Joined by bassist brother Zach — who was also in RGC — along with guitarist/keyboardist Alec Stanley, guitarist Rhett Fuller and drummer Jeremiah Johnson, the band has crafted a dozen songs that skillfully blend dark lyrics with bright melodies and a buzz saw of sound.
In a recent conversation, Shepard, who lives in Winterville, talked about the shift in sound, his appreciation of Yo La Tengo and Lo Talker’s upcoming plans.
Q: Did the pandemic affect your recording of “A Comedy of Errors”?
A: We recorded it November 2019, so we totally did it all before the pandemic was even a thing. It’s never really affected the making of, but it did the rollout and touring aspect. It’s been so weird to navigate this new world. We’ve been a band for two years. It started as a recording project and we still haven’t played a live show. Hopefully it will be a ‘good’ interesting when we play. What I think we’re going to do is play a live set at the 40 Watt (in Athens) with just the band and film it. We’re so close to the end of this (pandemic) hopefully; I don’t want to jump the gun.
Athens-based Lo Talker is named after a classic storyline in a 1993 episode of "Seinfeld."
Credit: Alexa Rivera
Credit: Alexa Rivera
Q: This is Lo Talker’s debut, but hardly yours. Is Roadkill Ghost Choir no longer?
A: I think that project is pretty much done. It ran its course and was an awesome experience for me. My brother Zach and I got to experience so much. There’s a certain expectation to being in Roadkill from our first EP and the song “Beggars’ Guild.” Everyone fixated on that song and we had so many great opportunities from it. But every release we put out after that, we were slowly branching out more sonically. That’s how we’ve always made music and it’s hard for me to stay in a headspace and continuously put out something. With Lo Talker it gave me the opportunity to do whatever I wanted to do. Sonically, we just want to explore and do the weird stuff we want to do, but also make it enjoyable to the average listener. We want to have fun with it.
Q: Musically, what were your intentions? “Automatic Love” is beautiful melodic stuff, but then “Nero in the News” and “No Champagne” have a lot of lyrical heft.
A: Darker lyrics against a major pop song, that was something I couldn’t really do in Roadkill. There are so many artists I have loved who have done a similar thing. I’ve always loved how Yo La Tengo can be in this weird world that they have a noise record and the next record is a pop record that is so concise, but really sad. They jump between these worlds and make it make sense and that is something I’ve always been interested in doing and doing that at a level where it doesn’t feel like we’re trying too hard. It’s not an easy thing to do, and I’m still not sure if we’re doing it well or not.
Q: What have you been listening to?
A: I’ve been a huge fan of Califone for a long time. I don’t know if sonically we touch much on it, but I love the way their records sound and they’re weird but also steeped in roots music. They were a big influence. Sparklehorse may be one of my favorite artists of all time. It’s similar to the Califone thing, the way (late frontman) Mark Linkous would make his records. He was able to be in that weird world, like Yo La Tengo, where they can make a pop song on one track and the next one is a weird drone or sound of a car engine for 40 seconds. He’s so strange to me, but it somehow all makes sense. And Brian Eno is a big one. I’ve always been familiar with his ambient stuff, his stranger stuff. I went down his pop records rabbit hole and he’s so amazing. He’s one of those dudes, I don’t know how his brain is able to do this stuff. I’m so incredibly jealous.
Q: What’s the plan for the next six months?
A: We’re navigating the record cycle until we can play shows again. It’s so hard because there’s so much content now and people want that live experience again. It’s tricky but we’re trying to figure something out that’s compelling enough that people will want to tune in and pay attention.