See boy-girl indie pop due from Brooklyn. Yes, you may be thinking, yes, I’ve been here before. But Laura & Greg, despite what might seem like a dry-as-bones band name, make some really fresh tunes. And their new album, Forever For Sure has arrived just in time for the sweltering summer, a time when sweet, minimal jangles that float light as a feather are not only in order, but a necessary respite from the darkness we’ve been treating our ears to the rest of the year. Sweet as they may be, the pair definitely, thankfully doesn’t qualify as twee. Rather, they’ve got serious style, thanks to Greg’s visual art background, and it’s as apparent as ever in their new music video for the album’s title track which, don’t forget, you’re seeing here first.
Laura & Greg is Greg Yagolnitzer and Laura O’Neill, the latter of whom you might recognize from the Brooklyn restaurant scene. As both co-founder of Van Leeuwen Ice Cream (truck business-turned bi-coastal empire of delicious frozen sweet slangers) and co-owner of Selamat Pagi (a Greenpoint restaurant serving up Balinese-inspired cuisine), Laura stays pretty busy as a business owner who’s found a relatively new passion in music. Greg is no less multi-talented as an animator and visual artist. He put his skills to use in creating the rotoscope animation that appears in Laura & Greg’s first video, “Muscle Memory.”
B+B spoke with the duo over the phone to get more deets on their indie pop act and what’s happening in the wash of black-and-white weirdness that is the video for “Forever For Sure.”
Laura: We actually met at a bar, Manhattan Inn. I’ve never done anything properly with music, but Greg has been in a bunch of bands, so when we met we got to talking and Greg was looking for a new music project and it was just kind of this throw-away thing, like we should have a band.
Laura: Yeah, we sometimes play as a four piece, but we always keep it so that we can play just the two of us and if we want to beef it up, we can do a four piece as well.
Greg: We kept the recording of the album relatively minimal just so that between the two of us we could recreate the sound pretty close to what’s on the album. But it’s always kind of nice to have our two friends play with us once in a while to make it a little bigger.
Laura: We adopted the genre of indie pop because it’s so broad and we can still experiment with lots of different genres. I think also, a lot of people will be like, “Oh, it’s a guy and a girl, so it’s folk.” There are elements of folk for sure, but it’s not straight up folk. Indie pop kind of keeps it broader for us. Greg’s background is more punk rock than anything.
Greg: Yeah, I played in a bunch of indie rock and punk bands right up until we started this one. I do love that kind of music, but it was mostly because of the people I was friends with. It was kind of just what was around. With this project, I think songwriting in general is the main focus rather than gearing it towards a genre. So keeping it minimal and keeping it low works with Laura and myself.
Greg: I do a lot of different stuff. I make music videos and have worked on TV animation shows as a background designer and background painter. I went to school for animation and so drawing and visual arts has always been my main focus. And it’s been super helpful with our band as well. Just in terms of having more control over how everything looks. Even down to posters for shows and all the way up to the music videos.
Greg: I directed it with our friend Brendan Walter, who also produced and recorded the album for us, he’s a filmmaker and makes music videos as well. I’ve done a lot of stuff with him, just outside of the band. And Laura and I really wanted to make another video after getting really good response from our first one for “Muscle Memory.”
The whole concept for the video was to do as much of the visual effects in-camera, which means it was actually done live, and almost none of it was edited with like After Effects kind of stuff. So the inspiration was to make it look a little bit different than most stuff that’s coming out right now, especially with the whole lo-fi look. I feel like everything is just shot beautifully and in slow motion with these nice cameras and yeah, it ends up looking incredible. But it was kind of nice to break away from that a little bit.
Laura: We had a lot of help from friends. Most of the trickery is achieved from our friends wearing these black, full body suits. So whatever you see moving is being moved by them. The video actually features a lot of our friends but you just can’t see them at all.
Greg: I think we both appreciate super close harmonies and guy-and-girl stuff. And we really lucked out with our voices sounding so good together. Not so much sound, but the song writing stems from 60’s British Invasion pop rock thing, which is a really different style of songwriting that I’ve been interested in since I started playing music. You can’t always use that style in a harder band or something, but it works really well with this.
Laura: Also, Greg was born in Moldova and he came here when he was 4. His parents didn’t necessarily expose him to a lot of music culture that I had access to growing up in Australia. Greg didn’t really start listening to, like, The Beatles until he was 18, which is when he just discovered this huge catalogue of music and began to appreciate it. I think that had a lot of influence on his song writing.
Greg: Yeah for sure, it’s all a lot fresher for me than it is for my friends who play music and have known about all that stuff for so long and are maybe kind of tired of it.
Laura: Most of the stuff we listen to at the moment is all really old stuff. We’ve been listening to the older Bee Gees a lot. But of course we like new music as well and try to catch a lot of shows.
Greg: We do go to a bunch of shows, but I don’t know if we’re totally part of a scene.
Laura: I’d say we’re definitely not part of a scene.
Greg: Yeah, we don’t really know that many bands personally. I think we end up at some pretty cool shows every now and then.
Laura: One of the places we started out was the Brooklyn Rod & Gun, which is no longer. We’re always looking for smaller venues we can play at more regularly as well as do a little bit of touring outside of New York. We played SXSW, and Nashville on the way there, and New Orleans on the way back. We’ve put together some shows as well.
Greg: Brendan Walter is a friend of ours and he recorded it for us. He used to play in this band called Valencia and they were a pretty big band, they toured for a while so he’s done a lot of recording too and he has his own set up at home. We did half of the album there, and he also works at a management company with a recording studio.
So we got in there after hours when no one was there and did the other half of the album on legit equipment that, like, real professional bands use. So it was this cool mix of a professional studio and a home studio. I feel like Brendan’s input really helped form the sound because before it was just Laura and myself on acoustic guitar.
Laura: In terms of the arrangements, we had four songs and then just started recording and realized we might have something here. And then we wrote more songs and it just ended up being a full-length album.
Now we’re doing a couple of tracks with Rubber Tracks, the Converse studio. We’re kind of being forced to think a little more clearly about how we want to record because it’s obviously a very limited time period. Whereas with this, we just had all the time in the world, which was really nice.
Laura: I’d always sung and played a little bit of guitar, but I was never as good at guitar as I was at singing, I suppose. So I never really was gonna go out and support myself with it. But when I met Greg it all just came together and it was kind of like a perfect storm I suppose. It was definitely unexpected that I’d be embarking on a music career on top of all the other things that I do. But I guess it’s always been a life-long dream, something I hoped could become a thing. And it wasn’t looking like it was going to, and now it is, and that’s awesome.
Catch Laura & Greg at Rough Trade, 8 pm on Friday May 29th, when they perform at their record release show. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door.