The comedy of delight.

San Diego Union Tribune

Q&A: Lavender Diamond by Claire Madigan

Here’s something you don’t think about too often: blind optimism. Stop for a second and think about all those things that are encroaching on your life. Now bend your mouth into a smile. Whether you’re chuckling or rolling your eyes at this point, the sound of Becky Stark’s voice encapsulates the energy it takes to do that. And not by singing about puppy dogs and ice cream. We couldn’t resist lifting our jaded fingers and asking this glowing singer, who’s performing with her band Lavender Diamond on Friday, if peace on earth was really possible. She told us – via e-mail – about working at a Mafia front, being betrayed by the church and getting fired for wearing silver shoes.

What is Lavender Diamond and how did you come up with it?

Lavender Diamond is a description of a resonance, a pure crystal sound. It came to me in a dream!

I read you used to be a magician’s assistant. What was that like? Had any other weird jobs?

Being a magician’s assistant was a perfect job for me. I had been developing a comedy act where basically I would be very delighted and that was pretty much the entire idea of the act. So it wasn’t that great of a comedy act because I would just be outrageously delighted at pretty much anything … kind of like Goldie Hawn in “Laugh-In”! But then my friend Christopher Wonder asked if I would be his assistant, and as a magician’s assistant, it’s your job to be delighted at all the tricks. So I finally found a perfect place for the comedy of delight. Within a magic act!

I’ve had a lot of weird jobs. Some of the weirdest and most awesome ones included taking pictures of antique watches; being a play therapist for a newly adopted child who had been traumatized in a Chinese orphanage (my job was to sing and dance with her); collecting petition signatures on the street in San Francisco (corrupt!); preparing files for standardization by a massive insurance conglomerate (I got fired for wearing silver shoes); working as a waitress at a restaurant in Providence, R.I., that was a front for the mafia (There was no kitchen. We washed the utensils off in a bucket and grilled food from the freezer so it was both frozen and burned — disgusting!); working as a manicurist in a men’s hair salon (lasted only one day until I was solicited to be a prostitute for the mafia by a crazy thug); jazz singer (my favorite job!); teacher of comedy to second-grade class of boys (the craziest thing I ever did); fit model for clothing manufacturing company (I am just the right size that clothes are manufactured). Oh, the list goes on. I guess that every job is crazy!

People might not guess you were inspired by noise and punk bands like Lightning Bolt and Fugazi. How do you think that shows up in your music?

Well, I feel very free and passionate when I play music. I think that is the nature of musical expression. Passion and freedom. In my life I have been very inspired by the unlimited source that seems to power and connect with Lightning Bolt and Fugazi and Black Dice. The energy that flows in this music is stunning. We aim to be like this — to share energy! Only the music sounds different. It is soft and melodic but still for the purpose of sharing and changing energy.

When you sing, every note is savored. I find it very cathartic to listen to. What’s your favorite song to sing on this album and why?

Wow. Well, when I sing, I do savor each note. When I was younger and I would sing with my mother, she would tell me that each note is as important as the other — none are less important. So I think of this when I sing … that each and every note is meaningful. I love each note the same. And I love all the songs on the album! Although right now I really love singing “Bring Me a Song” because I love the way it feels to sing this song. Right now it feels like the most direct expression of love.

The words “joy” and “peace” are used a lot when people describe you and your music, but there are songs off “Imagine Our Love” about disappointment and disillusionment (I’m thinking about “I’ll Never Try Again” and “Side of the Lord”). Are those more based on personal experiences? How does it fit in with the larger vision of Lavender Diamond?

Well, sorrow cuts the cup that fills with joy. The deeper our sorrow, the deeper our joy. Which makes now a perfect time for peace. We already have enough sorrow, war, devastation — we’ve learned our lesson! I guess that those songs are based in personal experience but I feel like personal experience is political and metaphorical. Our experience of individuation is a learning experience that brings us back to an understanding of our wholeness and inseparability.

“Side of the Lord” is about my experience feeling angry and betrayed by patriarchal language in the church. My grandmother was a minister and so is my mother, and I remember the dawn of my outrage when I realized that we were praying — in my grandmother’s church! — to a god that was represented as a man! The Lord! An outrage! And yet I have always felt an abiding connection to the Lord or to God, to the divine which is in every person. But language is important! We musn’t characterize the divine as masculine. In the larger vision of Lavender Diamond, we dedicate ourselves to bringing healing energy through music, and so the places where we are wounded are the best places to learn and experience healing and wholeness.

Is peace on earth possible?

Absolutely! Peace is already here in the hearts of so many people. Peace is already real. We just have to make it grow. The only thing holding us back is the lie that our lives don’t matter and we don’t have any real power. This is a lie! Everyone has power, whether you like it or not. Everyone is waking up to this understanding, and as we wake up to the reality of our own power and responsibility, our lives and our world are transformed by new meaning. The more we celebrate peace, the more we magnify it and make it grow.

What’s next for Lavender Diamond?

Hmm … more touring! And we’re going to make a movie. And more videos. And another record.

Any other L.A. bands you think we should know about?

A million! Blackblack, Silver Daggers, Chapin Sisters, Winter Flowers, Soft Boiled Eggies, Bird and the Bee, Mika Miko, No Age, Gwendolyn, Entrance, Let’s Go Sailing, Elvis Perkins — so many! There is so much great music in L.A. right now! Everyone is very open-minded! I wonder if it’s the same in other cities.

Tell San Diego anything you want below.

I love you, San Diego! Your city is the most beautiful and gentle of all the cities. I love the soft warm breezes that blow here.

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.