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Lemolo: Hometown’s namesake duo is making a name in music | Kitsap Week
The forests and bays of North Kitsap, with the Olympic Mountain range in the background, can be very inspiring. Two young women from the heart of Kitsap are sharing that inspiration, and you can listen to it.
Meagan Grandall, 25, and Kendra Cox, 22, formed the music duo Lemolo about four years ago. The North Kitsap High School graduates have grown in popularity, breaking into the Seattle music scene with their sweet-sounding tunes and leaving behind rave reviews from multiple publications. They’ve gone on four tours, one with headliner Seattle band Head and the Heart.
They have played house shows, nightclubs, coffee shops and music festivals. Now, they have a full-length album.
“It’s pretty magical to be in [the] place that we’re in right now,” Cox said.
Cox, keyboardist and drummer, was a fan of the band before it was a band. Cox met Grandall, guitarist and vocalist, while the two taught kayaking at Liberty Bay Marina several years ago.
Grandall was playing at coffee shops around Kitsap and Seattle, and Cox became her biggest fan. Grandall said she and Cox were friends for more than a year before Cox mentioned she played music. Grandall invited her to help form a band to play at Seattle University’s Battle of the Bands, where Grandall was a student. Eventually, Grandall and Cox went to work as a band full-time.
After playing under Grandall’s name for a while, the band — which played with four, sometimes five members — realized they needed their own identity. The women racked their brains for a name and, eventually, turned to Cox and Grandall's childhood home.
“That road, Lemolo Shore Drive, is a road we all spent tons of time on growing up,” Grandall said. “Kendra taught me how to longboard on that road ... Tons of summertime memories.”
After they decided on “Lemolo,” they found out the word is Chinook jargon for “wild” and “untamed,” the meaning of which was a “cool little added bonus,” Grandall said.
Both call their music process “very organic,” but each approach from different backgrounds. Grandall has played piano since she was 4, and has written lyrics and music since high school.
“I’m at my guitar, or piano, and let it flow,” she said. “If I let it flow long enough, a more tangible idea will start to form. [I don’t] think about it ahead of time.”
She finds living in Poulsbo, a relatively quiet space, is essential to her creative space.
When songwriting, “Those are some of the coolest moments that I have ever had ... the feeling of sort of letting it take over me. I almost feel powerless.”
Cox spent more time listening to music growing up than creating it, but was around plenty of musical influences. She said her father played guitar at home, and an aunt and uncle toured as a band and encouraged many of her inspirations.
Cox first got her drum set at age 13, to start a Blink-182 cover band. The band didn’t work out, and the drums sat at Cox’s house for years, until Lemolo resurrected them.
Their chemistry in place, the women began playing Grandall’s songs.
While Grandall is still the primary songwriter, Grandall and Cox said they’ve started writing more collaboratively.
“As we get more comfortable with each other in songwriting, there are moments to spread our wings a little more,” Cox said. “Space is something we both value in our music ... it really lets one thing kind of be the shining glory in any one moment.”
Their first album, “The Kaleidoscope,” is the catalyst of their career so far. After playing shows for years and going on tour, Lemolo wanted to keep the momentum going and decided to produce their own album instead of waiting until they were signed with a record label. Saving every penny they earned for two years, it took Lemolo more than a year to complete “The Kaleidoscope.”
The name took just as long to come up with. Grandall said because the songs they recorded were written over a long period of time, in different emotional states, there wasn’t a definitive theme to the album. They were looking for a concept where “lots of little individual things or components that are different from each other, but that come together in a way to make a whole that is beautiful.”
Rejected album name: “Patchwork Quilt.”
Eventually, Grandall thought of a kaleidoscope while in the shower, she said. Their CD release party in June at the Columbia City Theatre sold out within hours, to their surprise. So, the women decided to add a second show the next night.
“We’ve found, overwhelmingly, that the Seattle music community [is] more supportive than competitive,” Grandall said.
Cox added, “The city just wants music too, the city is just kind of eating it up, which is great.”
The music they create has a raw, vulnerable quality, full of emotion. But whatever vulnerability these women have, they pour into their songs. In “Letters,” Grandall’s ethereal voice is matched by Cox’s steady keyboard, while in “We Felt the Fall,” Cox’s drums reverberate and make Grandall’s voice stronger. What is left is two strong musicians doing what they love.
“We’re doing this for ourselves ultimately,” Cox said. “It’s great if people are there to share with them, but sometimes I’ll turn to Meagan [and say] ‘You play for me and I’ll play for you, let’s just play for each other.’ ”
Both women say there are a number of factors to the success they’ve had so far, including support from family and friends, camaraderie with other Seattle musicians, but mainly due to hard work. Cox and Grandall said it was about three and a half years ago when they sat down and realized they wanted to make this their career — their passion wasn’t going to be working 9 a.m to 5 p.m., it was music — where the work never seems to end, but the rewards for them are endless.
“Kendra and I were the ones who wanted to give it everything, be willing to move back in with our moms,” Grandall — who lives with her mom in Poulsbo — laughed. Kendra lives in Seattle, and works part-time.
Cox listed off the “coveted places” they’ve played in the last few years: “To play at the radio station we listened to as kids, to tour, play at the Gorge, Bumbershoot, Block Party ... I’ve been going to Bumbershoot since I was 15, then to get to play there, to get to do things like that [I] secretly dreamed of doing. It’s crazy to be doing it and having it work.”
Grandall added, “A year to the day that we played our first show all together, Kendra and I played our first show just the two of us.”
The show was at Neumos, the famous Seattle venue.
“It was the first time we played a stage like that ever, we practiced every day for four weeks,” Grandall said. “We were nervous, we didn’t know what people would say ... but everyone was really nice. We doubted ourselves, but [after Neumos] we realized we can do this.”
Grandall acts as the band manager, booking agent and accountant, while Cox employs her skills as a designer. The band’s album cover, many show posters and website are designed by the self-taught graphic designer.
Their ultimate goal is of course to be signed by a label, and that, “Being able to be creative is the most important thing,” Grandall said. They have already begun writing new songs.
“There are always little pieces of songs floating around, coming together when they need to,” she said.
Grandall said she hopes to inspire young girls to get into the music scene. When starting to play around Seattle, she was surprised to see it as such a male-dominated field — not just musicians, she said, but no women light or sound engineers or booking agent.
“Something that I hold really dearly is I hope that Kendra and I inspire other girls to pick up instruments and play songs … and have courage to share them with other people,” she said. “There’s a whole added joy of being able to share [music] with other people … It feels really empowering to do that.”