Always good to start with a little pagan chant, yes? Rejoice, for the gods have heard my wish – the undefinable ambientclangelectro of Andy Barlow and otherwordly voicespirit of Lou Rhodes are reunited in one ambient ball of wonder! Lamb – which broke up in 2004 – shall return in 2011…and soon….
…Soon these four elements of music wrapped in two people will emerge from the forests of studioland with an album called Five. Pre-orders, with all sorts of amazing additions, are available now until February 5. This is ridiculously exciting. Why?
Certainly, the lovely solo work of Lou Rhodes has filled gaps in the interim, and likely will again in future. But there’s something special in Lamb. And when they tour again, do not dither, GO. Live, they are remarkable.
So what made Lamb stop such a good thing? What made them start again? And what’s it all sounding like? The BackstageRider tracked Lou down in Wiltshire to talk about Five, everything that went on before and everything that lies ahead.
BackstageRider: One of the things you mentioned on your site that contributed to Lamb’s dissolution was pressures from the industry. In what way has the tide turned so that you feel it’s easier to be more in control?
Lou Rhodes: I guess, first and foremost, we’ve had the advantage of taking a break from the project of Lamb which has given us the opportunity to review the journey so far and locate the ways we went a little astray. Back in the day, when Lamb first formed, we were so naive you wouldn’t believe! We signed to a major label on the strength of 3 songs, a deal that tied us in to making 6 albums, before we even knew how we’d make the first. In many ways we were a little blindsided; it was like getting onto a rollercoaster ride we didn’t have control of. So, after making the first album in a kind of honeymoon period, we started to hit up against pressures from the label to make our music more commercial and to sell us in ways we didn’t want to be sold. It’s a familiar story but one that taught us a lot. This time around we’re keeping everything homegrown. The making of the record is being funded by pre-orders and there’s no record label to tell us what kind of music we have to make.
Making music as a solo artist is different from rediscovering the music-writing dynamic again with another partner. How is it going with Andy? Was it taking a while to synch back together or was it just…natural?
Yea, I had real concerns about how it was gonna work after all this time! Obviously I recorded my last solo album in Andy’s studio with his technical support but that was very much on the basis that it was my project that he was helping with. It’s no secret that we’d had our conflicts in the past and that had definitely been a factor in our break-up, but I think a lot has happened during our hiatus which has brought us to quite a different place. With Andy it’s like he’s that kid brother who used to reeeaally bug me (and I was the big sister who really pissed him off) and now we’re all grown up and mellow there’s a real closeness that allows us a quite unique creative relationship.
What aspects of him musically or even personally had you forgotten him that were renewed?
I guess, after years of working solo, I forgot what fun it is to work in the studio with Andy. He has this thing of pushing me outside my comfort zone and, although that can be a challenge at times, it usually gets good results. I think we probably provide that for one another, to be honest. Also I’d forgotten how much I enjoy technology when it’s used right; I have to rein him in at times (there are certain sounds of a more trancey nature that I have to rule out in Lamb world) but he has such a sense of adventure where music is concerned and the dynamic between us takes us to places musically that we’d never have arrived at alone.
You’re recording now…can you tell us a bit about the process? Where, who’s producing, how often you’re meeting and what sounds and shapes and ideas you’re playing with?
Well, as I’ve said, we’re recording in Andy’s studio which is in his house in the wilds of England’s South Downs just outside Brighton. We’ve been getting together every other week for the past few months and have written eleven songs so far. I guess you’d say we’re both producing the album in terms of the decisions we make about the songs and the input we each have. Obviously Andy is the man at the controls but I think he’d be the first to admit that Lamb is very much about the dynamic between the two of us in the studio.
Will the sound overall be a sound that will scream “Lamb” to us d’yer think? Or something that you think will surprise?
When we first began to talk about reforming to write a new album we’d both independently been thinking that we wanted to return to the feeling and ethos of the first album. As I said earlier, the rollercoaster ride of our journey through four albums with a major label had led us to make creative decisions we felt, in retrospect, had led us away from the essence of what Lamb was meant to be. The first album had a freshness and purity that was lost along the way and it also had a raw, grittiness that came from a very simplistic way of working. So with this new album we’ve been re-exploring that sense of freshness and rawness and I think people will hear Lamb through and through but with a few surprises all the same.
Will you bring other musicians in? Or is it right now about reconnecting just you and Andy?
It’s predominantly about me and Andy. That was our realisation about what Lamb was on the first album; things started to get diluted when we tried to write with other people. We will definitely, however, be featuring our longtime friend and supreme bass player, Jon Thorne and we have another great friend and hugely talented musician, Danny Keane, working on string arrangements for a few of the songs as I write.
When do you reckon the album will be released?
The pre-order version of the record which is available via our website (www.lambofficial.com) in special limited release format until February 5, will be released on May 05. A wider release will then be available later. I don’t have an official date for that as yet.
You’ve already shared “Strong the Root” with fans, which is quite unusual for a band to share music so soon in the process. What was the rationale to get it out there so quickly?
I guess after being away for so long we wanted to give people a taster of where we’re at musically. It’s also a little thank you/bonus for people’s ongoing support: we sent a download of “Strong the Root” to people who were already on our mailing list when we re-formed (a sneak-peek kinda thing) and others can get it if they sign up to the list now. People who pre-order the album also get a special mix of another song called “She Walks”. As I said the pre-order revenue is basically funding the making of the record and these people are taking a leap of faith in a way as they have to wait a while for the finished record so it’s good to offer them a little something extra right away.
We’ll DEFINITELY tour it and I think if we don’t make it over to Canada and the US, I’ll be outraged! In terms of tourmates, d’you mean other acts or people onstage with us as part of Lamb? If it’s the former then, without doubt, I’d love to share a bill with Sufjan Stevens. If it’s the latter then it’ll be me, Andy and Jon Thorne onstage as Lamb.
Man, that is a long time ago! I think on a personal level we’ll be enjoying the tour as a tighter unit. Back then Andy and the guys were partying hard while I was pregnant with my first son (on the first US/Canada tour) and nursing him (on the second). These days Andy and Jonny have mellowed somewhat and I’ve refound my party shoes. On a musical level I guess we’ll bring a whole load of experience we’ve gained since then which has, ironically, returned us to the simplicity and roughness of the early days…if that makes any sense at all.
Hmm, I think there’ll be more ways to get involved down the line. As I said, people can still pre-order the special edition of the album (until Feb 05) which will earn them a name credit in the artwork and other bonuses (check the website www.lambofficial.com) and there are regular blogs on the site to keep people updated on what’s happening with the album and life in general. They can also visit our Facebook and myspace pages and post comments, questions etc on there.
Your last solo album is called One Good Thing and you wrote on your site about how Andy asked you for “one good reason” tonot reform Lamb…name me one good thing/reason to look forward to the year ahead NOT including this reformation?
I think the best thing to look forward to is the unknown. How does the saying go? “The past is history, the future a mystery and the present a gift” or something like that… \m/