A chat with Danny from Laish, Willkommen Collective & Sons of Noel and Adrian
How's the music scene in Brighton today and how did LAISH come into existence?
It is very strong. It is the reason I live in this little seaside town. Bands always come here on a UK tour so we get a lot of inspirational musicians passing through each day. The local scene is very cluttered with so many music venues in such a small area and so many great musicians working in different genres.
I was lucky enough to meet the folks from Sons of Noel and Adrian when I first arrived in town and ended up becoming their drummer. I formed the LAISH band as a musical outlet for my own song writing and spent a couple of years making all the mistakes and learning about home recording and mixing and how to play and write with other people.
Sons was very helpful for this, especially because it is the most unlikely of bands. There was a time when we had 12 members and yet somehow it still worked. It made sorting my band out seem easy, although I never really think any of it is easy.
Described as "indie folk heroes from Brighton" how would you describe your sound for people yet to hear your songs?
We started this thing called the Willkommen Collective which was a way of carving out our own identity. Somehow connected, feeding from the same musical well and yet a lot of contrasting personalities and musical styles. It certainly helped to create some intrigue in our own little scene. I am very impressed by all the musicians who have counted themselves as part of the collective and I think it's fair to say that we are all friends however loosely you might define that.
New Album out now on Bandcamp (it's pre-order at the moment) and on 25th March physically, any stories around the songs that you would like to share?
The album is called Obituaries. This is quite a heavy word; loaded with meaning and yet it is open to possibilities. Obituaries themselves tend to be short; listing the achievements and headlines of a person's life. How would yours read? I'm sure as a child I imagined myself growing up to do something vaguely important or useful, but there comes that realisation. What would that thing be? Of all the things to do with one's life, music is the ultimate in pissing in the wind. And now recorded music is digital if we needed further proof of its intangibility.
With that in mind, the album was mostly written following a painful breakup. It is an account of the breakdown of that relationship and the possibility of redemption. Classic songs of sex and death.
What was the spark that made you decide music was going to be your career and did you consider any other careers seriously?
I was 12, hanging out with kids from school. I felt a bit lonely and insecure and like an odd one out because I didn’t understand all the group dynamics that were going on, nor was I interested in trying to crack them. I just wanted to talk about interesting things and do something productive. Not just hang around doing nothing.
I started feeling very bored. In truth or dare I admitted freely which boy I fancied and everyone freaked out, like I had done something wrong, laughed and ridiculed me. That was it for me. I left this silly party, went home, locked myself in my room, listen to my favourite choir piece, wept and promised myself that I would dedicate my life to music.
It’s very dramatic, I know. But I was (and still can be) overly serious as a child and teen. For example I couldn’t sleep the whole night before my 13th birthday because I was in such terror, believing that this was the turning point where my childhood would come to an "end"
Are there any particular stories you would like to share behind the songs on the new album?
Not now, maybe later.
You sing in Icelandic and English, how does that effect your song writing and the structure of your songs?
I approach songs and the art of writing from a musical place only. I write them, arrange them, internalise them in my mind completely before executing them on instruments. Usually the lyrics come just before I record, so they are non influential to the song writing process.
How would you describe your song writing process on the basis that you have a constantly evolving sound across your three albums so far?
I think the process changes as I exhaust styles and ways of playing that I like. Once I saturate a style, I'm forced to try and search for new ways or else everything will sound the same.
Is there any theme to your new album or, do your songs have their own individuality. Any stories around any of the new songs that you would like to share?
These songs are basically about the creative struggle within to try and stay excited, surprised, and interesting to myself. They're also about honouring all of my musical heroes that have influenced me so much.
How is life in the recording studio? Are songs ready to go when you arrive or do they take shape on in the studio with the band more?
They are ready. I work on the demos at home and get them fully formed. In the studio, I just re-record all the parts so they are better quality. The producer then suggests what parts to let go of and gives structural suggestions.
New UK single due out on March 4th is ‘Red Rover, Red Rover’, in the U.S. it was your song ‘Edinburgh ’, what drives the choice of which song to release where?
To be honest, I’m not really that engaged in that process for the most part. Typically the label will listen and work with a radio plugger to determine what they think is best. ‘Edinburgh’, on the other hand, was entirely my idea.
Your fifth full-length album, ‘Thumbtacks + Glue’, is out on 25th February. What do you feel is the biggest difference between that and your last LP Die Stadt Muzikanten, for you personally and, for us the listeners?
Last time around I really wanted to push out as much pop music as I possibly could to make one last kind of pop statement. This time around I wanted the resonances of instruments to matter more than the actual notes sometimes, to find new ways to make beautiful sounds like rubbing wineglass rims and old bits of tapes and such. There’s a bit more noise and grit here for sure. Song-wise, there’s far less of a verse-chorus-verse mandate going on (although there are still examples of that, of course).
Content-wise, I’m really trying to focus on the idea of how 1,000 things hold you back vs. just one or two major elements in your life. For ages I kept living in the same city because I had a piano, and I thought things like, “I can’t move – I have a piano!” Putting all of those things together like jobs, obligations, hobbies, etc. can be a pretty terrifyingly concrete barrier to your ever moving on or breaking free. Think of Gulliver’s Travels – 1,000 little strings held by those Lillipudlians, holding down a giant who just can’t get anywhere because there are so many small things keeping him immobile.
Lisa Germano talks about her new record 'No elephants'
Hi Lisa, how are you today and is the sun shining?
Hi Pete, beautiful day here
Your ninth full-length album, ‘No Elephants’, is out in the U.K. on 25th March. What do you feel is the biggest difference between this and you’re last LP, ‘Magic Neighbor’ for you personally and, for us the listeners?
Well it's a different attitude...Magic Neighbor was about day time life ...just trying to see the day. This album is more specific about how we treat ourselves and how that goes into the world these days concerning the food we eat and the abuse of the earth and it's animals, insects, all beings. How we're f*cking it up by not being aware of it all. Plugged in to our stupid devices to communicate quicker and faster and not actually communicating at all.
Have you felt a natural progression across your all your albums or do you consider them stand alone and individual pieces of music?
I think all my records stand on their own about certain things I was struggling with and this one is no different...only the ideas about what I’m trying to communicate are different here.
Has your approach to song writing changed over the years and does your hometown or early years in the music industry influence your writing today?
My song writing is always the same...find things you need to communicate to yourself, strip them down to why I may think other people may feel the same way. It’s always about stripping words and emotions down to what I really feel and think is worth sharing.
Are there any particular stories that you would like to share behind the new songs on the record?
Oh just the unconsciousness of our life these days and how that affects the earth and it's beings in general. So many things I didn't even know about until a few years ago. Like foie gras...how it's actually made. The abuse on factory farms. Shark fining for soup? Clubbing baby seals for fur no one needs. So much abuse of animals to do ridiculous things for us to eat and how we are brainwashed to not think about it...but then, how I see how we treat ourselves first...then it goes out there. We are really f*cked up these days in our ignoring everything around us....
Would you say the new record differs from your previous releases in the recording approach, new instruments, samples, effects used?
Everything changes, in the past I had a band and the music was bigger. When you have a record deal with money like on 4AD I could see what other people add.I didn't sell records so, as time goes by, it feels right to do what’s going on now. Try to express yourself with what you have?
I keep stripping down because that's all I have. and my producer Jamie Candiloro knows this and helps me to do what I can, he made this record sound so good! With just me and him and then we added Sebastian Steinberg on acoustic bass on a couple of tracks which made it whole.