Cream Premiere: Lou Turner Gets Cooking in 'Widening Venn Diagram' [Fresh Vid]

Official Video for Lou Turner's "Widening Venn Diagram" on "Songs for John Venn"

Video edited by Linda Parrott

Video directed by Lou Turner and Paula Ramirez with assistance from Trevor Nikrant

Lou Turner's "Songs for John Venn" is out on April 3, 2020 on SPINSTER

Buy from label (cassette/digital): https://spinstersounds.bandcamp.com/album/songs-for-john-venn

In the prose poem she reads over the hymn “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” Lou Turner (Styrofoam Winos) confides to painter and musician Peggy Snow of Nashville’s resident weirdo folk collective, The Cherry Blossoms, “I am always thinking of Venn Diagrams.” The visual of overlapping circles weaves across Turner’s brilliant sophomore album, Songs for John Venn, in the relationships between the spiritually transcendent and secular mundane, the solitary practice of songwriting and the communal experience of music making, traditional melodic song forms and experimental improvisation, and in two eggs frying in a skillet. Though rooted in lo-fi sensibilities, Songs for John Venn is clean and bright and warm, with a loose yet intentional communal folk rock backing band composed of members of Styrofoam Winos and other Nashville musicians, guests Ziona Riley (vocals on “Widening Venn Diagram”), Dan Melchior (guitar on “Measuring Tape,” album art), and Turner herself, who contributes guitar, percussion, mandolin, bass, and the most transcendent flute. Turner’s voice matches her songwriting—generous and inviting, even sweet at times—think Ruth Garbus, Dory Previn, or Bridget St. John (whose Songs for a Gentle Man inspired this album’s name). But there’s a poetic wryness too, sometimes with a spoken delivery at the end of phrases, reminiscent of Dave Berman or Bill Callahan or Patti Smith.

Lou Turner (aka Lauren Turner) grew up in Texas, playing music in school and at church. She remembers hearing her mother harmonizing along with everything—from commercials, to songs on the radio, to religious hymns. Her listening quickly expanded in high school and college from singer-songwriters like Dylan and Van Zandt to folk and jazz traditions from around the world. She says, “The spirituality I felt in music as a child is still there, but is far more mysterious and boundless, and simultaneously more grounded and rooted to contexts and histories. Spiritual jazz (specifically Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda) has become hugely important to me for this reason.” Eventually landing in Nashville, Turner fell in with the underground indie/experimental music scene, in part through Chris Davis’ (The Cherry Blossoms) FMRL presenting series, and in 2018, she started deejaying at Nashville’s freeform radio station with her program Shout, Sister Shout!, highlighting music by under-represented women throughout time and space. As a solo artist and with her band Styrofoam Winos, Turner has opened for the likes of Simon Joyner (who offered a blurb for the record), Kath Bloom, Xylouris White, Josephine Foster, and many others.

Songs for John Venn was written during 2017-19, a period in which Turner began her day job in a library and became further inspired by libraries as creative, communal spaces “where we each have a little space carved out for ourselves and all of our particular interpretations can coexist and breathe together.” She researched John Venn, credited with creating the diagram in classification, and discovered that he too had grown up in a religious household and served as a priest before deciding to become a mathematician. Feeling a kinship, the symbol became an anchor for her work during this time. She says, “the theme exists on this record in form as well as content, and the backing artists make up the form of my Venn diagram.”

"Lou Turner is a breath of fresh air, writing songs which sound like only she sounds. She evokes breezy 70's am radio confessionals, traditional folk and country worship, Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter meditations and DIY home-taper zeal and distills it all into her own song cycle." -Simon Joyner

Lauren “Lou” Turner is a polymathic poster child for the collaborative ethos of Nashville’s music scene. You may know her as part of the folk-rock supergroup Styrofoam Winos, host of the weekly radio show The Crack in Everything on WXNA or from her performances at poetry readings around town like the Mirror House series. Today, we're pleased to premiere the music video for “Widening Venn Diagram,” the first single from her second solo record Songs for John Venn.

Turner released her first solo album An Ex-Pat Returns (with the Winos as her backing band) in 2017. In the years since, she has toured extensively with the Winos and worked as a library assistant. In her time at the library, she has become fascinated with the work of John Venn, the creator of the Venn diagram — you know, the one that lets you see what two or more separate things have in common. The overlapping of things that might not seem to have much in common is something Turner finds deeply inspiring.

“It feels like a timely symbol in our polarized times, where we often classify one another too quickly or callously, perceiving things within binaries instead of seeking out overlap,” she writes. “Widening Venn Diagram” offers a message of solidarity. No matter what your background or identity may be, we all share commonalities that bring us together. The more you look, the more we look alike — the diagram widens.

The video, which you can see above, opens with a shot of Turner cooking eggs in a frying pan. It’s a chill, idyllic portrait of everyday life, in which Turner cooks, paints and looks out her window. The sound is soft but full, with sweeping pedal steel guitar played by Ellen Angelico, layers of harmonies from Ziona Riley and Turner’s partner and Winos bandmate Trevor Nikrant, and light accents on drums (by Kate Haldrup) and cello (by Austin Hoke). 

The piece features a prominent egg motif. In one scene, Turner is in what appears to be the shower, staring directly into the camera and smiling as egg yolks stream down her hair and face. In another, she cuts into two fried eggs, plated to look like a Venn diagram, and the yolks stream together into a bright yellow mass in the middle of the plate. All the while, she sings about love and grappling with large questions. 

The video, filmed at the artist’s home in South Nashville, was directed by Turner and Paula Ramirez with assistance from Nikrant, and edited by Linda Parrott. The song was tracked and mixed by Haldrup and mastered by Ross Collier. Songs for John Venn is set for release on April 3 via the feminist record label Spinster, and you can preorder it right here

You’ve got an opportunity coming up to catch Turner in person with the Winos on Sunday, March 15, at The East Room, and again for the release party on April 3 at Drkmttr. At the latter event, you’ll also hear Glimmer and Heinous Orca, plus readings by A.M. Ringwalt (whose music you’ve heard under the name Anne Malin) and Hilary Bell, and paintings and prints by Peggy Snow. All proceeds will benefit The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s tornado relief fund.

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