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lael neale

august 19, 2019

los angeles, california

Ava: The first question is always: are you a cat or a dog?

Lael: Cat.

Ava: Why?

Lael: Well, I feel really strongly about this question and very strongly about my answer to the question. It also relates to how I like my men, too. It’s more about who I like than who I am or what I am because I don’t like being around dog people. Like, people who are like dogs. And then I actually don’t like dogs very much. I like cats because they leave you space and they are completely independent and they’re just cool. Like, there’s a reason there’s a cool cat. Like, you’re a cool cat. There are no cool dogs.

Ava: Well, Edie’s pretty cool.

Lael: Edie is a cool dog, that’s true.

Ava: But she’s kind of like a cat, so that’s why she’s cool.

Lael: And I’ve always said, though, it’s not that I don’t like dogs. I’m on a dog-by-dog basis. I like some dogs. And I know they’re unconditionally loving and sweet and they make people really happy, so I’m really happy for that.

Ava: Really happy for them and their success pleasing people.

Lael: Are you—you’re a cat.

Ava: I’m a cat.

Lael: You’re a cat but you’re kind of a dog person.

Ava: I’m a cat who likes dogs.

Lael: I mean, you’re kind of an Edie.

Ava: Yeah. I mean, I’m Edie. That’s why Edie and I are soul sisters. We are each other.

Lael: She’s an alien, kind of. She’s not even really a cat or a dog. She’s extraterrestrial.

Ava: She is. And maybe I am a little bit, too. We both like to lounge. We both do that really well.

Lael: Yeah, I saw a photo of her when you were taking her on a walk, and she didn’t even get further than—

Ava: Yeah, we don’t make it far on hot days. We don’t really show much enthusiasm when someone walks in the door.

Lael: Right. And you’re long-legged.

Ava: Can you describe your creative practice as a party?


I would say it’s kind of like a funeral party. It’s reverent but celebratory and I feel like I’m extremely aware at all times of my mortality.

Ava: It’s not like something has died, necessarily.

Lael: No, but it’s like, that’s the feeling that I’m always trying to generate, and so when I go to make something, I have to be seeing my own mortality. It’s what motivates me to actually finish something, because I know I’m going to die.

Ava: Oh, that’s a great point. I need something to motivate me to finish things.

Lael: Death is the best thing.

Ava: Maybe I should think more about that.

Lael: No, I read something somewhere that was like, tools for the most optimal living. It was some cheesy self-help book. But one of the tools was that you should wake up every morning and throughout the day, imagine yourself on your deathbed. And have that perspective make every single decision for you. And when I remember to do it, it’s like the most effective way to make decisions. Like last night, if I had been thinking about my deathbed when we were trying to decide where to go or what to do, I would’ve been like, let’s just go here now.

Ava: But where would that have been?

Lael: Well, probably just next door to the wine bar. I just would’ve made that decision.

Ava: Oh, yeah. I feel like our decisions turned out to be perfect last night, though.

Lael: They did. They were in a certain flow. That’s true.

Ava: I’m most decisive when I’m on my own. When I’m on my own I can make a decision like, no problem.

Lael: Yes, and that’s really revealing, because I’m the same way and that means that we’re trying to make every other person that we’re with happy.

Ava: People-pleasers.

Lael: Yeah, and we’re also empathetic, so you can kind of feel what the other person wants to do but you don’t actually know, and so you’re trying to project what would be the most ideal situation for everybody. A lot of the time it conflicts with what you want to do.

Ava: Yeah… although a lot of times I do feel really just fine doing whatever, and so that’s why I’m like, well, if someone else chooses I’ll probably be fine with it. But I don’t know why I’m able to be much more decisive when I’m on my own.

Lael: Don’t you think it is because we know what we want, really? I mean, I know that’s what it is for me.

Ava: Yeah. Last night, if I had thought to myself, well, if I were by myself right now what would I do? I would’ve made a faster decision.

Lael: Right. You would’ve done something sooner.

Ava: But then I was happy with what we were doing.

Lael: Yeah. Also, there’s nothing wrong with sitting there and just experiencing—actually that was my choice, I think, was to just sit in that space and watch people go by. I think that’s also a lesson: you don’t have to make the decision. Because then you know people that are like that and they just bounce from place to place and keep making these kind of rash choices. Anyway, that got far away from your question.

Ava: Well, can you describe a little bit more your funeral party? I’m curious about what people are wearing. I’m curious about who’s there.

Lael: I definitely would invite the people who I’m closest with and who I’m having the day-to-day interactions with, because they’re all a part of what I create, and so they need to be there.

Ava: Your collaborators.

Lael: I also have a—maybe the word is not narcissistic, but a real desire to have people there who I wasn’t able to prove myself to before, so they can hear and see how I’ve changed. It’s really embarrassing to say that. I would want the people who I really want to impress to be there. Also, not really being there myself. I like the idea of that. I’m gone. I’m dead. I would like to create from that place, always, that I’m dead already.

Ava: Sometimes I do think about that. Who would show up to my funeral?

Lael: Yeah. It’s like, what am I making this for? Who am I making this for? The biggest goal is that you’re making it for anyone in the world who would benefit from hearing it, or who would resonate with it, and it would help them feel better in some way. That’s the ultimate goal. But as far as the process of creating, it’s much smaller. A lot of the time when I write, it’s to one person. It usually is always to one person, and so it’s very intimate. I think that’s also the liberating thought of it being a funeral, is that you aren’t held accountable for anything you said and you can say anything because what’s the point in not sharing it? We’re all gonna die soon. Ok, but the party is like—I do see it as kind of black. But there’s definitely candles.

Ava: I’m envisioning a lot of black lace.

Lael: Yeah, some lace. There’s definitely a lot of flowers, though. I can see that. It’s not somber. There are balloons.

Ava: Is there any food or drink?

Lael: Oh, yeah. There’s coffee, for sure. There’s a lot of coffee. And there’s some—I’m trying to think of what—

Ava: Beans.

Lael: No beans. I’ve lived my life eating beans, so at my funeral I want there to be much more decadence. Cakes and pies and ice cream. All the things I’ve denied myself in my life. No beans and rice. Like a Mexican fiesta, there’s some chips and salsa and guacamole. And there are also sweets, fruits.

Ava: Iced espresso.

Lael: There’s a lot of iced espresso. I’m well-fed but not too full.

Ava: Can you talk about what media and genres you work with? How do they inform each other, and what purposes do they serve in your life?

Lael: It’s definitely music, sound, frequency. Words. The verbal component is really important to me. One of my lessons in life is to communicate in the most effective way, because it’s been hard for me to actually vocalize things that I really mean or feel. I think I learned how to do that through song, because you can kind of hide behind it. You can cut straight through and tell the most truth and hide behind the fact that it’s poetry.

Ava: We’ve also talked about the fact that we’re both slow thinkers and how we need to have that structure or that container in order to articulate our thoughts because we can’t just do it on the spot.

Lael: Yeah, exactly.

I mean, to communicate with the people that I love, I’ve always written to them. When I’ve communicated the most succinctly and closest to how I feel, it’s been through writing, it’s not been through speaking.

And then I love songwriting because the form is so limited. It becomes like a puzzle: how can I speak the most articulately within this narrow form? And then: how can I expand the form and play with it and live outside the traditional songwriting form? I’ve always thought that I’m a simple songwriter, but then when I play with people, I notice that it’s actually not by a form. I still don’t know what a chorus is, you know? And I don’t have them very often in my songs. And when I do, I’m mostly surprised by it after the fact.

Ava: Right, like, you don’t usually plan it, it just kind of happens.

Lael: I must intuitively know how that works, just from listening to music so much. You know what is wanting to come next. And I think that’s really important—there are rules that you should follow. Like, I’m not an avant-garde artist at all. I’m definitely adhering to a form. And that’s helpful, because it’s limiting. Otherwise it’s just overwhelming. And I also want to make things that people resonate with, and you have to ride the line of being familiar and also unique and inventive.

Ava: You also paint.

Lael: And I paint, yeah. The music is more somber and reverential. It’s a very specific tone and facet of my personality, and it’s kind of limited. I always want to go beyond it, and I do sometimes, but I think that’s what painting provides me with. My painting reveals more of a snide and sarcastic side of me, kind of making fun—

Ava: It’s like your humor coming through.

Lael: Yeah. It’s kind of dry and observational and that’s what it offers. Like, it’s not trying to be art. It’s more of just having another avenue for expressing a different aspect of myself, which is why I actually like having the paintings be poster art for the shows because they show a more completed picture of who I am. I don’t feel like I’m a heavy person. And my songs can kind of convey that, I think. But the art is meant to be light.

Ava: What are you excited about?

Lael: I’m really excited about the next stage that I’m moving toward. It actually feels like it’s a major shift that’s going to happen. I feel that really strongly and there’s no tangible, physical reason for me to think that or know it, but I know it. And so that excitement—which I don’t share with anyone, because it’s—

Ava: Scary?

Lael: Yeah, it’s scary and it’s also—

Ava: Or unknown.

Lael: It’s unknown and it’s—like, I feel like sharing things with your parents is always a good way to see where your insecurities are, because if it’s not well-received by them, you’re like, oh, well, I’m just living in a total delusion. But I don’t feel that,

I feel like I’ve spent years in preparation, and I feel ready in a way I never have before and that’s so thrilling to me. I don’t even really know what it means, I just know that it’s different. And a huge part of making that happen is surrendering and also being able to let good things in.

A huge part of my life has been denial. That’s been a theme of my life for a really long time, and now I feel like I’m finally able to let myself have the things that I want and need and to be joyful or—

Ava: Open—

Lael: Open engaged with the world in the way that I’ve always wanted to be. Thriving, you know? I don’t think I’ve been thriving for a lot of my life, and that’s been my own choice and my own habits and patterns and now it feels like I want to let myself thrive.

Ava: That is something to be excited about!

Lael: What are you excited about?

Ava: I mean, this has been kind of a crazy summer. I’m excited to see my friends in New York. But mostly I’m excited to get to Spain and have a lot of quiet and alone time. I’ll go through that whole transitional period again, which is really a challenge. But I want to start going through everything from last year, and I want to start figuring out what to do creatively, in terms of projects—I’m hoping to carve out a lot of time and space for that in like, October, November.

Lael: Yeah, I think you’ve created and done way more than you think you have, and now you can honor the work you’ve done, and help it—

Ava: Form it—

Lael: Form it, yeah. And form your next steps. I think you’re following your right intuition to do this next year. It seems like a really good decision for you.

Ava: I think it’ll turn out. We’ll see!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To read Lael’s thoughts on HOME, purchase a copy of issue 02, and to read Lael’s thoughts on ROMANCE, purchase or download issue 03!