Laurel Collective

The band reveal they have a new album in the works and ponder on its title with us...

Kyle Fisher
  • By Kyle Fisher
  • 15 Jan 2013
  • min read
2012 was the probably the biggest year for art-rockers Laurel Collective to date. They released their latest album, Heartbeat Underground, curated their annual In The Woods festival and toured the UK with Tape Club Records label mates on the Tape Club Tour.

On the evening of the last tour date, M's Shaun Mooney managed to steal away Laurel boys Bob and Martin following a very noisy soundcheck in London's 100 Club. With a bag of wasabi peas to snack on, Bob and Martin chatted all about how songwriting works for the band and what's next for the collective...

When did you first start writing songs and why?
Bob: We first started writing songs together in 2002, maybe? We were two different bands originally.

M: What were the two different bands?
Bob: One band was me and our drummer. We used to make music in a shed, basically, just sampling old records and stuff and playing guitar. So me and him were writing songs, and I was kind of the slut that was in both bands really. And then we [Bob and Martin] were in a band together, and then Olly the guitarist, and it was totally different to what I was doing with our drummer, and we just ended up mashing the two together.

Martin: Their band was called Fat Man's Fridge, which basically became Laurel Collective any way. A collective of so many different people; people that actually became part of the band, and then more people after that after a reshuffle. [Laurel Collective at one point had a staggering 19 members]

M: Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
Bob: Yeah, it was a terrible song that me and Charlie wrote about this guy whose phone... Exploded in his face? It was pretty terrible.

M: Wow, pretty avantgarde. What was the inspiration for that? It didn't actually happen?
Bob: No, no, no. Now that you mention it, it does sound pretty avantgarde... But if you heard it, you'd think 'This is crap'.

Martin: I can't really remember the first song I ever wrote, but as far back as I can remember I was always writing. Just rhymes, verses and whatnot. This is back when I used to live in Nigeria, I remember one of the first rhymes I ever wrote. My class was called 3Y so it just sort of went '3Y! 3Y! 3Y!', really old school style rhyme. Really funny when I think about it now. Whenever I see my sisters they're like '3Y! 3Y!'

M: How does your songwriting process work? Where does the inspiration come from?
Martin: Literally anything and everything good. Musically, at least.

Bob: I think inspiration for a song is absolutely everywhere. It's just whether you can spot it and turn it into a good song. So it could even be something in the Daily Mirror, or wasabi peas, and you could miss that. If you're a good songwriter, you can turn that into a song. The other day I was walking along and I just thought 'Bring out your dead' would be a good first line for a song. So now we've started writing this song which starts with that lyric.

M: What would you tell people who thought that maybe they had a song in them, but didn't know how to play an instrument? What can they do to get started writing their own music?
Bob: It doesn't matter. I'm not musical at all. They keyboard player in Laurel Collective, and the guitarist, are incredibly musical. They can both read and play from sheet music, that kind of stuff. But I don't think you have to be musical to have really good ideas. You can still have melodies.

Martin: It really is an ideas thing. If you've got technique, you could write circles, maybe around me. Bob, I know you studied English, and even though you're not really nerdy enough to do with everything with English literature, that might have gone someway to actually help you write the way you do, but then again, there are professors who probably couldn't write a song.

Bob: Music is not, to me, about musical skill really. That's an important part of making music if but I think a lot of modern music is not classical or jazz and you don't need to be a musical virtuoso.

M: Can you describe your sound in just three words?
Bob: Electronic art pop, maybe? What about jam, coffee, death...?

Martin: What do you mean? Jam as in to jam somewhere?

Bob: Jam as in it's sort of stewed together and it's a bit sweet, coffee as in it's a bit hyperactive, bit of a buzz there, death because it's actually a bit... sad.

M: Maybe this can be the title of a new album? It was decided in this room, guys! Talking about new albums, what is next for Laurel Collective?
Bob: We're gonna record a new album in March...

M: ...called Jam, Coffee, Death?
Bob: Yep, called Jam, Coffee, Death haha! For the first time, we're all going to go into the studio at the same time and record an album for two weeks which has never happened before. The first album was recorded in people's bedrooms, in a warehouse and all over the place. So this second album is gonna be a much quicker, consolidated thing that's gonna happen, hopefully with a similar sound. Nirvana's album In Utero was done in like, ten days, so it's gonna be really quick like that.

M: Are all of the songs already written and prepared?
Bob: A lot of songs are written already, I think about 10 songs. But we're also looking to write a lot of it in the live room because a lot of our songs come from jamming together. The idea really is to get ideas down when they're really fresh. If that doesn't work, then we'll go back into the studio and start again haha.

M: The Drums recorded their last album, Portamento, in around two weeks mostly in lead singer Johnny's kitchen. Will it be something like that?
Bob: It doesn't matter, well it does to an extent, but it doesn't matter if you're using an analog valve microphone that costs £5,000 in a studio that costs £200 a day if you're recording with a 58 microphone and a laptop if your voice and your laptop is better than the expensive studio.

Martin: In fact that can often cut through a bit better in the sound sometimes, gives it a lot more texture.

Bob: In fact, for some bands like The Arcade Fire or the music Jack White makes, that works with expensive, analog studio recording. But for other bands, it doesn't have to be.

M: Our final question is, what is your favourite sound in the entire world?
Bob: I think it's wind. Breeze going through the trees.

Martin: I was gonna go with weather too... Mine is like that sound when you wake up in the afternoon and it's raining outside. You're not too warm, not to cold, but it's a sound I associate with the feeling at the time.