The Lovebirds: Lindsay White and Veronica May
Such a good love
I got such a good love
that is why
I’ve got such a good life.
— from “Life Is So Good” by the Lovebirds
When I ask Lindsay White and Veronica May, the women who make up the duo of the Lovebirds, how they met, Lindsay answers, “We met unofficially through Cathryn Beeks at shows and stuff. We were fringe friends for a while.”
Veronica interjects, “What kind of friends?”
“Oh, I thought you said, ‘French friends,’” embellishes Veronica with a convincing accent.
Laughing ensues. And that is just a small glimpse into what an evening is like with these two fascinating ladies who make incredible music together, who are developing their own language (“hachi pachi” means “when in Rome”), who were both prom queens their senior years of high school, and who completely and utterly love each other.
Lindsay White grew up in Corcoran, California, a small town between Fresno and Bakersfield, listening to gospel music and ‘60s classic rock (she is a fool for Bob Dylan). She learned music through the church and her grandparents. A scholar and an athlete, she was recruited to play basketball at LA’s Occidental College. Her goal was to be a basketball coach like her dad, though she dabbled in music while in school.
In 2005, Lindsay made her way to San Diego with her soon-to-be husband and became assistant basketball coach at Mesa College. Before long, she realized that coaching was not the right path for her. She met Cathryn Beeks and began taking music more seriously, playing lots of shows around town, and recording her first album, Tracks. She’d made some good friends, including Veronica May, who, with her girlfriend at the time, went to Thanksgiving dinner at Lindsay and her husband’s place. “We were in and out of each other’s lives at that time. We both knew we did music, and we were scheduled to play some shows on the same bill,” explains Lindsay.
Soon, Lindsay was going through a major life change. “My marriage failed due to my sexual identity crisis. The year that followed my coming out was utter turmoil. I was the victim and the villain at the same time. I wanted so badly to ignore the whole thing and run back to the safety of my marriage. But I couldn’t do that to myself or to him, so I decided to follow through with the divorce.”
She processed the experience by writing songs and posting them online. “Watch my YouTube channel and you can see me sink in and climb out of depression. Thank God for words.” It was around this time that she and Veronica started writing songs together as friends, though neither of them had co-written before.
“I’d tried, and it was always difficult, but it’s super easy with Lindsay,” says Veronica. Veronica May was born a farm girl on the plains of Colorado. Her parents are both musicians; her mother was a concert pianist for the Colorado Symphony at age 17, and she and Veronica’s father were in a ’70s country band that would pack out the Legion Hall. Veronica quickly took up music as a child, playing piano, percussion, and then finally guitar at age 17.
Veronica went to school to learn music therapy, which is what brought her to San Diego in 2006. “I had an internship at Scripps Memorial as a music therapist, and was supposed to go back six months later, but ended up falling in love with it here.” She now does music therapy for children with autism and also arranges music, records music templates, and arranges for and directs the Clairemont High School Glee Club.
At the time they started writing together in the winter of 2009, both ladies acknowledge they were in a strange place. Like any close couple, they told the story by finishing each other’s sentences.
Veronica: “We started writing together a lot…”
Lindsay: “Before we were thinking about playing out together…”
Veronica: “Yeah, we were just doing it to do it…”
Lindsay: “Yeah, we just wrote a bunch of songs, and we were both kind of in a funky place…”
Veronica: “A very funky place.”
That funky place soon began to even out for both of them and they began dating, as well as performing together. Lindsay recalls, “By some miracle of the universe, the timing finally clicked for us. We still talk about how amazing it is that we got through such a turbulent time. V started singing at my shows, I sang at her shows, then we thought it might be easier to do shows together, and when we became a couple, people started booking us together.” After six months, they moved in together, and the Lovebirds became not just the name of their duo, but an appropriate nickname for the two of them as a couple.
Jeffrey Joe Morin, bandmate with Lindsay and Veronica in the ’40s-style band, the Forget-Me-Nots, describes them well. “Their perfect pairing exceeds the sum of the two partners when they perform. They are perfect together. The juxtaposition of Veronica’s power and emotion against Lindsay’s eloquent elegance is magical and electrical. They don’t appear to work at making music. They play around and then music comes out. Recording and rehearsing with these women is like being at a nine-year-old’s birthday party on a mass sugar-buzz.”
The Lovebirds defy any natural comparisons. They are at once old-timey and contemporary. Original, yet familiar. Ethereal and down-home at the same time. They can wow a primarily pop crowd at House of Blues and practically destroy an audience in a listening room. And their songs come from deep wells of emotion, stemming from both exhilarating joy and devastating pain. Lindsay turned to songwriting to deal with coming out and now, to explore her life and love. Veronica turns to music and songwriting for that, too, but to also help her cope with her bipolar disorder.
When I ask how it influenced her writing, Veronica responds, “When I am hypo-manic, I can’t write fast enough. Sometimes I write on two separate pages so I can get more than one idea out. Then in a manic phase I feel connected to music in a very different way, like the guitar and I are the only two left on this earth. But then I spiral down and I can’t even listen to music. For months I can’t. Then when I’m at the bottom I reach for the guitar to lift me up again.”
And all of these feelings, these human experiences that they share but that are also theirs alone, are translated into music, more specifically into the songs that appear on their debut album, Nutsy Pants, that is just wrapping up. It’s some of the most original music out there, with unique chord structures, beautiful harmonies that fit like spoons, and soulful, quirky lyrics. I ask them how they do it, and they surprise me by answering how the other one contributes to their sound.
Lindsay: “Harmonies are all her; structures, arrangements, musicality is her thing.”
Veronica: “Words are her thing. She’s an amazing wordsmith.”
They each describe their sound as the Lovebirds in wonderful ways: “Reminiscent. Reverent. Harmonic. Expressive. Intuitive. Endearing,” and “vintage but poppy, sharp but cheeky, sweet but sincere.” Lindsay sums it up like this: “The thing I love most about the Lovebirds is that we are putting a modern twist on a throwback genre. V loves writing in that old-timey vein, and I grew up on church and folk music, so that is a huge element of our style. But at the same time we’re singing love songs to each other. It’s a gay old time. Literally.”
The beauty of this musical and loving partnership is how well they complement each other even for their differences. They balance each other out. I ask them if when they began writing, whether the sound of the songs then was what became the Lovebirds. Simultaneously, one answers, “I think it was,” while the other says, “I don’t think so.” More laughing.
In response to what their preference is between songwriting and singing, Lindsay answers, “I am a writer first and always. I am such a word nerd. I care about every word being in the perfect place, I care about the rhythm of each syllable, I care about following through with the initial theme from beginning to end. I can be proud of a song before I ever sing it for anyone.”
Veronica takes another angle: “Well, if it wasn’t for songwriting, I wouldn’t be singing. However, once I have laid the foundation for a song, I sing it over and over again. Not for practice. For process. It heals me. It feels so good to hit those sweet-spot notes from your guts.”
As part of this interview, I sent them each questions via email, which Lindsay notes, “V finished her answers in two seconds. I finished mine in two hours.” But the line I think describes them the best is from the song “Ring Around the Roses,” written by Lindsay:
we take a break to make PB & J / I spread mine thin ’cause I hate a mess / you pour yours on thick ’cause you love the excess.
Whether you’re 14, 40, or 104, you’re bound to enjoy Nutsy Pants, their debut album that is scheduled for release in the spring. Recorded at Berkley Sound with producer and musician extraordinaire Jeff Berkley, Lindsay and Veronica are very pleased with how the recording process went. Lindsay explains, “It has been so exciting and fun to work with Jeff Berkley. He was someone I knew of and admired almost immediately after moving to San Diego, so it’s been a dream come true for him to produce our first record. I am happy he is able to add his Berkley “magic” while still honoring our ideas and visions. I tend to be very protective of my songs, and Jeff has been really respectful of that. He is also a hoot. We have been having a lot of fun, and I think that will come across on the record.”
Veronica adds, “I have never had so much fun in the studio. He captures it all so well and has the perfect rhythms and melodies.”
The admiration is mutual. Of the recording sessions, Berkley recalls, “Constant goosebumps. There’s an immediate change in the atmosphere when those two play and sing together. The only challenge was getting the mics set up quick enough to catch what was flying around the room.”
Many of the songs on the album are co-writes from when they began writing together, though there are some individual works. They began recording the album in the spring of 2011, but then Veronica notes there was a road block. “My huge break…it stopped everything.”
In July 2011, Veronica had what she and Lindsay refer to as her “break.” Veronica was hospitalized for 11 days, and Lindsay rallied for support on Facebook asking for healing thoughts and organized friends to join her at the hospital and be there for V. Lindsay wrote about the experience in an essay called “Love by the Numbers: What to do (and not to do) when your bipolar partner thinks she’s Jesus,” which she sold through her website to raise money for them to attend the Folk Alliance Western Region conference in Eugene, Oregon where they had been selected to be featured in a premiere showcase. “When I sat down to write about V’s manic episode and hospitalization from my perspective, it was to process the trauma on a personal level. All those emotions and experiences needed to come out somehow in a healthy way. But once the story existed on paper, I felt the responsibility to share it. The best thing we can do is be open about our experiences, especially our struggles.”
When Veronica was able to return to the studio, she says, “It was great, it gave me a glimmer of hope. When I first came back, I was really having a hard time, still a bit delusional, but [going to the studio] gave me something to look forward to, to work on. I felt lost so it felt really, really good to get back on track.” At the end of 2011, in a Facebook post, Veronica shared, “As most of you know. I had a manic episode this past July. Just now, at 2:17am, the process of recovery has begun. This is what it feels like: First thing that comes to my mind: Summer. When everything glows and the heavens open up to me. The more they open the further away I connect to the earth. Until the cord just isn’t long enough. Like the third string on my guitar, the one that always breaks. Just like that.”
Near the end, she adds, “I am so thankful that I am finally able to get all of this out of my head. It’s been almost six months and no words. Flying from my fingertips like a hummingbird’s wing pace. Thank goodness for words.” Sounds like someone else she knows.
With the finishing touches being made to the album, (did I mention it is called Nutsy Pants?), the duo is looking ahead. Not just to the album release and planning a tour of California and Oregon in May but further into the future. Their musical aspirations include looking into television and film placements, and possibly hiring a manager/tour manager so they can focus on each other and their music. Ultimately, they’d like to have the kind of success where they can make a living by making music but still be able to go to the grocery store without anyone bugging them. They both have day jobs that pay the bills (Lindsay is director of sales and marketing at a corporate event planning company), but a life of music is something they aspire to. That kind of life, of course, has its ups and downs. Veronica expresses a bit of the fear, “I would love to have the guts enough to cut the rope and fly. Seems like the ones who make it put both feet in the water.”
Showcasing her popular wit, she also adds, “I have many goals: Write a musical. Meet Justin Bieber to prove that we don’t look alike and that I am taller than him. Make a change on the radio waves. Advocate and educate for Persons with Mental Illness through my music. Tour Europe. Learn the cello. Take more theory lessons. Learn from the greatness that San Diego has to offer. Ride a unicycle whilst luting.” (That version of luting would be one engaged in playing the lute whilst aboard a unicycle.)
They each also have other musical projects. Lindsay and her band The White Lies will soon be heading into the studio, Veronica’s band The To-Do List may re-emerge, and they both play solo, too. There is also the aforementioned Forget-Me-Nots whose performances average about once a year. “It’s so much fun, but it’s a production,” explains Veronica. “But some of my fondest memories are them coming over to the house and playing. It fills up the whole house and the street. It’s great.”
Lindsay adds, “It’s really satisfying after a show, because it is so much fun and because it is a production. In our other gigs, we don’t have dance moves.”
“Actually, I do sometimes have dance moves in the Lovebirds,” interjects Veronica.
Then they both simultaneously say, “Interpretive dance moves.”
Lots of laughing.
Catch The Lovebirds at the Ruby Room on February 14. In addition, Veronic May is on the roster to play at the International Pop Overthrow, Saturday afternoon, February 18 at Eleven in North Park. They are also available for house concerts and world domination.