You know that feeling ― and perhaps you’ve been feeling it more recently as the world seems to speed up all around ― when you suddenly realize you’ve forgotten to breathe properly? You suddenly notice your bated breath, exhale in a woosh, then breathe in from your belly, perhaps feeling your previously-unnoticed clenched jaw relax in the process.
This is what listening to the soothing vocal harmonies and gentle guitar melodies of LVDY feels like. Indeed, it’s what duo Aubrey Mable and Kathleen Hooper invite you to embrace with their poetic original lyrics. In the song “Lean In,” the pair’s voices twine effortlessly in close harmony while singing, “Lean in, breathe in, you’re alive.” As the song begins, the sweet call of birdsong twitters in the distance. The soft rhythmic tap of percussion joins in before long, and by the song’s conclusion a driving chorus lifts the song to new heights, a spirited ode to life.
In a world where public exhalation went abruptly from perfectly normal to odiously out of vogue practically overnight in 2020, the ability to collectively exhale, to breathe deeply, is its own sort of release. For Hooper and Mable, who last week performed for an unmasked audience for the first time since the pandemic began, seeing smiling faces and people singing along to their songs once more felt both like a powerful reminder of purpose and a great honor to stand in front of a live audience once more and share their hearts.
“It just felt like an exhale,” said Mable, who moved to Telluride during the pandemic and has yet to experience much of the valley’s robust performing arts scene.
Hooper, who lives near Denver, observed that at the onset of the pandemic when the entertainment industry began to shut down, LVDY (pronounced Lady) had recently picked up quite a bit of momentum following a successful European tour as the indie-folk duo promoted their debut EP, “Electricity.” When shows were abruptly canceled and public singing was declared a “high risk” activity, it prompted something of an identity crisis.
“I felt like, ‘Who am I if I’m not a singer?’” recalled Hooper, who developed a passion for singing in early childhood with parents who both sang and played music.
Yet as the months wore on and it became all too clear that the downtime was not going to be a matter of weeks, the pair began to channel their natural creativity into new outlets. The two embraced the hustle, creating new LVDY merchandise, making jewelry, teaching online voice classes, performing virtual shows and even performing in front yards last summer to share their music outdoors and socially distanced.
“In a way, it was fun because it sparked our creativity in ways we would never have had to do otherwise,” said Hooper, recalling the virtual events, dance contests, and Instagram challenges they used to draw engagement. “Knowing that our job is to connect people, to make people feel things, it gave us this new opportunity to say, ‘Hey, these are some new ways you can enjoy our music and support us.’”
They wrote news songs and worked on their latest album, “Gold,” which they released in April 2021, but of course, it wasn’t always easy to find momentum and connection through screens.
“We had to find grace for ourselves in those moments of doubt and potential fear or stress,” Hooper said, adding, “A lot of really epic music comes after disaster, so I know that there’s a lot of beauty ahead.”
Throughout the ups and downs of the past year, one thing that has remained steadfast is the duo’s foundation of deep friendship. The two met in 2012 while studying abroad in New Zealand and found the kind of instant connection that’s often a prelude to lifelong friendship. It was later, when life circumstances led Mable to move back to Denver and onto Hooper’s couch for a couple of months, that the friends began making music together in earnest. Eventually, they began to shift from a repertoire of fun cover songs to an outpouring of soulful original music, and LVDY was born.
Sharing their music with others, the duo noted, is not something they take for granted, and seeing people show up, enjoy their songs and support them feels like a cherished privilege. They hope that by sharing their music, people can find a space to connect with each other, the music and themselves without judgment or fear, said Mable.
Hooper agreed. “We hope people find that sense of belonging, that they have permission to be their fullest selves and to know that they’re included in the spaces that we create. Whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone, and if the song feels like it was written just for you, then it probably was.”
When asked to describe the feeling they each find through the synergy of making music together, the duo only needed one word each.
“Magic,” said Mable.
“Peace,” said Hooper.