Photo by ChumChi
The older I get, the harder it becomes for a new young band to get me really excited. Or it could just be that although there may be countless new bands and not that many of them are actually very good or exciting! It’s probably a bit of both.
I mean, do I need to go searching like I used to when I already have access to so much music I love and the fact that it is easier than ever to explore back catalogues of bands/artists of years gone by?
Of course I do! I’m always looking for new music to fall in love with, I will forever chase the buzz of falling head over heels for a new band that are breaking or just waiting to break through.
Anyway, I’ve found a new band that I’ve fallen for. They are pretty brand new, although they have already put out an incredible amount of music through 2017. L Space are the band in question. Gordon Johnstone, Lily Higham, Dickson Telfer and Maura Keane span the Central belt of Scotland and come together to ‘write music about the future using big synths, dreamy guitar and ethereal vocals’ and their Facebook describes them as dream pop, electronic and cinematic.
L Space have released 11-songs to date through 2017 via a series of digital (to my knowledge) EP’s and singles. The quality more than matches the quantity.
I chose Blue Flowers to check out first as I liked the title and I fell for it on first listen; think Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval fronting Portishead.
But there is so much more – this is not a band who find a formula and stick with it, this is a band looking to utilise the sounds at their disposal and the wonderful voice of Lily Higham. Brother Mars is an acoustic comedown gem that those of my generation could compare to early Beth Orton – sublime.
Space Junk meets their dream pop, electronic and cinematic biog head on, whispered vocals that rise with ease, changes in pace and beats at all the right moments and building to a glorious and euphoric conclusion.
When it all just gets too much
I can drift off, drift off, drift off
I am living like space junk
Southern Reach is a dark and menacing instrumental, dropping to a bubbling synth and sampled vocal. Propaganda sounds like a companion piece, with huge beats introduced to dramatic effect halfway through. Carry Armour has drum n bass beats with more sampled voices and a cinematic feel, while Escape V4.1 and So It Goes are hauntingly beautiful.
The band seem incredibly creative with their beats, layers, soundscapes and melodies and I can’t wait to see them live. In the meantime check a Spotify playlist of their releases to date and an interview with the band below.
Photo by ChumChi
How did L Space form? Where and when?
Lily: L-space formed gradually in the prebiotic pools of various workplaces and arts events. Gordon I met when we both needed to glue our shoes together at work, Dickson I met through his spoken word and writing (check it out) and Gordon knew him through his work with The Grind, and Maura I met in a world of unending noodles at the restaurant we worked at. We glooped together and good music came out.
Where did the name come from?
Lily: The name is based on an alternate dimension in the Discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett. Because knowledge = power, and books contain a lot of knowledge, they warp space and time, creating another dimension. You can access the dimension through places like libraries and book shops where there are large amounts of books, and when you enter you can see bookshelves stretch off endlessly in all directions. In Terry P's words "[a] good bookshop is just a genteel blackhole that knows how to read." Basically, I like books and I like physics, so this name is cool.
Did you have a vision for what the band would sound like then? If not, how quickly did you arrive at ‘your sound’?
Lily: I had some vision: I wanted to write beautiful, interesting, noisy music with a mixture of electronic elements and 'real' instruments, creating a retrofuturistic sound while not being too cold and digital. But most of our sound came together naturally from the combination of the band's talents and influences. For example, in my case, I read a lot of sci-fi and like to read about future technologies that will make our world better, so those themes often make their way into my lyrics. Also my voice seems physiologically fixed to have a particular sound to it, and I am working with that sound and its limitations and qualities to find melodies and tones that fit our visions.
Gordon: I think I always had a clearer idea of what I didn't want us to be more than what I thought we would sound like. I definitely didn't want us to be another guitar band or a soulless electronic group. It's important to me that people know there's a very human heart to our songs even when the music is largely created on synths and tackles fairly futuristic topics. Many of the songs start as fairly abstract soundscapes and become fully formed songs when we add bass and vocals, so our sound is somewhere between the two extremes.
Dickson: With writing most of our music on synths and having Lily as our singer, we always knew we were going to have an ethereal sound. Then we added groove and noise and . . . ta-dah!
Maura: Gordon and Lily have been the main masterminds of the sound, but I think we're always trying new things and looking for different influences.
You have released 11-songs already. How do you go about creating/writing? Where do you record?
Lily: Sometimes we write together, building up songs from a base idea that one of us has come up with, but other times we are a very modern band that does most writing separately and sends each other our recordings electronically. Praise to our great internet lord. We record most of the synths at home and record the vocals and instruments at Homegrown Productions studio on a farm in Larbert. We have good fun recording there and it has the benefits of a resident cat and dog. However, one time the cattle escaped and we had to wait until the cows came home before we could finish! When I write a song alone at home I usually start off messing around on my guitar or with beats and sounds on my computer and humming along to find a melody I like. Then I record it terribly on my phone and send it to the others.
Gordon: I usually start with one synth tone, or one chord, I like and build from there. It's not unusual for our songs to have forty or fifty layers on them, but usually we strip a lot of them out when everyone adds their various parts. I love densely layered production like El-P and 65daysofstatic and I think that shapes our music a lot. One of my pet hates is when a song doesn't have an identifiable "good bit", so the music I write almost always builds to a climax or some kind of crescendo.
Dickson: Usually Gordon writes the skeleton and then we all jump in, bringing our own thing to the party.
Maura: Gordon is always coming to us with new songs and ideas - you can't stop him writing songs. I think it's amazing to work with people who have so much to give musically and are so creative, very exciting and inspiring for the future.
The releases to date highlight quality and quantity. Are you always creating new sounds and songs? Is that important for you?
Lily: I am always coming up with new ideas for songs. It happens when I'm playing around with my guitar or noises on the computer, or it might just happen while I'm walking somewhere or in the shower. I even dream songs sometimes! Many ideas get lost as I don't record them before I forget them, but if I can I try to remember them in some way so we can use them for future songs. It is important for me to always have this creative output as it gives me a feeling of purpose and value.
Gordon: Constantly creating things means the world to me. Since L-space started I've realised that I'm exceptionally difficult to work with sometimes. I've got this compulsion where I can't stop creating music and I constantly want to release it and put it out into the world, but that doesn't always sit comfortably with a band moving at a sensible pace. I pushed us all quite hard for a few months to release a lot of music and do a lot of shows and it payed off when Last Night from Glasgow signed us. Now we can take our time with the album, be pickier with our gigs, and generally enjoy the creation process a lot more!
Dickson: Yes. It's a good disease.
What have been your highlights from 2017?
Lily: It's hard to choose! One highlight was playing at MugStock festival in the pouring rain while Dickson's dog Dasher ran on stage and while most people were sheltering, two people were dancing in the rain in front of the stage and having a great time. It was nice to see them enjoying it, and for us it was an unusual and memorable experience. Also dog.
Gordon: For me I think it was when Last Night from Glasgow told us they wanted to release our album. It was the culmination of months of hard work and a lifetime's ambition. Knowing that we have a goal and a purpose, that a group of people believe in what we were doing enough to put their name behind it, means the world to me. In terms of the music itself I think it was when we played at a small show for a sci-fi magazine called Shoreline of Infinity. It felt like we turned a corner in terms of our performance and how we were received.
Dickson: Playing a street corner as part of the Merchant City festival and going down well. Also, listening to the final mix of Aloe on Elie beach. I had recorded my bass and then gone on holiday while the others did their thing. It was really cool watching the waves and listening to our latest creation at the same time (cos usually first listen is in the studio)
Maura: I loved playing the Merchant City Festival in the summer, playing outside right on the street and being really noisy. Releasing our single Aloe and getting signed by Last Night From Glasgow are up there too!
So you’ve essentially released an albums worth of songs. But you’re now working on your first album. Will that effect how you approach things and the way you write/create? E.g. will it be written to flow together, or will it be business as normal and anything goes?
Lily: We have all our songs written separately, but I think because they have been written in quite a short space of time, they have all been created from the same kind of 'zone' of ideas and phase of our music writing. The themes of the songs are mostly looking forward to a utopian future and so far I think they all have the L-space sound to them. Because of this, the songs sound like they go together, and all that is left is to put them in an order that most keeps the listener engaged, and with songs next to each other that enhance each other.
Gordon: I think because we have a fairly good idea of how we want to sound the songs will sound pretty coherent. The songs have all been written fairly recently, but some of the ideas on the albums are things I've had rattling around since I was 16 and it has taken L-space to make them work and sound how they should. The overarching theme of a better future is something I think will always underpin our music.
Dickson: There are always plenty songs. We're re-working a couple but the rest are new and fresh, and cool, and noisy, and lovely.
What music are you enjoying at present?
Lily: 65daysofstatic, Julien Baker, The Twilight Sad, Bjork's newest album and the Cocteau Twins record given to me by our record label Last Night from Glasgow.
Gordon: Tusks, The Samuel Jackson 5, Tom Waits, Run the Jewels, Deltron 3030, Lana Del Rey
Dickson: Sun Rose, Agnes Obel, Bicep, Public Service Broadcasting
Maura: I'm listening to lots of electronic music right now, I saw Sylvan Esso live the other night, the energy was amazing. I'm enjoying discovering a Japanese artist called Shintaro Sakamoto who is more 70s pop-rock.
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