PREMIERE: Vera Sola Paints Many “Shades” of Southern Gothic
Recorded alone in a St. Louis studio, the songwriter’s debut LP introduces a unique new voice to the indie folk scene.
Somewhere in the wide chasm between Milk Carton Kids and Zola Jesus lies the “found object folk” of Vera Sola, whose spectral elegies are as unique as her backstory would suggest. The poet, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist—who recently toured with the former artist and was remixed by the latter—is ready to roll out her debut solo record, Shades, after years of touring with Elvis Perkins’ band, composing music for films, and studying Russian literature at Harvard.
On Shades, Sola’s voice is unequivocally at the forefront: The record’s hauntingly sparse instrumentation does little to contest her fluttering Neko-Case alto, while the self-released project was also entirely performed and recorded by the artist. Her DIY aesthetic comes through in the unconventional sounds of donkey’s jaw, goat hooves, gunfire, chains, broken glass, Kenyan sistrum, and selenite allegedly used in the recordings, and is even carried over to her self-made music videos and self-designed stage outfits. Shades gives new life not only to Sola’s makeshift instruments, but also to the spirit of Southern Gothic running through the record’s ten tracks.
“This record is the direct result of my reality, personal and global, going up in a dark and disorienting and sad and often very funny blaze,” Sola explains. “When I finally talked myself into making it, I thought I’d have friends come in and contribute, but the nature of things drew me ultimately towards playing and arranging it all myself. So there was very little external input. As such, it’s an unbroken vessel of my own energy, for better or worse. It was pure expression without expectation. I never even planned to release it. But here we are.”
Of Shades’ subject matter, she deems it “a collection of different stories…about the notion of haunting.” Rather than ghost stories, though, the songs are beset by “a living being, a crumbling or crumbled relationship, a collection of messages harbored in a cellphone, a gender, a genocide, an insect, an extinction, a regret, an anger, a love so deep it becomes a possession.
“Mostly though,” Sola concludes, “for me, it’s a grand fuck-you to the specter of self doubt, to fear of failure. It’s a reminder to myself, and with luck, to all others out there who’ve been too afraid to sing or speak or yell or whisper, to let it out. Sounds hackneyed, but it’s true. If the world is burning—which it is—what’s there left to lose?”