Joseph Lamar balances expectations and reality 

click to enlarge Colorado Springs native Joseph Lamar will celebrate his new Quarter Life Righteous album with shows at the Zodiac and Denver's Larimer Lounge.
  • Colorado Springs native Joseph Lamar will celebrate his new Quarter Life Righteous album with shows at the Zodiac and Denver's Larimer Lounge.

When the Indy last caught up with Colorado Springs native Joseph Lamar in late 2015, he'd just released a dense and highly conceptual 11-minute EP suite titled ...of the young and stupid, which blended a dizzying array of eclectic influences, sly numerology and impressive songcraft. Now comes Lamar's full-length album, Quarter Life Righteous, with debut shows at Denver's Larimer Lounge on March 19 and at the Zodiac here in Colorado Springs on March 31.

A leadoff single, "About Love: Concerning the Discrepancies Between Expectations and Reality" — as well as an accompanying music video shot at the Zodiac — have already been released. When I reached him last week, he was in the midst of scanning rehearsal chord charts for his band and preparing to finalize the album artwork.

"The process happened all of a sudden, actually," says Lamar of the album's origins. "I'd had a lot of conversations about it, and a lot of people had asked when I would next release something ... I'd been putting it off for a while. Around the time I dropped school, I just started writing and recording."

Culling from a list of "a few hundred songs" to the album's eventual 15 tracks, the phenomenal singer and multi-instrumentalist Lamar soon began reaching out to fellow musicians and friends. From there, the recording process took on a life of its own, with Lamar and his collaborators jumping headfirst into experimental, try-anything recording sessions inspired by Lamar's love of Prince and The Beatles.

"I was procrastinating and did not think of a song to record for one session," Lamar laughs. "I'm on my way [to Kendall Burks' studio], and I was watching things go past the window of the light rail. I began to think of a drum beat and two lines of lyrics: 'I can turn a chair into a throne, I can turn an open road into a home.'"

The rhythmic motif turned into a jam session with Lamar on drums and Burks on bass. Lamar later overdubbed a variety of keyboards, including a toy bell piano, and running his vocals through a distorted guitar amplifier.

The new lyrics are no less ambitious, using ruminations on love and human relationships to explore larger philosophical and sociopolitical issues and power dynamics. Lamar, who jokingly describes himself as a "lazy philosopher," says he was inspired by Aristotle's doctrine of the mean — a theme of dichotomies where something must be one thing or the other — and the desire for a more complex alternative.

All these themes and more come to a head on the heavy, dark soul of "Black Boy," where Lamar examines the web of racial profiling, stereotyping and respectability politics he's personally faced from the LGBT community, the black church and white America on both sides of the political spectrum.

"I was expressing something that I don't hear a lot of people talk about," says Lamar, who considers the song an act of inner revolution. "I've always seen myself sort of on the outside of a lot of different groups — it's a song about intersectionality, but through my eyes. Being black, gay and agnostic, and finding yourself at the intersection of all those identities. A lot of people, when it comes to a political or social issue, have their agenda and their particular way of seeing things, and sometimes we're not aware of our own biases or the flaws in our own logic."

That said, the eclectic artist — whose work also draws upon fashion, theater and performance art — avoids the obvious didacticism to which many socially conscious artists fall prey. "I didn't want to do some 'Heal the World' type of shit, because that's just naïve to oversimplify things."

Lamar sees the new album as an indication of his future endeavors, both as an artist and a person.

"The more I make music, the better I'll get at expressing ideas," he says. "Artistically, physically, emotionally, I really pushed myself on this album, and I think you can hear that. To me, that in itself made it a success. I don't believe it's perfect by any means, but it's intentional and sincere, and I'm very proud of it."

Send news, photos and music to reverb@csindy.com.


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