eliza berkon is a journalist and musician based in washington d.c. 

With Hypnotic New EP ‘Take Care,’ Lotion Princess Brings ‘Radical Honesty’ To D.C. Music Scene

With a subtle cymbal hit, “Carry Over”—the recently released single from shoegazey indie rock band Lotion Princess—seems to start in medias res, like you’re just tuning in to a conversation already underway. It’s an effect that weaves itself throughout the D.C. foursome’s new EP, undergirded by the intimacy of frontwoman Sasha Elisabeth’s vocals.

Take Care, their debut EP out Friday, is the aural form of a cathartic walk in the woods. Each song is unhurried, unfolding as Elisabeth (née Fried-Snoad, who performs under her middle name) crawls into the space of the lyric, often repeating key phrases multiple times and devising countermelodies with them. Her words are simple and accessible as she flirts with darkness but never loses herself in it.

“I’ve been cruising the graveyards / Gathering a taste of my karma,” she sings in “Reserve You.” Dreary, yes, but each entry on the five-song EP has a lightness, most especially the pro-compassion title track.

Lotion Princess—Elisabeth (lead vocals, keys), Andrew Grossman (guitar), Katie Parker (vocals, bass) and Dan Sachs (drums)—has performed together only since last summer, but Elisabeth wrote much of their material over the course of a few years and experimented with different lineups before this one gelled. The band has performed at several D.C. venues, including Songbyrd and Rhizome DC, and will play an EP release show at Pie Shop this Saturday night.

For such a young band, Take Care is impressively cohesive, not just from track to track but internally, with mellow guitar lines from Grossman (also a member of The North Country) melding effortlessly with Sachs’ management of the groove and reliable backup vocals from Parker (also a member of Born Dad). Perhaps that kind of symbiosis comes easily when you hole up in a Luray Valley cabin for 72 hours, as they did to record the EP. But the end result, regardless of the alchemy involved, is a sound reflective of a fully formed artist ready for a bigger stage.

We caught up with Elisabeth, 27, for the backstory on the band and her insights on Take Care. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

<a href="http://lotionprincess.bandcamp.com/track/carry-over-3">Carry Over by Lotion Princess</a>

Tell us when and how the band got off the ground.

A couple of years ago, I started writing songs and it felt like an outlet I really needed. At first it was definitely terrible—when you start writing something and you know it’s bad, it’s painful. But it’s when you actually want to get better at something that you know you should be doing it. So I was like, “I’m gonna keep trying.”

Why Lotion Princess? How did you stumble on that name?

We were practicing in my living room, and I have a lot of lotions, oils, creams, and things that smell nice. I like to be soft, and I try hard. So at the time, I said something like, “I’m such a lotion princess.” And everybody else was like, “That’s our band name—that’s a perfect band name.” I’ve grown to love it.

With a seemingly endless list of indie rock outfits active in the D.C. music scene, what does your band bring to the table?

We bring radical honesty, emotional honesty. For whatever reason, that’s what I feel most comfortable writing about, and I think people think that’s a really scary thing, like “Oh my God—all of your feelings are out there.” But for me, it just feels like the most natural way to express myself, and for whatever reason I’m not scared to be so raw with everything. I think every music scene needs more of that.

In “Carry Over,” the band’s first released single, you sing, “My chest is tightening and I thought by now/ I’d have thrown your letters away/ Stopped wearing clothes I’d borrowed from you/ Now you’re long gone/ I’ll carry on/ I love to sleep alone anyway.” It’s a breakup song, but it doesn’t sound like she’s recovered. What are the song’s origins?

It’s about really having serious heartache after you’ve ended a relationship. It doesn’t mean that it was the wrong idea to end it, but it’s really hard to move on. I was also experiencing so much anxiety and so much sadness at the time, that I felt like I was really struggling to be in my physical body. It felt like there was so much heaviness and tightness in me that was completely emotional. And then my ex-girlfriend, she wrote me a lot of letters, and I kept them for a long time—I honestly think I haven’t thrown them out.

Everybody’s got that box somewhere.

Yeah. The song doesn’t feel like a pretty time, it feels like a really ugly time, and it was about being stuck on something, kind of stuck in general. Like, “Why do I still want to wear the clothes that you lent me? Like what is up with that? We broke up, why am I hanging on to something that is reminding me of something unhealthy?”

Do you see the D.C. music scene overall as more supportive or competitive?

Supportive. Because the music scene can be so saturated by music bros, if you’re a woman, or a queer person or a nonbinary person making art and you’re wanting people to witness it, there’s so much space for that because so many people want to see people that are not just men performing.

Give us a preview of the overall vibe and message of the EP.

The final song of the EP is called “Take Care.” I wrote it about my friends from Boston, where I grew up. The song arose out of seeing [an old friend] because I felt re-committed to taking care of my friendships. A lot of the songs echo that, which is that we have to take care of ourselves, we have to take care of each other.

Ultimately, it’s about getting to know yourself better; it’s my journey of how I got to know myself better and parsing out feelings and relationships, who I was in each of them and what I learned. I hope that it leaves people feeling empowered to honor themselves, feeling empowered to feel their feelings. And to feel more connected with themselves and with the rest of the world, because I think unapologetic intimacy is pretty powerful.

Lotion Princess will perform with Slow Love and Abby Huston opening at Pie Shop, 9 p.m. Saturday, $10-$12, sold out.

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