Cheek has a full-time job presenting performances; she is an associate curator at MoMA PS1 in Queens, augmenting exhibitions with live shows and leading the committee that produces PS1’s consistently forward-looking summer music series, “Warm Up.” She has also backed up and collaborated with other musicians, lately with Vagabon and Helado Negro.
She was between bands in the mid-2010s when she started making her own music as L’Rain; Lappin gave her a decisive nudge: “My mom would always say, ‘You should just sing and play piano.’ And I just brushed her off. And then the bands I was in fell apart, and Andrew Lappin said, ‘Have you ever thought about making your own record?’ He was the catalyst. And my mom, also, with me eventually realizing, ‘OK, you were right.’”
Cheek had been warehousing dozens of musical ideas on a private SoundCloud page: “Anything from six seconds to two-and-a-half minutes,” Lappin recalled. As he helped her sift through them, they saw the potential for a coherent project, and “L’Rain” emerged as a moody, liquid, atmospheric album, with Cheek’s vocals often blurred amid the instruments.
For “Fatigue,” Lappin and Cheek decided to make her voice and lyrics clearer, and to allow more visceral, aggressive moments. “The first record was like a bunch of sounds all at once, and it’s hard to tell where one begins and one ends,” Cheek said. “This one is more defined. We were trying to be bolder with the sonic palette, and making more decisions.”
They recorded in New York and in Los Angeles, where Lappin worked at the venerable Sunset Sound studios. Some of L’Rain’s vocals were run through the same reverberation chamber — an isolated stonewalled room — that the Beach Boys used when recording “Pet Sounds” in 1966. L’Rain used live instruments, computer manipulation, assorted amplifiers and even a cassette player, along with Cheek’s field recordings; a deep drone she recorded on a subway ride was sampled and pitch-shifted to provide one song’s bass line.