Duo uses books as muse on 'Literature'

After studying vocal performance in Columbus in the '90s, Lesley Ann Fogle moved to Chicago and became a sound engineer, but she didn't stop singing. Under the moniker Mal Vu, Fogle collaborated with musicians nearly every weekend.

One of those musicians was Constantine Hondroulis — bassist in long-running Columbus rock act Earwig — as well as his brother, local drummer George Hondroulis. When Fogle moved back to Ohio several years ago, she and the Hondroulis brothers began making music together again, and the songwriting partnership eventually led to a life partnership; Fogle and Constantine married in 2013.

Now, the couple has a new project, After-Death Plan, and a new nine-track album, Literature, which takes its inspiration from books. “The Devil Takes a Hand,” for instance, is a retelling of Fyodor Dostoevsky's “Crime and Punishment.”

“[Constantine] and I are really good at approaching songs differently,” Fogle said recently over coffee. “For this album, because it's all based on books, we tried to capture the tone poem of it, the mood of it.”

“The Sea & Earth Gave Birth to Wonder,” for example, is dedicated to Robert Burns and plays like a sea shanty waltz, whereas dark, menacing and noisy closer “In the Sun” is dedicated to Bram Stoker.

“I could have been described as a goth back in the '90s,” Fogle said. “We're both old goths. I studied opera. We live in Olde Town East for the architecture. We're both part of the Landmarks Foundation. We read a lot. … We appreciate things that are made well.”

To enable listeners to dig into the back stories of the songs, After-Death Plan made a “Song Facts” page on its website. “The song facts are there if somebody wants to dig,” Fogle said. “If I really love something, I'd love to know what the artist is thinking. … We definitely do cerebral music, so I like the idea of people thinking. Our stuff's not like, ‘Get laid! Get laid!'”

That said, Fogle doesn't want After-Death Plan's heady qualities to get in the way of a good hook. “I have a Mal Vu song called ‘Hook in My Mouth,'” she said. “Part of that comes from working in commercials for so long. I used to have this boss who would walk around with his guitar at the jingle house, and he'd be like, ‘Gimme a hook! Gimme a hook!' We'd take anything and write a jingle on it.”

Expect more cerebral jingles before too long. After-Death Plan has 20 new songs in the works for a future release.