By Brian Turk
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Though she's coy about revealing the actual inspirations behind such songs, Sudol says she avoids penning lyrics when she's in the middle of life experiences both good and bad. "I definitely need time to process," she points out, "because otherwise it either comes out 'Oohhh, la la la, oh, you're so great, I love you, la la la...,' or 'I hate you, I'm so mad, I'm so angry...' So that's not really the best way to write for me; it doesn't lead to any great thinking or profundity."
Sudol's not nearly as shy about discussing her musical inspirations; she calls Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head one of her favorite albums ever, and cites discs by Bright Eyes and Icelanders Sigur Rós and Emiliana Torrini as key influences. Born in Seattle and, following her parents' divorce when she was five, raised in Los Angeles, Sudol — a self-described loner and "a bit of a dork" — spent much of her teens absorbing jazz and Motown before gravitating to atmospheric Brit pop. After graduating from high school at sixteen, she started singing in bands, and then just a few years ago taught herself how to play piano. And that's when the songs really started to spill out.
"It wasn't until I wrote 'Almost Lover' three years ago that I was like, 'Oh, my God, I just wrote a full song, and I actually said what I was trying to say,'" she says with a laugh. "It sounds like it would be obvious, right? Like, okay, duh, you go write a song and you mean to say this and you say that. But as a songwriter, it doesn't happen like that. You try and try and try to communicate what you want, and it usually just comes out way wrong. But then you're like, 'Okay, I'll try again.'"
Eventually, she put together A Fine Frenzy (named after a line in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream), and a demo found its way into the hands of Virgin Records CEO Jason Flom. Shortly thereafter, Flom came to the house Sudol shared with her mother and sat in the living room listening to the band play for him while Sudol's mom served him fresh-baked cookies. It worked: Sudol got signed almost immediately, kicking off a journey that's culminated with people the world over hearing her songs and sending stacks and stacks of fan mail.
"That totally blows my mind," she says. "Sometimes I think it's not possible. In my mind, I'm still that kid who gets affected by other people's music. So to think that we can have that kind of effect on anybody..." Her voice trails off for a second. "It's like when you're growing up and you look at the kids in high school, and they're so much cooler than you are, and you wanna dress like them and talk like them, and then when you're in high school you notice that there's one little kid that's maybe doing what you're doing. It's an incredible position to be in, and I just do my best to communicate with people as much as possible and try to set the best example that I can."
A lot of people are watching to see what's next for Sudol and A Fine Frenzy. "Once one goal is checked off, you have to up the ante just to keep yourself sane," she notes. "We still have so, so much more to do. We've been incredibly lucky to be able to do all the things we've done so far, and it's really nice when things actually happen instead of fall through. As a musician, you kinda get used to failure in life, and then when things actually start succeeding, it's a very interesting feeling."