Alethea Leventhal speaks with ReGen about the creation of her latest album as Ships in the Night, signing to Cleopatra Records, and her plans for a hopefully brighter future.
An InterView with Alethea Leventhal of Ships in the Night
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
From Charlottesville, VA comes musician/producer Alethea Leventhal, who over a few short years has been placing an indelible mark on modern darkwave. Latent Powers is her latest album under the moniker of Ships in the Night, her de facto solo project blending elements of neo-classical, electro, witch house, and straightforward goth; released in late October by the eminent Cleopatra Records, the album presents her many artistic facets with deeply personal lyrics and emotive vocal presentation that hearkens back to the founding luminaries of the darkwave scene. In November of 2021, shortly after the album’s release, ReGen Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Leventhal about the creation of Latent Powers and her musical evolution from the preceding Myriologues album, as well as the differences in her approach as a solo artist and as the front woman for post-punk act The Harrow. With live shows returning to some semblance of frequency in the wake of the pandemic, darkwave fans should certainly take note of Ships in the Night as plans for more live performances and the possibility of touring is sure to come to fruition in 2022, along with the late February vinyl and CD editions of Latent Powers.
From what I can see, Latent Powers is your first full-length album under the name of Ships in the Night since the 2017 album Myriologues, with the For a Sick World EP released earlier in 2021. What can you tell us about the last four years, what sort of events may have impacted the creation of the new album?
As a collection of songs you were working on in quarantine, For a Sick World and the ‘Where the Light Froze’ single seemed to stem directly from the pandemic, and many bands and artists have done the same. This makes sense as all art is reflective of the time in which it was made, but was there ever an imperative on Latent Powers to not allow the pandemic to creep in or to at least search for another mood or backdrop to create from?
Leventhal: Yeah, absolutely. Latent Powers had been in the making since shortly after Myriologues, and to me, they are kind of foils to each other. Myriologues is really about loss, and it feels pretty raw and vulnerable. Latent Powers is different – it’s about possibility and potential. To me it feels stronger, like it is looking towards the future rather than being lost in the past.
For a Sick World also features ‘When I Was Found’ as the only song in common with Latent Powers. Tell us about this song, what made it special for you that it needed to be presented on both the EP and the new album?
You’d released singles for ‘First Light,’ ‘When I Was Found,’ and ‘Lost Times’ prior to the album’s release, as well as covers of The Cure’s ‘Plainsong’ and Echo and the Bunnymen’s ‘The Killing Moon.’ Why was ‘The Killing Moon’ included on Latent Powers, but not ‘Plainsong?’ What is it about that song that you felt it thematically or tonally felt that it belonged on the album while the other song did not?
Leventhal: One of my favorite movies growing up was Donnie Darko, and I loved the opening scene where ‘The Killing Moon’ plays in the background. I’d been playing the song live for years, but hadn’t ever gotten around to really recording it. I was especially excited to record it after Echo and the Bunnymen actually posted it on their page. ‘Plainsong’ has been one of my favorite songs forever. I had so much fun recording it and layering the strings and chimes and bells. I think I felt like ‘The Killing Moon’ was something I’d put my own spin on – it’s so different than the original. ‘Plainsong’ is more of a true cover.
You’ve signed with Cleopatra Records for the release of Latent Powers. As the label has quite the history, would you tell us about how you came to sign with them?
How pleased are you with this association with the label, and what are your hopes in working more with them down the line?
Leventhal: It’s all very exciting. People love Cleopatra and it’s easy to see why. It’s definitely a strange time to be releasing music into the world but I’m really happy with what’s come of it. I feel grateful to have had the opportunities I’ve had.
You’re also a member of The Harrow, who most recently released the ‘Beyond Stars’ single earlier in 2021. Granted, one is a band (i.e. a collaboration among the band members, with you writing the lyrics), while you solely guide Ships in the Night, but beyond that distinction, what distinguishes the two for you from a lyrical standpoint? Are there any sorts of themes or ideas you pursue in one project versus the other?
Leventhal: One of the fun things about collaborating is that it feels in some ways like there is less pressure. When I write for Ships in the Night, it feels important that the lyrics are really personal. When I work with other people and write for other projects, there is more of a sense of freedom about what I write about. That was definitely the case for ‘Beyond Stars.’
Obviously, performing live was not possible, and many turned to livestreaming. I’ve asked many about their opinions of this, but now as we approach (hopefully) vaccinations and the quelling of the pandemic, what do you feel are the major lessons we learned or should have learned? Or to put it another way, what do you feel artists, labels, venues, the industry as a whole should take away from the experience and use or think about going forward?
What are your current plans for Ships in the Night to tour or perform live?
Leventhal: I have some one-offs in the spring to states I’ve never played before, and that’s always exciting. In the summer I’m planning to do a more extensive U.S. tour.
Outside of music, what are you enjoying most right now? Watching movies? Reading? Anything at all… what is giving you the most joy right now?
Leventhal: I love wandering around and exploring the city, and the weather was so nice this fall. I like to go to museums. I wish I had more time to read and watch movies for pleasure. Lately, whenever I have had time, I’ve been watching the Tennessee Williams movie adaptations, like Suddenly Last Summer and A Streetcar Named Desire. I like how real his characters are. Old movies are kind of calming to me.
What’s next for you? Any other projects or collaborations you can tell us about?
Anything at all that you’d like to add?
Leventhal: Thank you to everyone who has supported the music. I really couldn’t do it without you. Stay safe and healthy. And if you haven’t yet, check out Latent Powers.