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Cindy Lou Gooden arrived home last night around 4 a.m. Given the fact that this indie rock musician has a full-time job at a software company and this was a mid-week late-night outing, you know exactly what she means when she says, dryly, “Yeah, it was a fun workday today.”
The singer and bassist — who goes by the fetching pseudonym Very Fresh — tries to keep gigging to weekends, mostly, but her quick jaunt to play with her band in New Haven is part of a two-leg tour schedule that includes a stop at Aviv on December 9 and Silent Barn on December 11. She has an important agenda; school night shows must be endured, because Gooden is using these outings to hone new songs for the EP she plans to put out this coming winter. “You can write a song in an hour, but then when you’re playing it live like this and exploring all its possibilities, it means that the finished song is about 20 percent of the original version, and 80 percent of it is what you develop.”
Gooden began performing as Very Fresh six years ago, during which time — her November-released single “Clean Touch” aside — the Cleveland native has issued only two EPs. That’s hardly prolific, she admits, adding that she had a tough time wrangling her inner musical beast so as to ride it without getting thrown. “Music was something I would pick up and put down, pick up and put down,” she says. “Now I don’t see myself putting it down again.”
Her tone is less zealous and more at ease with her vocation. But her newfound grace comes after she stopped playing music altogether and left New York to live on her grandparents’ farm in Mississippi. “It was a confluence of factors,” she says of her move south in 2012. “I was mainly discouraged after seeing so many friends in bands end up disappointed, and then I had a big one myself. I had tracked an EP for a label that was interested, and it didn’t end up happening. I was tired of being broke trying to keep the music going. I was just tired and mentally and physically burnt out.”
So Gooden spent about two years in Mississippi, refusing to sing or play and almost succeeding in her musical abstinence: “My friends in Ava Luna,” she says of the New York quintet, which was then in the throes of making its third album, Infinite House, “stayed at the farm and did some recording. They kept asking and asking me to sing or play keys, and I was like no, no. In the end I did end up making a small appearance.”
It wasn’t due to anything in particular, though rest and perspective played a part, but eventually her mindset changed. “I knew what I wanted,” she says of her move back to music and back to New York in 2014. “When I got back and started to see friends whose bands had evolved, I realized it’s something you have to roll with. It’s harder as things get busier,” she says. “I’m someone who thrives on routine and I am much more appreciative of the benefits of steady employment. The structure of a full-time job makes my time more valuable and I have the resources to put into my music. It’s hard to push a band when you’re broke.”
Very Fresh has at one time or another included Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz), Jeremy Gustin (Delicate Steve, Albert Hammond Jr.), and Kunal Prakash (JEFF: The Brotherhood). The live lineup currently includes drummer Alejandro Salazar Dyer (also of Leapling, which Gooden recently joined as touring bassist; Gooden also plays in Railings and has sat in with Gemma, Um Are, and the Due Diligence), and former Palehound guitarist Ben Scherer. Still, Gooden considers herself primarily a singer-songwriter: “I like the idea of it being a band, but right now it’s still my songs and I’m not ready to open it up too much,” she says. She is comfortable being the person steering Very Fresh’s sound, which she characterizes as running from “loud” to balladry, from “crunchy” to “pretty.”
Gooden also says the EP is another step toward committing to an album: “I’d like to get to the point of a full-length, but the timing has to be right, and it isn’t right now. The tour gives me an opportunity to solidify the sound of the songs for the EP before we hit the studio.” She adds that she’ll return to Julian Fader and Carlos Hernandez’s (of Ava Luna) studio to record in the new year. As a taster, a demo of one song, “Schedule IV,” is on the recently released, pay-what-you-want Post Trash Volume 1 compilation benefitting Planned Parenthood.
“I’m going to take the time during the holidays to work out the recording process some more,” she says of recording the EP. “Once the EP’s done, I’ll take it from there. One thing I have learned, now that I’m older and wiser, is this all takes patience and perseverance.”
Very Fresh plays December 9 at Aviv (for ticket information, click here) and December 11 at Silent Barn (for ticket information, click here).