INTERVIEW: Lanterns on the Lake | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Witnessing the majesty of Lanterns On The Lake’s sound can often be akin to a spiritual experience; inhabiting a transcendental world somewhere in between dreamy post-rock and atmospheric indie, the Newcastle band’s new album, Spook The Herd (their fourth for lauded independent label Bella Union), further cements their prowess in tackling tough subjects. From climate change to grief, addiction and polarised politics – Hazel Wilde’s immense songwriting talent and sumptuous vocals are at the height of their powers.

Unafraid to confront critical subjects, Hazel explored the album’s subject matter before the band collaborated further. “We all got together to share the ideas that we’d come up with, talked about what we wanted to achieve with this record, and took it from there.” She explains. “I had a bunch of songs that I’d written over the last few years, which were a good starting block for us. Ol [Oliver Ketteringham, drums/piano] had a couple of ideas he’d come up with on piano, Paul [Gregory, guitar] had some he’d come up with, and I had ones that were more ‘songy’. We spent a while working on the songs in our rehearsal room before taking them to the studio to record.”

For the first time the band decided to concentrate on the immersion of writing and performing, stepping outside of their North East comfort zone for the recording process and handing the reins over to engineer Joss Worthington, as Hazel recalls. “The place we went to in Yorkshire was called Distant City studios, it was perfect for us. There was this lush little old pub next door, which was the perfect place to debrief at the end of the day, talk about music and get excited about the record we were making. That side of things is really important when you’re making a record – you’ve got to all be on board with the vision.”

Lyrically, the album covers so much of our turbulent, unclear times, but in the poetic and expressive style the band have become lauded for, and find Hazel attempting to make sense of the world. Baddies is a noisily dark and brooding tale of online division, while Blue Screen Beams finds hopefulness in the mire of distraction and disappointment amid a pounding piano line. Swimming Lessons’ meandering arpeggiated guitars is tempered by the poetic A Fitting End, with its mournful acoustic guitar gliding softly under Hazel’s melancholic vocals, interrupted by crescendoing electric guitar wails and ponderous drums. “There’s definitely a few themes running through the record, but each song has its own story, and they are all about different things: the disorientation we can feel in the current times we are living through; about social media, about how polarised we all seem to be and a longing to do something that matters.”

It’s about the personal experience of living through these unnerving times, seeking out what is important and clinging on to what is still dear to us

Although the songs look through the band’s lens, they reach out to all of us. “It’s more about the personal experience of living through these unnerving times, seeking out what is important and clinging on to what is still dear to us. Then there are the much more personal songs like Secrets & Medicine, which I wrote after the death of a family member who had struggled with addiction for a long time until what seemed like the inevitable happened.”

First single Every Atom is an intimate, pared-back favourite of Hazel’s, her plaintive vocals echoing glitchy strings and insistent drums. This often intimate approach is apparent throughout the record and was a conscious decision rather than an organic movement. “We wanted fewer layers, and we spent a lot of time when we were writing ‘cutting the fat’ off the songs. We were really keen to make sure that everything we played, every part, served a purpose and was necessary. That, plus recording it in the way that we did in the studio, gave it that more pared-back raw sound.”

Having spent the best part of the last two decades making music together, Hazel, Ol and Paul’s unique connection allows them to feel invigorated by exploring different avenues. The band’s rich textures and sonic atmospherics are completed by bassist Bob Allan and viola player Angela Chan, but by stripping the layers away they have unearthed an intimate and starker side which comes across with immeasurable intensity on the live stage.

Having been away from the stage for some time, the band are excited to be heading back out on the road this Spring, with a show at Newcastle’s Boiler Shop on Saturday 4th April. “I can’t tell you how much we’re looking forward to going on tour. I didn’t realise how important it was to me until I hadn’t played live for such a long time. I really miss it. Playing in Newcastle is a big deal for us. There’s an energy that comes when you play your hometown that you just don’t get elsewhere. There’ll be people there who would have seen us back when we would play The Cumberland Arms and Head of Steam, so it always feels like a shared journey when we play at home.”

Lanterns on the Lake release Spook The Herd on 21st February via Bella Union. They play Newcastle’s Boiler Shop on Saturday 4th April



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