NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
The release of the debut LP “Maybe Later” brings a world of possibility for local upstart band Neighbor Lady
It took a little coercion for Emily Braden to openly pursue her music. For years, she wrote songs because she felt like it. Despite being surrounded by musicians as a former music major at the University of Georgia, she kept her songs to herself and forgot they existed nearly as soon as she’d completed them. When she finally played her music for a friend in Athens, things began to take shape.
“We were like, ‘Let’s play this in public,’” recalls Braden. She and her boyfriend, Jack Blauvelt, formed a band and dubbed it Neighbor Lady, a name that still encapsulates their quirky spirit. “We are not the hot girl next door that you fantasize about,” she says. “We are your chill buds who might knit you a sweater because we care about your wellbeing and we had the extra yarn.”
With a rotating cast of fellow musicians, they began performing her music, and later, Braden and Blauvelt moved to Decatur and picked up Andrew McFarland on drums and Merideth Hanscom on bass. Although Braden had been casually involved with a band in Athens, the other three members had all belonged to heavily touring bands Reptar, Chief Scout and Dana Swimmer. The new lineup gave Braden the push she needed. “I think we all decided this was something we believed in and something we wanted to do,” she says. “Before, it was something that was really fun, and I had all these songs, and it was just like friends hanging out.”
As a foursome, the sound is dynamic. Braden’s voice is powerful and sultry, with the subtlest of Southern twangs, and it’s met with retro psych-folk guitar and rhythm. The quality of the group’s performance is unwavering both in recording and onstage. Even at first listen, Neighbor Lady is nothing short of captivating.
“We’re all really good friends, so it’s, like, really fun to just do anything, whether we’re recording an album, writing a song or just hanging out,” says McFarland, who spent nearly a decade touring with Reptar before pursuing his own band, Semicircle. “We all trust each other’s tastes and each other’s ideas. We’ll be able to run through a ton of different ideas that we have until we land on something right, which is hard to do. There’s not a lot of ego in the band, which is nice—and rare.”
Now, the songwriting process is still centered on what Braden brings to the table, but it’s a shared, collaborative experience. “I will write the skeleton of the song, the chords and a general structure, give it to them and we’ll hash through it and give it a vibe,” she says. “Sometimes it changes completely from how I originally viewed it, but that just makes it 100,000 percent better, and it’s really cool.”
With the release of the debut LP, “Maybe Later,” on May 11, Neighbor Lady is preparing for an album release show on May 18 at 529. Then they’ll hit the road on a tour across the country. And for Braden, tour is, at very least, a time to see the world with people she loves. “I’ve been to San Francisco, and I’ve been to Tennessee, and that’s about as far north as I’ve been,” she says. “So I’m very excited to go to all these different places, play music and hang out with my buds.”
STORY: Jodi Cash
PHOTO: Nathan Bolster