Sun June’s Laura Colwell on “Bad Dream Jaguar” and Navigating Change | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, February 23rd, 2024  

Sun June’s Laura Colwell on “Bad Dream Jaguar” and Navigating Change

Straight Talk

Dec 04, 2023 Photography by Alex Winker Web Exclusive
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Three albums in and Sun June’s star shows no signs of fading. Their latest album, Bad Dream Jaguar (on Run for Cover), adds in additional elements in the form of brass, woodwinds, and pedal steel. But though the instrumentation has broadened, the album maintains a mirage-like sheen across its dozen tracks. “It’s a smaller palette [sonically], but it was a wider range for us. We wanted it to be darker than what we had done before. We were asking ourselves, ‘How do we get lo-fi and polished at the same time?’” Laura Colwell shares over Zoom from Austin.

Colwell sings lead vocals, plays guitar and piano, and is co-songwriter of the group along with her partner Stephen Salisbury. And though the songs play out seemingly effortlessly, there is much afoot underneath. Salisbury relocated to Chapel Hill, North Carolina a few years back and Colwell finds herself splitting time between there and Texas. The distance has also led to a back and forth of songs written individually but finished collaboratively.

Since Colwell sings lead on every track, it can be difficult for the listener to discern if the lyrics are Salisbury talking to Colwell, the other way around or something else entirely. Case in point on the album’s “Washington Square.” “I remember what you said to me, licorice and wintergreen/Like a goddamn ghost of your mother, I knew what you needed,” Colwell sings on the track, but the words are Salisbury’s. “It’s definitely from that part of time where we were long-distance. When Stephen sent me his first draft of that I was really taken aback. I was thinking, ‘Should I be concerned? Are you talking about me?’” Colwell explains.

The lush and layered “Moon Ahead” is one of the most beautiful sounding songs on the album and also one of its most openly honest ones. “That song is maybe my favorite part of the whole record,” Colwell admits. Many songs on the album reference parents, family, and great distances. “That song was very focused on my own parents and comparing myself to them, but at this stage of my life. But also being in a long-distance relationship and traveling and being disconnected from what it is you want. You just have to live with a mantra of just keep going,” Colwell says.

Though the politics of relationships may be something that Colwell and Salisbury are comfortable with, one of the album’s standout songs, “Texas,” deals with the politics of the day. The chorus is straightforward, but also unclear in its meaning: “You keep breaking my heart. Texas.” Uncertain whether the reference is to a distant partner or the state itself, Colwell helps clear things up. “The song is definitely a reaction to [the state’s stance] on abortion, immigration. Every single backwards thing. I can only speak for me as a young woman in Texas and how things made me feel. [The abortion restrictions in Texas] were before Roe v. Wade was overturned and a lot was snowballing here. It’s beautiful here, there is nothing better than a Texas sunset, but there is also a lot of ugliness,” Colwell explains.

On a lighter note, Colwell shares further on part of the recording sessions that took place at Sylvan Esso’s Betty’s studio near Durham, North Carolina. “I am such a fan of Sylvan Esso that I was mortified that I had to do around 40 takes of my vocal tracks for the song ‘Texas.’ They’re just bad, horrible. I think I was sick and just not hitting the note right. It’s probably on their backup drive forever and I’m sure they will never hear it, but it makes me nervous just knowing it’s there,” Colwell says. Rest assured that Colwell nailed the take that ended up on the album and it makes for one of Bad Dream Jaguar’s most compelling songs. The trance inducing beauty of it belies its message. “I hope that things won’t be as divisive and turbulent. Hopefully there is some peace ahead,” Colwell concludes.

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