by: Kelly Johnson
Cindy Lou Gooden is the mastermind behind the indie-pop project Very Fresh. After a two-year self-imposed hiatus down in Florida, she recently moved back to Brooklyn and resurrected Very Fresh with new perspective. On new single ‘Clean Touch/Pale Lips,’ (released today via New Professor Music) Very Fresh has a sweet innocence that belies the muscle and teeth of Gooden’s songwriting and lyrical capabilities. Gooden’s evocative delivery and dynamic voice make for a captivating listen; one that suggests the scope of her musical prowess is just beginning to truly unfold. Live, she plays the bass and sings along with Ben Scherer on guitar and Alejandro Salazar Dyer (Leapling) on drums.
In preparation for her release show tomorrow, (Saturday Nov. 14 at Other Side in Brooklyn, NY) Gooden was kind enough to sit down and chat with me about her musical trajectory, songwriting process and the rush of playing music on stage.
Kelly: Were you still working on Very Fresh stuff when you went to Florida? I know you pretty much took a break for a while: was there a certain reason?
Cindy: I was definitely not focusing very intensely on (writing music) while I was there. I would definitely say I was on a break.
Greg Katz at New Professor, who is putting out my current single, we had some old recordings that I had done when I visited L.A. and he was like “let’s put these out!” And I was like (begrudgingly) “OK…” I did put out a single during that time (in Florida). I was just hanging out in my room in Florida. I wasn’t doing anything that you typically do when you release music.
But I don’t know, I’d had a couple of experiences…I came back from that first of year of camp (Buck’s Rock) with Sadie (Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz) really inspired because I’d had an extremely productive time while I was there. I put out this record and attracted the interest of a label that ended up not panning out for reasons looking back on it were completely out of my control. I got really down about it.
Kelly: You took it personally.
Cindy: Yeah, and that kind of set me off on a couple years of feeling really discouraged which turned into kind of like a visceral repulsion to even just like, touching my guitar or anything else. It was so intense that I just had to roll with it, you know? So I did, and that feeling lasted for two years until I came back to the city and started going to shows again. I was like, “Oh, I remember how fun this was. Maybe I should do this again.”
Kelly: That’s nice, that was probably the perfect amount of time for you to completely get away from it in Florida. Just take a sabbatical from it and take yourself out of the scene completely. Kind of reassess or, I don’t know, get some perspective on the situation.
Cindy: Yeah, absolutely. It was something that I had to do, you know? I think when all the events that were kind of leading up to that sabbatical happened I was also very young. I was probably like, 23 years old. I definitely need to just like, grow up and have some normal adult experiences. Learn how the world worked a little more and develop a thicker skin. I think I came back from that a lot better equipped to do what I was doing before I left.
Kelly: That’s awesome. So how have you been liking playing shows again in the city since you’ve been back? Does it feel good or has it been a slow process to warm up again?
Cindy: No, it’s been great! It’s actually kind of exceeded my expectations for the most part. Every once in a while there’s a show where it’s like last night, you know, midnight on a Tuesday where there’s ten people there, but I don’t know. Those shows happen. But for the most part, I have to say for my own shows that I’ve been playing I’ve been getting good offers, playing with good bands, good turnouts. I’m very happy with it. I feel like I have a little more control over what kind of shows I take, you know. I say no to stuff (laughs). Which is nice.
Kelly: That’s always nice, if you can say no to shows you’re doing something right.
Cindy: Yeah (laughs). And on Halloween I did an Alanis Morissette cover set.
Kelly: That’s a really good covers choice.
Cindy: Oh yeah, and I played with a bunch of pals and it was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever played. But yeah, I love it. And every time I’m on stage I feel good, you know? I forget that I spent like, 8 hours sitting in front of a computer or running around like a chicken with its head cut off the rest of the time. It’s like, “Everything’s OK now.”
Kelly: Yea, it’s like hitting the reset button. So you said you had such a visceral repulsion to the guitar, which is interesting, and then you ended up getting back into it. Was there a specific moment that you remember that happening or was it more gradual than that?
Cindy: I would definitely say that it was a gradual thing. But I definitely think the biggest component of it, or the biggest kind of motivator, was going to shows and seeing my friends’ bands that I was hanging around with before I left and seeing how they had grown and developed, and gotten better. Like, over the couple of years that I had been gone. Kind of realizing, oh, all of these things I was striving for or wishing would happen are things that you just have to put time into. Just be patient with it. Once I had that realization that kind of lit the fire under my ass.
Getting back into playing has been very gradual, too. I mean, now I definitely feel much further along in the process- I definitely don’t feel like I’m there- but it’s a similar thing…it’s like a muscle.
Kelly: You have to use it.
Cindy: You have to take it a little bit of the time. I’m still kind of working on getting back into the momentum that I used to have with the writing. That’s kind of the toughest muscle to train of all of them.
Kelly: So the songs that you are releasing, are they newer songs or have you had them sitting around for a while?
Cindy: Well Clean Touch was recorded right in the middle of my sabbatical. My voice was rusty and my playing was rusty, and I kind of wonder how different it would sound if I did it now. Now that I’ve been back playing for a little while.
Kelly: Wait, the version that’s on the upcoming release? I wouldn’t have guessed that your voice was out of shape and non-buff. It sounded buff to me.
Cindy: (Laughs) Well, thanks.
Kelly: You have a line in ‘Clean Touch’ where you say ‘Sittin in a coat room/Sippin on a cold brew.’ That part struck me as like, being a kid and running from your parents to hide in the coatroom. Is there like a, sense of isolation or separateness that was in that song? I know you mentioned recording it during your sabbatical. Am I reading into that? (laughs)
Cindy: Well, I didn’t…I didn’t write that song when I was on a sabbatical (laughs). But I wasn’t super active when I was writing it either. I was kind of on the verge of heading in that direction. I was beginning my descent into the sabbatical, I guess.
My lyrics, generally speaking…there’s definitely a certain breed of songs that I write where the lyrics are pretty train of thought. That’s definitely one of them. The visual that pops up when I sing that line is of me like, hiding behind some heavy winter coats. In a coatroom, in a place with a bunch of people. There’s a very specific time and location that that brings up. I think it was a post-funeral dinner at some sort of party hall or something, after a distant relative had passed away when I was younger, I think that I actually did do that. Sitting in the coatroom. I don’t think I was sipping on any kind of cold brew though because I was probably about 10. That just kind of rhymed-ish. Like slant rhymed or something.
Kelly: Definitely, I thought it was really affecting. I think it’s a really relatable thing. I think a lot of kids go and hide in the coatroom when you’re that age, right? There’s a bunch of coats and you always see little legs sticking out when you go get your coat. (laughs) It’s a good place to just be alone for a second. So do you write the lyrics first and then try to pair them up with the music?
Cindy: I think more often than not…the way that the process usually works for me is that I’ll come up with an instrumental hook first. Just like a little piece of something on the guitar, maybe a verse or a chorus, a bridge or an outro. Just one musical idea to latch onto, and then I’ll write all the lyrics without really thinking about the music. Then I’ll make the melody fit the lyrics.
Kelly: Interesting, so is it a stream-of-conscious, don’t filter yourself kind of thing? And then go back and edit?
Cindy: That’s definitely one of my favorite ways of writing. Just vomiting onto the page. You know, I do go back and edit it afterwards. If it’s really not structured…I mean it varies from song to song, but sometimes it will be completely unstructured. Sometimes I’ll actually break it up into different parts and paragraphs and verses as I’m writing. Depending on just how loose it is, there will be some degree of editing that happens afterwards. Then, once I get the lyrics down, I kind of practice the song for a while then make some minor changes. So the stream-of-consciousness is sort of a starting point.
Kelly: That’s interesting, it’s something I’ve tried myself before, too. It can be rewarding but sometimes you have to sift a lot. Just maybe write a couple of pages but only get like, a line out of it.
Cindy: Oh yeah, totally. 90 percent of what you write is going to be crap. (laughs)
Very Fresh ‘CleanTouch/Pale Lips’ cassette release show
w/ Retail, Jo Passed, Railings
Saturday, Nov. 14
Other Side, 338 Moffatt St. Unit B
w/ Retail, Jo Passed, Railings