The Lay Of The Land – An Interview With Lydia Cole

Lydia Cole
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Busy, busy

Auckland singer/songwriter Lydia Cole has just come home from a short Australian tour promoting her second album, The Lay Of The Land, which came out a few weeks ago. She’s in a weird state between excitement and exhaustion.

“On ­­­­­­Monday I flew back. I did three shows in four days. It was kind of insane. I have never been more tired or thoroughly exhausted in my mind and body than I was this weekend.

“It was awesome though. Totally pays off and definitely worth it.” she hastily adds.

Lydia Cole Live

Image: Josh Yong

Cole will continue the tour locally across our three main centres over the coming few weeks, before emigrating to Berlin in a couple of months. She has spent the day trying to organise the logistics and equipment for her next few shows.

“The stress has been pretty insane over the past month, but I’m learning to break it down. I’m not sure about the details for the Wellington show, because I’m just thinking about this weekend, you know? I’ll worry about Wellington next week, which is the only way for me to cope with everything.

“At the moment it’s literally too much work for me to do. I did the Kickstarter, and there’s something like 260 people that I have to send CD’s or different rewards to. I’m definitely not up with all of that. Maybe half of the rewards are in boxes waiting me to package and address and send out.

“But I figure if those people have waited 18 months than they won’t be bothered about another few weeks … hopefully” she chuckles.

“I’ve never been this busy before. It’s like full-time plus. But I’m really grateful for it, because I know it doesn’t always happen that way.”

A new album

The Lay Of The Land is a stunning follow-up to 2012’s Me & Moon. She’s pleased with the album. Me & Moon left her anxious about what people would think, whereas this time around Cole is has had long enough to sit on the songs and is happy that they represent her well at this moment of time, and realises that they don’t have to define her forever.

“In the studio when I was recording it I was very anxious. And I don’t know if it was because I was subconsciously thinking that there was 260 people hoping to like this. The grassroots support from an array of people – the Kickstarter people – was one of the big reasons why I decided to go that way. Firstly: it was financial, but secondly: I don’t have a label or a publicist or anything – it was just me at that stage, doing my own thing – and I realised that doing Kickstarter was a way to have a few hundred people aware that I was going to release something. They’re waiting, so you already have a bunch of people on your buzz already. They’re loyal. They’ve invested with their money already and they’re likely to tell their friends and follow what you’re doing, so it’s cool.”

Lydia Cole Lay Of The Land Album

Cole had quit her job and sought contributions from her fans via crowdfunding site Kickstarter to help her fund the recording process. She managed to raise the $15,000 within only five days, and since recording the album a year ago has worked hard to piece together the package that has become her album. This has involved finalising the album art, creating music videos, having band rehearsals and waiting for the CDs and vinyl records to get pressed

When you look at what she has put out, you can understand why it has taken so long. Take, for example, the incredible stop motion video for “Telepathise”. Cole teamed up with ex-pat animator Timothy Armstrong to create this brilliant clip that is not only visually stunning, but complements the song so well. It took Armstrong a whole month to make, and could have easily taken three times as long.

There are so many intricate details in the video. Armstrong discussed at length with Cole what types of trees she likes and what animals she wanted featured. He painstakingly created the layered images atop a Lazy Susan table and spent a lot of time manipulating small lights to create the different effects you see in the video [example here].

Cole is also super excited about having vinyl copies of the new album available.

“I was living at home a few years ago with Mum and Dad and they had an old record player. I’ve got a small collection: Louis Armstong, Sufjan Stevens, Ryan Adams, Phoenix Foundation (fun!). Since I’ve gone flatting I haven’t had a record player and have had to shelf them, but listening to records is like making coffee for me. It’s a physical routine: you chuck it on, put the needle down and it’s more of a tangible moment to enjoy.

“Look, I’m not a big sound-y person and don’t understand technical stuff very much but I did have an inkling that the warmth and the textures – a lot of the synth sounds on this album – would suit a vinyl sound. It was real cool when the test pressing arrived and I chucked it on. It sounded so good – I think it really suits it. I’m stoked with that.

“And they’re selling really well at shows and online as well. I sold a whole bunch to people in Germany and all through Europe, which is awesome! Hopefully they all make it in one piece!”

Nic MAnders plays keys for Lydia Cole

Nic Manders on keys. Image: Josh Yong

Moving abroad

Berlin represents a fresh start and new challenges. Going from support slots for big name artists and Silver Scroll award nominations to being a nobody on the opposite side of the planet.

“I’m very aware that I’ll become nobody. I’m excited to start afresh and meet people and go to gigs and busk and see who reacts to me on the street. I’ve always had Nic Manders produce my stuff, and he won’t be there. Over there I’ll be doing home recordings and stretching myself in that way as well.

“I’m a real big fan of sustainable and thorough growth. Like, chipping away at your character, chipping away at a project that means a lot to you instead of hoping for that overnight success that doesn’t actually mean anything. I apply that to my music and to my personal growth. I think that the slower you grow, then the more concrete that change will be.”

Connecting with musicians

We spend some time enthusiastically discussing the Sufjan Stevens shows we had each been to when he came last year. He embodies that type of musician Cole aspires to be like, just an upfront guy who is also a talented musician. She shares that these are the types of people she tries to share a stage with as well.

Luke Oram plays guitar for Lydia Cole

Luke Oram on guitar. Image: Josh Yong

“A guy called Chris from Christchurch is coming up to Auckland to support me. He messaged me on Facebook to say ‘Hi, here’s a link to my latest song on Soundcloud and I’d like to support you’. I really liked it. I’ve never met him and have seen no footage of him playing live so it’s like a fun little risk that I’m taking.

“In Australia it was real interesting trying to find people to support me. And I was lucky with that too. I got a couple of real cool people. I think musicians have pretty amazing stories a lot of the time so it was cool to bump into more people who have crazy stories.

“People who play music in similar genres to what I play – they’re writing from the heart and writing about stuff that matters to them. Usually when I click with someone like that it’s often on a personal level as well, so you make a really good friend out of that, which is nice.”

Success

Authenticity is something Cole values. She presents herself as she is, flaws and all. She chooses not to wear makeup and her personal lyrics can leave her feeling incredibly exposed, but she’d prefer to be seen as genuine than perfect.

“When I was younger I thought that not needing a day job meant you’ve made it, but I’ve changed my perspective on what success means.

“Success to me is balance and health. The past little while I’ve been working part-time in a café, and doing music the rest of the time. The café work helps keep me social and personally healthy, and not going all crazy in my head. And it pays the bills. And that to me is success.”

Lydia Cole has four more NZ shows before moving to Germany to continue her personal and musical growth. With hundreds of people paying to help fund her music and a likely three sold out shows on this tour, it’s hard not to agree that she has done well for herself. We wish her the best of luck starting afresh overseas.


Lydia Cole tour details

Auckland  – The Wine Cellar, March 2 – SOLD OUT

Christchurch  – Space Academy, March 3

Auckland – The Vic, March 10 – SOLD OUT

Wellington – Meow Bar, March 11


Links

Bandcamp: https://lydiacole.bandcamp.com/

Tumblr: http://www.lydiacole.tumblr.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lydiacolemusic

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lydia-Cole/24107578241

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/lydiaalice

Words by Joseph James

All photos taken by Josh Yong at the Wine Cellar on February 14 and provided by Lydia Cole

Album Review: Klone – Unplugged (Live Acoustic Album)

Klone Unplugged Album Cover
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Hailing from France, Klone are a prog rock band signed with Pelagic-records. They have released an acoustic album Unplugged, acting as a pseudo greatest-hits. Sourced from their previous two albums, the songs stripped bare and performed acoustically take on a new life. Throw in a fantastic Depeche Mode cover of “People are People” and you have a curious proposition.

The songs were recorded live at Théâtre de La Coupe d’Or, with two exceptions recorded in the studio. They offer an opportunity to hear musicians with nowhere to hide.

I’d not heard Klone before writing this review, now based on the singer’s voice alone I want to hear more. This is not the first time a rock artist has taken their music and stripped away the bells and whistles to leave the pure songwriting on display.

The first artist that springs to mind for me is Alice in Chains with their infamous Live on MTV album and video. It shows a band ravaged by drug abuse, yet still capable of incredible art. The songs usually associated with distorted guitars and walls of noise become more delicate and nuanced and take on a new life.

Wow. That cover of “People are People” is good.

The stock footage video that they’ve cobbled together fits well with the musical content. Depeche Mode seem to be a consistent thread amongst bands that I like. One of those hidden influences woven into sounds of music that has taken the next step down that sonic road. From In Flames covering “Everything Counts”; Mike Shinoda‘s (Linkin Park) excellent remix of “Enjoy the Silence”; A Perfect Circle‘s and now Klone‘s cover of “People are People”. Each version demonstrates what people take from the band and how they honour it in their own style. Those covers listed above are so vastly different, yet they all honour the same band. It’s brilliant.

If there is one thing I could criticise about this release, is the lack of backing vocals. As powerful and beautiful as the singer’s voice is – it’s hard not to imagine it being better with harmonies or other voices to play off. I’m not expecting The Beach Boys levels of vocal harmonies, but something to add another dimension to what is a very solid vocal performance.

The musicianship receives top marks, there is nothing that stands out as distracting from the song. Not having heard Klone in “Rock mode” I’m now curious how the songs will translate. No doubt for fans of the band they will have the same nerves about hearing their favourite tracks done acoustically.

Well worth a listen, it’s a great low-key soundtrack for a weekend.

Klone Unplugged Review Promo Pic


Klone’s new album Unplugged is due out on Pelagic Records on February 17 2017

Links:
Official: http://www.klonosphere.com/klone
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kloneband
Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/kloneofficial
Label: http://www.pelagic-records.com

This review was originally posted by Murray Stace at his site Relative Silence

EP Review: Macatier – This Boat Is Definitely Sinking

Macatier This Boat Is Definitely Sinking cover
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I’m still on a high after seeing Frank Turner play in Wellington recently, so it’s fitting that I write about another English singer with a folk-punk sound.

Dan Brown comes from Surrey, England. He performs under the moniker Macatier, and he has recently released a new EP named This Boat Is Definitely Sinking. 

Brown defines his style as “upbeat acoustic”. I’m going to lump him in with folk-punk because acoustic and folk go together, and because he has opened for bands like Brand New, Saves The Day and The Xcerts, making him a member of punk circles… or close enough anyway.

The twangy ‘Thousand Yard Stare’ is a real stomper, deliberately picked and strummed with a real purpose.

The intro to ‘Panic Attack’ sounds like a warped acoustic “Kashmir”, before transitioning into an upbeat ditty. ‘Panic Attack’ was my personal fave, with plenty of dynamic changes, and an interesting rounds-style outro.

‘Swimming To Canada’ has been picked as the lead single. I’d actually say that it isn’t even the best song on the EP, but after a few listens the song got caught in my head, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad choice. It is certainly the catchiest song on the EP, with the stop/start strums syncopated against the chorus.

The aptly named ‘Sleep Song’ is slower and stripped back, as one would expect from the title. Almost being a lullaby, it’s the least memorable song. That said, the effects are nice (it could be a slide guitar) and the “ba da da’s” at the end seem like a nice way to send us off.

I couldn’t comment on how the EP was recorded, but it sounds pretty raw and unpolished, as you may come to expect from an indie artist. However, if you listen carefully you may pick that the songs haven’t been recorded in one take. There is the inclusion of drums, layered vocal tracks, and added guitar feedback. It begs the question: if you are going to try some tricks to make the recording better, why not try others? I know that I argued for the opposite in my recent Gary Clark Jr review, saying that he lost some of his bluesy feel because his album was mastered too cleanly, but having a quality recording and accurately capturing an authentic vibe aren’t necessarily prerequisite of each other.

If a British singer playing rough-around-the-edges punk-styled songs on an acoustic guitar sounds like your thing, then give Macatier a go.


You can stream/download This Boat Is Definitely Sinking on Soundcloud.

Macatier:     Facebook      Twitter      Blog

 

 

Joseph James