as custom handwritten lyrics, and even an acoustic show in your home! CHECK IT OUT!

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THE LUCKNOW DEMOS

*** Release Announcement**
"The Lucknow Demos" - now available exclusively on Soundcloud! 🎶
Recorded in 2003 in Lucknow, India, these recordings were intended to be a tool to network and begin the path towards my 2006 album "Choreography". But I later found out that many people considered The Lucknow Demos to be an album of it's own, one that they loved and would pass around to their friends. Hearing that so may times made my heart smile :) and prompted me to want to share the 'album' publicly. So here is that collection officially available for the first time! So now that collection, including several songs never released on any other album, is officially available for the first time! 

Something Better Than This

I've written quite a few songs with lyrics that sound like they are about/for a romantic interest, partner, or lover, but actually aren't. Some of them are about non-romantic personal relationships, like with family members, but in many of them, the "you" is a feeling, a concept, or another side of myself.
In this song from 2003, "Something Better Than This", it might seem like I'm heartbroken over the loss of a boyfriend, but the "you" I am singing about is joy: optimism, inspiration, happiness.
I have struggled with depression and other mental health issues a lot in my life. It has always seemed to come in waves and at random times. I might be productive, inspired, riding high, and then suddenly my landscape would change, and all hope, all purpose, all joy would be sucked out of view. This song was written from that desolate place.

(Karmen Buttler - acoustic guitar and harmonies, Mark Goldstein - bass, Stuart Gunter - drums)

SOMETHING BETTER THAN THIS

I spent a twisted night, without sleep
Wondering 'Where did I go wrong?'
'How did I lose you?'

I spend my listless life, I wait here
Wondering 'Where did I go wrong?'
'How did I lose you?'

There was a time
When I believed in
Something better than this
There was a time
When I still dreamed
All I do now is wish

I left the scream inside my mouth
Pushed it down 'How did I go wrong?'
'Where did I lose you?'

God knows I know I could die here
Just lie here just lie here
How can I go on now that I've lost you?

Dreams are made for waking and I'm making up my bed
Daylight is for waiting and there's seven hours left

PHOTO by Will May

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#storytime: In Which I Lose My Voice And Play My Favorite Show Ever:

This was me late Saturday night after our IX show. Yes, I had been reeeally sick Thursday into Friday morning, but perked up enough by Saturday to play the show. #FreeFall is a relatively big show for me, an outdoor venue that usually draws about a thousand people. We were co-headlining with @thesallyroseband and the vibe at IX was really great: warm weather, a mellow but very into it crowd. I sang through soundcheck, I sang a stripped down opening set, I sang 2 songs with Sally in her set, and then RIGHT before our full band set to close out the night, I started to lose my voice. I sounded like I’d spent my whole life smoking cigarettes in a whiskey bar. I felt like I had no vocal control, I didn’t know how I could possibly sing my songs! But there was no time to think about it cuz I was already onstage. Nathan Moore of @wtjuradio gave us a sweet introduction that I wish I could remember! Then I croaked into the mic “So.. this isn’t what my voice usually sounds like! But I’m gonna try to sing anyway. It’ll either go horribly wrong or I’ll finally achieve my dream of sounding like a female Tom Waits.”...The first song was pretty pathetic but then I applied some things my voice teacher @christinafleming6 taught me: relaxing my facial muscles, engaging my core, telling my throat that it doesn’t need to do the work. A shot of rum from @vitaespirits helped too! Having to use a completely different voice really kept me in the moment. Playing live can sometimes be hard for me. If I let my mind wander to what people might be thinking about me, I can get really tense and anxious. But I didn’t feel any of that on Saturday night. I could really feel the crowd’s support all night! About 40 minutes in, it started lightly raining. I saw about a third of the crowd leaving and after the song I said “maybe that should be our last song? Cuz of the rain?” But I heard howls of “No!”, “keep playing!”, “more!” so we played for like 20 more minutes. I made it through our whole set 😊 Sunday morning, my voice was totally gone. It hasn’t come back yet but I don’t mind. It was totally worth it 😄

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Solipsist

#Storytime I'm thinking today about the song 'Solipsist' from my 2006 album 'Choreography', and what a long evolution it had to become what it is on the album. I wrote it in the first year that I was studying dance at VCU (2001), on guitar, in my boyfriend's charmingly funky room in a shared apartment. He was an aspiring musician but also a perfectionist; he had such high expectations for how awesome his music was going to be that he never actually finished anything. It would drive him nuts when I'd be like "oh hey wanna hear this song I wrote today?" 
I have always written very fast. Once a song starts to emerge, I will usually finish it that day, often in just an hour or two.
But this one was a little different. The intro was written around a guitar riff that has long since been left behind. It was the kind of riff where one chord shape moves up and down the fret board (I have used a similar 'trick' in "Build A Home", "Lolita", and the not-yet-recorded "Shake Me / Monster"). So I had that bit, but no lyrics. Then on another day I wrote the 'chorus' part ("You burn through the film..."). Then finally I realized the two bits could go together and I finished the lyrics and sewed it all up into one song.
That boyfriend was a philosophy major and we would have lots of discussions about different philosophical theories, so a lot of the lyrics came from that. We also had this romantic idea about lovers reflecting the energy of the other, like a moon to a sun. How we are lit up by that energy ("I am the moon, ablaze in the first light").
After he and I broke up, and after I quit dancing school to get back to music, I was back in Charlottesville and gathered a band around me called The Lilas (2003?). In Hebrew, the word for 'night' is 'lila' ("lie-la"), so that's where I got the name from. Karmen Buttler sang and played acoustic guitar, Stuart Gunter played drums, and Jay Kotowski was on bass, I brought the songs and sang and played electric guitar. Together we concocted the first arrangement of 'Solipsist' and released it on a DIY EP we sold at shows. The original guitar riff was in there, plus some disjointed attempts from me to make it 'heavy', and pretty vocal harmonies from Karmen. For some reason we put a disco beat in the chorus, and after sitting with that for a bit I realized it didn't really work.
"Solipsist" was about to go in the pile of songs with cool ideas but missing some je-ne-sais-quoi that would keep it from ever being released.
Flash forward. The Lilas had broken up and I had moved to New York (2004?). I was playing soul-crushing solo shows at all the little downtown venues like Pianos and The Living Room. I was regrouping.
Finally, at some point I knew I was ready to make another record. It was time. I tried working with a producer in NYC, Ron Shaffer. We worked on "Broken" and it came out great - that's the version that is on "Choreography" that people love on Pandora. But everything else we tried wasn't clicking, so in the end I wound up commuting to Richmond to record the rest of the album at Sound of Music Studios with John Morand. That's where 'Solipsist' got it's makeover.
It turned out to be one of my favorite songs to work on on that album.
First of all, we abandoned my guitar riff and moved it up a couple keys. The studio was crawling with great musicians and they all contributed to the song; we didn't have a clear vision for the end product, each layer kept revealing itself as we went along. That's The Flow, and it's so delicious and addictive. Miguel A Rodriguez-Urbiztondo played two different drum tracks: One of them got squeezed into that little teeny envelope-filter sound at the beginning, the other comes in at the second verse and rocks in full resolution. Cam DiNunzio (Denali) played all the guitars and came up with that cool lead part in the chorus. David Lowery stopped by and wound up killin it on the bass. Alan Weatherhead (engineer, mixer, and multi-instrumentalist on "Choreography") and I played around with keyboard and ambient sounds to fill it out. The final product was such a cool reveal, the song becoming what it wanted to be. It's still one of my favorite recordings I've ever released.
https://laurenhoffman.bandcamp.com/track/solipsist

FROM THE BLUE HOUSE

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Twenty years ago I was preparing to make this, my second album, From The Blue House. Twenty years later I'm starting work on my sixth album, and it's a kind of perspective that the girl on this album cover couldn't have even imagined...

I started work on my first album, Megiddo, straight out of high school. After a long process including many (fantastic) producers, engineers, studios, mixes and remixes, the album was released by #VirginRecords in 1997. I was never suited for the major label world. I rebelled immediately and insisted on making my second album in a tiny makeshift #analog #studio that Brian Kehew and I set up out in Free Union VA. I was still under contract with Virgin and using their money, but since they hadn't done shit to promote Megiddo, I decided not to play ball with them and instead to do exactly what I felt I needed to do for my own musical evolution.

It was a kind of adolescence of my career. My first album was made under the guidance of my elders, now it was time to assert my independence. I wanted one-take vocals with barely any effects and definitely no pitch correction. I insisted on playing all the #guitars. I tried to get a 'live' take whenever possible - meaning all musicians playing the song at the same time just like you would on stage. I refused most studio tricks and overdubs, keeping the album sparse and personal. 

Since then I have gone through periods of embarrassment, wanting to distance myself from the album. Probably because it's simultaneously genuine and flawed. But isn't that what being real is all about? Yeah, that's scary, and that scariness is what makes us hide our realness under a gloss of Instagram filters and protools edits. 

Now looking back from this vantage point, I'm proud of From The Blue House, and the stubborn young woman I was then. When I delivered the album to Virgin, they didn't want to put it out as it was. They wanted to spend time in LA remixing and re-recording the songs so that it would sound "more like Portishead". Instead I managed to get out of my contract with the rights to all my masters and $170,000. I put the record out myself.

*originally posted on Instagram