Scottish trio Lau are in unstoppable form at the moment, and the immonent release of their new album ‘The Bell that Never Rang’ is sure to see the praise and award nominations continue to flood in. As Aidan O’Rourke explains in this interview, the band have been building creatively since the beginning of their career, and having recorded the work they were commissioned to write for the commonwealth last year, they have reached a new creative peak.
Do you think winning three consecutive ‘Best Group’ awards prompted your more experimental streak on ‘The Bell That Never Rang’, or was this something your sound has been moving towards for a while?
I think it’s a path we’ve been on from the start. We’re inspired by bands who constantly challenge how they are perceived by creatively evolving and reinventing their sound. Between each record we gather information and ideas and introduce them incrementally. A new record is the opportunity to finalise these new sounds. It may appear to be experimental but we’ve been trying out these new elements from the moment we finished the previous record. Winning the awards certainly helped us feel like we were doing some things right!
Was the album’s 17 minute centerpiece written with the intention of reaching that length?
The Bell That Never Rang was a commissioned piece which was intended to be 14 minutes in length. We were one of 20 commissioned pieces to be performed during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. It grew an extra few minutes since last summer. It has three distinct movements but it’s definitely one piece so it appears as one track on the record.
When you think of songs that reach around the 20 minute mark, are there any that spring to mind as favourites of yours, or possibly any that were in your mind at the time of recording The Bell That Never Rang?
Plus 20 minute pieces aren’t a rarity in the classical or jazz world. Long pieces that spring to mind and I love but that didn’t necessarily inspire us this time around are; Terry Riley’s in C, The opening track on Keith Jarret’s Köln Concert record, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Mladic. I love music that takes you on a convincing journey. It’s easy to meander, so in some ways short, succinct tracks are equally impressive.
Having experienced recording alongside Joan Wasser as your producer, and learned some of her techniques, could you envisage yourselves producing for other artists?
We’ve all individually been involved in studio production and we all learned so much from all of our producers so far. I feel it takes an equal amount of psychology alongside impeccable taste and technical knowledge and Joan had all of that. Her positivity was infectious. Every day was a joy in the studio with her.
Folk Radio UK called this album your best yet in their recent review, do you think everyone will be as accepting of your creative evolution, now the traditional sound isn’t at the forefront?
When you try something new there will usually be some degree of criticism but we’re very lucky to have an ostensively tolerant following, who encourage the route we choose to take and seem to be happy to come along for the ride. There are still traditional elements and that music is so deeply ingrained in each of us that I think it will always be there.