words Katie Small
photography Kiraly Saint Claire
MUA Abigail Lemar
I seldom listen to albums track-by-track, the way most are meant to be listened to. I find my favorite song and run it ragged. Usually. Sequence comes after years of devoted fandom and then one day I’m struck with the realization that it might be really cool to listen to the songs in the order the band arranged them. And then when I do, it’s basically a whole new experience and I fall in love all over again.
Not so with Landshapes. The first time I listened to Heyoon, I listened all the way through, from start to finish, as an album is generally intended. Turns out it’s hard to pick a favorite when every song compliments each other.
The first time I listened to Heyoon, really listened, I was on a hike in Big Basin State Park; it might not be some secret hidden teenage getaway in the backwoods of Michigan, but the Redwood Forest is pretty magical in its own right. I was alone, incredibly stoned, and I’d taken a wrong turn and gotten lost. I meant to go on a 3-mile loop trail and ended up hiking for 12 miles before I finally made it out of the woods. I was lucky to have my iPod and what turned out to be a fitting soundtrack to a dark and creepy forest.
I was wearing my favourite t-shirt, which has a picture of a massive wolf head on it. The wolf has these orange eyes that stare you down. Listening to Heyoon and wondering where the hell I was going and not really caring either way. And then the sixth track, ‘Lone Wolf’ came on, and of course it all felt ridiculously serendipitous to my ridiculously stoned mind. It was probably the best solo hike ever, despite the fact that my calves ached for a week afterwards.
Landshapes have carefully crafted a beautiful and haunting album that reads like a strange and mysterious novel you’ll never fully understand. The kind of music that makes you nostalgic for somewhere you’ve only been in your daydreams. Hypnotic vocals and driving drumbeats twist you into a reverie of psychedelic sadness, broken up by intricate guitar riffs and intoxicating bass lines. Creative and melodic synth adds to the music in a way that’s subtle but still manages to catch your attention. And just when things start to get really dark, they pull you back with their sunny guitar hooks and remind you how pretty the world is and how life is short and you are small and dancing is fun.
Since my hike, I have listened to Landshapes while drunk, while sober, while driving, while on the swings at the park by my house, while sitting in my room, while on the bus…they’re pretty great no matter what the occasion, but I think I’d recommend you listen while in nature. The name ‘Landshapes’ may have been a happy accident, but the connection between their music and this incredible planet we inhabit feels completely cosmic. Half the songs were written in the woods anyway. And no, I still don’t know which track is my favorite – each one marks a different chapter in an ethereal tale of cryptic emotion.
Where are you each from, how did the band come together?
Luisa (ukelele, vocals): Me and Heloise are north Londoners and know each other from school and then university time. Dan is from Newcastle and Jemma is from Buckinghamshire, and we all met in London through playing music, really. It was only when we got a practice room and started rehearsing together regularly that it came together and started to feel like a band, which is when the sound started to evolve and felt right to draw a line in the sand and change our name.
Ok, so why did you choose names like Landshapes and Heyoon?
Luisa: We do seem to have a habit of choosing one word titles for everything, which I think for the most part is for the ease of talking about the songs amongst ourselves, abbreviations for set lists or recording titles when sending them around. Landshapes was the misspelling of our previous name on a bill in Paris, which came at a time when we were wanting to change it anyway. And Heyoon is also the mispronunciation of a secret structure in Southeast Michigan from which we've taken our album title. It's a hidden and mysterious structure in the woods, which teenagers from nearby Anne Arbour discovered and treated as a secret place of their own to retreat to – a rite of passage, somewhere to gaze at stars, smoke weed and discuss the nature of the universe, which was an idea that spoke to us in the space that we find to come together and make our music together.
Talk about the process behind creating Heyoon – how long did you work on it? Describe your writing process, recording, production, etc.
Heloise (bass, vocals): Heyoon was written in various stages. We were already playing songs from Heyoon when touring our first album, Rambutan; it tends to happen that the process of creation works more quickly than the formal stages of album releases. Other songs from Heyoon were written down in the woods in Cornwall, whilst Ader and Lone Wolf were written as an afterthought during the recording process. Our writing process involves jamming together, recording it, sitting on it a while and then working on riffs that worked.
The thing that takes a while is the moulding of the song into its final form. It's the trickiest, but most enjoyable for me! Sometimes I can't sleep. We recorded the album in Soup Studios with a bunch of great engineers. They built the studio themselves and had really great ears. I'd say that we basically produced the album between us and Soup. What was surprising to them was that we all tended to agree on the same things as a band – apparently that's rare.
How would you describe your sound or the tone of your album?
Dan (drums, vocals): Colourful and schizophrenic. Hormonal.
Which song took the most work?
Heloise: ‘Rhino’ took a while. We recorded it twice and eventually went with the first version. It was funny because something wasn't quite right but we couldn't put our finger on it. ‘Lone Wolf’ probably took the shortest amount of time.
Do you have a favorite song to perform?
Heloise: I love performing ‘Stay.’ It’s a chance to go a bit wild and the lyrics are quite sassy.
Who have you been listening to lately/ anyone in particular whose sound influenced your latest album?
Jemma (guitar, vocals): I've been listening to a few great compilations: brand new Wayo which is late 70’s early 80’s Nigerian disco; and Bumper, a 70’s prog compilation. My favourites off that are an early number by Slade and an incredible drum performance from Ginger Baker’s Airforce. Sparks' Kimono My House is a fantastic record too. I just got a new vinyl player so I've been delving through my collection a bit. Absolute top track at the moment is ‘The Mexican’ by Babe Ruth. Jenny Haan is my new role model.
If you could go back in time and see any dead/defunct band or musician perform live, who would it be and why?
Dan: It has to be a dead one doesn't it. I'll go with Velvet Underground in the 60’s. Best band ever. Beatles, et cetera, not fit to un-tune their instruments for them.
What creeps you out the most?
Jemma: On a physical level, men’s thumbs creep me out quite a lot. I cannot stand how they feel.... And also when people get that white spit thing and it creates a sort of hinge in their mouth… Yuck. The future and the destruction socially, economically, environmentally that we are likely to face is probably the thing that creeps me out the most on a more universal plane.
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