Sometimes, 350 words is really not enough. Such was the case when I sat down to write this week's article on LAKE. The band's Eli Moore and Ashley Eriksson each provided thoughtful answers for my questions regarding their new album, Giving and Receiving, thus leaving me with way more (awesome) information than I could ever include in a measly show follow. Let's do them a bit more justice, shall we?
LAKE plays at The Woods on Tuesday, April 12th with AgesandAges. From there, the two bands will embark on a full-US tour together. It's pretty much a no-brainer; get yourself there. Read the extended interview after the jump!
Giving and Receiving has a stunning handle on melody and pop sensibility (without feeling at all watered-down); can you cite any artists in particular that you've "studied" or find yourselves referring to in your music?
Eli Moore: This album certainly has some Steely Dan influence (like in "Roger Miller"), and some Sade influence (like in the title track "Giving & Receiving"), and an Ethiopian pop influence (like in "Mother Nature's Promise"). I do think this album is more cohesive than our last album, however, I still can't see much common influences between all the songs. Each song has it's own influences for sure, sometimes I'm not sure what they are though. "The Stars" is definitely a song that takes something from 70's Beach Boys material, while "Within/Without" was a song that started with a drum beat. I think the drum beat in my head sounded like a modern hip-hop track, but obviously the song went somewhere completely different, especially after bringing it to the band.
What are both of your musical backgrounds?
Ashley Eriksson: From a young age, I would obsessively sing harmonies on everything. I really attached to the idea of the "fifth Beatle" and would secretly project that I was the fifth Beatle. I was terrible at keeping on top of homework, and piano lessons involved a lot of that, so I didn't get as far as I should have with 5 years of piano lessons, but it still gave me a good foundation for when I would eventually start teaching myself how to play other instruments in high school.
My older brother, by 12 years, moved back home after college and got into writing music, mostly on the piano, so he really opened up my mind to that as I would listen to him for hours taking an idea and turning it into a song. My brother had a couple guitars and a cassette 4-track that he showed me how to use and pretty soon I was recording my own ideas.
EM: I grew up with a piano in the living room and my dad playing acoustic guitar. My uncle gave me my first electric guitar when I was 13. He was a big influence in my getting into playing "rock" and electric guitar in general. But I took piano lessons as a child as well; I loved playing piano and improvising, but i would get in trouble for not studying and learning the lessons/working on my music reading, so I eventually stopped wanting to go. I did learn how to play the Entertainer (by Scott Joplin) and some classical pieces, etc. it wasn't until I was maybe in 6th grade that I started wanting to take lessons again (for the sole purpose of learning how to play "The Way It is" by Bruce Hornsby"). My dad taught me how to play Beatles songs on the piano and guitar whenever I would ask. Neither of my parent's played proffesionally, but my mother taught Sunday school and sang songs to the kids accompanying herself on the autoharp. I became serious about music in 8th or 9th grade through the guitar. It was the only thing that I felt like I could be good at . It was a big aid to building self confidence and making friends, etc. And it was all I wanted to do after school, just sit and figure out the latest Soundgarden album. Or a Metallica ballad, etc.
I'm sure this question has been or will be continually asked, but I read that you you two (Eli and Ashley) recently got married! Congratulations! What is it like having found both a musical and life partner in one person?
AE: It's pretty special. I feel very fortunate. Being partners musically and romantically, I have found that we are able to write songs as a true collaboration, not just playing on eachothers' songs, which comes from having a deeper understanding of eachother.
EM: This has been a great thing! From the moment we met we knew we had a musical connection. We began making recordings together within minutes! It's especially convenient being in a touring band together. If we were not both in the band, I'm sure it would create tensions, being away from each other for months on end, etc. It's nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of. Of course we get in arguments over music as well, both having strong opinions. But in that regard, it helps that we both have the ability to record alone, play solo shows, and to feel autonomous musically. That's important. I think the songs we write collaboratively are some of our most successful pieces, which is a great feeling, the sum being greater than the parts.
Is this album mostly born of the collaboration between you two, or are the other LAKErs involved in its conception and recording?
AE: Oh, the LAKErs are always very involved in LAKE albums. When we bring the songs to the band, no matter how many parts we've already written, the songs and the parts still change when the whole band is playing together. The group dynamic has a unique sound particular to LAKE. When we're in the studio, the focus is not so much on the structure of the song anymore, but how we can get that particular recording to sound and how it fits with the other recordings. And then new ideas come flying out from every corner of the room; everyone there in the vicinity of that tape machine has an influence. I used to want a lot of control over "my" songs, but I definitely don't feel that way anymore. When we're in the studio, we start out by tracking the band playing the song live into the room, but then the next step is to do "over-dubs", which allows for a lot more instruments and melodies to be added to the song. I like for everyone else to write the new parts for the songs.
Can you describe your experiences working with Karl Blau? Is he responsible for the brass accoutrements on this latest record?
EM: Karl was around when we did most of the horns on this album, and he usually is, but Andrew is almost always our official arranger. Karl plays sax on any of the songs featuring sax though, and he always adds something unexpected. Karl wasn't around as much for this album as for Let's Build a Roof. We did all the basic tracking with Calvin Johnson, and then Karl came in to help us with mixing, horns, and some basic tracking (the instrumentals, and re recording Roger Miller). Karl is very very easy to work with, and has such a good attitude towards music. I really hope we can always have him around at some stage or another on our upcoming LAKE albums. He's a true artist and can't stop! We did our first album with Karl ( self titled/ orifinally released on his Kelp! label) and it was definitely the most exciting recording experience of my life. Just to see music through his eyes, it really opened our minds and still guides our views in the studio to this day.
Giving and Receiving seems coated in a particular sheen, and one that I don't always associate with the Pacific Northwest (though there are, of course, exceptions); in what ways do you find the area inspiring/nurturing of the music you create?
AE: The song "Bird and the Berry" is a true story about an environmentalist who sees an old-growth tree cut down for the first time. The song "Giving and Receiving" references the fish populations dying in the ocean (from over-fishing and toxicity.) I feel like these environmental stories are very personal to us and are so much a part of what we see every day in the Pacific Northwest. It's the trees. There are so many trees, and you see them all around you, every day. Evergreens that grow so big. But most of the trees you see are young, and there is a lack of mature forests from all of the logging.
EM: I always have a hard time answering this question. Being the only native northwestern member of the band it's all I've ever known. We have a strong community here and it's always easy to find help from other types of instrumentalists. Also, Ashley and I live in the woods and I think that is a very supportive environment for peace. Seeing trees when you step outside, not cars, roads, telephone wires and buildings is a great feeling. We have actually done a lot of our writing over the years in California, where Ashley is from, in the LA area. Ashley and I met in LA, in Malibu actually and that's where we first recorded together, at my uncle's house there. So that's a very inspiring place that we still visit and record at, for demos, etc. Also, we've written a fair amount of material from the new album in Sweden at Ashley's dad's cabin in a more northern, very remote area of the country.
Are there any traceable themes suffused throughout Giving and Receiving?
EM: Well, there's a couple songs addressing the role of the creative artist and creativity ( One Small Step, Roger Miller). There are a couple songs that are kind of from a perspective of looking at humanity from the future, seeing all the destruction and harm, environmental irresponsibility, and death and questioning where we're at spiritually and physically (Giving & Receiving, Skeleton Costume, the Bird and the Berry, Distant Stars). And there's a song about social consciousness and equality, gay marriage (Mother Nature's Promise).
And plenty about spiritual growth/salvation, God, and right and wrong (Within/Without, Pilgrim's Day). I'd say in general the title does a good job of reflecting the themes of the album. It's all in there. It's looking at modernity and our society critically.
Any ways in which you think your overall sound has developed or grown?
AE: I keep thinking that this is our New Age record. There's some kind of adult-contemporary sound that we've taken to the next level.
The show at The Woods will find you in the midst of a pretty extensive US tour; do you take kindly to "the road?" How do you best reckon with it? What's your favorite part about it?
EM: My favorite part of the road is definitely all the great friends we've made over the years. And seeing the country is a really great gift. I don't particularly like touring for long periods of time, but we live in such a big country that it's not really worth going all the way to the east coast quickly; you might as well make a 6 week trip out of it. I feel like on tour I sincerely fall in love with maybe 1 or 2 in 5 shows; the rest are usually good, but not as "touched" for me. The playing music part of tour is definitely the good part. I love singing to people I don't know and hearing from people that like our band who we don't even know personally, what an amazing feeling! It's over all good. I just wish we could get away with doing 2-3 week tours instead of mega tours. Though, I don't love sitting in the car for 10 hours a day, nor the small plastic bottles of water, garbage, burning tons and tons of gas.
AE: The road is so hard on the back. Oh, is it ever. Though, it is just so incredible to get to see so many places and have a sense of where people come from. I just wish we could take a yoga instructor with us to do yoga every day. I suppose we do our own yoga and exercises. Some tours we got especially into hacky-sacking during bathroom breaks at gas stations. None of us are any good at it.