In a 1977 interview, Margaret Trudeau was asked about her marriage to the former Prime Minister of Canada. An accomplished professional and mental health activist in her own right, Trudeau wasn’t having it. "I want to be more than a rose in my husband's lapel,” she replied.
The sentence has been stuck in Debbie Neigher’s head ever since, like a song that’s familiar but impossible to place. Lapel, the new solo project from the San Francisco singer-songwriter and musician, delivers a similarly elegant declaration of identity -- a fresh debut from a Bay Area music scene veteran. After years as a backing vocalist and keyboardist sitting in with bands like Ezra Furman, Curls (Christopher Owens), The Family Crest, and the Magik*Magik Orchestra, Debbie Neigher has claimed her place in the spotlight.
By turns playful and personal, introspective and danceable, Lapel’s debut record Periphery marks both a new sound and a new level of creative control for the artist. While Neigher, a lifelong pianist, earned critical accolades for her lush, lyrical indie-pop on her 2013 solo work Unravel, the piano “had started to feel like a ball and chain,” says Neigher. “So I made a rule for myself that I wasn’t allowed to use any piano on this record.”
Inspired by the space that remained, she felt a new freedom to experiment, and invited friends from Geographer and Astronauts, Etc to help her craft an immersive, atmospheric and entirely new electronic landscape. Recorded at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone studios, the record was co-produced by Beau Sorenson (Death Cab for Cutie, Tune-Yards) and Neigher herself.
The result is a confident record with a singular voice: Neigher delves fearlessly into a range of serious topics, from the personal (the death of her first boyfriend from a drug overdose) to the global (police brutality, reproductive rights). “This was an opportunity to play a new character, with a new sound, in a whole different visual universe,” says Neigher.
In other words: Lapel is a new beginning, but it’s been a long time coming. “It’s a proclamation,” says Neigher, “against allowing yourself to be defined or diminished by anyone else.”