Brother-sister alt-folk duo Nathan and Eva Leach explore what it feels to be human again on the new EP, Imperfect Parallels.
After three years of collective lyrical explorations and piecemeal compositions, the pair of local songwriters have showcased how they’ve made sense of all the life that’s happened in between.
“Normally I have a phrase with a melody to it, and it’s in my head all day — then I’m like, ‘Oh, I have to write it now,’ ” Eva said. “I’ll sit down and write my songs from start to finish — melody, lyrics, everything — otherwise it’s not going to happen. I typically don’t go back and look at the pieces.”
Some of the songs are stripped-down recordings of Nathan on guitar and Eva on drums singing harmonies. There are bigger-sounding songs as well, with contributions from pedal steel guitarist Jesse Shafer, drummer Alex Brouwer and bassist Austin Price.
Imperfect Parallels is a mixture of sessions at Truphonic Recording in West Ashley and home-studio-spun touches from local-turned-Californian producer James Frolio, the bassist and singer for eclectic indie group Big Yen.
The dulcet album is overlaid with country and jazz components, signifying what heartbreak feels like without intentionally being a heartbreak album.
“It really wasn’t a cohesive process,” said Nathan. “It was just, ‘We’ve written a bunch of songs, and we don’t know what to do with them.’ Just living life and writing songs about it.”
Usually when you’re depressed over a lost love, you don’t want to listen to depressing music. It’s this sentiment that has morphed Eva’s recent dalliance with depressing banjo tunes into writing pop songs.
“When I’m sad, I can’t listen to sad shit either,” she said.
Lyrically, the siblings write on their own, and then come together to brainstorm the sound.
“A lot of times with Eva, her songwriting and creating of a melody will come from dreams,” Nathan said, “Or she’ll be driving and record a voice memo with a cool melody. Then I’ll try to find guitar parts that make sense with the melody she gives me; that shapes the chord progressions and how the songs move. Usually I’ll write from the guitar.”
The siblings’ violinist mother served as the family’s musical cornerstone: her singing, playing and appreciating music shaped Nathan and Eva’s desire to make their own.
“For me, it was listening to my dad’s old mixtapes when he was in residency for med school,” Nathan said. “Through that, I adopted his musical sensibility — a lot of punk rock and alternative rock — that’s what got me going.”
Eva first remembers falling in love with Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. “The way they sing makes me feel warm — that I’m blanketed in understanding and love,” she said. “That’s vocally where I first started paying attention. Now, I lean toward more punk and pop stuff, but jazz was the first thing.”
The album formed from the effort to compile their work, despite not necessarily having a precise direction.
“We don’t have enough projects under our belts to define it yet,” he said. Although Eva took a stab at it, calling Imperfect Parallels, “Americana folk-pop jazz.”
The duo is taking it slow in these uncertain times, focusing on the clarity derived from both creating and listening to music.
“What’s done it for me, listening to others’ music — it’s a way to escape,” he said. “Any kind of art, where would we be without it? TV, movies, video games, books — people would have gone crazy. It would be a shame if music weren’t at the forefront of art and culture.”