“‘Scattered’ sees Lizzy Lehman’s solemn vocal and aching lyrical theme cut through the atmospheric haze and weight of the song’s brooding bones, to be met by infectious glimmers of hope in its arrangements; bringing with it a defiant sense of perseverance, resilience and acceptance in the face of the track’s heavier undertones.”
“Intimate, vulnerable, and emotive.”
“The track’s mood and energy is one of continuous shifting, beginning with the sound of an unruly, ominous guitar that later loses it furious edge, allowing Lehman to reaching stunning vocal heights.”
“Lehman is a visionary onscreen, a warrior finally finding her footing and embracing each gnarly nerve of her being.”
“‘Scattered’ tears at the skin and sends electric bursts across the night sky.”
“Dripping in steadfast tenacity even at its most downtrodden, synth-pop quintet Carry Illinois treads the tumults of body politics and queer self-acceptance on this fifth EP.”
Reviewed by Rachel Rascoe
Carry Illinois are finding new faces and beautiful places on their third tour in the US. At the heart of the band is Lizzy Lehman, who finds healing and catharsis in sharing her lyrics with new audiences and old friends in each city she encounters. Lehman shared some thoughts about touring and songwriting with us ahead of Carry Illinois’ summer tour.
This is the third run you’ve had on tour with this band. What’s the experience of touring like?
A whirlwind, a lot of driving. Meeting new people, and making new friends, and also getting to see old friends. A lot of fun getting to meet new musicians and bands. It’s tiring, but it’s fun.
How has your experience of touring changed over time?
The flow of each day makes a little more sense, and just the logistics of unpacking and packing back up has become easier. Knowing how to go through each day and get to where we need to go. That becomes easier, I suppose. The flow of tour becomes easier. There’s still hiccups along the way, taking the wrong road and wrong directions, any sort of small miscommunications. In general, I think what changed most was preparedness for tour, knowing how to get everything set up with shows and communicate with bookers.
Piece of advice for someone who’s never toured before?
Definitely have the details worked out ahead of time. Make sure you know when load in is, and soundcheck and everything. Make sure that you’ve got transportation all lined up beforehand. Don’t do it last minute, because it can be hard to find a tour vehicle. Expect the unexpected and be prepared to be flexible.
What’s something you thoroughly enjoy about being on the road?
Getting to know my bandmates much better, and having a much better bond with each of them, getting to know them more on a personal level. Just getting to meet new people, new fans, new bands. Just like making new friends and getting to make long lasting friendships with. Getting to experience new cities and experience cities I’ve been to before in a much different way through music. Getting to look out the window and watch the landscape change, that’s one of my favorite things. It gives you a lot of time to think.
What do you least look forward to about starting a run of shows?
Being away from home for an extended period of time, being away from my wife and my friends. Also just the really long haul stretches are not the best, when we have to be in the car for 7 or 8 hours. Maybe just like the unpredictability of food. Trying to maintain some sort of healthy meal plan is definitely a really hard thing while you’re on tour. You definitely have to sacrifice, but depending on who you’re touring with. We try to make sure we get some good stuff in our bodies. That’s important for everybody in the band.
Where’s the most beautiful or interesting place you’ve seen while on tour?
The last tour was west coast. It’s got to be a tie between Portland and San Francisco. The Pacific Northwest and Northern California are definitely my two favorite places. The two most beautiful places.
Runaway expresses a lot of discomfort with the act of occupying your body. Why did you want to write a song addressing that feeling?
I’ve always had a difficult time living in my own skin, and I’ve always had a sort of negative relationship with my body, and with body image. I feel like one of the only ways to start to heal that and move toward self love was to be honest with how I do feel about it before I can learn to take the path toward self love. I also know that a lot of people deal with the same exact issues and it’s something that without a doubt many people can connect to and hopefully by listening to the song, they can identify and connect with me and the song and have the ability to work towards self love for themselves. I wrote the song because it’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life and I’ve never really totally processed it, and I thought this would be a good way to begin and process, and in addition to therapy. Hopefully there are people to connect with and it’s a pretty universal idea. Hopefully it helps people think about how they feel about themselves and how they can reframe their thinking towards a more positive outlook, and embracing the fact that difference is good, and that it’s okay to be imperfect.
How has identity shaped/influenced your music?
The songs themselves are not necessarily about being gay, it’s just about being who I am. I would say more than ever, I’ve just been really inspired to let people know who I am. Especially because there’s been so much homophobia lately and racism and marginalizing of anybody whose different and doesn’t fit he norm. That’s why being proud and out publicly has been really important to me. Just to show that I am absolutely okay with who I am and I’m proud of who I am. One of the songs on the album is about my relationship with my wife, and I think the fact that I’ve decided to be open about my sexuality, it’s been easier to write about my relationship with my wife. It has informed my writing lately and made me able to be more honest about my personal and intimate life.
A lot of your lyrics and music are very inward and personal. What’s it like to take that music and play it for people you’ve never met in cities you’ve never been to?
It feels really cathartic, almost like therapy in a way. It feels like I’m being my most honest self, that I’m not hiding anymore. It also feels like I’m being a real person. Being real about the struggles that I’ve gone through and still go through, whether it’s body image or a continuing conversation around my mental health. It’s just been kind of liberating to sing about the real issues that i’ve had to take on and that I’ve had to work through.
Interview by Dom Vigil
Carry Illinois are a work in progress, and that’s perfectly okay.
The Austin indie-pop band, fronted by fearless singer/guitarist Lizzy Lehman is known for wearing their hearts on their sleeves, with songs touching on subjects ranging from LGBTQ+ issues to self acceptance, mental health and suicide. Their newest EP, Work In Progress is no different – in fact, it finds Carry Illinois opening up more than ever, making their upcoming shows in Colorado something you don’t want to miss.
Carry Illinois will be performing at Lions Lair in Denver, CO on Sunday, July 8th and at Magic Rat in Fort Collins on Tuesday, July 10th. Details for both shows can be found HERE. Listen to Work In Progress and get to know the band a bit better below!
Can you tell us a little bit about Carry Illinois for any readers who might not be familiar?
Lizzy Lehman [vocals/guitar]: Carry Illinois is an earnest pop/rock band based in Austin, Texas with music deeply rooted in songwriting that reflects my experiences with love, death, sexuality, body image issues, depression, anxiety, and all the tough stuff it can be hard to talk about.
We’ve got Darwin Smith on electric guitar, Rudy Villarreal on drums, Benjamin Violet on keys, Andrew Pressman on bass, and myself (Lizzy Lehman) on guitar and lead vocals. My talented and super creative band mates provide a lush and supportive musical backdrop for my intimate songs; they are a group of super wonderful guys who I have grown to love and trust like family.
Back in May, you celebrated the release of your new EP, Work In Progress. Now that it has been out for a bit, what are some of your favorite things about it?
Work In Progress is the most personal and vulnerable set of songs I have written to date. I love that I had the courage to stare down some of my deepest fears and reveal who I am at my core. I am proud that I was able to be honest about how I feel about my body and the work I need to do to reach towards self love.
Also, this record was a fully collaborative effort by the band and engineer. Everyone got to explore and flex their creative muscles without judgement, and I really enjoy the texture and dimension we were able to develop.
Work In Progress follows your 2017 EP, Garage Sale. What has the journey been like in the year since then? How do you feel you’ve grown?
It has been a personally challenging year, but I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned to be ok with imperfection, to battle mental health struggles with optimism, to look deeper into the inner workings of my relationships, and to see my self as beautiful and powerful despite feelings of doubt or shame. I have learned to sing about my truths even when I’m so anxious my chest could explode.
Lyrically, was there anything you wanted to touch on with this release that you weren’t able to with Garage Sale?
Not really. Both albums were fitting reflections of what I was going through when they were written. I wouldn’t have been able to express my thoughts with so much vulnerability on the new EP without having processed the emotions and grief within Garage Sale’s songs.
What was the biggest challenge you came across when working on the EP? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I came across when working on the EP was making sure that the lyrics from the most intimate and emotionally difficult songs were heard. We made sure to not overcrowd those songs with too many instrumentals or harmonies. The song “Work in Progress” was left relatively bare so the message, that we all have work we can do to be our best selves, was loud and clear.
You’re currently getting ready to hit the road in support of Work In Progress. What are you most excited about on these upcoming tour dates?
I am most excited about bringing these songs to new friends. I love learning how new listeners personally connect to the songs and the performance. If a song makes someone cry or think about something they are going through, I want to hear about it and let them know they’re not alone.
You’ll also be spending a few days in Colorado at Lions Lair in Denver and Magic Rat in Fort Collins. What can fans expect at these shows?
Fans can expect compelling, driven pop/rock designed to make you feel. Don’t be afraid to feel, friends; it makes us human and brings us together.
With Work In Progress out now, do you have any other big plans for the rest of 2018?
I would love to start working on writing new songs for a full length record. It may be time for me to go into my music cave.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We look forward to meeting you in the cooler climates of Colorado! Come talk to us!
For Carry Illinois chief singer/songwriter Lizzy Lehman, making music is a chance to work through her personal experiences. Her new EP ,Work in Progress, largely deals with the aftermath of original bassist John Winsor’s unexpected death. While the new songs are unapologetically darker than previous material they manage to capture Carry Illinois’ unique synth-pop sensibilities better than ever before. Guitarist Darwin Smith, bassist Andrew Pressman, keyboardist Benjamin Rowe Violet and percussionist Rudy Villarreal provide driving beats that build into spacy synth jams perfectly suited for Lehman’s soaring vocals. The net effect is epic prog songs condensed into perfectly polished pop packages. Click the link below to listen to their performance from Studio 1A.
“Lizzy Lehman sounds like Stevie Nicks and Brittany Howard vocally melded together.”
Carry Illinois, “Work in Progress” EP. On their second EP in as many years following 2015’s full-length “Alabaster,” singer-songwriter Lizzy Lehman’s indie-rock/pop outfit strikes mood-heavy tones on a short set of songs dealing in part with the 2016 suicide of the band’s original bassist, John Winsor. She tackles her feelings head-on in “Runaway,” the album’s most instantly arresting track, singing “I know it’s no good to run away.” Guitarist Darwin Smith, drummer Rudy Villarreal, bassist Andrew Pressman and keyboardist Benjamin Rowe Violet provide inventive and empathetic support throughout.
“Carry Illinois grant stunning insight with their new EP, Work in Progress…a bristled and homely and humbled lineup of tunes. It’s worn around the edges, but underneath, there beats a truly remarkable, one-of-a-kind heart.”
“Work in Progress is a work of immense art, carefully resting in life’s cruelty but not being damned there forever. It does get better.”
Austin has such a strong tradition of local music. Everyone is so supportive of each other and there’s this amazing culture surrounding local artists. We chat with Carry Illinois about their honest writing and their new music.
How did Carry Illinois start?
Carry Illinois began in late 2013 after the previous band I played in, The Blackwells, parted ways. I knew I wanted to keep writing and playing my own songs, but didn’t want to go back to being a solo singer-songwriter. I spent several months experimenting with different sounds, effects, and instrumentations, ultimately recording a new EP with studio musicians. With newly recorded tracks in hand, I found bandmates through mutual friends. We practiced the songs for several months within a new pop/rock context, and played our first official show in March 2014.
How did you find your sound?
We discovered the sound of the band through complete collaboration. I wrote my most honest work, influenced simultaneously by the songwriting legends of the 60’s and 70’s and by 90’s pop rock. I then handed the songs over and gave the band full reign to be inspired, explore, and develop a lush musical backdrop. My bandmates are incredibly talented and creative, so it was easy to trust them with my vision.
Tell me about Work In Progress, I love the title what’s the meaning behind it?
Thank you! I have struggled to find and love myself, be ok with the body I live in, and grow stronger from my painful emotional past. Progress, for me, is about accepting imperfection, working towards embracing uniqueness and beauty, and learning to cope with a new emotional framework off of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. No human is perfect. We are all constantly evolving creatures who need support and love. We all have to work to become our best selves.
The songwriting is so honest, was it hard confronting those darker themes?
I have spent many days filled with doubt, self-hatred, depression, and anxiety. It was scary and sometimes difficult to find the right words, but writing about my deepest fears was the best way for me to move towards self-love, self-acceptance, and healing. I know this path will be rocky and uncertain, but I am optimistic and ready to move forward.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
When my good friend and bandmate John Winsor took his own life in 2016, I didn’t know whether I could go on playing music. I spent several months grieving and living day to day in utter disbelief that he was gone. Remembering that he loved me and always supported my art, I knew that I had to continue on because he would have wanted me to. It was extremely difficult, but I started writing again knowing that he would have been so proud to see me doing what I love most.
Why stay an Austin band? What do you like most about the music scene here?
Austin has an incredibly supportive and tight-knit music community that is like nothing else I have experienced. With so many musicians in one place, there is never a shortage of inspiration or talent. I have made life-long friends and feel more supported by my community than I have anywhere else. While it is a rapidly changing work in progress, I love that the Austin music scene is brimming with talented folks who come together to celebrate unique and passionate art, and want nothing more than to see one another succeed.
We were first introduced to indie-pop band Carry Illinois in 2017 when they released their EP Garage Sale. Last December, we spoke to frontwoman Lizzy Lehman about the inspiration behind the music video Shameful Feeling. The band is set to release their latest EP, Work in Progress, which will be released this week on 5/25. Ahead of the release, we are honored to premiere the track “Pushing Sound.”
“Pushing Sound is a song about wanting to escape the difficult realities of everyday life. The song explores the need to drown out anxiety, pressure, and noise by replacing it with hopeful human connection, strength, emotional confidence, love, and deep interpersonal understanding.” – Lizzy Lehman
”Stunning… a poignant lyrical statement about facing one’s fears.”