WHEN RENOWNED singer/songwriters Neko Case, Laura Veirs, and KD Lang announced a musical partnership earlier this year, their union came with a utilitarian name—case/lang/veirs—and a seemingly unlikely origin.
The story goes, Lang messaged Veirs and Case out of the blue proposing that they make music together. The three women had never before considered starting a band. Veirs had met Lang once a few years prior, at a benefit show at the Aladdin Theater, but the two didn't hatch any grand musical plans. Still, Lang connected with something she saw in Veirs that night.
"I was singing Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson songs with Wes Stace, and I was super pregnant and moonwalking," Veirs says with a laugh. "I don't know, maybe she liked that."
But for years Lang had admired Veirs and Case from afar. So after moving to Portland in 2012 and meeting the two women, she reached out about collaborating.
"I had just had my second kid and she said, 'We should make a record.' I was like, 'Let me check my schedule. I'm free,'" Veirs says. "But I was so not free. I had a newborn and a three-year-old and [her producer husband] Tucker [Martine] was super busy. I was like, 'Really? Okay.'"
That correspondence set off a three-year journey for Case, Lang, and Veirs that culminated this month with the release of the supergroup's self-titled debut, a 14-track collection of sublime, grown-up pop songs that shimmer and sigh with unhurried charm and outsized melodies. Throughout case/lang/veirs, each of the artists' most distinctive qualities surface here and there—Lang's soulful voice, Case's unconventional lyricism, Veirs' winsome folk tunes—but as a whole, the group's sound hangs together beautifully.
Making case/lang/veirs came with exactly the kind of logistical and artistic challenges you might expect when three successful musicians decide to write and record songs together. But ultimately, the trio settled into a creative groove, where Veirs would hand over songs she'd been working on, and Lang and Case would look for ways to bend and shape them in new directions. Veirs speaks wondrously about observing her partners' "little tricks and flashes of brilliance" up close.
"I was cranking them out. I was so driven. I was like, 'Dude, we have to make this happen because it's going to be awesome. Here are nine songs. Mess with them,'" she says. "So I was not that protective of them. For whatever reason, I can let go and just churn out material."
The band recorded case/lang/veirs at Martine's Portland studio, and so far, reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Now, it's time to take the show on the road. While Veirs has no problem letting go of her songs, she has to work harder to let go of her imposter syndrome—the feeling that she doesn't belong on stage with Lang and Case. But she's getting there quickly, thanks largely to the mutual respect of her collaborators.
"We all respect each other as artists and see each other as equals in a way. We're all confident but none of us are like, 'I'm a god. I rule,'" she says. "We're all humble and a little bit scared, but you've got to step up. This is our time to reap the rewards of all the waiting and writing and working [and] just enjoy each other."