Louise Le Hir is careful to choose her words, often pausing for moments on end to compose the proper response. It’s that sort of intentional and conscious execution that bleeds into her first full-length release, which will make its debut this week at The Flycatcher on Saturday, April 25.
However, if you’re a KXCI listener, it’s likely you’ve already heard her first single “Cosmic Love Song”—a twangy ballad that unfolds into a loud and catchy group sing along by the time the chorus hits. You’re not the only one that’s heard it either. Recently, CMJ gave the song props and a nod on their website, which Le Hir explains in disbelief still.
“It was a total lottery situation,” Le Hir says. “I guess they have someone poring through local radio stations all over the country and they just happened to be listening to KXCI at the right time.”
Sitting next to Le Hir, it’s almost hard to imagine that the powerfully soulful vocals that provide the backbone for her new record even come from her. She’s quiet and a little shy at first, but she doesn’t hold back to give credit to all of the people that helped her realize her record into everything she wanted it to be.
First, there’s her guitarist Annie Dolan. Although this Dolan’s first professional gig, she looks like a rock star already with thick, wild long hair that’s piled to one side. Dolan’s claim to fame, at least for now, was getting invited on stage to dance while Paul McCartney played “Get Back” (“The Tucson song!” Dolan says, excitedly) at a recent Phoenix performance. She says it was her energetic, uninhibited dancing, which you can see if you search “Girl Dances with Paul McCartney” on YouTube, throughout the show that got the Beatle’s attention.
What grabbed Le Hir’s attention while the two worked at the recording studio at UA was Dolan’s guitar work and taste in music. “I’d come in and Annie—she’d be sitting there with her guitar playing Beatles songs and watching Captain Beefheart videos and I thought, ‘she’s cool,’” Le Hir says, turning to smile at Dolan.
With a guitarist in tow, Le Hir worked with Matt Rendon of The Resonars at his home recording studio, Midtown Island Studio. Without Rendon, Le Hir says, the album would likely not have been translated from the bones she had of each song to the full realization of what she heard in her head. She calls it a “’60’s, Byrds-y French pop sound”—a concept most clear on the album’s final track “Les Birdies,” which is sung in French but also uses yé-yé-esque keyboards to really drive the vibe home.
“I’ve recorded things before but this is the first time I feel I’ve properly expressed myself,” she says.
“(Rendon) not only knew how to engineer it, but also how to get the drums down and the 12-string Rickenbacker, the moving bass lines and the harmonies,” Le Hir continues. “He turned my ideas into works.” Those works amount to a well-produced nine-song album that’s clear on both motif and message.
“They’re songs on love and of life, experiences I’ve had, things I feel other people want to say but don’t know how to put into words and just big old rocking emotion,” she says. “Does that make sense?”
Other local musicians, such as Ryan Chavira and Jeff Lownsbury, also lent their talents to Le Hir for her record. On “End Slowly,” Chavira provides ambient texture in the background of the song, amounting to a lush and psychedelic overall sound. He also plays bass on “Les Birdies.” Lownsbury provided the “Lou Reed-style feedback” on “Lake Eerie.” “I told him to think about the waves on a stormy lake and then he created that sound,” she says. “He was wearing one of my dresses at the time.” Although Le Hir doesn’t see her style necessarily going into any of the music scenes in town as they are, she says its those imprints from other musicians both on the record and when playing live that binds her to music in Tucson.
“We don’t fit in exactly in a basket with everyone,” she says. “But we are a reflection of everyone we’ve been playing with for the past few years.”
“As I know it now, I’m the only French girl,” she adds, jokingly. Rendon, Chavira and Lownsbury will join Le Hir and Dolan at the album release show to play on certain songs. The event also marks the one-year anniversary that the two women played on stage together for the first time, which was Dolan’s first live performance in a band.
After five years of playing in Tucson both in a band and solo, Le Hir says she’s made the decision to put everything else aside and just play music for the first time in her life. She says this is the only way she sees herself actually diving in and making it work as her career.
“Recently I decided I would fuck everyone else off and do this on my own,” she says with candor. “I am totally freaking out.”
But, it’s the support of the community around her, both creatively and for those bare necessities, that she says is making all of this possible for her. Perhaps that’s why, before anything else, she’s free to mention the names and credits of everyone (of which I only named a few, honestly) who have helped her along the way.
“I am very grateful,” Le Hir says slowly, pulling back a little. “A lot of people right now are helping me survive—other musicians, mom, dad, friends. I’m just going to start cranking out music now.”