Most artists record their albums in a studio. Some make do in their bedrooms. Sloppy Jane — the stage name of Los Angeles musician
Haley Dahl, once bandmate to Phoebe Bridgers turned latest signee at Saddest Factory Records — recorded her ambitious new album, Madison, with a 21-member orchestra 200 feet underground, in a large limestone cave in West Virginia called Lost World Caverns.
It’s a pretty unbelievable origin story for an equally unbelievable album, an 11-track orchestral-pop epic complete with an “Overture” and “Epilogue,” and filled with
grand, cavern-sized (literally) breakup songs. The whole thing came from an idea Dahl had while listening to old ‘50s pop music.
“[Those songs were] taking teenage emotions and these feelings of heartbreak and using production to bring them to this operatic level of importance,” she tells NYLON over a recent Zoom. “And I wanted to do something that felt the same way but I didn't have access to an echo chamber. It got me into reading about natural reverb, and I thought of recording an album in a cave. And I immediately fell in love with the image of that.”
The results of the three-year project are stunning, with long, ghostly drags of reverb emanating from her vocals and a haunting candle-lit aura to the entire project. If you need more convincing, Phoebe Bridgers has already given it a cosign: “I’m glad to live in a world where Haley Dahl wanting to go to a cave to make a record just makes sense.” We’re inclined to agree.
Read on as NYLON caught up with Dahl ahead of
’s release and chatted astrology, ghosts, her goth past, and more. Madison 1. What is your astrological sign? (And do you believe in it?)
I am an Aquarius, which feels obvious if you knew me at all. I wouldn't categorize myself as an astrology person, but I think believing in things is a better conversation than not. My grandma is an astrologer and she's really awesome so I feel like anything she believes in has to be true.
2. Do you believe in ghosts (and have you ever seen one)?
I do believe in ghosts. My house was pretty haunted as a kid. The woman who lived in my house before us passed there. She was an old woman, and my family would have weird collective dreams of a woman standing on the balcony of the house. One time, me and my friend had a really freaky Ouija board experience when I was in middle school where we were home alone in the house. We were like, “If there's anyone present in the house give us a sign.” And then there was a huge crash in the other room and we ran out of there. There's a lot of small stories, but it was a haunted house.
3. What is your go to drink order?
I pretty much order water with no ice. Like the most ancient person in the world.
4. Who would be the three headliners of the music festival of your dreams?
I think it would be cool to see a music festival where it's all of the bands that were made up for TV shows. Josie and the Pussycats, and there's like random ones. I don't know, just in every TV show there's like a band in it.
5. What is the weirdest snack that you make?
I feel like every time I make a weird snack it's because I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel. The most recent one that comes to mind is the other day I didn't feel like going out and buying chips and dip, so I was eating an oat tortilla and salad dressing. It was very dark.
6. What is a bad habit of yours that you've been meaning to fix?
This is more of an aspirational thing, but I would really like to have a more graceful walk. You see people that walk really, really gracefully and it just changes the air in a room. Especially by the time I'm old, I want to get more poised.
7. What was the last internet rabbit hole that you went down?
I'm thinking about working somewhere very remote, like in the middle of the desert, and building a recording studio myself, and have the materials, and the shape, and the size of it to be custom to whatever sound I want the record to have. So I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos on sound and sound in architecture and how they relate to each other.
8. If you could be in any music video, what would it be?
I would want to be climbing with Amy Lee on the crazy building in the "Bring Me To Life" video for Evanescence.
I feel like all of the women of that time period were so sick, but they were still in this very male-dominated music industry ,and didn't really get to make their own choices or they didn't really feel that they got to be in control of their thing and weren't really taken seriously. I want her to come back in this more welcoming time.
9. What was your first concert and what are your memories of it?
My first concert was, I saw Avril Lavigne play at a mall in Los Angeles. She played at the Glendale Galleria, and I remember she was wearing tripp pants and a black t-shirt. She was just playing acoustic guitar and it was the greatest day of my young life. I got her autograph. She went outside after the mall and signed everyone's autograph.
10. What was your favorite movie as a kid?
My favorite movie was this movie
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. It was made in the early ‘50s and was the only live action movie that Dr. Seuss ever wrote and directed. I know we have all of our feelings about Dr. Seuss now, but it was my favorite movie as a kid.
It's this really crazy, dark musical about a little boy and his evil piano teacher. The little boy falls asleep, and he dreams that his piano teacher is making basically a concentration camp for young piano players to make them practice piano forever.
Definitely the aesthetic of that movie and the music in the movie influenced a lot of what I do now. It just is a very weird, special film, but it didn't get baked into culture, so it has this unique quality that was really formative to me, but not necessarily to everyone else. So I've stolen a lot from it.
11. What was your teenage AIM screen name? What lyrics would make up your AIM away message today?
My AIM screen name was Taxidermy911. I was extremely goth as a middle schooler, like fully, extremely, extremely goth. I had no eyebrows and I drew on eyebrows that had fake stitches on them, and I made people call me taxidermy.
I think if I had [AIM] today, I would definitely pick something from the musical
Annie. That musical was very genius. It's always stuck in my head, so it's weaved its way into being attached to important memories with me as an adult. What is your favorite meme/internet joke and why?
If I look at the whole history of the internet, I love
Salad Fingers, which is like vintage internet. Newer stuff… I really like the videos that Aiden Arata makes and she's a friend of mine. And I also really like the meme page Today Was My Birthday. They're like weird pictures of creepy old toys and then they say kind of upsetting and traumatic stuff just in general, but I really resonate with a lot of the ones on that account. 13. What is your favorite red carpet look of all time worn by someone else?
When I think about my favorite red carpet anything I think about when Courtney Love threw a compact at Madonna at the MTV Music Video Awards. Her
outfit was also really good. But it's such an iconic moment in time. I love it when you see something that really just feels earnest. 14. What is one thing everyone should buy that is under $10?
I think that everyone should buy a cup of coffee for me. I like a giant black iced coffee.
15. What piece of clothing from high school do you wish you kept?
I feel lucky. I think that I hoarded a lot of my old clothes. I have a really good collection of all my goth clothes from high school, so I have a lot of tripp pants, and I have a lot of crazy bullet belts, and giant shoes, and corsets. I wish I kept more of the corsets. I feel like I got rid of some of those and I wish I kept them.
16. What is your go-to sad song? 17. What reality show would you most like to appear on?
I would want to be on
Dance Moms and I would want to both be the daughter and my own mother at the same time. The stage parent/child relationship is one that I resonate with but just compounded into my own personality. I feel very much like my own controlling stage mom and a little kid who just wants to take a nap. 18. What is your best beauty tip or trick?
For all of the Sloppy Jane stuff, I wear so much makeup and I wear a foundation that's way lighter than my skin to reflect light better. I wear stage makeup and I really like that. I like having an entirely new face to put on for what I do, cause I think that it helps me get into a better zone for performing. Then on the other side of that, it gives me my own natural face to come home to and have that be the one that I talk to my friends with.
19. What is your favorite pair of shoes that you own and why?
I used to strip and I had these shoes that, a little bit after quitting stripping, me and my best friend set on fire. And then I threw their ashes into the ocean. But they still belong to me and so those are my favorite pair. They were just black stripper heels. What they look like doesn't matter, but I like the story of them.