Petal's Kiley Lotz Gets Honest About Letting Her Fears Go

Katie Krulock
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Petal's newly released, experimental second album, Magic Gone, is ripe with nostalgic piano melodies and singer Kiley Lotz's rock-and-roll inspired guitar and drums; her feminine voice weaves listeners into her stories.

Westword caught up with Lotz — who will be bringing those songs to Denver, supporting Camp Cope at the Marquis Theater, on Friday, June 29 — to talk about her return to piano, how her mental health played a role in the creation of this album, the power she finds in these songs, and how her concerts serve as a welcoming space for all.

Katie Krulock

Westword: What part of creating music drew you into this album?

Kiley Lotz: When I’m writing songs, it kind of happens over a wide stretch of time. It can be a very cumulative process. Words or phrases or melody lines swim through my head, and I scramble to write them down in order to not forget. Mostly, I just wanted to create songs that felt raw and honest.

I used to play piano for years. I studied classical piano, but when I got to college, I stopped playing — but I played it on this record, and I'm really happy I'm playing piano again. I used to think that sound wasn’t cool, that guitar music was cooler than that, but it’s my primary instrument, and I miss writing songs on it. It felt good to do that again. Sonically, I wanted it to feel like listening to a record from the ’70s, in terms of the mixing, where the drums are crisp and high and vocals are straightforward, with a great live pace of the guitar. Just because the material is about very untidy and real human experiences, I think it's important that the music sounds that way a little bit, too.

I can tell you have a love of piano with the chord progression in "Stardust." What sparked that song?

The one lyric I wrote when I was fifteen or sixteen. I was sitting in church, and we were rehearsing for Easter service, and the line came into my head, and I jotted it down on the bulletin, and I tucked it away in my bag. So I’ve always had that opening line as a song in my head. When I was in college, I tried to expand on that line and got the first verse, but it didn’t feel quite right yet. I was able to finish the song because I think I had more perspective about what the words meant to me at that point. So it's literally a song that took ten years to write [laughs].

I don't know if I had the capabilities as a teenager to understand what I was trying to say. But it’s a resolution or maybe a peace treaty with myself about the way certain events in my life have unfolded and trying to acknowledge they have happened.

How was putting Magic Gone together different than your first album, Shame?

On this record, I played the guitars and the piano all myself. ... I had a lot more responsibility in terms of playing the physical instruments.

Producing it with Will [Kip] and being in the studio with him and working on ideas together, of 'Maybe we need a key change here'  — having his ear was so important. On Shame, I think I was scared of saying what I wanted to or trying new things, but in this scenario, I was really open to trying new ideas. I think that helped make it a cohesive yet dynamic record, and I’m happy about that. I feel like it’s stronger. I remember being scared to sing when recording Shame. And this record, I was ready to sing.

How did you come up with the name for Magic Gone?

The title track of the record was one of the first songs I wrote for it. ... It was a more simple song lyrically than I’ve ever written in terms of structure. There's a lot of repetition, and it’s a simple pocket groove. So for me, every time I came back to that song, it really held up, and the sentiment of it was the overarching idea of the record. [It's] about coming to terms with adulthood, change and recognizing the work you need to do as a person individually, and holding yourself accountable for the things in your life. You can’t just rely on appearances or be feeling you need to make it to a certain level of composure. You have to let that illusion go in order to get to the real stuff.

In interviews and reviews of your work, you are strikingly honest about your mental health as an artist. Why do you bare it?

For me, it’s really obviously something I’m going through. It’s a personal choice to talk about it, for sure, but I do that because...for me, it took a long time to get to a place where I could get help, and I don’t have it figured out all the time with mental health. It's a work in progress always. I can only speak for myself, but it’s important to me that people know they are not alone.

I remember seeing the musicians I loved as a child being these untouchable people. I'm still trying to find the balance of what I share and what I keep to myself. In terms of mental health, I will always be wanting to have that dialogue open, because I know there are points in my life where if I went to a show and heard someone say, 'Hey, this is normal, you’re not alone,' it would have meant a lot. Maybe it’s a little cavalier to feel like I need to take up that responsibility. ... It becomes really easy to swipe that shit aside and think, 'Yeah, I'm going to keep my eyes on my own paper,' but I think we have an accountability as humans to make it better. For me, talking about [mental health] is a way to hold myself and my peers accountable.

What am I supposed to do that will help contribute to a better community than I live in? This is the thing I feel like I can offer. I take that seriously, and I hope by sharing my experiences, people will take time to reflect on their own.

Your political voice is seen on your social media. Does this voice come through in your music?

If we are thinking about it in terms of fan base, then probably, but that’s fine. If there are people who don’t want to listen to my music because of how I identify or what my beliefs are, that’s fine. I don’t want people at my show who don’t care about other people. If that’s off-putting, then that’s on that person for being uncomfortable. ... The kids and people who do come are wonderful and thoughtful, and I want to create a space for those people to get together and meet each other. That’s the community I want to be fostering. ... Those things are important to me, so I would feel bad if I wasn’t talking about [political issues] with other people. It’s not to preach. I want to learn and hear what other people have to say.

Camp Cope, with Petal and Oceanator
7 p.m. Friday, June 29, Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer Street, Denver, $15.

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