Cate Le Bon Wrestles with Unstable Futures on Sixth Album, Pompeii

Photo Credit: H. Hawkline

Cate Le Bon has a knack for poetically weaving dualities: history and imagined futures; progress and destruction; the personal and the collective; the orderly and being “tethered to a mess,” as she sings on “Moderation” from her latest LP Pompeii. From a bedroom in Cardiff last year, she made her sixth album, out February 4 via Brooklyn imprint Mexican Summer, with collaborator and co-producer Samur Khouja.

Since September last year, she has returned to her adopted home, the US. When we chatted last December, she was in Topanga, working with Khouja again to produce Devendra Banhart’s album after playing a festival in Marfa.

“We’ve rented a house that we’ve turned into a studio. It used to belong to Neil Young in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” she tells Audiofemme. “Devendra and I are both living and working in the house. It’s just so easy and lovely. We’re having a dreamy time. There’s not many people you can live and work with and still look forward to seeing in the morning.”

She has plans to make another record this year, on her own terms rather than under the restrictions imposed by border closures and lockdowns, but producing for other artists is also on her agenda.

“It’s just joyous to see other people’s process and it’s a real beautiful thing to trust someone with your record,” she says. “I’m not looking to do it full time but there’s certain people that I love working with and will always have the time to do that.”

Topanga is a long way, geographically and metaphorically, from the Cardiff bedroom where Pompeii was recorded. The texturally-rich tapestry of saxophone, strings, synths, bass and multi-track guitars is the most danceable excursion into existential inquiry, wrestling with faith, intention and purpose. Le Bon’s catalyst was Brazilian-Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi’s 1958 essay “The Moon,” in which she laments the perversion of dominance, control and technology in the pursuit of knowledge.

“The underlying theme of the record is: you will be forever connected to everything,” Le Bon explains. “It was this Lina Bo Bardi essay that I’d read… about how man will destroy everything, really, in this attempt to eat the moon, and nothing’s changed, and I suspect nothing will change. All these incremental changes that have been made under the banner of progress is probably why we’ve ended up in a global pandemic, with everything shut down and hundreds of thousands of people dying. There’s this sense of being connected to those very first decisions that were made that started the wheels turning… about knowing all that and still wanting the things that you know are bad and contributing to [destruction].”

The Welsh artist had been demoing Pompeii in Joshua Tree in 2020 with repeat collaborator, drummer and producer Stella Mozgawa but an invitation from John Grant to produce his album Boy From Michigan took both her and Mozgawa to his adopted home of Iceland. She had been in Iceland when the pandemic began closing borders in March 2020, choosing to remain and continue working, though Mozgawa took the last flight back to Australia.

“When I was working in Iceland and everything shut down, I was lucky because it’s quite a fortunate place to find yourself when a global pandemic kicks off. I was somewhere safe and I was earning money, which seemed to be a massive problem for friends and family back home,” she remembers. “I was locked out of America and my partner [Tim Presley, collaborator in Drinks] who lives there, we’d just bought a house and I couldn’t get back into the States. My instinct was to get home to Wales, to get home to my mum and dad and my sisters, my best friends from childhood and be amongst them.”

She returned to Cardiff in May 2020 after two and a half months in Iceland. Pompeii was created not only in her homeland, but in the same Cardiff house she lived in 15 years ago, in her late twenties. That would have been around the same time she released her debut album, Me Oh My in 2009, a year after her EP in Welsh language Edrych yn Llygaid Ceffyl Benthyg (Looking in the Eyes of a Borrowed Horse).

“I think [Pompeii] certainly captures the time and everything that was going on in my small little world. Everything was put into that record and it’s beyond words to try to distil everything that you’re feeling when everything is unstable and the future is dark. So, to be able to really put that into music was cathartic. It was all I could do at the time,” she says.

Khouja was her trusted accomplice, and the two worked diligently for months within the Cardiff house that Le Bon knew so intimately – every light switch, every mirror, every creaky floorboard.

“It’s not a bedroom record in the traditional sense,” Le Bon acknowledges of the luscious, textured sounds of the album. “We had a lot of gear and Samur is the best engineer you could dream up.”

She first met Khouja at his recording studio in downtown LA – he was engineering her third album, Mug Museum. “I just really loved the way he worked,” Le Bon says. “It’s always forward motion with him. He’ll never say ‘you can’t do that’ or ‘that’s ridiculous.’ He’s so into exploring and his curiosity is so infectious.”

From the opening strum of guitar on “Dirt On The Bed,” there’s a sense of languid luxuriousness to the sound. “That was the first song that we tackled, Samur and I together, and it was a song that was born from something else then reduced to a one-note bass synth line that everything else spring-boarded off,” she says.

Strings writhe around each other, resonant and metallic at the top end but accompanied by a deep twangy bass. A resolute sigh of brass rises and falls away like the shrug of shoulders. Like walking deep into a forest, the harmony of animals and trees, rivers and undergrowth has an organic symphony effect. Le Bon, central but unimposing, is the guide to this raw, unexplored new territory.

“Moderation” bounces along, guitar spraying its sunny beams out over a warm, deep bassline. Le Bon’s radiant falsetto and sweet harmonies rise over the track in their glorious multi-coloured beauty like a pastel, shimmering rainbow. “French Boys” is a simmering haze of ‘80s-style synth keyboards and saxophone with the vaguely disjointed, crystalline half song-half spoken word ode to les garçons.

“It’s a song about the cliches drowning you, I suppose,” Le Bon muses. “The guitar sounds on it are so beautiful to me. The guitars are running through about eight different pedals and some magic Samur’s working. That was a bit of a labyrinth to record and work out all the paths.”

Le Bon plays all the instruments on the album, except for the saxophones (care of Euan Hinshelwood and Stephen Black, both members of her live band) and drumming by Mozgawa (of course).

Stella Mozgawa’s minimal percussion, complementary and organic, was provided from her homeland in Australia. Fresh from working with Courtney Barnett on Things Take Time, Take Time, Mozgawa is in her element when partnered with visionary women who are confident in what they like and how they want to convey their vocals and musicality, but are nevertheless open to guidance and influences.

“She’s so accomplished on the drums, it’s insane. I tear up watching her play drums. She’s unbelievable but she doesn’t have an ego. It’s like she’s got nothing to prove and she never reacts. She always responds to people in the studio, it’s always really thought through. She’s just a true master, phenomenal to work with,” Le Bon says. “Stella played a huge part in a lot of things I’ve done in the past five or six years. Working with her is one of the greatest joys. She’s phenomenal… it had to be her drumming on this record. She was in Australia and we were in Cardiff doing sessions on Zoom chatting to each other, then Samur was linked up to Pro Tools. It was not the same as being there but it was an amazing second option.”

Mozgawa was the drummer on Crab Day too, Le Bon’s fourth album, in which she worked with Noah Georgeson and Josiah Steinbrick again – the producers of her 2013 album Mug Museum.

Pompeii arrives only two years after 2019’s Mercury Prize-nominated Reward, her first album after signing with Mexican Summer. Since, she’s performed with composer and musician John Cale at the Barbican, backed by the London Contemporary Orchestra. It is the cherry on top of a catalogue of really candid, cadenced and – ultimately – beautiful albums. A tour in support of the record kicks off in Woodstock, NY on February 6.   

The process of creation was Le Bon’s coping strategy, and she admits that it was a time – as it was for many – in which the lack of a certain future was both reassuring and scary. That duality is played out in the musical and lyrical dynamics, as listeners will discover for themselves.

“You’re processing all this stuff and music and writing is such a beautiful way of processing something,” she says. “The language of unsurety is quite a difficult code to crack, it’s kind of explorative and complicated and at times I just had to trust that something felt right… trusting that it was almost like a letter to my future self.”

Follow Cate Le Bon on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Mexican Summer’s 2021 Looking Glass Singles Provide Words of Wisdom for 2022

Given the continuing chaos that 2021 had to offer, many of us are still struggling to find a way forward three weeks into the new year. Once again, Brooklyn imprint Mexican Summer offered some delicately-rendered advice in the form of their continuing Bandcamp-centric Looking Glass singles series. The project began with a bang in 2020, including more than two dozen previously unreleased tracks by everyone from label stalwarts like Peaking Lights, Jess Williamson and Geneva Jacuzzi to up-and-coming artists like Madison McFerrin and Lucy Gooch. While Looking Glass scaled back to just four single releases for the 2021 series, each packed its own therapeutic punch. Beyond their poignant lyrics, the artists were able to provide some additional insight into what got them through the maelstrom, and how they plan to keep going.

NYC-and-Berlin-based duendita kicked off the series with her stunning, cryptic “Open Eyes.” “had a bad dream/what could it mean?/who could i be?” she croons in its opening lines before returning with a poetic balm: “courage and strength/all of our days.” And later: “face my mistakes/never too late/love them away!”

Along with duendita’s soothing advice came the softly-strummed “Equinox” from New Zealand singer-songwriter Maxine Funke. She says she wrote a bunch of songs for Looking Glass in May of 2021 after Mexican Summer reached out to her Australian label A Colourful Storm with an invite to participate. “It coincided with a time when I was really relishing the hours after midnight,” Funke says. “I was working a very social job and living next door to a major building site! It’s just so excellent when the world goes to sleep.”

Part of her creative process involves what she refers to as USSR: Uninterrupted Silent Sustained Reading. “What’s valuable is being transported, creating a new vision, a new version, a myth,” she elaborates; in the case of “Equinox,” Funke found surprising inspiration in the old nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle.” Country and city cats, laughing dogs, and restless dinnerware populate what Funke calls her “ordinary domestic life,” but the cow here isn’t the moon-jumping bovine – it’s a metaphor for her muse.

“It’s a bit mystical, like inspiration – when it comes it’s subtle and cosy like a beneficent house trained cow,” she explains. All that’s left to do then, is welcome and make space for it. “When I’m starting something new I just take baby steps, just a small amount of time each day and sooner or later things find their direction. Also cooking up a big pot of something good is excellent to help transport me.”

For Liza Victoria, who records as Lisa/Liza, being asked to participate in the Looking Glass series provided some much-needed motivation in and of itself. “I have chronic illness, and last winter I had some episodes that were very difficult. As a result of that I was too weak to sing, I had writer’s block, and to be honest I hadn’t felt too comfortable picking up my guitar, because it was emotionally difficult to have to put it back down,” she remembers. “Being asked to just write one song moved me into a different space mentally. Once I wrote one, I wanted to write another. It was a nice exercise and if anyone is struggling with writing, maybe it can help them too, to just focus on writing one.”

Her contribution to the series, “Rose Pedals,” was the last in a “little chain of songs” she was then able to write in succession, and appropriately enough, it beautifully illustrates how mundane activities can teach us patience or remind us to pause – in her case, holding onto rituals like making tea and writing letters as little things that create connection when there isn’t much else to grasp. “I think I was particularly feeling alone with what I was working through physically then, and these mundane activities were ones that I owed a little ‘thank you’ to, for keeping me present and reminding me I wasn’t alone,” she says.

“A lot of times the way I write is very self-reflective and taking a look at a given moment, or dealing with a feeling that is in the air. I think it’s always helped me to process things by teaching myself and allowing myself to write in that way. The writing process is very fulfilling and exciting for me because often it’s like a way to unwind, and bring in some kind of new focus,” she continues. “Creating my own music has allowed me a lot of room to communicate and feel validated emotionally… it is a way for me to rest and pause and collect patience in my life. My attention is refocused and turned into something outward that I can share with others.”

Seeking such connections – and of course, embracing professional therapy – have been key to her well-being, she adds. “Working through feelings, sometimes it feels like a roller coaster a bit, in that part of the difficulty is the illusions we build for ourselves. The roller coaster can be scary; it can also be exciting, and thrilling, and a place to be with our friends, or just sharing an experience beside a stranger. There are plenty of things in the world today that are very hard to hold right now, and it’s okay to notice them. To be aware and to feel is human,” she offers. “Some of my personal favorite things to do to create calm have included being in nature, meditating with this app called Headspace, and having pets around – I have two cats. I don’t care for roller coasters.”

As they process a traumatic religious upbringing, Niecy Blues has found peace via their own sense of spirituality, a journey they document with Looking Glass single “Bones Become The Trees.” Though it was originally released on a compilation, the South Carolina-based composer, songwriter, vocalist, and instrumentalist says re-releasing the song for the series helped push their work to communities of listeners it hadn’t reached before. “Over the last month, I’ve been fortunate enough to have several conversations with people who connected to the song,” they say. “Hearing people’s experiences and extending empathy are the very things that really breathe more life into the work.”

Co-produced with Khari Lucas (aka Contour), the track’s heavy reverb adds airy, mystical vibes as Blues sings of renewal and rebirth, which the performer says they’ve explored “through ritual and intention. Even the smallest of things: filling a glass of water and slowly drinking it with my mind set on the intention of clarity of my words; expressing gratitude and centering my connection with the earth.” More specifically, nurturing plants has offered Blues a connection to their ancestors, who were sharecroppers.

“It’s a relationship. I have an altar. I think it’s very important to honor my ancestors,” they elaborate. “All of this comes into play in both my songwriting as well as performing. I feel a deep sense of connection to the deepest parts of myself as well as Spirit and those before me when I perform. My spirituality is deeply personal and I hold it dear. It anchors me.”

The mission of Mexican Summer’s Looking Glass series has been, since its inception, to provide a “portal for creative exploration and community to resonate through all versions of reality.” These recent additions encompass spirituality, ritual, and connection as we seek to bring balance to the months ahead, providing some invaluable guidance for moving through our uncertain future.

Follow Mexican Summer on Instagram for ongoing updates.

The Looking Glass Singles Series Reflects the Best of Brooklyn Imprint Mexican Summer

There’s no question that one of the best things to come out of this absolute shitshow of a year has been Bandcamp Fridays; the first Friday of every month, the music streaming platform waives its revenue share to provide an extra boost to struggling artists who use it to promote their music. Though the difference in percentage of profits that goes into the artists’ pockets is somewhat negligible given its already artist-friendly pay structure (a recent post updating the schedule for 2021 puts it at 93% versus 82% on any other day of the month) the crucial aspect of Bandcamp Fridays is that it boosts visibility for the most essential workers in the music industry – musicians and labels themselves.

No doubt equally inspired by Bandcamp Fridays as it was by indie label 7″ subscription clubs of the ’90s, Brooklyn imprint Mexican Summer is going the extra mile to shake things up with a Bandcamp-centric series they’ve dubbed Looking Glass. It’s a virtual treasure trove of unique, previously unreleased singles, by everyone from label stalwarts like Ariel Pink and Connan Mockasin to more obscure psych, folk, and drone artists like São Paulo’s Sessa, Tokyo’s Kikagaku Moyu, and Chicago’s Matchess.

The first series ran from April 2020 to late July 2020, featuring beautiful, mysterious cover art by Bailey Elder (at one point, Mexican Summer offered a free download of her clip art-esque illustrations as a “coloring page”). After a brief lapse, the series started up again in October with “Love’s Refrain,” a gorgeous instrumental Jefre Cantu-Ledesma song with all-new vocals by Julie Byrne (Elder reprised her role as cover designer, this time with watercolory collages in muted hues), and has gone on to feature the likes of hip hop upstart Nappy Nina alongside celebrated dub duo Peaking Lights and avant-country singer Dougie Poole. So far, the series boasts over thirty entries that represent the label’s penchant for supporting adventurous sounds, whether the contributors are officially signed or not.

The label posits that the project “focuses on the human condition as reflected through chance and destined encounters” and is “a portal for creative exploration and community to resonate through all versions of reality… to encourage discovery, diversity, and collaboration.” While that’s a pretty heady sentiment, Looking Glass somehow more than accomplishes the task.

It’s an ethos that’s especially in line with that of Los Angeles-based minimal wave synthpop artist Geneva Jacuzzi. “Maybe I’m a person who was destined to be miserable but who refused destiny and the only way to alter the cosmic DNA was to hack the matrix,” she riffs. “That is pretty much what music is. It hold secret codes to alternate universes.” She likens music to a secret, primal language. “That is how communities of people come together over music. They are all part of the same alien tribe and the music is more alive than they are.” Her entry into the singles series, “Dark Streets,” was originally part of an ongoing conceptual performance and video play called Dark Ages that spanned from 2011-2015; she created a stand-alone video for “Dark Streets” in 2012, but the song was never officially released.

“The inspiration came one evening when I was recording and wanted to encapsulate the feeling of driving aimlessly into the night… looking for something but not knowing what… and then encountering certain dark forces that guide you into oblivion. Almost like looking for trouble, or meaning, or an adventure but finding yourself lost and a little scared. Pre-GPS you know?” Jacuzzi explains. “In a way, it seemed fitting for the time we are all in. It’s been a little scary and uncertain. Me being an optimist, I thrive in times of uncertainty because I know there is always an interesting surprise waiting in the unknown, even if it feels dark or freaky.” This, she says, made it a good fit for Looking Glass.

Though closely associated with some of Mexican Summer’s marquee acts, Geneva Jacuzzi has remained staunchly DIY, rarely putting out traditional releases in the nearly twenty years she’s been actively making music. But her experience with Looking Glass might change all that; though still tight-lipped, she says she and Mexican Summer have “some fun things planned for the future.”

“If we don’t change, we die right?” she jokes. “Or at least get depressed and bitter.”

Madison McFerrin channeled some residual bitterness into her piano-driven single for the Looking Glass project, “Hindsight.” Though it sounds like a typical ballad about love gone wrong (“How should I let you go/With nothing left to show/Was it right for you to stay?/Was it wrong to walk away?/Could’ve said we went for it…”) but rather than a romantic partner, McFerrin says the track was inspired by disillusionment with the Democratic primaries, in which Joe Biden won the party nomination over the decidedly more progressive Bernie Sanders. “Sonically, ‘Hindsight’ is like going through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I like to think that, like the song, we’ll be leaving 2020 on a hopeful note,” McFerrin says.

Though not specifically written for the series, McFerrin adds that she was “really drawn to how Mexican Summer were making the Looking Glass project Bandcamp-focused” when the label reached out to her over the summer asking if she would participate, and she made the decision to self-produce the track. “I wanted to push myself. Quarantine afforded me the time to really work on production and I felt confident enough to share that next phase of my artistry,” she says. “This was the first time I had been in a studio since the start of COVID, so my biggest challenge was feeling one-hundred percent comfortable. There’s always this neon PANDEMIC sign flashing in the back of my mind these days. But when I actually started playing and singing, it made me feel much more relaxed.”

As for the political work still to be done, McFerrin says, “We have to make sure that we continue to engage, especially locally. Mutual aid groups like Bed-Stuy Strong in Brooklyn are doing great work providing food and cleaning supplies to those most vulnerable to COVID-19 in the community. Through grassroots movements, hopefully we can continue to grow the progressive movement and push the people at the top.”

As it turns out, the Looking Glass series can help with that, too – some of the artists, like Texas-born, L.A.-based folk singer Jess Williamson, have opted to donate the proceeds from single sales to various organizations. Williamson released 2018’s Cosmic Wink and this year’s stunning Sorceress via Mexican Summer after self-releasing two previous records and an EP; as their titles would imply, Williamson has a bit of a witchy streak, and is donating proceeds from her swooning, dreamy “Pictures of Flowers” to Harriet’s Apothecary, an “intergenerational Brooklyn-based healing village led by Black Cis Women, Queer and Trans healers, artists, health professionals, magicians, activists and ancestors… rooted in the wisdom of our bodies, our ancestors and our plant families.”

“I wanted the proceeds from the song to go to them because I really admire the work they’re doing,” Williamson says, which includes expanding access to health and healing resources that support Black, Indigenous and PoC communities.

The song itself was directly inspired by Williamson’s quarantine experience, which was compounded by both the end of a significant relationship and being unable to tour to support her new album. “I spent most days walking around my neighborhood, and I was struck by how different it felt to me at that time versus when I first came to the neighborhood over four years ago,” she says.

She sent a demo of the song to Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy, who plays slide guitar over Williamson’s contemplative acoustic guitar and lilting vocals. “Meg was the first person to hear the song, and I was really nervous they wouldn’t like it. Thankfully, Meg responded positively, and I got the courage to ask if they’d be down to lay some guitar down remotely,” Williamson says. “Normally I’d be afraid to ask, but we were all sitting around doing nothing so I think I had that working in my favor, ha. Meg recorded everything from their home studio, I recorded from mine, and then I sent everything to Jarvis Taveniere who laid down drums, bass, and mellotron, and mixed it.”

“Pictures of Flowers” is a heartbreaking time capsule, juxtaposing the freedom Williamson felt pre-pandemic with what seemed like the end of the world. “Taking vitamins/Calling all my friends/Momma’s feelin’ calm/She trusts the president/Don’t wanna get a gun/What if I move in with someone?/Grow a garden in case the stores all run out,” she sings, ending the track with the trail of a dangling thought: “I had a dream we were in Japan…”

Similarly, experimental composer Lucy Gooch let dreams inspire “We Carry,” her contribution to Looking Glass – though hers was a recurring dream she’s had since childhood. In it, she and her sister are at school and the playground tarmac turns to glass, revealing “a deep, dark ocean in which enormous sea-creatures weave and dive.” Gooch says “We Carry” was “one of those rare songs that appears quickly,” though it was already recorded when label co-founder Keith Abrahamsson reached out to her about contributing something. “I’ve always been a big fan of the label so it was pretty amazing to hear from him,” Gooch says. “I see the song as being a kind of hymn to blurry memories, and to childhood.”

The UK-based synth artist represents an emerging name in ambient music, her sound akin to Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith (who, incidentally, contributed a track called “Lagoon” to Looking Glass). Gooch released her debut EP Rushing in May of 2020, which “comprised looping and more labored arrangement,” she says. “‘We Carry’ was the first song I wrote without any looping and it reminded me that sometimes it’s better to lean into more traditional songwriting methods, rather than trying always to subvert them. I like music that has enough space in it, but that still plays with more intricate ideas.”

Across the Looking Glass series, that balance can be found in spades. Whether based on alien languages, or a dream within a dream, or hope in the face of an epic letdown, music’s ability to connect all of us – especially in a year of such jarring disconnect – transcends genre and remains its most enduring quality. After more than a decade of releasing soul-stirring records, the folks at Mexican Summer have learned to celebrate this wholeheartedly, and the Looking Glass singles reflect their mission brilliantly.

Follow Mexican Summer on Instagram for ongoing updates.

WOMAN OF INTEREST: Sound Healing Practitioner Lavender Suarez Rides Transcendent Waves


Prior to the pandemic, sound healing – a practice that utilizes relaxing vibrations in the hopes of easing participants’ anxiety, insomnia, or other ailments – usually took place in person, on a blanket or a mat with a real life human being playing gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, tuning forks or other esoteric instruments right there in the room. Since March, sound healing has moved to the virtual domain, though its practice still hinges on vibrations and frequencies tuned specifically to help people emote and relax. If you’re new to the experimental world of sound healing and meditation, Transcendent Waves, the debut book from healing practitioner, meditation teacher, and artist Lavender Suarez, has arrived just in time for your new found exploration. 

Out December 15th via Anthology Editions, the hybrid how-to guide stretches beyond sound healing as a trend, and deep dives as an immersive artist’s workbook. Rooted in scientific evidence, the anecdotes and spontaneous writing prompts open up new perspectives listening can bring to our inner lives and creative bubbles. It also outlines how listening can unlock moments of creative spark, self-awareness, and mindfulness.

When asked about the transition from analog to virtual, Suarez commented, “I think it’s really great to experience a sound healing treatment from the comfort of your own home.” Certain frequencies can activate our body’s healing system, and increase clarity, energy, better sleep, focus, and tranquility. For that reason, says Suarez, some folks may explore sound healing right before bed, or at the beginning of their day. “You can cater it to exactly your schedule, avoiding any commute, which can be stressful,” she adds.

Photo Credit: Jenn Morse

Suarez’s relationship and connection to sound developed in early childhood. As an eight year old, Suarez serenaded her neighbors with her beloved companion – her saxophone. “I didn’t like the feeling of the neck strap, I just liked holding the saxophone,” she says. “I don’t have distinct memories of this, but my mom would tell me I would just walk around the street in my neighborhood playing the sax. I just had so much fun with it.”

Her study expanded from her passion for the tactile feel of the sax, into electronic synthesizers, and bass and percussion during her teenage years. “I just wanted to absorb sound in my own way. I’ve always had a very intuitive and therapeutic relationship with music,” she explains. “In school I was glued to my discman. Even if I had just 30 seconds between walking to another class in school, I would throw my headphones in and listen to part of a song before my next class.” 

During college, Suarez found herself studying psychology and art therapy, eventually configuring a way to fuse these passions with her personal connection to sound. “When I learned the methodology of sound being used therapeutically with people, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what I want to do.’”

 Suarez has hosted educational and meditative listening experiences and workshops at MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Rubin Museum of Art. The Rubin was one of the first major museums to approach Suarez to speak on sound and movement. Initially asked to lecture on how brain waves sync with sound and movement, Suarez decided to speak on how the power of sound specifically aids in relaxation. The event evolved into a 45-minute presentation about neuroscience and the powers of sound on the mind, closing the talk with an electro-acoustic sound bath (she felt it would be a tease to explain, but not offer, the experience). This became a stepping stone in her career, and opened the gates to the expansive world of museum programming. “A person may never think about walking into a yoga studio, but someone wandering through their favorite museum may see a free meditation class advertised in a space they already love visiting and give it a go,” Suarez says.


Suarez teaches an ongoing hybrid art therapy sound bath workshop called Meditation for Creative Expression. “I’ve always had a strong mission to help artists and musicians, particularly with my therapeutic practice. These communities are often uninsured, and don’t have access to certain health resources,” she says. “I had a lot of friends who were on extreme touring schedules, and suffered from anxiety and exhaustion. Not everyone is necessarily seeking out healing methodologies, but I really wanted to provide a healing service.”

It began as an in-person four week workshop at the Brooklyn Public Library in January, and has continued virtually at Pioneer Works. After a guided meditation, participants are given time to free write or free draw while Suarez creates meditative music in the background. At the end, people share what came through to them, and what they created.

“We feel more fluid creating art, when we can clear our minds,” Suarez explains. “I love it, because it’s for people of all levels of artistic practice. This book came out of teaching many workshops since 2014, it’s accessible, and catered to all creative people, age groups, and backgrounds, not just artists. Even if we don’t think that we’re artists or creators, we express ourselves every day. There’s always a creative process going on in our minds; this workshop is meant to let that process come through in the most fluid way possible.”

The book’s remarkably relatable tone sets it apart as a dynamic, accessible and enriching read. It guides the reader to discovering their sonic sanctuary, where the sound quality of the space provides you with the emotional state you desire within that moment. “A sonic sanctuary might be a quiet park that you return to when you need to clear your head. Or a bustling coffee shop if you want that caffeine energy bustle to finish a term paper,” Suarez says. “During the pandemic, a sonic sanctuary for me has been riding my bike through Prospect Park. I love riding the trail, and the sensation of hearing little bits and pieces of all the different things going on. There’s the element of nature, but then you catch people talking, or a jazz band in the distance. I love the sensation of riding my bike straight through, hearing the ducks, birds, sometimes small private parties. I’m moving through so much sonic stimulation that I otherwise don’t necessarily get when I’m at home.”


Too often, wellness providers set the tone of having secret knowledge that they’re going to share with you, as a form of gatekeeping. This book shares knowledge, with a friendly, open-minded approach. Suarez effortlessly displays the interconnectedness of clinical science with inquisitive philosophical ideas. “I wanted to create a book that really appreciates how much goes into what happens when your ears hear a sound,” she says. “I wanted to spark inspiration to give options for people to go down their own rabbit holes and paths with sound – what happens when you’re standing in a certain building, and you can hear a whisper from the other side of the room? Those phenomenon are fun, and bring us into the listening world in a way where we’re really understanding what’s happening.”

Suarez found narrative inspiration from Yoko Ono’s book grapefruit, deriving from The Fluxus movement, an avant-garde art movement of the late 1950s which emerged from a group of artists who had become disenchanted with the elitist attitude they perceived in the art world. “These abstract poems are about the ways you interact with your art. They could be taken literally, or they could just be philosophical. Make a painting, leave it in the moon overnight, the next morning, burn it,” Suarez says. “I wrote this book to counter the visual-centric world we live in. I wanted to share my belief that all artists of all types can be inspired by sound and listening. A lot of the time, sound likes to stay in the corner of music, and then visual art is in a different realm. It doesn’t have to be that way. I would like readers to walk away with a deeper connection to the impact of listening in their lives, and listening to themselves and the world around them, and how that can open up creative possibilities for them.”

Follow Lavender Suarez on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.