Interview: Lotion Princess
Meet the singer and songwriter of the DC-based band
If you saw Lotion Princess playing two years ago, odds are you wouldn’t recognize them now.
It’s hard to believe on first listen of their new EP, Take Care, but Lotion Princess’ sound originally incorporated drums, an upright piano, upright bass, and a banjo into shows; if the band played “synthy-folksy tunes,” the ratio certainly leaned toward the latter in their early days.
Today, it’s the other way around. Their banjo player moved to North Carolina, a new guitarist joined, and singer-songwriter Sasha Elisabeth’s downstairs neighbor made known his knack for drumming, this sound transformed from acoustic to electronic.
On February 1, Lotion Princess releases Take Care. The single is “Carry Over,” a song written to take the listener through the journey of wanting to be alone, deciding to be alone, and ultimately the difficulty dealing with being alone. “It may remind you of your ex,” Sasha predicts, “but that’s the point.”
There is no easing into “Carry Over.” Sasha’s vocals and a few notes on the keyboard begin setting the scene right away: You’re having a good time, sure, but loneliness is your ride home. And it’s waiting right outside. DC-bred Dan Sachs catches up on drums shortly after, along with Born Dad’s Katie Parker and The North Country’s Andrew Grossman on strings. The melody and melancholy set in together, and then comes another element: Specificity.
When comparing stories behind rock-and-roll songs to that of traditional country music, Malcom Gladwell notes the songs (even ones about being sad) can’t make you cry like country music can. Rock-and-roll is meant to reach too many people; it inherently cannot be specific. “It is when melody collides with specificity,” he says, that’s when you lose it.
In the chorus, we listen to the hardest parts of disconnecting from someone you love: Tossing out letters they wrote to you, donating clothes they kept at your house because they knew you liked borrowing them. It’s specific. Memories and feelings, unique only to you and this person, are fixed upon these items. How could you let that go?
Perhaps, however, the most telling part of “Carry Over” is not in the indisputable vulnerability of Sasha Elisabeth’s lyrics, but in the ending reprise. Throughout “Carry Over,” Sasha explains the the disquieting realization of needing to be alone, but ends the chorus in something that feels like defense: “I love to sleep alone anyway.”
After the second chorus, and exactly halfway through “Carry Over,” she holds onto this final word, “anyway,” and repeats it five times before moving on. It’s hard, she tells us just one last time, to come undone. Then, with a power ballad build up from Dan on the drums, “anyway” comes back for ten more. For the last two minutes and 14 seconds of the song, we hear the musical equivalent of a loss for words. I’m reminded of the times I’ve sat on the floor drinking wine with friends, spilling all there is to say about a recent break up. Any word that could possibly describe how it feels has been exhausted, and you wish someone changed the subject five minutes ago. You shake your head, maybe shrug or let out an exasperated sigh, and conclude with “so, anyway…”
To learn more about Lotion Princess, I asked Sasha some questions.
You’ve defined “coming undone” as “the disquieting realization of needing to be alone.” In the first verse of “Carry Over,” you mention searching for answers. What answers did you find while alone?
I have found so much beauty in solitude, and I wrote this about a time before I’d found that. I spent a lot of years holding it all together and pretending I was doing great. I had to give myself permission to fall apart in order to put the pieces back together in a way that made sense. Kind of like when you need to clean your workspace before you can get anything done. What a boring analogy — but I think about it a lot. I’ve always struggled to get quiet enough that I can actually hear myself. In solitude I started to hear my own voice and then I could actually listen to it, and start answering to myself rather than the rest of the world.
Why do you think it’s so important for us to be reminded the hard times, like break ups?
I think the best music is the most honest music. I never set out to write sad music intentionally… does anyone do that? I’m just offering what I have to offer at this place and time. I love sad music. If you need recs for crying music I am your girl. Sad music moves feelings through so that there can be space for something else — something hopefully more joyful. But we can’t get to the joy until we feel the pain. I view sad music as less of a reminder of hard times and more of an equalizer that feeling pain is universal and there is beauty in the full spectrum of emotions. We don’t always need to be happy, and we don’t have to just celebrate positive energy. My roommate introduced me to “negging out” where you are just in a bad mood and it’s totally allowed. I am into this. Love the positive, love the negative, because you’re gonna feel it all at some point.
Do you have a favorite line in Carry Over? What is it?
“I love to sleep alone anyway.” It feels good to sing because it’s true.
Any DC-based bands with whom you’re dying to play?
SHAED. I have a crush on all of them.
Do you stick to a writing process? What is it?
I either start with just melody and lyrics, or I write melody and lyrics over improvised chords. The lyrics drive the process. Usually at some point I’m recording a voice memo at 2:00 a.m. in the dark in bed, and at another point I’m listening to that voice memo in the car and writing the next part. We’re starting to write collaboratively as a band and I’m so excited about that.
What’s the best way to listen to Carry Over?
Somewhere outside. I took the best walk in 2016 as a big snowstorm was rolling in and got lost in Rock Creek because the snow blanketed the trails by the time I was heading back. I found the way and didn’t really care because it was such pure magic. That would have been the perfect time for Carry Over.
When can we see Lotion Princess in action?
February 2nd! Our EP Release show at Pie Shop DC.
Lotion Princess, Slow Love, Abby Huston at Pie Shop @ Dangerous Pies DC, Washington [2 February]
Lotion Princess TAKE CARE EP Release Show - Lotion Princess blends ambient and soulful instrumentation with rich…
The Take Care EP delivers single “Carry Over,” accompanied by four other Lotion Princess originals. There is “Poetry,” where Sasha’s haunting vocals showcase over a four-minute amalgamation of ethereal sounds, “Grow Up,” with Katie Parker’s backup vocals shining through, and seven-minute EP namesake “Take Care.” Personally, I think “Reserve You” is the best track on the EP for an audience sing-along.
On Saturday, February 2, Lotion Princess will be debuting their Take Care EP at Pie Shop in Washington, D.C., supported by locals Slow Love and Richmond musician Abby Huston.