I recently had the chance to sit down with UK band, Louellen, who are currently gearing up for the debut release The Watchclock EP. It has been a few years in the making and fans have been dying to hear the completed product for some time now, it's also safe to say that they won't be disappointed. The band's use of drones, multiple layers and superb storytelling has produced a release that could fit in anywhere on the Beggars Group roster. We talked about the writing and recording process, their future plans and where they go from here now that the ball has officially started rolling. Find out how the band has progressed and what they have learned from the whole experience so far below and make sure you purchase the EP from here on March 3rd.
AP: The Watchclock EP finally has a definite release date. It’s been a good couple of years as a process of recording and getting it out there. Was there any particular reasons or hurdles to cross which lead to it being a long process in the end?
Christian: One of the main reasons it took so long is because, being self-recorded/produced, we could only get into the studio when it wasn't being used. So we were at the mercy of other people’s schedules or down time. There was also a long period of time where we had no permanent 4th member, so most of our time was spent trying to find someone to fill the space. The line-up changes meant we had to re-record a lot of parts.
Richard: The bulk of the EP was actually written several years ago, so you’re right, it has taken a lot of time and dedication to finish. To start with, because we have been working on the project independently, cost is always a big factor. We also went through a few variations on our line up as Christian said, which in turn had an effect on the songs we had recorded. We took the decision to re-record a few of the tracks as we felt they weren’t a true representation of where we were as a band at that point.
Recording, that was one part of it done. Mixing threw in another factor. When you are mixing your own project you need everything to be just as you envisioned, there was an awful lot of long night mix sessions, listening to the outcome, and wanting to go back and tweak a few weeks later because a handful of things didn’t sound just how we wanted them. I guess that’s the beauty of working with a producer. You write the tracks, share a vision, and it’s their job to get that final product out of you but what we did was very different. There are still a lot of things I can hear in our tracks that make me think, “what if we’d made that bit louder” or “I wish we dropped that bit out.”
Tom: I also think that one of the main reasons for the delay was translating the songs to a live situation without having them sound empty. That is pretty much why I was drafted into the band, so I could fill out the space and sounds that you hear on the EP. Now we have a proper line-up it makes sense to get everything moving.
AP: How does it feel to now have your first physical and digital release complete and ready for sale? Are you proud of it?
Christian: It feels good to actually have something out there that's complete and we're happy with, so we can move on to what’s coming next.
Joss: I’m proud of the EP yet relieved to have it finished. We’ve been playing some of the songs live for years now so its nice to finally have them recorded and available for people to listen to in there completed state. I think we can finally draw a line under some of these songs now and move on to developing and recording some of the newer stuff.
AP: Is there a certain attraction to any of the songs in particular? With most of them going through minor to major changes, do you feel more connected to any of them due to spending more time tweaking maybe?
Richard: It can definitely work both ways; there are tracks on there that I may have lost a bit of love for due to all the tweaking. But then again, you can be mixing a song and change one thing and it suddenly becomes a whole new song to you just because you made that one adjustment. For me, “Young Hollywood” was a track that Joss and I spent a lot of time trying to get right and it actually wasn’t until we got it back from mastering that it all came together. It was a great feeling to know that all it was missing was a little bit of an outsider’s touch.
Joss: In some respects the longer you spend working on and tweaking a song the more frustrated and disillusioned you can get with it. “Bright Paint On A White Wall” for example, I think that version on the EP is about the forth one we’ve done. Because we’ve been playing that song for so long we’ve had to adapt the recording to correspond with how the band has changed over the past couple of years.
Tom: My connection now comes mainly through our live setting. The way we play some of the songs live like “Salao” where we add a longer intro and an instrumental outro is where I really get my connection.
AP: One of the stand out and most notable things about your songs is always the amount of detail that seems to go into each one of the multiple layers, including Christian’s lyrics which tell some really great/descriptive stories. What is the song writing process like for you as a group? Maybe tell us how a typical song would come to life?
Richard: When the band started, Christian and I would spend hours just trying to picture all of the elements around what was essentially two guitar parts, it was very tricky and involved a lot of back and forth. It’s very liberating now working as a full band, we can really get stuck into an idea together and bring our own ideas into the process, bouncing them off one another until we get to a point where we have something that works really well.
Joss: The good thing about where the band is now in terms of line up is that we are all able to contribute and get involved in the songwriting process. As a band, we do work on each aspect of the song in detail and will often try out a range of ideas for each part until we can settle on something that we are all happy with. Hopefully this attention to detail stands out as a whole when people listen to the songs.
AP: Christian, how easy is it for you to come up with lyrics? What is that process like and what tends to influence your writing?
Christian: I don't really write lyrics like a songwriter, which can be a problem when they are put together with the music. They usually end up needing to be chopped down and switched around in order to work better. I write from experiences, not necessarily personal, I can't really do it any other way.
AP: “Enid” is about author, Enid Blyton, right? What was it about her life or works in particular that lead to you constructing a song about her?
Christian: I read and listened to Enid Blyton’s books when I was little without really knowing or caring about her personal life. After watching the BBC's film Enid (accurate or not) it added a different spin to the stories. I guess I found that interesting.
AP: Have you already started working on new songs and is there a different approach to writing following this experience with the Watchclock EP?
Richard: We have a number of tracks that are pretty much complete. We’ve been playing them live to try and gauge what works and then making small adjustments to the arrangements. We are all very keen to try and get our follow up out there as soon as possible, so the biggest change will be our approach to recording and mixing. I’d love to just spend two weeks focusing on it, I’m sure it will make for a very different sounding record. Not to mention that we have all come a long way since we started the EP, it’s only natural that it may take a slightly different stance.
Joss: I think a significant difference for the next set of recordings will be that we will approach the recording as a proper band this time round. Hopefully we can have the songs and individual parts finalized before beginning recording which should lead to less tweaking in the studio and a quicker turnaround.
Tom: Also because of the new line up, the writing is more collaborative and we tend to try and write a lot faster so we don't get too stuck on layers. Since we all pretty much love the same music, it’s not hard to talk about ideas for songs no matter how ambiguous we sound at the time.
AP: What are your plans for the rest of 2012?
Richard: Gigging and promoting the EP aside, maybe a few months down the line start working on a follow-up and get that out to the world. We’d love to play some festivals over summer, but other than that we will just continue doing what we do and see where it takes us.
Joss: I think the most important thing for us now is to keep writing and recording new material. We’re very excited about some of the newer songs we’ve come up with and hopefully it won’t be too long before people will be able to hear it recorded.
AP: It’s often spoken about in a very dramatic way, particularly by the British press, that “guitar music is dying/dead”. What are your thoughts on this and the state of British music in particular right now?
Richard: Guitar music is an incredibly broad term. I don’t think it’s possible to take the vast number of genre’s that fall under guitar music and say that they are dead. I know that people are listening to a lot more music that takes influence from the more electronic end of the spectrum and that may be what is “in” at the moment, those bands probably do well for themselves getting played on Radio 1, but we’ve never been a Radio 1 band.
Joss: I don’t think guitar music will ever die. It always seems to come and go in regards to mainstream popularity and as there is not much guitar music in the charts or whatever at the moment the press are just making a big deal out of it.
Tom: Yeah, I've read that a lot recently and I completely disagree. Guitar music will never fade , it just seems to rise and falls at certain times. Eventually people will get sick of the electro-pop or whatever that’s dominating the mainstream and radio stations at the moment and will turn to bands to revitalise music once again. There are some great British bands killing it at the moment The Maccabees, Bombay Bicycle and The Vaccines to name a few with The Cribs about to come back on form.
AP: With that being considered, what are you listening to most lately?
Richard: I’ve just discovered Broadcast, I really love the raw beauty between Trish Keenan’s vocals and the edgy electronic keyboards. Also, a band from Calgary called Women who are great, I’m a big fan of Sonic Youth and they take a lot of influence from them but fuse it into really interesting songs.
Tom: The Antlers, The Maccabees, Interpol, Deerhunter and Blackfleet.
AP: What are your aspirations as a band? Do you have an idea of where you’d like to be in say 12 months from now?
Richard: I love the creative process of being in a band, so I’d love to be in a place where in 12 months time we are pushing ourselves to write and come up with exciting new material. Hopefully some people will enjoy listening to it on the way allowing us to spend time doing more of the same, playing gigs and spreading the word.
Joss: I’d like to think in 12 months we would have released some newer material for people to hear. Hopefully the release of the Watchclock EP will allow us to build up a bigger profile so when we do release new songs there will be more people waiting to hear them.