Lawrence Rothman’s debut album, The Book Of Law, has been hard-won. After more than a hundred songs, two years in the studio, stints in other projects (like the glam rock band Living Things in the early 2000s), the Los Angeles singer-songwriter has come into their own with a debut album of twelve songs, variously sung from the perspective of nine alters or characters that represent different facets of Rothman, who is gender fluid.
There’s Hooky, the melancholy ginger with the nose piercing; Aleister, the bald, tattooed smoker; and Orion, the somber, graceful one with a jet black mullet — and the focus of the video for the single “Wolves Still Cry,” just one of the numerous striking, richly-realized videos Rothman has made with celebrated director Floria Sigismondi. Another, which is also directed by Sigsimondi, for the track “Designer Babies” features the legendary Kim Gordon.
The Book Of Law celebrates musical multiplicity: it draws on new wave, dream-pop, rock and folk, while an array of guests — from Marissa Nadler and Angel Olsen to Pino Palladino and Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa, just to name a few — flit in and out. I spoke with Rothman ahead of The Book Of Law‘s release about the many, varied musical collaboration, how strained family relationships impacted the album, and lyrical honesty in the service of connection.
What immediately stood out to me about The Book Of Law is how collaborative it is. It reminded me of a New York Magazine article about why so many people go to Los Angeles to make pop music — because so many artists there are down to jam and collaborate just to see what will happen. Was that the dynamic with the guests on your album?
When I sat down to make the record, since I’m a solo artist and I didn’t have a band, my producer Justin Raisen was like, ‘So what do you want to do? Should you and I play everything?’ And I was like, yeah, that’s an option because both of us are multi-instrumentalists. But I really like the energy of live musicians playing in a room together at once for the basic tracking. And he loved that idea too.
So he’s like, ‘You know what, just go home and make just your ultimate list of famous people and not famous people to play on your record.’ So I went home and made the list. I gave it to him and he was like ‘Oh sh*t, OK well, I don’t know any of these people, do you?’ I’m like, ‘No. I don’t know a single one of them.’ [laughs.] It was crazy: Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses, Angel Olsen, Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs… So he’s like, ‘Well, let me just see what happens.’ Justin reached out one by one and pretty much got every single one of them. Every person that came through, it worked. There wasn’t like a bad session, and we used everything. So we got lucky there.
About the open-mindedness of being in LA — I don’t think it’s necessarily an LA thing. I think musicians in this day and age want to come together and play on different genres of music, because with the invention of streaming and people’s Spotify playlists, and things like that, listeners genre-hop all day long. People aren’t as segregated as maybe they were before. Like ‘I’m just a metal guitarist.’ I think people are more explorative.