In an age where artists are careful to stitch together a near-perfect sound, Lori Bravo sought to do something raw as she drudged through an uphill battle with her health and coping with the loss of family pets for her ninth album. Each song arranged in the order it was originally recorded. Lori engineered, mixed, and mastered the album in addition to composing and performing the entire thing. 11-tracks of raw, haunting energy from The First Lady of Death Metal. Stripped down, symbolic of the title Bare Bones.
Elyse: You’ve lived with your Mom for a while now and shared that she was a
big inspiration behind this release. Let’s talk about that.
Lori Bravo: After my old roommate moved out, I didn’t really want to try to find someone I didn’t know to live with. My Mom didn’t have anyone living with her at the time and suggested I come stay with her. She let me bring the nine cats I had with me and it worked out. We didn’t see each other all the time, with different schedules. I could help her out and she helped me out. It’s been really nice.
E: Did she move with you to New Orleans?
LB: When I decided I wanted to move here and she said yes right away. I went to visit my brother and knew that I had to live here. We put it in motion. My brother has lived here for fifteen years. When I moved in with my mom originally, she loved that I was there because she could travel and see him more. So she’s been going to New Orleans for years.
New Orleans called me. This is where I want to go.
E: It seems like it’s a really creative area too. How are things going?
LB: I went to LA first under the advice of Marilyn Manson. He said it was a place for freaks. I went there but the people were there but they were never gonna be anything. They would say “yeah yeah we’ll do that” and it wouldn’t do that. I had already put Nuclear Death behind me. But back then no one cared about Nuclear Death like now.
The thing about New Orleans is that it’s really real. Here people really respect musicians and artists. You are respected. That’s what I’ve always wanted, respect. That’s a thing for me. I’ve worked for that for what I’ve done. Here you can tell someone your mission and they want to help you.
Every artist I’ve met here is totally welcoming. Except one who seemed threatened by competition.
E: I don’t get that mindset. There’s so much art out there I don’t get the competition aspect.
LB: Yeah and her and I are way different. That was the only person though everyone else has been so helpful. She is one of those where she had the money to book her own tours and stuff.
This point leads Lori and me into a discussion about classism in the music industry. A lot of the major artists and touring bands come from wealthy families. We don’t have a lot of working-class artists because they can’t afford to get their music heard. So much of our art over the last couple of decades is made by rich people. And it’s not to say that rich kids don’t work hard ever, but it cheapens their success knowing they bought their way to the top. We’re also losing an element of struggle to art when so much of music is written by the privileged.
E: So, you told me that this album almost killed you. Let’s talk about that.
LB: Yeah. The good news is I finally lost weight and wrote a song about an eating disorder. I always wanted to look more androgynous and I wanted to be skinny. I’ve always had these curves and I would see people lose weight and think: how do they do it? I would go up and down. Because I’m five-foot-and-a-quarter, weight shows up real easy on me.
When I got sick, losing weight and I wanted to write this song. This song is so long and repetitive. So I beat-boxed it and made the sounds vocally which my Mom pointed out sounds like eating. It worked really well. I would lie to myself and say I couldn’t lose weight. I had no idea I could actually lose it all.
The silent reflux diagnosis put me on a liquid diet and turns out counting calories and all of that works. I may have some saggy skin, but for me this is the body of my dreams right before I moved to New Orleans. I’ve been re-making my image since.
E: You’ve long resisted digital releases and streaming…
LB: In 24-hours my album is going to be available on every single streaming platform.
E: It seems like today that’s the only way people will listen to your music.
LB: This is because of Alfred Banks, our New Orleans rapper here. He kinda guided me. It also seems like a lot of fans want CDs. So now I kinda have to figure out CDs which Alfred has been helpful with too.
E: I love how you not only do metal but this stripped-down acoustic vibes too. There’s not a lot of artists that can float between them.
LB: I was trying to let people know I can actually sing. People don’t know that. I was born to sing. Nuclear Death was sort of a happy accident but I gotta be like that’s not all I do goddammit.
My mom has always said that someday I should make an album like I was as a kid. How I used to sit and play in my room and sing. So that’s one of the reasons this got made.
E: Let’s talk about your recording process.
LB: My initial idea was to record one song per day and then go back mix and master and send it out. Have it done real quick. It didn’t work out that way. I got sick and with the album, it was so taxing because
everything that could go wrong did.
First of all, I hadn’t recorded in 8-years. So I had to re-teach myself and then it’s a little different than it was the last time I recorded. Once I got everything figured out, then it was like sit down but my anxiety level was so bad.
I would go upstairs and record and I would have this massive passive panic. I would go sit in my mom’s bedroom and wait for my heart to start pounding and my face from being numb.
E: Were you pretty anxious throughout?
LB: Yeah. And there are times where I wouldn’t finish the song in a day as I had set out to do and I would be so upset and think I was a total failure. The idea was to finish each song in one day.
E: How did the mixing go?
LB: I let Apple mix it for me. I thought it was sounding great and I didn’t really need to mix it. The most technical thing I did was the mastering. I used Schnaull’s and it was fantastic because you can master for free and you don’t really have to know what you’re doing.
E: Did the pandemic affect it?
The original idea was this album would come out and then the second record
would be Women of a Thousand Voices and work with people to re-do all of these songs working with people. I would really like to work with a programmer or someone who can scratch. “Pink Moon” that scratching you hear is me on the guitar since I didn’t have someone there to do that. But things didn’t really pan out that way.
I had started the project but the pandemic happened. That didn’t affect me too much because I’m home all the time anyway. It was all the death. I lost four cats and Duder (dog). This album was the only thing keeping me going. It wiped me out and made me almost want to stop. I couldn’t get motivated. Then the silent reflux and not being able to sing for 8-months was hard.
But since it was weird not being able to sing, it did help motivate me to sing more when I could. When all of this happened though I started feeling suicidal. I felt I should have known my cats were sick but the doctor assured me there is no way I could have.
E: How did you wrap it up?
LB: The album was almost done and then I had the 8-months. Then all of the loss I experienced. So, I wrapped everything up with “Diamond Heart”. That song was inspired by a marquee I saw that said “Jesus’s heart is like a diamond.” Well me and Jesus talk a lot. He’s a revolutionary, a rock star. I talk to all entities. I’m all about spirituality. I didn’t understand exactly what the quote meant, but I wrote the song “Diamond Heart” and thought this is gonna be gospel. I also wanted to kinda tip my hat to my African roots which I recently learned about.
I feel like I don’t deserve love. I haven’t had a boyfriend in 21 years. Maybe I’m tainted, maybe too damaged. So that’s where it came from but I turned the concepts into something more triumphant. Like “yeah I can’t be loved” but with a triumphant sound.
E: How did you determine the order of the tracks?
LB: They are in the order they are recorded. So if you listen, especially with headphones, it gets better as it goes. I got better at recording during the process. But I didn’t want to change anything. I didn’t want to listen to it a bunch and pick it apart.
If you listen to the background noise in “This Devil I’ll Allow” you’ll hear a fan. There is a hissing. Duder is actually on the album too, he barks. I like it because he’s immortalized. I didn’t want to go back and re-record everything.
E: Were you nervous about releasing it?
LB: I went and I took a walk and objectively listen to it. I was able to it without the “I wish wouldn’t have done that” or “that was a flub”. I was down and I was walking in a totally desolate area. It was spooky listening to the music and that’s cool to be afraid of my own music. It took me about three nights to listen to it because my walks are about 30 minutes and the album is 90.
I hope you can do that too. Go out and listen to it alone. My god, I did this all on my own. Honor that.
E: Was it easy being naked for the cover?
LB: I don’t have any hang-ups like that. I do know how to pose for a camera. I was going for looking at the camera and you don’t know what I’m thinking. I didn’t want it to be cute. You might think it’s sexy. My death metal guys will like it because I’m naked. Whatever. I can still be ok with that and not feel objectified. I focused more on the face. I didn’t want it to be sexy. I just wanted it to be natural. I would actually say I’m nude, not naked.
I wanted to keep it in the way where I’m stripped down. I’m stripped to the bone in pain and sadness.
Connect with Lori Bravo
Bare Bones is streaming on all platforms.