“In the minivan and on the radio, great songs woke me up. Great songs smashed me to bits. They made me want to start a band.” – Adam Schatz

Landlady’s self-titled fourth album captures exactly that magic. Led by Adam Schatz (vox, keys, sax) and filled out by expertly layered drums, guitar and bass, Landlady documents four gifted improvisers who share a deep love for music and that connection it fosters. Tackling the evergreen topics of loss and joy, Landlady is a testament to that cosmic anchor formed by the seemingly simple act of playing in a band.
“It’s almost a choose your own adventure. Not in terms of what songs people listen to, but what your ears focus on,” when he describes this album, Landlady’s best and tightest album to date. “We try as much as possible to make it dynamic and make it surprising, but always make it on purpose.”

Schatz loves the magic of an album whether that’s making one or listening to one. When recalling his love of music and the album, Schatz takes us back to summer camp and a counselor who had Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and Spoon’s Kill The Moonlight, two albums that broke open a world he’d never experienced before, a magic he wanted to be a part of by forming his own band in 2011. And then there’s The Band, a kind of opposite of The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi-level production. “For them, it was all about the songs and all about playing together.”

Juxtapose both the love of crafting a distinct universe in the studio and the love of playing in a band, and that’s Landlady.

This is also an album about survival, which Schatz writes about eloquently, and humorously, in a companion personal essay. He recounts a near fatal wreck while on tour when the Landlady minivan spun out 180 degrees on a highway on a 17-hour drive in a downpour from Seattle to San Francisco during the climax of Harvey Danger’s  “Flagpole Sitta.”

Remarkably the minivan remained upright, thanks to boxes and boxes of unsold merch. In addition to the near-death escape there’s immeasurable loss here too, Schatz recounting dear musical friends he’s lost, as well as many references to the relentless ubiquity of green room hummus.

The structure for Landlady was laid while on European tour in 2019. “We definitely don’t get to play together as much as I would like,” explains Schatz. “So I sort of tricked us into being able to be in one place for a solid five days.”

That place was Altes Spital, a music venue that used to be a hospital but also a one-time church, a cafe and an Egyptian art museum, nestled in the wilds of Bavaria and owned by a friend of a friend named Olli. He’d invited Ladyland to crash at his place, and each day, on his way to work, he’d drop the band off at the venue where they worked on these songs all day long and go back and listen to records at his house all night.

The recording session was an intense week-long retreat at the Outlier Inn in upstate New York’s Sullivan County and was engineered by Schatz’s longtime recording partner Jake Aron (Grizzly Bear, Snail Mail, Jamie Lidell) for a truly sublime record, at once raw and exploratory, surprising and visceral.

It’s worth noting that each member of Landlady boasts a robust and wide-ranging collaborative spirit. In another era when live music was still possible, bandleader Schatz kept a busy schedule touring with the likes of Sylvan Esso and Wye Oak, a band he was on tour with when the pandemic shutdown quelled nearly all live music for what is turning out to be more than a year. He’s also laid down sax and synthesizer parts on recent albums for wide-ranging artists such as This Is The Kit, Japanese Breakfast and Becca Mancari.

Drummer Ian Chang, who formed Landlady with Schatz in 2011, is also a member of experimental band Son Lux who’s worked recently with Moses Sumney and composer Benjamin Louis Brody. Guitarist Will Graefe plays in Okkervil River, and bassist Ryan Dugre often plays with Rubblebucket and Eleanor Friedberger, to name a few.

“I loop back as much as I can to just people in a room playing with each other, because that’s what we love, that’s what we want to do,” Schatz explains. “When it comes naturally, it’s not work.”

Landlady’s Landlady is a testament to that sentiment: a tight album that meticulously carves out its own universe, more concerned with exploring wide-ranging musical expanses and celebrating the pure joy that comes from making music than crafting singles best optimized for Spotify streaming success.

Landlady live by Rachel Drake
IMAGES: To download, click above. First photo by Adam Schatz. Show photo by Rachel Darke.


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