The DIY community is full of unsung heroes. Artists and fans alike, all devoting their time to cultivating a thriving scene, celebrating each other's art, and creating a sense of belonging. Inge Chiles, known better as ings, is one of those. A Missouri native, she moved to Seattle in 2014 and threw herself headfirst into the music scene, working with a long list of notable names in the local scene like iji, Chris Staples, and Heatwarmer, and throwing countless underground shows.
Six years and two EPs later, ings is finally unveiling her debut record. Titled Lullaby Rock, after the self-made genre she gave herself because of her hushed singing style, the record is a testament to an artist honing her craft and unafraid to experiment. Everything from lush orchestral strings to fingerpicked guitar riffs and even a guided meditation can be found on the dynamic record, anchored by ings' lovely and fantastically Feist-y vocals.
The uplifting lyrics on Lullaby Rock focus on healing and growth, with ings offering up a bit of hard-learned advice from herself to herself. A toolbox of affirmations, each song began as a repeated phrase she would sing aloud to herself in order to carry on through a difficult situation. Lessons like valuing yourself, appreciating your friends, and dealing with failure are thoughtfully and cleverly explored over the ten tracks.
Today, for 24 hours, KEXP is exclusively streaming Lullaby Rock ahead of its release on Friday, November 15. We also had a heartfelt chat with ings about vulnerability, the local DIY scene, and cat bereavement songs. Listen to the album in full and read the interview below.
KEXP: You're finally releasing your debut full-length record, Lullaby Rock, six years after releasing your first EP, Dog Physics. How does it feel to finally have it coming out?
ings: It feels good. It's a long time coming. We've been working on these songs for a long time and I just kept feeling like it wasn't the right time to put it out. I'm kind of a perfectionist and it's really hard for me to be happy with something or feel that something's done so I tend to sit on stuff for a while. But, yeah, I feel good about it.
How do you know or what's the feeling when you feel like something's finally done? Have you learned any signals?
When it makes me... happy? Not happy, but there's some deep internal resonance that happens whenever the external matches the internal. When it matches my internal manifestation of it, then it's done. And also when I am just tired of perfectionism ruling my life. Also, this year I set three goals because last year I felt I was disengaging. I set the goals of playing 100 shows, getting a booking agent, and putting out my album. I just got a booking agent a couple of weeks ago.
Congratulations, that's fantastic! Did they get you the shows you recently played in Japan?
They got me a couple of those shows, yeah. So, yeah, that was my goal. And I submitted my album to like 36 record labels over the past couple of years and they all said no. So this year, I was just like, "If no one is saying yes by like March or April then I'm just gonna do it myself." I just felt like if this is gonna happen then I need to do it now. So it came true! It's coming out and I just feel ready for it to be out.
Yay! What about the hundred shows?
Let's see here. I'm at 68 or 69, I think. I need to check my spreadsheet. I've got a whole spreadsheet for it with all the info on there. But I'm going on tour for a month after the album comes out, so hopefully I'll get to 100. If I don't, then I will just play like live lullaby concerts on Instagram Live. That's my plan.
Yeah, I feel like that can count. Whatever you've gotta do to make the goal! And the record's really great. I think the "Best Friend Meditation" is especially interesting both in its delivery and in its message. I love the idea of writing love songs for your friends and celebrating friendship rather than focusing on romantic love, which is what a lot music has focused on historically. I'm curious about what sparked the inspiration for it.
Well, I kind of just started inviting audiences to repurpose a song into a friendship love song and that just kind of developed into a longer and longer thing and I eventually was like, "Okay, close your eyes and picture your best friend." And then I just kept adding on to that. It was very organic. I play other songs where I'm like, "Okay, imagine that this is a love song for your friend." We'll play like a straight up love song, like a cover, and be like, "Now change the context, in your mind. Change the context and think about your friends."
I love that concept. Also your self-directed videos are fantastic. I love the new video for "If Not You" and, of course, the "Afterthought" video is iconic. Is video direction something you might want to get more into? Maybe even directing videos for other artists?
For the most part, it's just something that I do because I kind of have to, because I can't afford to pay anyone to direct them. But it's kind of been a cool parameter for me to learn in and I don't really see myself making videos for other artists. I mean, I might be open to it, but that kind of stresses me out because I know exactly what I want and I just assume that everyone else wants that. So maybe!
Maybe if you found someone like minded, perhaps?
Yeah, I would do like a low-key DIY band video but nothing with a huge budget. All my videos have been less than $2500 to make. I just like having constraints like that. Constraints like that makes it easier.
You have to get creative.
Exactly. If you need to get creative, just cut your budget in half.
Well, it's working out! It seems like you're kind of bubbling over with creative ideas and projects and energy. How much of your time do you devote to your creative endeavors?
Well, I'm like in my room sending e-mails, all day.
Right, the boring part of being a DIY artist.
Exactly. I dedicate a lot of time to that. Do some nannying on the side. And I also work in Seattle Public Schools as a special education tutor, basically. But for the most part, I'm doing this. Making something. I just love making stuff.
I'm curious about these commissioned love songs you write for couples. I listened to some of them and they're so sweet. What's the process like? Do you have to get to know the couple thoroughly before you can write it?
They just give me a snapshot of their relationship. Basically, I give someone a questionnaire and then they get to gush about their loved one and then use that to write the song. It's really rewarding. I cry almost every single time! It's so meaningful. It's like, for whatever reason, people just let you into their world. I've written a couple of bereavement songs and those are always very meaningful to me. There was a bereavement song for someone's cat.
That's so precious!
Yeah. People are so friendly. To see this side of them...
Gives you hope in humanity.
How many love songs have you written?
Um, maybe like 18 or 20 or something like that.
Yeah. It's very easy because I know exactly what it should be about. And I can do all these campy rhymes because they want those things to be in the song and it's like no pressure at all.
And I'm sure you have to put a name in there.
I try to! I try to put their name in there and like, you know, their pets names, and their other family members. If they have kids, I put their names in there.
I mean, who doesn't want a song with their name in it?
Yeah. Seriously. People usually cry, they say, when they give them to their person. Which is really amazing. I usually cry.
That's so beautiful. Do you a favorite one?
There's one that I wrote where this woman just wanted me to write a story about her parents. They had this really tumultuous relationship and there were like mental health issues and addiction issues and had gone through so much. They were still in love with each other but won't admit it to each other, but they're friends and they spend all their holidays together and their daughter just sees such longing between them.
Did they get back together after you wrote the song?
I don't know! The woman who commissioned the song was like, "They will probably will never even hear the song, but I just feel like their story deserves a song."
Wow. That's beautiful.
Yeah. That was very, very... you know, people are usually just like, "Oh, I met them at the ice cream shop," and it's very lighthearted, you know. But that was heavier and really was very meaningful that someone would trust me with that story.
I love that story. I wonder if you could maybe, if you ever did want to put them together and release them as albums, you could do like one about bereavement, and one about romantic love. You know, like separate them into different themes?
Yeah, there's definitely different themes that I could do something like that.
Yeah, like "longing," "bereavement," "I'm trying to make up for something bad I did."
Totally! Actually, I did something similar to that. Every month this year, I put out a themed playlist. I still need to put out the October one but basically, it's just like songs to facilitate their emotion. So there's one for honesty, one for like making peace this time, one for goal setting.
That's awesome. How long does it take you to put those together?
Only like an hour but the biggest thing is like making the playlist art. I've been trying to make it fit into my Instagram grid and that's kind of hard. It's hard for me to be done with stuff, so it's hard for me to want to post something unless I know that it's going to be integrated into the grid. It has to be visually cohesive.
So you do all of your own art as well?
Yeah, I do.
True DIY. Speaking of that, you've been deeply involved in the Seattle DIY music scene since you moved here from Missouri. What do you enjoy most about the Seattle scene or find the most exciting about it?
I find it exciting that my friends are putting out records and going on tour. I've lived at show houses and putting shows together there was wonderful. Just like building a whole West Coast community of DIY artists. I'm starting to think outside Seattle and trying to build community and network in that way which is really, really exciting to me. And I'm excited for Friend Fest, which is this festival that I co-organize. This next year will be our third year that we're doing it and all the proceeds will go to benefit a TBD local immigrant rights organization. Recipients for Friend Fests 1 and 2 have been Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and Colectiva Legal del Pueblo.
That's awesome. Who are your favorite local bands?
There's this amazing band called 129,600. They are really, really good.
I'm not familiar! What kind of music do they play?
It's like... twangy... bach rock... yeah, that's exactly what I would call it! Thanks brain for pulling out that genre! That's exactly what it is. They are such an amazing, intricate live band. Flying Fish Cove I love. Sundae Crush is really cool. Oh man, I'm going to think of more later because all my friends have so many bands! I love iji, of course, and Mega Bog. She's amazing. That band Heatwarmer that used to be here. I loved them so, so, so, so much.
Where'd they go?
They all moved to different places. But the lead person was my guitar teacher and that was very meaningful because they were my favorite band.
Speaking of moving, I know you've collaborated with Chris Staples before and I interviewed him for KEXP a few months ago before he left Seattle for Richmond. We talked a lot about artists leaving Seattle. Do you think you'd ever want to leave?
I've thought about moving to New York but I really, really, really love it here. I feel really at home here. But I also recognize that I need to be on tour as much as possible. So, for now, I'm gonna stay in Seattle because it's just such a nice place to come home to. I love it so much.
I love it, too. It's sad when people go. Because if everyone leaves Seattle, then what do we do about sustaining a creative culture?
Yeah. Well, there will always be punk kids in their basements.
Hopefully that will continue to be true and they won't get ousted by condos!
Fingers crossed! On a more uplifting note, let’s get back to the new record. What are you most proud of about Lullaby Rock?
I haven't really stopped to think about what I'm proud of because I'm scared of doing that and like losing velocity. But I really like the song "Maker." I really like the string arrangement that I wrote. I really feel like it's just a very sincere expression of the way that I feel inside. Because it's about how you're more than what you make and I think it's really important to promulgate that idea.
Especially as a creative.
Totally. Yeah. Because all my friends are creatives and they get so caught up in making things perfect. I do that all the time and it stops me from enjoying existence so much. "Done is better than perfect" is my new motto. I need to make an album about that. Just trying to transcend perfectionism because just comes from shame. Like Brené Brown. She's amazing. I would read her books and think about the relationship between perfectionism and shame. Have you read any of her books or seen her TED talk?
No, I haven't!
She's this amazing social researcher who talks about shame and vulnerability. Also how people build trust and how perfectionism is a result of internalized shame. It's a mindset of "I've never been good enough” so on the outside it may seem like they're striving but deep inside they just feel really ashamed. And how important it is to be vulnerable and not exactly overshare, but like... anyway, you should just watch her TED talk! I will send it to you, because it's so so life changing. The Brené rabbit hole is like such a revelatory and wonderfully real place.
I'm very excited to jump down it! So, KEXP is the station where the music matters; why does music matter to you?
Because I need it. I probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for music. Because I am just biologically encoded to be depressed a lot and I have therapy and meds now that help but being able to sing to myself and sing things that I know are true, even if I have depression or anxiety, that is like warping reality. When I'm able to just sing something that I know really deeply is true, it kind of externalizes it and makes it real. It's something that I can hold on to. It really leads me through dark times.
Yeah, I've asked that question to quite a few artists and it's interesting how many times people have responded with, "I wouldn't be here if I didn't have music." It's really interesting and powerful.
Yeah. I think people should talk about suicide more and suicidal ideations and just how common that is. I have a song on my next album that's basically about that, just like showing up for your own life and having almost given up on your own life and then deciding to show up. And not letting anybody tell you who you are because you know who you are. But anyway, that's the next album.
I love it. Heavy!
It's gonna be heavy. Like this one is all fluffy like, "I'm in my early '20s, it's fine!" And then the next is where shit gets real!
I mean, that's life!
It is! Totally.
And it sounds like it could be a really life changing record for some people to listen to.
I hope that it helps people. Because it helped me. And if nothing else, that's enough.
Lullaby Rock is out Friday, November 15. Preorder the record here. Catch ings at her dual album release show with Great Grandpa at Chop Suey on Saturday, November 16. Friend Fest will take place in August of next year. Read a list of upcoming tour dates below.
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