Poema’s “Forget You in LA” is on one level an easy, dreamy pop tune. On another, more sophisticated level, it is gorgeously orchestrated with a mood that is perfectly measured against the lyrics. Nothing feels rushed, and despite the haziness, there is a true sense of feeling beneath it all.
In the same way, their new EP, Pretty Speeches, is straightforward and frank without cynicism or irony. They balance this openness with just enough melancholic distance to keep from being overbearing. Pretty Speeches is not so much a departure from their earlier sound as an expansion of it. It is the natural next step for Poema’s Elle and Shealeen Puckett, and the freedom they have found to chase their creative impulses.
NYMM: What made you guys decide to do this album now, as an independent release?
Shealeen: We had been on a Christian Rock label from Seattle since we were teenagers. We parted ways with them because that’s not really who we are. That’s not the kind of music we write. It took a while to find the right people and re-build a team. We found Nolan Rossi, who produced a song for us, and we loved his style.
Elle: When we first met Nolan, he listened to our old music and said that it wasn’t the sound he was expecting. We explained that we hadn’t put out anything in a few years. We wanted to get more creative and stop worrying about the genre. We wanted to make something that we liked and we would personally listen to.
Shealeen: It took about a year, but we finally put together five songs that sounded the way we want. There weren’t as many time limits as we had in the past. With our previous records, we flew out to different places and there was a strict schedule for getting it done. We spent a year and a half on this one. It was great to not have to rush to put out something we like.
NYMM: Did it take a while for these songs to come together? How much of the writing was done in the studio?
Elle: We did a lot of writing in the studio with Nolan. It actually took a while in the studio because we tried so many ideas. We tried a lot of terrible ideas too. “Forget You in LA” took so long to come together that we almost didn’t put it on the EP.
Shealeen: Yeah, that was the song I liked the least at first. It just never felt right. Then, we changed one thing that sort of unlocked it.
Elle: We had a few songs we weren’t going to use because they just didn’t sound like they went together, but then we just did it anyway. We recorded a lot of them with the same band, and tracked most of them live, so they at least had the same feel. “Get to Me” is an odd ball. It had really unusual percussion on it. “Go Away” originally sounded like TLC, but we eventually decided to tone it back.
Shealeen: I really want to put all those demos out on Soundcloud. They’re fun and I’d love to share them.
Elle: That’s part of why we like to write in the studio. When you’re creating something, there’s this magic energy that happens that’s really hard to capture later.
NYMM: Were you worried about making such a big change to your sound?
Elle: We contemplated changing our name because it’s such a new project. We can’t do anything about the old stuff being out there except to embrace it as where we were at the time.
Shealeen: We have an amazing fan base who have been with us through everything we’ve done.
Elle: I knew once we moved to Nashville, we would really hone in on what we were doing. Everyone is so good and has such high standards. It makes you step up your game.
NYMM: You either have to step up or give up. Has that ever crossed your mind?
Shealeen: Absolutely. I see people give up all the time.
Elle: There was a time when I thought I will never become an artist – I will only ever be a guitar teacher. But that was all before we put out this music.
Shealeen: You have to fight the discouragement. It felt like us against the world. We didn’t know how to do any of this stuff without a label and we had to learn.
NYMM: Do you have plans to tour?
Elle: We hate performing [laughs].
Shealeen: We get stressed out before shows.
Elle: Yeah, we do not like being in front of people. For some people, performing is what it’s all about. For us, it’s about being in the studio and writing. It can be fun if you’ve practiced and you’re ready, but it can make you really nervous.
You can find more Poema here:
Images by Jon Karr / www.thatverynextthing.com
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