Inspired by lo-fi songwriters and jangle pop acts of the 1980s and ‘90s
Chelsea Spear has been a music critic, a show promoter, a college radio host, and a video director… but all she really wanted to do was start a band.
Not long after learning to play the ukulele, she formed the bedroom recording project Travels With Brindle. Her original melodic songs and wry, poignant lyrics have attracted a growing audience at open mics and busking pitches in the Greater Boston area.
Spear is inspired by lo-fi songwriters and jangle pop acts of the 1980s and ‘90s, and her work has been compared to the Marine Girls, the Raincoats, Courtney Barnett, and Liz Phair. Currently, Spear is recording her first full album of original songs, releasing well-received singles “Ivan” and “Linden Street” in 2022 with more on the way.
With a vibe not unlike Stephin Merritt’s compositions as Magnetic Fields, “Something’s Wrong” is inspired by ‘80s-era college rock and jangle pop as well as off-brand ‘60s girl groups. Those first few lyrical lines also serve as the opening sentiments to Travels With Brindle’s forthcoming debut album, Notes From Undergrad, loosely inspired throughout by Elif Batuman’s 2017 novel The Idiot, which takes place over the protagonist Selin’s freshman year at Harvard University in Cambridge, not too far where Spear once cut her musical teeth as a busker. It’s an intertwining of worlds for Spear, something autobiographical, sometimes deeply influenced, that begins to shape the overarching storyline narrative of her debut LP, set for release in 2023.
“‘Something’s Wrong’ is a musical establishing shot that sets the tone for the album, the way an ‘I Want’ song sets up the rest of a musical,” Spear says. “You get a snapshot of who the narrator is and where she’s at in her life… in this case, attending a school with high expectations and pining for someone she can’t have. I hesitate to say it’s a retreat into my comfort zone, but girl-group pastiches have always been my sweet spot. I especially love the pulsing line in the bridge.”
“When I wrote this, I knew it was going to be the first song on the album, and I worked on it for about a month to get it right,” she adds. “The title came from Song Fight!, and the draft I entered there was too long and lyrically dense, and when I sent it to a few of my friends, everyone liked the line about the Coke machine. This was an indirect quote from The Idiot, so I bumped that to the first verse. After that, I edited out all the unnecessary words and focused on the melody.”