In her 2009 short story collection, writer Lydia Davis creates worlds in tiny spaces, some totaling only two sentences. Steering away from the rigidity of what a piece of art is meant to look like, Christchurch, New Zealand-based artist Lukas Mayo (they/them) took inspiration from Davis, and others, to find the magic in the mundane. Art is everywhere: in the shape we make out of a napkin while waiting for our coffee to arrive, in the text we send to a friend in need, in the beat we make on the steering wheel while stuck at a red light. As Pickle Darling, Mayo points past perfectionism, and leans into the art of the everyday, where these ever-evolving forms of creativity find their home in new album Laundromat.
Their previous albums Bigness (2019) and Cosmonaut (2021) elevated their lo-fi indie pop with a rounded-out, cleaner sound, garnering acclaim in their ability to zoom in on the universality of existential thought with an earnest yet playful approach. The reaction to the releases, and an extensive touring schedule, brought with them a kind of expectation––one that Mayo says began to wear on them. “I felt that I couldn't just follow my instincts anymore,” they say. “I wanted to return to how I made music right at the very start.” Those instincts flourish throughout Laundromat, where the immediacy of Mayo’s creative aptitude permeates. Here, Pickle Darling slots into the silhouettes of the ordinary and stretches them onto an entirely new canvas.
Laundromat was created in what Mayo describes as their first stable living situation, away from difficult flat mates, tense surroundings, and abysmal landlords. As an artist who writes, records, and produces all of their music at home, the security of their current place allowed their ideas to blossom. Writing soon became a daily practice, and rather than laboring over each song like they had previously––some songs on previous records were months and months in the making––Mayo found themselves drawn to the spark of what had created the initial idea in the first place. “For it to be a daily practice I have to focus on what it is that I enjoy about it,” they say. “I became really excited to make music for myself again––to just enjoy making music again.”
Mayo highlights folk artists Connie Converse, Bill Fay, and Vashti Bunyan as passengers in the process of Laundromat; artists who put music into the world then disappeared from the public eye. “I wanted to capture the feeling of making music that's out of step with everything around it,” they explain. “I wanted it to be a lot more immediate.” Mayo recorded a lot of Laundromat’s ideas onto their phone, giving themselves permission to allow those ideas to be the entire song. The enforced length of what a song should be––a neat, 3-minute sellable product––has always bothered Mayo, and while some of the songs on Laundromat do fit around that particular mold, Pickle Darling says the smaller pockets on the album were them striving to create their “own kind of normal.”
This new-found normalcy developed after Mayo immersed themselves in William Morris’ book News from Nowhere, inspiring them to merge art and daily life. “I was thinking a lot about music and art in the same way as doing your chores,” they say. Everyday life sprinkles itself throughout Laundromat, where Mayo threads together voicemails from their close friends Bedbug (“Kinds Of Love”) and Tony Stamp (“More Kinds Of Love”), with familial difficulties, intrusive swirling thoughts and falling down a digital rabbit hole.
Gorgeously luminous opener “Early Geometry” highlights Pickle Darling’s delicate finger plucking alongside their ability to capture a moment, one that others might forget in an instant. Like a photograph tucked away in a bedside table drawer, we can feel its presence and how it strangely seems to look different every time we take it out. Later, on “King Of Joy,” Mayo bends their sweet electronica to a rewound introduction, crafting a kind of nostalgia for a place that only exists in our periphery. “Invercargill Angel” opens up this periphery to a broader landscape, as distant laughter and simple strums creates an exhale, as Mayo repeats “I hope he makes you feel at home” like a rolling, effervescent mantra.
Laundromat is Pickle Darling creating their own tiny worlds, but ones that are large enough to welcome anyone who might need them. It’s a reminder that we can escape into art at any given moment, and how those moments might help us onto the next. Whether it’s the swirling kaleidoscope of a washing machine on spin, or the melody of your friend’s voice, Laundromat places a frame around the beautiful nothing, sculpting these moments into something tangible and noteworthy.