Hi Bobby D! It’s quite nice to get to chat with you about your recent mini-album The Light, what’s in store for you next, and to also dig a bit into your past and ask about your debut album Las Olas which was released in February 2010.
I was really taken by your atmospheric mini-album The Light which envelops the listener with its dark, spectral, cool-tone arrangements. Your style is listed as ‘experimental/psychedelic/shoegazer’ at your MySpace profile and I think you’re sound has also been called dream-pop, but to me it verges on nightmare-pop (and I mean that in a good way!) due to the somewhat sinister current of synths, the hollow, cold center of your songs, and Billie’s hazy, distanced vocals.
When did you decide to get together to form Low Sea and what are your sonic influences? I’m detecting early Cocteau Twins and Cranes in the allowance for a certain dark wave emptiness at the core of your songs. Am I on target or is my radar shot?
Well, we started playing together as a group in the Summer of 2008. We were both living in the South of France at the time, though the sound then was initially in a more psychedelic folk/shoegaze kind of vein. We initially went about things in a more traditional, 4/5 piece band kind of set up – 2 guitarists, bass, drums, vocals. No synths. After a while, Billie and I felt we were both wanting to pull the band’s sound in a different direction, and were looking to experiment with synths, vintage keyboard sounds, samples, etc… As for influences, well, we both listen to all kinds of music, and Cocteau Twins would be one of many, many bands that we would be fans of. We’ve been compared to Cranes before, but neither of us is really much familiar with their music.
How do you get that distance or ‘empty space’ sound on record? It’s hard to describe, but it’s like you recorded the songs in a cavernous, empty room and the distance makes the capturing of the sound different and less immediate. Sorry for focusing on that aspect of your sound, but I’ve always been mystified by how it’s done.
Even before we got a full band together, we would record our early demo songs at home, with a cheap Danelectro echo pedal on Billie’s vocals, and a reverby guitar for backing. We knew from the beginning that the Phil Spector ‘wall of sound’ was going to be a major influence on our songs, if not the arrangements. Both of our albums were done in a DIY, bedroom kind of set up. We’d always work with whatever we had available at the time. There is that certain appeal to lo-fi, DIY recordings, but if we had more choice we’d love to work with a producer who can bring that ‘Phil Spector’ magic out in a bigger, more polished kind of way.
I just want to state that there’s plenty going on in your songs, with lots of aural texture from restless synths, downward spiraling guitars, and Billie’s vocals. What types of settings do you use for the synths and guitars?
The live and recorded sound are pretty different for us. Live we use a lot of guitar effects; my pedalboard is actually spilling over at the moment, and what’s on there changes often. There’s always lots of fuzz and reverb, and a good few of my effects have been modded to make them do some strange things. Definitely the pedals I couldn’t be without would be the Zvex Fuzz Probe, EHX Memory Man w/Hazarai, and my modded Danelectro Spring King. As far as synths go – anything and everything! I like mixing 80’s sounds with 60’s organ type stuff. If it’s out there, I’ll use it. I’ve often driven myself crazy tweaking a particular sound for hours on end.
What’s your process for creating a song? Do you build up a soundscape and then add to it, or do the lyrics come first?
When we first started the band Billie would usually write a song with lyrics on an acoustic guitar and then the rest of the band would work around it. Now, it’s usually me who creates the music first and then Billie writes lyrics after hearing what I came up with. We then both do the last finishing touches together until we’re both happy with it. When we record there’s a lot of sound layering. For the most part I never start any song with anything other than a bass line or maybe a couple of chords, just to get a feel first.
Big congrats for winning ‘Best Groundbreaking Artist’ at the Bulmers Berry Competition that searches for the best new musical talent. How has winning that competition helped you out?
It was an Irish Facebook competition. Most of our voters were fans from outside of Ireland, so in terms of the band’s popularity here where we live, not much has changed. To be honest, we find it a bit frustrating that we get much more attention for our music everywhere else than here. The music scene in Ireland in our personal opinion lacks a bit of an edge and open-mindedness. We can’t even get a manager who is interested in representing us in this country. We did, however, win some cash that we invested in our live set-up equipment.
I haven’t heard your 10-song debut album Las Olas yet and I was wondering if it’s in the same vein as The Light or if you approached that album differently than your mini-album.
Las Olas was our first album and was self-released. The sound is still very atmospheric and even more DIY than The Light. I guess the main difference is that when we were recording Las Olas, we were putting all of the songs we had on that album. It was more like a collection of songs that we decided to publish. We had a more conscious approach towards creating The Light. We wanted those songs to make up a special unit; something that takes a listener on a journey.
As you mentioned, you’re based in Ireland, but you’re repped by the California-based Lefse Records. How did you end up on that label?
Well, Billie and I were fans of the label before we even signed with them. We were in Berlin at the time and in the same week we found out that Pitchfork gave a great review for one of our songs, “Never Yours”, and after we sent Matt (Lefse) Las Olas he offered us a contract. So, yeah, Berlin brings good memories to mind!
Speaking of Berlin, you made a film noir video for your song “Berlin”. Who directed the video, and can you tell us more about it and your interest in the film noir style which seeps into your songs?
Billie, especially, is a big fan of dark/wave, post punk, and film noir, but that particular video was done mostly by me – although again, Billie did the finishing touches. The video is actually more like visuals for the song – an homage to a couple of different movies from the 60’s and 70’s and layers of lots of different stuff, either found footage or things we recorded ourselves.
I like the soft sweep of the instruments and Billie’s hushed, narcotic vocal delivery on your cover of “Sweet Jane” by Velvet Underground. Why did you choose this song and is it available on The Light? For some reason I can picture you covering the Bauhaus song “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”…
It was just one of these moments when Billie came out of nowhere saying we had to do a cover of “Sweet Jane”. I don’t think she gave much of a reason why, as she usually tends not to. She’s more impulsive than me in that way and she just goes with the feeling. The song is not on The Light though, but who knows, maybe we’ll get to release it one day. For now, there’s a nice little video on YouTube put together by Billie that accompanies the song. As for “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” – it’s a great song, but I can’t say I can actually see us covering it any time soon…
What’s on the horizon for you? Are you currently working on material for a second album or EP? Are any touring plans in the works?
We are indeed working on new EP material and are very much excited about these new songs. We’re not going to rush them out though until the time is right.
At the moment, we’re waiting for The Light to be officially released here in Europe so we can get on a proper tour, which we’ve been dying to do for some time now. According to Lefse, that should happen by Summer at the latest. We’d love tour the U.S. as well if there would be enough fans who wanted to see us play live.
Oh, I do hope you get to tour the U.S. at some point! Please let us know how we can purchase your music and find out more about you online. Thanks so much for doing this interview with me!
The Light is available on CD at Lefse’s webstore here :
…and also as a download on iTunes :
Las Olas can be purchased as a strictly limited edition CD album here :
…and also as a download on iTunes/CD Baby :
If any new fans would like to find us on Facebook, here’s that link too :