The Kaje talks Reclaimed to Louise Latham

Welsh songstress Louise Latham blew The Kaje away with her recently released debut album “Reclaimed”. An effortless, timeless release, Latham has far from followed the current trends, yet still managed to release a fully relevant and provoking debut. With echoes of many of the all-time great female soloists-from the American: Paula Cole, Tori Amos and Sarah MacLachlan, through the homegrown: Kate Bush and Nerina Pallot, Latham’s versatile vocal and ethereal presence are both uplifting and engaging. With the female vocalist still holding strong at the forefront of the music scene, Latham introduces an interesting side step from the power ballad and soul lament. In a class entirely of her own, Latham needs no comparison, simply an introduction. For that reason, The Kaje wasted no time in inviting Latham to Kensington Palace Park for a quick chat to find out more…

“Reclaimed” is your debut album – are you ready for it be released?

Reclaimed has been a labour of love, an incredible amount of passion and commitmen thas gone into the making of it! There has to be a point however where you let a creative endeavour go out into the world and thankfully I feel this naturally. I am ready to share the album and I have a wonderful team surrounding Reclaimed that understand and appreciate the music. My manager Maarten Sol has beautifully crafted a plan for release and we are enjoying seeing the whole campaign and months of dedicated preparation unfold!

Can you tell us a little about the thought process behind the album?

When I was thinking about the songs I wanted to include for Reclaimed I realised that I wanted to tell a story, not only within each song but also within the album as a whole. I have always been drawn to wistful stories full of longing and yearning for someone or something, you can see this in my writing. I wanted Reclaimed to tell the story of reclamation, about returning to something that you have lost. I brought together songs that had that particular theme or atmosphere and decided I wanted to record them with a full, rich analogue sound evocative of the beauty found in early Joni Mitchell records like “Blue”.

What would you say were your lyrical inspirations for the record?

Stylistically, I think I’ve been inspired by the writings of John Fowles and Daphne du  Maurier. In the novels by both of these authors there is an atmosphere created in the books that is haunting and evocative. I am drawn to this style of story telling. The stories I tell when I write are created spontaneously in the moment, on the record the songs take their inspiration from awakened memories and feelings of longing for a lost love.

How did you settle on the title ‘Reclaimed’?

The central theme is reclaiming something that has been lost and renewing it to its former glory. Either the memory of a loved one, your identity and freedom, the stories and souls of the past or the melody of a beautiful moment in time. Sometimes returning can be as intense and moving as discovery.

The album has a mixture of sonic influences – who would you say had the greatest impact?

I think that would have to be Sarah McLachlan. The sound I discovered in “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy” was a combination of raw intimacy with epic, cinematic arrangements. The piano and her voice are the central instruments and around these are layers of rich instrumentation. “Reclaimed” has a similar feel, the producer Arno Guveau and myself wanted to create something pure and earthy with mainly strings and vocal harmonies surrounding the voice and piano to create a celtic, magical and haunting sound. The sound is organic and intimate whilst being uplifting and dynamic.

Reviews are citing similarities to Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Paula Cole and Cara Dillon. How do you feel about these?

There is something common to all these artists, they have a purity of vision and commitment to their music. Musically, the piano is one of the main instruments on these artist’s records and is used in a cinematic way. Writing myself on the piano I think I am naturally drawn to this instrument being used to tell the story. Also each of these artists has an ethereal and pure quality to their voice which I also take as an inspiration.

What have been the best and worst comparisons you have heard?

The best comparison would have to be Sarah McLachlan as her music has continued to move and inspire me as each album is released. There is an honesty and integrity to her creativity and her voice is sublime. The worst comparison was when someone  compared me to an artist I don’t sound remotely like, this was a bit confusing!

“Erase Me” is the current single from the record-what made it stand out for you?

Erase Me is one of my most dramatic tracks and has an energy that is very direct and immediate. I thought I would like to start with one of my rawer, more candid songs. The song is about being stalked and is deeply personal.

How do you set about choosing the singles?

They are usually songs that have a strong sense of universality. When myself and my manager were selecting singles, we concentrated on the songs that we felt were the most open, dynamic and memorable. Maarten did research into the popularity of certain songs from the album by approaching several listeners and asking them to choose their favourite track. It was obvious from feedback which tracks should be the singles.

If you had to recommend a skip to track, which would it be and why?

I would recommend you skip to track 8, as ‘Young Boy’ has a beautiful and haunting double bass intro! The story is about the transition of a young boy moving from childhood into adulthood and how we deal with hurt during this time.

What is your personal highlight on the album?

“Gilded Bird” is a cinematic song that takes you on a journey from land, across the sea. The production (by Arno Guveau) is so atmospheric.The harmonies and strings glide  and soar reflecting the flight of the bird. Also I feel very connected to this song as vocally it is one of my most expansive – deep low notes reaching to long sustained high ones!

What are your hopes for the record?

I hope that “Reclaimed” finds listeners around the world, that it connects with people and that its success leads to many more albums to come.

You have been building a fan base on the live circuit – do you prefer performing to recording?

With live performances there is an exchange with the musicians on stage and the audience and this is really spontaneous and intimate. I definitely feel more vulnerable and laid bare emotionally when I perform which is where the intimacy happens. For me, when recording it is about creating a feeling of safety so the creative collaboration between the producer, artist and musicians can blossom. I love both performing live and recording, both are fulfilling and challenging.

What has been your live highlight?

I had a recent performance at Blackheath Halls, London on a Bosendorfer grand piano which was a real treat. I performed with a wonderful cellist called Sacha McCulloch and the combination of the acoustics in the room, the quietness of the audience and the richness of these two instruments meant I was in sonic heaven!

Which song do you most look forward to performing?

‘Saint’, it has a poignancy and lyrically a universality which connects with people. Understanding and accepting loved ones imperfections is something I think many of us struggle with and is the main theme of the song. Whenever I perform this song it resonates, it always has meaning and relevance in my life.

FEATURE: Lior “It is a sort of blessing and a curse, but I don’t think I would be happy only doing the one thing.”

“It is not just about artistic control, but also timetable control. There isn’t someone saying you have to do something because they want to get their money back. It is freedom on all those levels. You are your own boss and are in control.” Despite his 2005 album “Autumn Flow” having become one of Australia’s most successful debut independent releases of all time, Lior continues his musical journey as an unsigned artist. His 2008 follow-up “Corner Of An Endless Road” proved to be both a commercial and critical success, with Lior following his earlier ARIA nominations by being shortlisted as a potential “Best Independent Album” at the 2008 ceremony. Yet as we sip coffee in one of his favourite haunts to talk about his third album “Tumbling Into The Dawn”, Lior reveals that despite his liking for creative control, he never fully chose the independent route. “Initially it was more a necessity, as in my early twenties I made that transition from playing in bands to being a solo artist. I wanted to make my first record. I hadn’t made it quite yet and I could see it was quite a hard slog trying to get support in making it. I decided to spend that time just making the record rather than chasing people down to help me do it. I went about the modest task of borrowing money from friends and that sort of thing. I thought that whatever happens, at least I have an album that I had made of these songs that I want to capture.”

“So it was born out of necessity but then what ended up happening was Triple J gave one or two tracks a spin, just to try it out and it grew from that.” Realising that with “Autumn Flow” he was on to a good thing, Lior decided that if it ain’t broke, then he shouldn’t try fixing it. “Once all that organic stuff was happening, I felt it was such a beautiful way to grow, that I didn’t want to tamper with it. It was just a very real way to go about it, via word of mouth. It all kind of just fell in my favour. I found I had a very supportive, loyal fanbase and it was working.”

“It is not just about artistic control, but also timetable control.”

However, having conquered his home turf, Lior now has his sights set on Europe. Having played a few dates in the UK at the outset of his solo career, Lior was lucky enough to be snapped up by an off-shoot of Sony for distribution of “Autumn Flow” in the UK, only to find the company had been dissolved by the time he got back to Australia. He realises that in “Australia you can be independent successfully because there are avenues that support you doing it. But the limited times I have been overseas, I can see that it is not the way it works there. In those instances you need label support to do it.”

Lior realises that trying his luck in new territories will mean a return to the hard slog, yet in many ways a lot of the groundwork has been done. “I think it is harder when you have not had any success at home, so I decided to spend my time building my career in Australia. Now that I have established myself here, there is material to show that I can do what I say I can.” But for Lior, whose fine live performances lead to the release of 2006’s “Doorways Of My Mind- Live at the NSC”, an extended period touring the cities of Europe is far from daunting. He confesses that he “would like to do some touring in Europe and I hope to find a label to support me doing that.”

In the meantime, Lior is focusing his efforts on his latest release, the mid-period Beatles-esque “Tumbling Into The Dawn”. For fans of his second release “Corner Of An Endless Road”, his new material may appear to be something of a departure. Whilst Lior appreciates the differences, it is clear that there are still many connections. “This is probably the lighter take on the second record. It is also my most eclectic. The second record was very folkish, so with this one I returned to working with a band which is what I did on the first one. So you have got the full dynamics of the band.”

““Autumn Flow” and “Corner Of An Endless Road” sort of happened within five years and it ended up all blowing up and being pretty manic.” Despite the gap between releases having shortened, Lior feels that he was able to spend more time exploring new avenues as he sat down to write his third release. “It is spoken of so much, that second album syndrome after a successful first album that I was aware of it. It is funny, I probably to many people’s surprise ended up making a real sad second record. It was very orchestral and lot of the content was about struggle and the complexities of relationships. Looking back at it, that is what I wanted to do, make a record with lots of string arrangements. Perhaps a lot of that was my reaction to the temptation to doing something pop led, to be driven by those forces rather than the creative ones.”

Having proven that “Autumn Flow” was no fluke, the pressure was released. With “Corner Of An Endless Road” out in the public domain, Lior finally had a chance to sit back and breathe. “What I found at the end of that was that I hadn’t really given myself a heap of time to write or not feel pressured by deadlines and expectations. So I took about eight months off to write “Tumbling Into The Dawn” and ended up writing a whole stack of material. Because there wasn’t that pressure to write a record, I ended up writing whatever I wanted to write. At the end I had a really eclectic bunch of material and I could just pick the strongest eleven tracks. In terms of a natural journey of an album, this one probably had the most diversions.”

“It is a sort of blessing and a curse, but I don’t think I would be happy only doing the one thing.”

But it was not just time to write that Lior so badly craved. Having spent his first two albums soul-searching, he felt it was high time to switch focus. “I think I just ran out of things to talk about. In that sense I probably explored different lyrical avenues. With the first two records it was all very introspective, they were both about what was going on within me. With this record, I actually wanted to become a bit more of a storyteller.”

Equally on a musical level, Lior felt the need to ring in the changes. “It is a sort of blessing and a curse, but I don’t think I would be happy only doing the one thing.” Having tired of his fascination with the orchestral, Lior took a trip down memory lane and brought a band in to help create his sound. The choice was a natural progression for someone who grew up with a passion for “both the great songwriters and bands of the seventies. I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and The Doors. I also had a love of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Neil Young and all those great songwriters. Just naturally when I was growing up my musical identity was that of the troubadour, by I also had this real passion for the band based stuff. So I just wanted to explore taking these things that I had written and putting them in a different environment. I was more open to the influence of a working band, rather than me just guiding the songs I’d written.”

Given that “Tumbling Into The Dawn” radiates the feel-good sing-ability of the great hits of the seventies, it is apparent that Lior has achieved his goal. But as we sup the last drops of our coffees, Lior gives a little insight into what might be next. “It is funny after making a band record, I am now drawn to going back and making a real troubadour one.”

Words and Images: Jeremy Williams

The Kaje talks “Love You More” to The Pierces

Born to hippy parents in Birmingham, Alabama – sibling duo The Pierces (Catherine and Allison) were homeschooled and spent a lot of their youth travelling around. Their father played in many bands, whilst their mother was a painter – ensuring total exposure to the arts. Add into the equation dance training (both are accomplished ballerinas) and it was almost inevitable that the pair would grow up to be creatives. Having released their debut album “The Pierces” a decade ago, the pair have never been in a rush to release follow-ups. Their latest EP “Love You More” follows 2007’s “Thirteen Tales Of Love And Revenge”. The Kaje took a few moments to find out what to expect.

You have been performing as a duo for a decade, how does it feel to be launched in the UK as if you were a new act?

We’re fine with it. Whenever we make a new record it feels so different from the last that it almost feels natural to present it as something brand new. Especially this record, our last one was kind of eclectic and quirky…this one feels like a complete body of work…a bit reinvented.

What prompted your decision to try break the UK?

The producers, Guy Berryman and Rik Simpson are English and so we did a lot of the recordings here. It seemed like a natural progression to launch the record here.

You both explored ballet before music, what prompted the shift?

You have to decide at a certain point in ballet whether or not you want to make it your whole life. I got a hip injury and realized I wanted to do other things.

Who would you say has most influenced your sound?

Probably The Beatles. My dad played them constantly so we grew up with all those amazing harmonies and melodies.

Many people are stating a similarity with the chart friendly Lady Antebellum. How do you feel about these comparisons?

We’ve been compared to everyone from Joni Mitchell to Gwen Stefani…so it really doesn’t phase us much.

If you had to describe your sound, what would you say?

That’s a really hard thing to do and this day and age it’s really not necessary. Almost anyone can instantly access our music and decide what they think about it.

Do you find that being siblings helps or hinders your partnership?

It helps for the most part. There is a level of honesty that’s there that you generally don’t have with other people. But sometimes it can be a pain in the ass!

Can you explain the inspiration behind upcoming EP “Love You More”?

I was dating this guy and he was like a vacuum…no matter how much love you gave him, he couldn’t feel it. I was head over heels for him though so I kept trying to break down these walls. I wrote that song one day out of utter frustration when I realized I couldn’t give him what he needed.

What are your goals with the EP?

Just giving a little taste of what’s to come.

With a career having spanned a decade, you must have had some highs and lows. What’s been the highest and the lowest?

The highs and lows never end when you make music your career. It’s really hard but certainly not mundane. The lowest points are when you see potential in an album and know that it won’t be fully realized. We are feeling pretty high right now because we finally have a great label and manager behind us that believe in us so we feel like we have a real shot this time around. Hope and anticipation is always the best high.

When was the moment that you knew you had made real headway as musicians?

It’s been such a slow and steady climb, it’s hard to say. It feels really good when you hear your songs in radio and tv though. You think, finally! People will hear us.

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