Duo embraces creative friction, love of language on sophomore album

On the After-Death Plan's debut album, Literature, from 2017, the wife-husband duo of Lesley Ann Fogle and Constantine Hondroulis took inspiration solely from the written word, penning nine songs based on works of fiction. So coming into the follow-up, the pair knew it wanted to avoid hemming itself in conceptually, approaching writing and recording with a comparatively open mindset.

“After all the marketing, and talking about literature, we were like, ‘Oh, my god. Let's just make songs,'” said Fogle, joined by Hondroulis for an early January interview Downtown.

Even so, many of the tracks on the just-released Psycho Social Sexual ended up sharing thematic DNA, informed by recent social and political movements, in particular the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment, which surfaces in the record's strong, repeated feminist imagery.

“When we were writing the record, these are the things that we would talk about. This was what was on our minds, and so it ended up in our art,” Hondroulis said.

“If there hadn't been this avalanche of…” Fogle said, trailing off. “Over-the-top insanity,” Hondroulis said, finishing the thought.

Within the group, much of the creative tension comes not from these external forces, but rather from the push-and-pull between the two musicians, who exist on opposite poles, in some ways. Fogle, a longtime sound engineer who recorded for years under the moniker Mal Vu, described herself as less rigid and prone to favoring non-linear soundscapes that project a formless, ethereal quality. Hondroulis, in contrast, is more traditional in his approach, favoring hooks and choruses. In After-Death Plan, this friction exhibits itself as the album ping-pongs between lush, lullaby-esque numbers like “Starlight,” which unfolds like a surreal waking dream, and more straightforward, dance-oriented, pop-embracing numbers like the hip-shaking “Digging in the Fire.”

Lyrically, however, the songs still tend toward the impressionistic, informed largely by Fogle's long-held roots in poetry, and further shaped by her overall fascination with language.

“Words have an impact on each person individually, depending on their background and how the word is paired with other words — kind of like colors,” she said. “And then words themselves have multiple meanings, usually. And even if you know the meaning in terms of how it's being used, those other meanings can't help but stay in the back of your head. … In different time periods, some words meant the exact opposite of what they do now — like terrific used to mean terrible — and there can be all this leftover residue from that. The way words strike us is super personal.”