Tape Recorder, Lionlimb's upcoming second record inspired by composers of the 70s, is out February 23rd on Bayonet Records.
On Shoo, you recorded piano and drums live and then used tape reels for new layers. Was your recording approach for Tape Recorder different?
Definately. Save for vocals, we actually recorded the whole thing live over three and a half days. We put our energy into getting takes rather than finding cool sounds to overdub in order to give it the feel of a live record. We sort of just threw up a few mics and tried to capture the room.
The approach I took to writing was sort of intense, but the recording was all about having fun and getting amped off what everyone was bringing. Josh and Jon as a rhythm section really knocked it out of the park. And even though I wrote out the score, I didn't have any dynamic marks. The chamber players did a killer job at interpreting and making it their own. Playing the right note is one thing but how you play is vastly different. They all brought it.
You both have spent time working and performing with Angel Olsen. How did your time with her impact your songwriting as Lionlimb?
I think just letting things breathe. It doesn't have to be jammed with earworms. And if it takes 7 minutes to say something, then it takes 7 minutes. No one's sitting there examining every little detail. I kind of do but I'm not healthy. She’d sort of shrug stuff off that I maybe felt ambivalent about, and it'd end up being a moment on a record that people loved.
The majority of the new album was written on piano at Columbia University in some of their practice spaces on campus. Was being on campus creatively inspiring or was it just conveniently a quiet room where you could play and be alone?
It was really the only option I had. I was basically trespassing. It was great during the winter, very cozy. It was also in the basement so theres no service on your phone which ended up being kind of a savior. I'd lose track of time and be in there for hours, no one around, no screen, nothing. They’ve since put keyless entry locks on the rooms so it's a thing of the past.
This record has a keen focus on the healing and nutritive potential of music that aren’t discriminatory of age, training, or status. Was this concept something that you’d been exploring around the time of writing the record or were you particularly invested in the phenomenon due to a more personal experience?
I think excslusivity is bullshit. Especially in the arts. We’re divided enough as it is. I think people often feel intimated by art or music because they’re made to feel like they require a certain amount of knowledge to participate. Like guffawing if you’ve never heard of so and so. Fuck that.
Music and art is supposed to inspire you and bring you together with people. Sometimes the industry and culture around music can have the opposite effect. It's a big fat competition and everybody talks trash. I'm talking trash too. But yeah, I was thinking about it a lot. Like, does this need to exist? If so, why? And at the end of the day, I think it does. Because if you don’t follow an impulse then you’re letting evil win. And if you don’t then maybe another person doesn't. And it ripples outward. You should be you. If you’re shy fuck it, if you’re gay fuck it, if you’re scared fuck it.
Much of the record was scored by hand with inspiration drawn from 70s minimalist composers. Who were some artists you connected with from the period? Which ideas were most captivating and applicable for the new record?
In high school, I played saxophone in band and took music theory. It felt really good using that part of my brain and doing something that required real work rather than just being another asshole with a guitar. It’s sort of like how much I used to hate my parents making me go to mass and Sunday school or doing homework, but now that I’m older I weirdly miss it.
As far as composers, there were all these great shows in New York celebrating Steve Reich’s 80th birthday around the time when I started writing. I saw about five of them and got addicted. The way he used counterpoint, call and response parts and how his pieces would start in one place and morph into something completely different. Also Aaron Copeland. He just goes from one idea to the next which influenced these songs a lot. Also how pastoral it is. You can see the landscape, its like an Ansel Adams photo or something.
Preorder Lionlimb's new record Tape Recorder from Bayonet Records.