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Fast Times for Snail Mail - June 28, 2018 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Fast Times for Snail Mail

Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail

Lindsey Jordan is still waiting for her John Waters moment.

“All of my friends have run into him at coffee shops and stuff,” the Maryland native explains, “but I’ve never seen him.”

Perhaps the reason Jordan hasn’t had a chance encounter with Waters is due to the fact that she’s been busy. Insanely busy. At 19 years old, Jordan is rarely home these days. Instead, as Snail Mail, she’s touring behind Lush, her debut studio album that has garnered widespread acclaim and found her profiled in outlets ranging from Pitchfork to the New York Times.

A classically trained guitarist who first began taking lessons at the age of five, Jordan’s music invokes the timeless malaise of a youth in transition. However, unlike many of her peers, Jordan is able to see past the moments she chronicles in songs like “Heat Wave,” where she triumphantly declares, “I’m not into sometimes.”

Comprised of 10 astutely composed lo-fi tracks, Lush is an affirmation that pain has a purpose — and a shelf life. However one would be mistaken to try to peg Jordan as the quintessential “old soul.” She is very much of her age, full of delight and a touch of snark. In the middle of our conversation, she pauses to request an iced coffee and later explains she’s excited to play Madison Square Garden with Interpol next February mainly so she can get all of her friends backstage.

“I remember being 12 and watching the Justin Bieber movie and thinking that I would really like to play Madison Square Garden one day,” she shares. “I don’t know how big our guest list is going to be, but I’m going to try and get everyone to come from Maryland. It’s going to be a big movie moment.”

Of the many surreal moments Jordan’s whirlwind success has provided, having the chance to go one-on-one with her idol, Liz Phair, tops the list. The two share a label in Matador Records, but also have kinship in that both Lush and Exile in Guyville serve as unapologetic affirmations that there’s nothing wrong with being your true self.  

“It really was kind of like shooting the shit, which was the best part about it,” Jordan recalls. “I was nervously laughing because I didn’t really prepare anything. I think the first thing I said to her was that I was in a Liz Phair cover band.”

When writing about new artists, we often turn to the safety net of comparing them to earlier cultural touchstones. In Jordan’s case, the symbiosis is especially apt, given she credits Phair as a major influence.

However, Jordan does concede that she’s eager for the moment when Snail Mail isn’t posited as standing on the shoulders of other artists, but on its own two feet.

“I’ll definitely say that it’s a double-edged sword,” she says. “Sometimes it’s a really big honor — some of those comparisons actually affirm my hard work. It’s nice, but yeah, I’m looking forward to being individualized. I think that’s the ultimate goal.”

She’s well on her way.

At the center of everything is her guitar prowess — an instrument she wields with stunning precision. The word “clean” is often used to describe Jordan’s melodies, which balance steady tempos with a crackle of fuzz without ever stagnating. Instead they take their time, working methodically towards calculated, euphoric climaxes.

Given the unexpected and rapid evolutions everyone experiences as their teenager years segue into adulthood, it’s fair to wonder if the songs Jordan wrote at 16 for Snail Mail’s first EP, Habit, resonate differently with her now.

Jordan quickly confirms that they have indeed shifted, and that the same can even be said for Lush.

“It’s hard to be patient with yourself,” she explains. “I’m certain by the time my next record is written, the songs I’m writing now aren’t going to truly define what it is that I want to do. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m in a really transitional time in my life, or just that I’m a person who always feels like I can grow and change as an artist. It takes a toll, and it makes it really hard to write and to stick with what I’m doing.”

When Jordan plays San Francisco’s Swedish American Hall, she’ll take the same stage Liz Phair performed on earlier this month.

For now, that’s sufficient, but with Madison Square Garden and another record already on the horizon, it’s apparent that the shadows of her predecessors will be soon be shed in favor of a light that shines solely on Jordan. Her big movie moment is coming — perhaps it’s already here.

Snail Mail, Thursday, June 28, 7 p.m., at Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St. $15; 415-375-3370 or swedishamericanhall.com