Skip to Content

Block Magazine

Creativity has its place
Fall/Winter 2020
Issue 21

SUN. 11 AUG. 12:36 P.M.

 

BY: ISA TOUSIGNANT

PHOTOS BY: RICHMOND LAM

 
Laurel Sprengelmeyer stands by mic recording song in studio.
Sprengelmeyer is also a passionate visual artist; she has called painting her “happy place.” Her new song, “Still Life,” was partly inspired by Un bar aux Folies Bergère, a painting by Édouard Manet.

The barnwood-panelled music studio in Montreal’s Mile-Ex neighbourhood is filled with the sound of Laurel Sprengelmeyer (better known as Little Scream) workshopping live versions of songs from her third album, Speed Queen. The title may bring to mind frothing mouths and party highs, but it’s actually named after the washing machine brand, paying homage to the precious pleasures of self-sufficiency.

“‘Speed Queen’ was the first song I wrote for the record. It’s about a person dreaming of better times while they’re doing their laundry in the laundromat. I remember how for my mom it was such a big deal to get her own washing machine. Those moments…they’re so significant when you’re working hard to make things work.”

A Montrealer for nearly 20 years, Sprengelmeyer was born in Dubuque, Iowa, to an antique-dealing dad, who foisted Allen Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson and Laurie Anderson on her as a teen, and a mom who was a Jehovah’s Witness and worked as a cleaner. Sprengelmeyer and her two younger siblings were the products of what she calls a “hilarious culture-clash thing,” which resulted in divorce but also a remarkable childhood.

“My dad would pick us up at school in a beat-up limousine he’d gotten from a funeral home in Shreveport, with his ponytail and his licence plate that read LUCID2. Down the block he’d pick up antiques from a stoop, and we’d squeal: ‘Dad! No! Not this close to school!’”

The album is fuelled half by homesickness and half by a frustration that’s been building in Sprengelmeyer as a faraway witness of the socioeconomic and political situation in the United States. “I’ve been in Canada so long that I’ve got a unique vantage point,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Guys, health care isn’t a crazy socialist plot to take away your freedom. It’s actually pretty great. And so is subsidized daycare. And so are tuition caps.’ Poor, working-class America has been left behind for quite a long time. They’re ready for progressive change.”

“‘Speed Queen’ was the first song I wrote for the record. It’s about a person dreaming of better times while they’re doing their laundry in the laundromat.”

The album is fuelled half by homesickness and half by a frustration that’s been building in Sprengelmeyer as a faraway witness of the socioeconomic and political situation in the United States. “I’ve been in Canada so long that I’ve got a unique vantage point,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Guys, health care isn’t a crazy socialist plot to take away your freedom. It’s actually pretty great. And so is subsidized daycare. And so are tuition caps.’ Poor, working-class America has been left behind for quite a long time. They’re ready for progressive change.”

The sound in the practice studio is rich, with Sprengelmeyer’s sweet avant-pop voice mixing with live piano and resounding drums. There’s a vintage rock ’n’ roll feel that permeates the album too, thanks to some nice wah-pedal action in a couple of the songstress’s guitar solos. Laurie Anderson would be proud.

Speed Queen is out on Dine Alone Records in Canada.

Guitars and other various instruments line wood wall
Sprengelmeyer is intimately interwoven into the fabric of the Montreal music scene—she’s married to Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry—and she has strong connections stateside too. “Dear Leader,” the first track on Speed Queen, features members of The National and Arcade Fire as well as Leif Vollebekk.
 

 

Share this article