By Jordan Meiland
The artwork for 'therein lies the garden.' Photo and artwork by Grace Deangelo.
Eli Shane, a sophomore studio production, put out his debut album 'therein lies the garden' last Friday. The Beat sat down with him recently to talk about it.
The Beat: How’re you doing today, Eli?
Eli Shane: I’m doing very well! Enjoying the weather.
The Beat: Your debut album, ‘therein lies the garden’ has been out for a few days now! How does that feel?
Shane: It feels great. It’s a weight off my back. Still kind of wild that it’s out there but it feels good!
The Beat: When did you start writing the music for the album?
Shane: I started writing a few days after I got to Purchase in Fall 2020. The first song that I wrote was “Greed & Travel in Four Parts” which was about my dorm room. I started writing it three days into living there. Writing for the rest of the album continued until the end of my freshman year.
The Beat: What inspired you to start writing?
Shane: My first semester, I was given a lot of assignments so I was surrounded by inspiration. I came out of a decent-sized writer’s block and even during quarantine from March to September I was writing but nothing really stuck. It was just me starting to write again. Once I got to school, I was really in the zone and started sitting down and writing stuff I thought was good.
The Beat: Did you have any musical influences for this album?
Shane: Definitely! For this album, number one would be Laura Marling who’s a spectacular, incredible artist, songwriter, and guitarist. She’s someone I knew before but really got into during quarantine. She released an album right at the start of quarantine [‘Song for Our Daughter’] and at the same time she started doing guitar tutorials for her album and entire catalog. I watched all of them, learned all of her songs and could probably do a two-hour cover set of her now. She has a really interesting playing style and it felt like from those tutorials I’d learned more in a couple of months than I had in eight years of playing guitar. I’m also influenced by Björk, Fiona Apple, Joni Mitchell, Pinegrove, and Mitski. But Laura Marling was definitely the big one for this album.
The Beat: When did you start recording the album?
Shane: I started recording not long after starting to write it. Recording and writing happened somewhat simultaneously. As we started recording songs, I started writing news ones I’d record later. I think the first one we recorded properly was “Moth Song” and that was sometime in October 2020. I started doing demos of songs like “See You in New York” even earlier like in September. But it was pretty close to the start of the writing that we started recording.
The Beat: Where did you record?
Shane: I recorded right here at Purchase! Most of them I did in the studios at the Conservatory of Music. But some things were recorded in my room and some were even recorded in my closet of my apartment. “See You in New York” was mostly made outside the studio. We ended up re-recording a few things. I think I did the vocals for “Sledgehammer” in my closet. I also did some harmonies at home.
The Beat: So what was the recording process like?
Shane: Recording was a journey. I recorded this album with my friend Jack Worrell. I met him shortly after arriving at Purchase and we started getting into the studios together shortly after. He was a lot more technically-focused than me because I only had the most baseline knowledge of recording. Making this was a learning experience, even for Jack because we were figuring out everything together. We recorded the album over the span of about a year. I made an EP in high school but I was just kind of singing to tracks my friend produced. Recording this album was great. It was awesome to have every piece come together and to be so intimately involved with my own work like I never really had before.
The Beat: This album features many other musicians. How did that effect the scheduling process for recording?
Shane: There are, I think, 15-20 other musicians on the album. Luckily, we were able to find times and work with everyone’s schedule. In my freshman year, nobody was living here so studios were so easy to book out. Even in spring when more people came. But because everyone was back for this school year we had to be a lot more cautious of booking studio time at the tail end of it. But as for finding and meeting people, it was a good way to get to know everybody. I made some great friends who I met for the first time while recording it. Two of them: Gabe Schmid-Doyle and Mika Leonard, are playing in my live band now. It was awesome to work with so many talented people.
The Beat: Tell us a little about each track on the album.
Shane: “You and Me” is the opening track. It’s a bittersweet love song. It is a fictional story but it’s about a relationship where you’re in such a hassle with the other person and you just get so stressed out with them but keep laughing at the end of the day.
“Moth Song” is about a moth I saw in a practice room. I wrote that one in about 15 minutes and recorded it minutes after. We had a studio session booked but we weren’t sure what we were going to do so we just banged it out. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album.
“See You in New York” was the first song I’d started demoing. It was my first assignment in Songwriting I. We had to repurpose a classical melody so I used Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie No.1.” At the time, it was one of the only classical songs I knew. I’m a little more rounded now. I’d played its piano melody over and over and it started sounding robotic which is how I got to the vocals on that where I used a helium-like effect. It was also the first song I produced myself which was an interesting experience. I love how it turned out. It’s super atmospheric and I’ve never made a song like it before. My buddy Mac Anderson helped out on some additional production and mixed it beautifully.
“Sledgehammer” is an indie-rock song about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the game that saved me during my freshman year. I played it all the time and it’s a banger. It was also the first single for the album.
“E♭ Song” was the last song I wrote for the album. It’s a big acoustic ballad that goes from emotive to introspective to triumphant. Definitely the most introspective song on the album. I was definitely less observational when I wrote it. A lot of my songs are about my surroundings and not really about me but “E♭ Song” is. It was originally going to be the closing song on the album before I cut it down. It’s a good one. I like to call it this generation’s “Hey Jude” but that’s just me.
“ANOTHER VERSE” is a song I made with Anderson. We’d talked about making a song together all throughout out first semester but never got around to it. So the first day we got back from break we made “Another Verse.” He used a sample I had stored somewhere and made some beautiful stuff. I just sang what I was feeling over it. That was really our big collab. That was great to make.
“Greed & Travel in Four Parts.” It’s a big one. Although it was the first song written for the album, it was the last we finished recording. The strings were the last things we needed to record and we’d been talking about doing it since the start of the album so that was amazing. That song is almost like a Conservatory of Music collaborative project. There are so many people on it and so many people helped out. It’s a story told in four parts, each part going deeper and deeper. It’s a really fun one and one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written.
The Beat: What are some of your favorite tracks?
Shane: If I had to go with a top three, I’d say: “Moth Song,” “Sledgehammer,” and “E♭ Song.” I’ve always loved “Moth Song.” It’s the type of song I’d constantly listen to. Definitely some big Regina Spektor influences on that one and she’s been one of my favorite artists since I was a kid. I also love how good Gabe sounds on that one. “E♭ Song,” I’m just really proud of and it came together so nicely. “Sledgehammer” is also a banger and something I’d constantly listen to. I’d never really made a song like it and I love the way it turned out.
The Beat: How does this album compare to your older music?
Shane: The EP I made in high school [Flip on Fiona] was definitely poppier. I didn’t produce it and there were more electronic influences. I dropped a single called “’The Lindsey Song” about a year after that EP. That one, I’m playing it live and the re-arrangement could definitely be on the album. I think the production on it is a bit shinier than the production on my new album. I think the main thing is my songwriting. It’s changed a lot and so has my voice. My songwriting has grown and gotten tighter. So has my guitar playing. Those Laura Marling tutorials totally changed the way I play.
The Beat: Where did the album title come from?
Shane: The album title is a lyric from “E♭ song.” The full lyric is: “and therein lies the garden, fairly sized and fecund. And therein lies the future but looking at it’s useless.” I think it’s one of the more visual lyrics. That song’s more introspective and I think it’s about looking through the smaller things to get through your daily life. I’m not a gardener and I don’t really do anything with plants but I like that visual a lot. The section before goes “cats climbing the standing clocks, I only care about little things from now on” which is a reference from a Studio Ghibli movie. Focusing on little things and getting through your day is my mantra. The album title changed a lot though. It was “bear” for a while. Then “elk.” But eventually we settled on that. I also had the album cover before I had the title and I think “therein lies the garden” went really well with it.
The Beat: Tell us about the album artwork.
Shane: That cover was shot and designed by my friend Grace Deangelo. She’s a mind-blowingly good artist that goes to MICA [Maryland Institute College of Art] in Baltimore. She’s the artistic director for the album, she helped me out with merch and any other art-related things. We shot that cover in early September last year. We went to park and she had a film camera. There was one shot we got that ended up being the one on the cover. The squares in the background are also from that picture, just cut-up and reorganized. I love what she did with it. The way all the leaves connect to be a vine is really sweet. As soon as she got that idea we were like “that’s it.” It stuck with both of us quickly.
The Beat: Describe how you felt the moment the album was finally released.
Shane: A big sigh. I thought “okay. That’s that.” I mean, I don’t even know if I’ve processed that still. At midnight that night, I took it easy and watched my own lyrics on my TV and read through them and listened to the album. Like I said, I still don’t know if I’ve processed it. But it’s been really nice and people saying they like it is great. It’s really nice and it makes me feel great and I like that people are enjoying it.
The Beat: What’s something people might not know about this album?
Shane: So many people helped out on this album. I almost threw it out 10 times or so. Last summer I dropped my hard drive and lost about four months of work. That was horrible. That was a lot of work to make up. It was stressful and there were plenty of times where I felt really done with it. It was also originally 12 songs. I ended up cutting five songs days before the October 31st, 2021, deadline I’d given myself. I was originally going to release it on December 31st but I ended up pushing it back. Days before that deadline, I just decided it’d be a stronger project condensed down to seven songs. I might still drop those songs in a different form. But until then, they’re a secret.
The Beat: Describe the album in a few sentences.
Shane: ‘therein lies the garden’ is a chamber pop and singer-songwriter record I made in my first three semesters. It came after a change in my songwriting, quarantine, and my discovery of new music. It was made with a bunch of great musicians I’m really honored to work with. I think they’re seven of the best songs I’ve ever made and there’s probably at least one song on there that most people would like.
The Beat: What’s next for you?
Shane: I’m doing two release shows. The first one’s a release show at Purchase I’ll be announcing in a few days. The second show is at The Bitter End in NYC on April 4th. That’s the proper album release show. It’s going to be a lot of fun. These will also be the first times I play with a full band.
The Beat: Is there anything else you’d like to say or add?
Shane: I don’t think so! You check out the album wherever you find music. Please check it out. We put a lot of work into it and I love how it turned out. Thank you!