Melbourne’s Lurch & Chief pumped out their Breathe EP in ten insane days. Vocalist Lili Hall speaks about compromise, themes of anxiety and the need for a good work ethic.
Illustration by Max Prentis.
HAPPY: You guys just did a good old acoustic gig on a tram. How do you translate Lurch & Chief, which is very raw, intense and vibrant, so how do you keep that essence when in acoustic mode?
LILI: I guess you can really strip back anything, there’s a lot of things you can do acoustically to keep that intensity. Whether it be the delivery of a vocal or even just making the harmonies quite sweet. Just the way the guitars work together and emphasising different parts, different moments. It’s new, we haven’t done too much of it actually.
HAPPY: Let’s jump into your new EP Breathe, it sounds pretty great. You guys called it Breathe due to the calming nature of breathing out, but when I listen to it I hear a lot of elements of, if I had to use a word it’d be anxiety, but definitely that rawness we spoke about earlier. Which is at odds with the idea of being calm, and I think a lot of it comes from yours and Hayden’s contrasting vocals.
LILI: Definitely. There’s a lot of themes running though the EP along the lines of that, the tensions of being a 20-something person. It’s interesting that came through for you. Breathe out is sort of instructive in a way. I guess at the end of writing the EP we realised we all had felt at that particular time. There’s raw emotion in there, such as anxiety and fear. Breathe out is sort of instructive and therapeutic. It’s also how we felt on being able to get all of that out and written in the Grampians. All the music is kind of tense, but the Grampians is very calming. So breathe out became very fitting.
HAPPY: You mentioned before there are a lot of themes on Breathe, and I feel there is a very loose narrative throughout the five tracks. Could you talk me through those?
LILI: For me personally, I guess it’s about letting go of how things have been and approaching a new stage of life. I guess loss as well. Just learning how to cope with yourself as an adult. Relationships are always big thing for me and they’re definitely in there. You out it out there and when you listen back it’s like a little counselling session for yourself.
HAPPY: I was reading the studio Hayden was writing, and it seemed like such a roller coaster experience. I mean, recording in 10 days, that must have been pretty intense!
LILI: Yeah, it was very intense recording the EP. It was great though, it’s always a good experience when things test you physically and mentally. It was long hours, working 12pm to 12am. It’s a lot of hard work, you don’t realise how much goes into writing an EP that quickly. There’s a lot of debates, and a lot of emotions (laughs).
HAPPY: What was hotly debated?
LILI: Everything. (laughs) Sound directions, vocal delivery, all those details. They have to be all agreed upon. Generally we’re all on the same page.
HAPPY: I’d imagine having six people in the room a debate could be quiet lengthy if everyone isn’t on the same page.
LILI: (laughs) It can be, but it’s all a part of the fun.
HAPPY: But there isn’t a situation where someone feels left out is there?
LILI: There’s always a bit of compromise, but generally I think everyone is proud of the result. It’s like a little love child we all made together. You can’t really control it can you can’t really be sure what it’s going to be. It is what it is, and we’re all super proud. I’m hungry to write more!
HAPPY: Judging from the tour diary it seems like you guys made a lot of stuff up on the spot in the studio, playing with vocal melodies and pronunciations, what was that like?
LILI: We spent a lot of time demos, but naturally theres always new things that will pop up. The producer will force it out of you or will come to you when you’re recording. The song is more structured and things are more finely tuned. Those things always pop up in the studio.
HAPPY: Given the amount of pressure in terms of recording time, and the repetitiveness of doing takes to get it right, does that ever leave you feeling a bit flat in the studio?
LILI: I think when you need to tap into emotion, when you’re wanting people to understand how you feel or understand the feeling behind the track you always force it out of yourself or find it in yourself to deliver and get a good result. We push each other and have fun with it. Yeah it can be a bit tedious sometimes, but if you go a bit crazy have a break, have some tea. Have some whiskey (laughs).
HAPPY: Well now you’ve got it all done and dusted. When you first started the band came together as a project between mates. Here we are after EP number two, and as we both know things can get pretty intense in this industry. How do you balance music as a profession and music as a passion?
LILI: I think you’ve got to keep finding new inspiration. Like I went out over summer and saw a lot of live acts. That sort of started me being crazily intense with my music listening and musical influence. Finding new stuff, even stuff completely opposite to what we’re making just offers you more creative diversity. Yeah I think that’s how you keep the passion going. We all encourage each other, I mean we’re all best mates. We celebrate together when we’ve done a really good job and we all have a really good work ethic. We’re all putting in a lot, as long as we have fun along the way that’s the main thing. that’s how we keep it all going.
HAPPY: You mentioned delving into more intense influences, what do you mean by that?
LILI: By intense I mean taking in so much new music. I just make sure I’m getting out, seeing lots of shows and hearing lots of music. Feeling the emotions of whatever I’m listening to at the time. They just naturally come out when you’re writing, but when you produce something with your own little flair on it I think that’s what’s special. I think the key is to keep motivated.
HAPPY: You guys have a good work ethic, and a lot of band’s these days can attribute their success to how they market themselves through social media. I was curious as to how you guys approach in terms of image? Especially as a six piece, does that make it easier since you can all huddle together, or does it make it harder to try carve out a tangible identity?
LILI: Yeah, I think it is harder because we don’t always see things eye to eye. We have a lot of different personalities in the band. But I think generally we can agree on most things that are important. I think the main thing with social media is giving people the insider view. For example the blog that Hayden wrote while we were recording, just letting people in a little bit. I think that’s what everyone kind of wants. We’ve worked with a few photographers and people we like. I think we’re still working on that, trying to keep everything somewhat consistent. At the same time you can never really know what to expect with us (laughs).
HAPPY: Cool. Well moving on to our final question. At Happy we write about things that make us happy, so I wanted to ask you Lili, what makes you happy?
LILI: I think just making sure I’m doing justice for myself as an individual and as also as a woman in society. Just honouring my friends and family, and my passion which is music. As long as I’m being productive and doing that I’m pretty happy.
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