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VMP Rising: Dead Gowns

On September 22, 2023
Photo by Tadin Brego

VMP Rising is our series where we celebrate up-and-coming bands and put their music on vinyl, often for the first time ever. Our newest VMP Rising artist is Dead Gownswhose How+ EP is in our store now. 

Geneviève Beaudoin has good days and bad days.

Her good days can involve thrifting, coffee dates, and walking her dog, Dad. Her bad days can involve hours in bed or showering in scalding hot water to relieve the pain. 

“On my good days, I'm one body, and on my bad days, I'm another,” says Beaudoin, the leader of indie rock band Dead Gowns, during a video call from her home in Portland, Maine. Her experience with endometriosis, an often-debilitating condition in which endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus, inspired the first track off Dead Gowns’ How EP.

The Vinyl Me, Please edition of the How EP includes seven tracks ranging from guitar-charged rock tunes to introspective synth ballads that slowly build with orchestral swells. It’s simultaneously extroverted with guitar licks and introverted with tender piano. Beaudoin’s voice vibrates throughout, encompassing the timbre of a vintage country balladeer, the power of a self-assured rockstar, and the vulnerability of a bedroom pop diarist.

“I’m a renter not a buyer / I don’t live here, does it matter?” she laments about her body on the opening track, “Renter Not A Buyer.” Dead Gowns’ lyrics could read like Beaudoin’s autobiography, but in a Netflix-based-on-a-true-story sense, where she takes liberties with her own lived experiences. 

On “Renter Not a Buyer,” she adds a little zing to the story, singing, “Fell down the stairs, tried to give you a kiss, you said oh how cute, look how you drip drip.” While she didn’t actually fall down the stairs, the fibbed detail helps Beaudoin examine her own reality. She pushes her way through the pain, whilst pondering how weird it is to even try at all.

“I like to see how far I can push the fiction of a true experience,” Beaudoin says. “Dead Gowns allows me to take something that happened to me and explore what could have happened or might have happened.”

Beaudoin grew up in an artistic family, learning music “shortly after the womb.” Her grandmother gave her piano and voice lessons and encouraged her to see music as more than just a hobby. In high school and college, she was entrenched in musical theater, but later found herself drawn to scoring instead of acting. Inspired by the New England music community, she moved to Portland, Maine after college, where she focused on her music projects like Dead Gowns.

The original four songs on the How EP “bubbled up” to the surface as Beaudoin worked on a different full-length Dead Gowns record in 2021. But the songs deserved their own release.

“They had to come out,” Beaudoin says. “I was in a period of transition and ending and there they were.”

Dead Gowns applied for a recording grant at Prism Analog in Portland. The non-profit recording studio focuses primarily on analog equipment, encouraging musicians to use the organization’s vintage instruments and tape machines. When Dead Gowns won the grant, Beaudoin and her collaborators headed to the studio to capture these songs — a moment in her life — without the digital tools that she and her co-producer Luke Kalloch had grown accustomed to in their home studio. Analog recording demanded fewer takes and way less second-guessing.

“Luke and I are so used to recording however many takes it takes to ‘get it right,’,” Beaudoin says. “We're always our harshest critics.”

Having the right collaborators makes all the difference, Beaudoin says, and the proof is in How’s instrumentation. Because the songs were written on the piano, you’ll hear keys throughout the EP in the form of upright piano, Wurlitzer, and Rhodes. The electricity of “Renter Not A Buyer” swivels to the sweet synths of “How You Act,” and surprises with the moody addition of strings in “Change Your Mind.” Like a film score, there’s a through line with sonic shifts from scene to scene.

“In How, I feel like we really captured how Dead Gowns oscillates between this loud fleshed- out rock band and moments that zoom in on the songwriting.” Beaudoin says.

In the Vinyl Me, Please edition of How, listeners will hear three new tracks. And while these were recorded outside the original sessions, they still carry the same thread: dealing with change while coming to terms with the past.

On “Kid 1,” Beaudoin experiences a distinct nostalgia. “Castine” has a similar ache as she makes sense of a confusing friendship. How ends with the brief ballad, “Kid 2,” a hazy drip into dreamland. Each song blooms with lines of poetry ready to be taken as-is or to be melded into your own interpretations.

Lines like “I want to feed stale bread to swans when love was a daydream in her lawn” or “A whiff of peach comes right on in as if dripping down my chin” host very specific imagery, while others — “now we’re east of the light, west of a promise” — can be metaphorically applied where needed.

Some songs read as hypothetical dialogues, but that’s just emotional processing, Beaudoin says. While it sounds like she’s talking to someone else, she’s directing her conclusions inward. “Change Your Mind” is a personal mantra and “How You Act” reminds Beaudoin to keep her head on even if she didn’t get the chance to fully express herself.

“I'm composing a scene,” Beaudoin says. “What am I yearning for in this experience? Maybe I wanted something from a person or a moment, but really, there's a takeaway in it for my own growth.”

Green has been the color of How. Envy, illness, new life, hope — all emotions that pop up within the songwriting. It’s the color of the balloons, the chair, and Beaudoin’s floor-length jacket featured on the album cover. It’s the hue you’d expect when she sings, “Collect the lawn chair debris from my yard and paint my doorway the color of a birthday card.” Just another theatrical visual for listeners to plunge into and experience for themselves — whether listening on vinyl or going to a live show.

“I think everything I do is in the spirit of connection,” Beaudoin says. “At the end of the day, I want you to be there with me, to follow along with the character, like where is she moving? Where is she going?” 

Profile Picture of Emilee Lindner
Emilee Lindner

Emilee Lindner is a freelance writer who enjoys cheese and being stubborn.

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