Chris Lambert is has done everything but pigeonholed himself throughout his career. Hailing from the remote locations dotted along California’s Central Coast, Lambert serves as one of the area’s finest musicians despite being surrounded in a musical landscape marred by lack of culture and variety. Ten years on in his career, Lambert has stayed consistently thoughtful and humbled with all of his endeavors. 2016’s The Blue Hour is no exception – Moxipop got the opportunity to premiere “Hold Me Back” from February release as well as talk to Lambert about the upcoming record.
Moxipop: This is your 10th studio album. What’s it like to hit that mark? What’s changed since album number one?
Lambert: I’ve been trying not to think about it too much. I feel like when I say that I’m releasing my 10th album, it sounds like either a gimmick, or like I just don’t know how to edit myself. A lot of my favorite bands don’t have 10 albums. But the truth is, I just spend most of my spare time writing. I don’t have many hobbies that don’t revolve around making music. In the course of a year, I usually end up writing a bunch of songs, trimming it down to the best ones, recording them, packaging them and releasing them. By that time, I’ve usually started to write new ones. If anything has changed since the first album, I think it’s that I’ve gotten that process down to a science, which makes it easier to streamline songs that actually sound the way I want them to.
The Blue Hour seems to carry a fairly heavily connotation. Can you speak to what the title implies?
“The Blue Hour” refers to the time of day that the songs were recorded; that time before sunrise, when the sky is deep blue. In an indirect way, it also addresses the fact that it’s 50 minutes of pretty sad music.
You’ve tackled a wide swath of genres from electronica to folk to alt-country. You’ve described the album as “quietly introspective ambient folk.” Does this album make you feel as though you’re best tackling your métier?
I don’t think this kind of material would work if I had recorded it as a rock album. I started playing nylon-string acoustic guitars for the first time this year, and that kind of soft muffled picking definitely influenced the direction of these songs. I probably wouldn’t have said some of the things I said on this album if I had to sing them loudly over drums and distorted guitars.
You’re playing every instrument on this album. Was there a reason to provide the sound by yourself rather than employing outside musicians as you have on other musical projects?
I was already engineering the sessions by myself; so recording in an empty studio was just kind of a peaceful environment. I had considered asking a few friends to contribute, but I guess once my parts were recorded, the whole thing just felt more finished than I thought it would. My friend Wesley [Hill, of Lompoc band The Only Ocean] sang a few harmonies that I’m really happy with. Overall, it felt like these songs worked well without much instrumentation.
Is The Blue Hour perhaps more personal than recent endeavors? For that matter, what differentiates albums and projects you consider more close to the chest than others?
It’s the most personal thing I’ve ever made. Part of it was certainly that the sparseness made me feel like I could open up a little more than usual. I’ve always been a little hesitant to get too specific in songs, since it might make it harder for people to relate to a song about someone else’s life, but recently I’ve been reconsidering my whole approach to songwriting, and I think it’s more important that I’m always saying what I need to say. I don’t know, maybe next year I’ll want to make something that’s a little more universal and less personal, but my current thinking is that people have more empathy than I’ve been giving them credit for.
“Hold Me Back” is the first song you’re releasing from the album. Why that particular track?
In all honesty, I played the whole thing for Randall Sena, owner of Certain Sparks Music, where the album was recorded, and producer of 2014’s Warp & Woof, and asked him which one hit him the hardest. He couldn’t quite put his finger on what he liked about it, but I trust his opinion. I think it could have been any of the songs, but this one is certainly an appropriate introduction to the themes of the album.
The entire recording process seems ominous and calculated, recording in the A.M. hours at a supposed haunted location. What can listeners expect from the release due to this?
I know most people hate waking up early, but I’ve always felt more in touch with the universe right after the sun comes up. Maybe that sounds new age-y, but I definitely feel that thread that connects us all when it’s early and quiet, in a way that I don’t at night. I can feel it when I listen to the album. You can also hear how empty the building is when you listen closely to the decay of the instruments. I still haven’t seen a ghost there, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look up at the vocal booth every five minutes, expecting to see someone standing in the window.
More information on the album can be found at thebluehouralbum.com.