As a long-time fan (going on ten years now), I have had the pleasure of seeing June LaLonde grow as an artist and musician, and more recently have become very grateful to call her a friend. I have learned that June is many things, and a multi-instrumentalist, a striking lyricist, an incredible producer, and an avid chess-player are just a few of them. Beyond her talents is a radiant personality and kind disposition that makes her music all the more precious. With these tools, she has all the makings of a powerhouse that is more focused and balanced than ever before on her newest self-titled record.
June LaLonde is a reclamation and proclamation of sorts. It is a full statement of embracing your identity from your political views to your gender identity, the two of which end up circling back into one another without much choice when you’re trans. Examining the past and present simultaneously, the album balances its commentary well. Its themes are on the nose, and the sonic elements are a fun revitalization and rebranding of familiar 00’s alt-rock likened to Beck, Gorillaz, and even touches of Frou Frou. Introspective as much as it is observing the outside world, with everything from bright IDM-adjacent synths to fuzzed-out guitars, reverb-laden vocals to dry and in-your-face delivery, the styles from her discography shine through in new light. June LaLonde is a showcase of an artist with more breadth than most, and we had the pleasure of sitting down with the mastermind behind it.
I’ve seen your style change so much over the years and now we’re reaching the point where it feels like your more electronic-focused music is circling back around to some of your previous guitar-led music. How does it feel to go back to that, especially being a vastly different person than you were before?
First of all, thank you for lending my work your time over the years! I’m honestly really grateful for it. The thing is – I grew up listening to guitar-driven rock and indie stuff. Guitar was my first instrument – I started making electronic music because I didn’t have the knowledge or confidence to feel like I belonged in that world. I wanted to work with sounds that sounded more alien and closer to how I felt before realizing I was trans. Took me 30 years, but eventually I realized that I’m a person. I found my voice, my guitar, and the confidence to express myself in styles that I loved growing up. Even if it isn’t great, I feel good about carving out my own space within that style now. Hopefully it inspires some trans kids to claim space in this area for themselves. Only have one chance at living – may as well make the most of it, y’know?
A bit of the album communicates themes of your trans journey as a newfound woman, what importance does it have to you to communicate these things so openly? And, conversely, how does it feel to be vulnerable with it being so public?
Oh, it’s vital. My work doesn’t function for me unless it’s coming from someplace very real and genuine, and therefore wouldn’t function for others. I can adopt characters and tell stories of fiction in my work, but it always has to resonate with me intellectually, emotionally, physically. I’ve been telling folks that I used to make music that acted more like a mirror does – letting you reflect on it and come to your own conclusions. It’s a lot more vulnerable to be making windows – to let people see and hear pieces of who you really are. But since finally beginning to understand more of who I am – it’s become way more necessary for me to explore and express my honest self through my work. It’s been frightening, but brilliant.
Something I always think about self-titled records is that the artist feels a type of authenticity with it. It feels truly them. What led you to make this record your self-titled? How do you feel you are communicated through the album other than just making it?
Well, pragmatically this was my first album made since choosing my new name. Since starting life over at 30. From that angle it only made sense to self-title the record. Beyond that, I feel the tracks here do a much better job than previous records at expressing my feelings, rather than just creating feelings. It’s more an emotional outpour than an intellectual exercise. I feel like I’m just coming into my own despite how long I’ve been at this music thing. Guess I’m a late-bloomer.
Can you tell me about the art for it? I love it so much and seeing your old album covers in the bins makes my heart soar, what made you think of the record store idea?
Thank you! I got inspired seeing these little miniature model kits that folks could buy of things like coffee-shop interiors, greenhouses, libraries – things like that. I think I’ve always had a thing for little self-contained places, I guess. Some folks would build them and put them on their bookshelf to show off on socials, and I just really loved the idea of this quiet little world you could craft for yourself. My records tend to be a sonic equivalent, for me. I came across a model-builder in the furry fandom (@fennec_peachy) that does these amazing model builds from scratch and had the thought, “Huh. I always see illustrations or design-work done for furry music. But I don’t really see photography. Much less so models.” So I got in touch with them, and hashed out the little idea I had in my head, of June having her own little record shop for people to wander into and hopefully find something they loved, nestled on a shelf alongside real records. They set right to work with all the cutting, 3D-printing, painting. It was a joy to see it come together for the final work.
You broke down the album track by track on your twitter already, and shared a slew of influences from Blur to Cornelius to Beck to The Go! Team, are there any other influences you feel like inspired you overall rather than on individual tracks?
LCD Soundsystem is one, for sure. I’ve always loved their work and James’ story about being too afraid to really put work out there until they were already about-30, and his attitude towards doing this thing that he really loves helped drive me towards not being afraid to try and make noise and carve out a space for myself, despite whatever insecurities I have. I’m trying to say “yes” to things more – trying to be fearless but vulnerable.
Something you seem to do so well that you’ve done for years is capture a moment in your music. Whether it’s with a time or place, it all feels very present. What do you think being present in your music means to you?
I think it means paying close attention to what your heart and head feels and thinks about what it is that you’re making at the moment. I don’t chase trends, I’m not terribly concerned with genre, and I’m not hell-bent on sounding unique. I only ever make what I want to hear. And every piece of music that I’ve finished has a music video, in my head. There’s always visual ideas that go along with it – sometimes it has a definite narrative, other times less so. And if there’s any overarching idea to my process it’s trying to make the soundtrack for that space that I see in my mind, and to try and take the listener on a tour through it with me. The other thing is sonic texture – lyrics can have you remember periods of heartbreak, but sonic textures work to have you FEEL the heartbreak AS it’s happening, in an active and physical way. At least it does, for me. To be honest my thoughts on it are just as valid as whatever explanation you might have for how that trait shows up in my work.
You were also selected for the Bandcamp vinyl program! Congratulations! Do you feel like there’s anything coming from that sometime soon? Is there anything else exciting for you on the horizon?
Thanks! I don’t think so as of yet, in doing my research on it I just didn’t have the time or resources to realistically commit to it. Maybe in the future. I’d like to finally shoot a music video, one day – but for now, it feels like just working on more music is what’s on the docket. Playing with others, maybe even playing live, someday – post-pandemic, of course.
And finally, a primary fun fact about you in my head is that you are an avid chess player. What’s your favorite chess play?
Setting up a board outside at a cafe and playing strangers is always my favorite chess related move since I find it a great way to get to know people, but if you’re looking for one move in specific: e8Q.