Lanterns on the Lake hail from Newcastle, UK. 2011 saw the release of their debut LP, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home, which led to tours supporting the likes of Explosions in the Sky, Low, and Yann Tiersen. Last year they released their follow-up, Until the Colours Run, which hit shelves stateside in January of this year. It’s likely the dreamiest folk-inspired indie rock you’ll hear all year. They also recently completed their first-ever US tour. Guitarist Paul Gregory recently took some time to fill us in on the band’s history… pretty much up to this very moment.
High Voltage: You recently released your sophomore album, Until The Colours Run. How do you think it compares to your debut, both sonically and in terms of the writing and recording process?
Paul Gregory: Our first record, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home, is partly new songs we wrote for that record and partly a collection of our “greatest hits” as an unsigned band. We’d been playing songs like “A Kingdom” and “I Love You, Sleepyhead” for about two years by the time we recorded the album. I think “Tricks” might be older than that. We’d also released different versions of those songs in our early handmade EPs (which we still hand-make). We had always recorded, produced and mixed our own releases. We’d tried studios and producers before and it just doesn’t work for us. The mood has got to be right, and if we’re in a studio the mood might be all wrong but you can’t exactly just have a day away from things, you’re still paying for that. We have a fairly modest recording set up, which we recorded both albums on. I think the biggest difference sonically is the fact the first record was recorded by overdubbing everything. We’d start with drums and then just piled takes on, until every song sounded like it was going to burst. I think we even did bass last?! It totally worked though. That album sounds the way it does because it was put together like a jigsaw. It was also recorded mostly in our houses, and some of it was done in the rehearsal room we had at the time.
For the second album we wanted to capture how we sound when we play live, so we hired this big old school hall which was out in the countryside, set up our gear so we could all track together and just totally went for it. We did as much as we could like that. We did do some re-recording of the guitars and we redid all of the piano using our baby grand back in our rehearsal room. We left the violins and vocals to the very end. But for large portions of that record the basic track is us all playing together. I think that gives Until The Colours Run a much more powerful edge to it. There is something magical which happens when you capture a band just playing. There is also quite a lot of bleed between the microphones, which really gave a lot of the tracks a glue to it, which the first record doesn’t have. A lot of the songs we wrote for the second album feel a lot more grown up, too. None of the music on the second album existed until the year we made it and that feels real special.
HV: What are the biggest differences between the band that recorded your debut and the band as it exists now… if there are any notable differences?
PG: A few things, I guess. Two of the original members left after we’d finished touring the first album: Adam and Brendan. We got Andy in to cover bass duties for the second record. As to how that changed us as a band is hard to say. It definitely did. Mainly, I think we know who we are a lot more now. In the beginning we had this vision of what we wanted to be, what we wanted to sound like and how we wanted to feel and play on stage, but that sort of thing doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s taken us longer to work out what the vision was. Especially on stage, we all feel a lot more comfortable just being ourselves when we play now. In the early days playing on stage could be tremendously nerve racking, but now often we go on and it’s the most comfortable place on Earth. There have been a few shows where the gig has felt like it lasted 30 seconds because we get so lost in the music. I know every band says that, but really is true.
HV: That’s a good thing! Especially having recently set out on your first ever US tour. How was that? What would you consider to be the highlights?
PG: It was truly brilliant. We had wanted to tour the US for such a long time and we finally got to do it. The highlights were definitely the people. We didn’t know what kind of reception we would get, or even if people would come to see us, but every gig was beyond our expectations. The turnouts were just amazing, and it was so cool to meet folks afterwards, too. I’d say it was the high point of our career so far. We had just finished a pretty long tour of Europe by the time we started in the US, so we were playing really well and firmly into that “touring mode” we get into. We cannot wait to come back again… I’m still dreaming of a pizza I had in New York…
HV: New York pizza is in a league of its own, for sure. So, what would you consider to be Until The Colours Run’s most significant influences, whether musical or otherwise?
PG: Musically we never tend to be directly influenced by anyone in particular. We all knew we wanted to make a bigger sounding record, sonically, and the band had developed a much more powerful sound over the year. Lyrically, the album was partly influenced by certain things going on around us at the time, the government cuts, our part of the UK often seems to bear the brunt of austerity a little more than other areas. It’s sad to see this is still continuing and the effect it’s having, a lot of which is being ignored by our current government. The people in parliament are from a different world to the majority of us. I have no idea how they can relate. There is no way they could. Their attitude can be quite dismissive of the real issues people are facing. Ordinary people are bearing the brunt of the financial crisis, while the people who caused it are not. It’s a very strange time… We didn’t specifically write songs to be political, but it’s hard to ignore things like this on your own doorstep. We feel cheated and lied to, by people who are supposed to be looking out for us. It just permeated its way into the music.
HV: Do you have a particular favorite album track, whether one that you think is just the greatest achievement or maybe one that’s just really fun to play?
PG: It’s hard to pick. Every song on the album has had so much life invested in it… If I was going to pick one song, it would have to be “Picture Show.” After we finished recording we took a week off to give our ears a rest and just have a break. We were totally broken from the recording process and I think we’d kinda lost sight of what we were making. After that we went back in to start mixing. “Picture Show” was first on the list. It was the first time we really got to hear what we were creating!
HV: What about your label? You’re signed to Bella Union, currently one of the cooler indie labels. What are your thoughts on it? Any particular favorite label mates?
PG: When they first got in touch with us we actually couldn’t believe it. We were recording drums at the time and Ol had just finished bashing away when we checked our email… We sat in silence for about two minutes I think trying to formulate an audible response. We have always been fans of the label and the bands, Explosions In The Sky, Midlake, Fleet Foxes, to name but a few. They are so easy to work with, they understand what we do, and they just let us get on with being us really. It’s a privilege to part of their family. It’s so cool to see them doing so well.
HV: You’ve released a number of really cool music videos. What is it that inspires the visual side of Lanterns on the Lake? Your video for “The Buffalo Days” is especially intriguing.
PG: We usually have a vague idea of how we visualize the song but it’s always interesting for us to work with other creative people on the videos. We like to make it a two-way process with the director and share ideas with them.
HV: And what are you hoping for and planning for in the second half of 2014? Anything you’re particularly excited about?
PG: We are currently writing our third album. We start recording late summer, so everybody is very much focused on that right now. We are producing it ourselves again. It’s still at the stage where its forming some kind of shape.
HV: Well, thanks so much for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
PG: We used to have two little toy badgers. They are tiny little things, kids toys. They lived on the drum kit. We don’t even know how we came to have them but they’ve been everywhere with us since the beginning. They came to the USA… and they disappeared after our last show in Washington… We imagine they are on holiday… But if anyone has seen them, please let us know!!!