Monday, January 17, 2011

FIVE STARS: An interview with Lou Rhodes from LAMB

From disbanding in 2004 to releasing their fifth album, 5, on the fifth of May 2011, Lamb is a band with a plan, and a long gap to account for. Singer, lyricist and all-round atmospherist LOU RHODES elaborates.

“Well it was more than a gap,” she says with a gentle keenness in her voice. “When we split in 2004 it was a proper split and we went separate ways. For me I was yearning to go off and make acoustic music and I’ve been really enjoying doing that over the last few years. [Bandmate] Andy [Barlow], for his part, has been producing other people and has been working on Lowb [released in March], which is his solo record. He was joking yesterday that it’s taken five months to write the new Lamb record and five years to do his solo album,” she says with a laugh.

No stranger to solo albums herself, Rhodes released her third, entitled One Good Thing, late last year. Clearly, there are some different paces at work here. “We push each other I think,” she says thinking carefully. “I think there was something that had got to a point…” she pauses, choosing her words carefully. “When Lamb split, making music and everything had become quite challenging and there was conflict between us, and the directions we wanted to go in. The initial direction of Lamb was very much about Andy and his technology and me and my lyrics. Then it got diluted over the years with a live band and pressures of a major label and them wanting us to write hits and all that. It was just definitely time to move away and it was very clear for me that that’s what I wanted to do.”

"We did some live shows out of the blue in 2009 when we were asked to play at The Big Chill festival. We’d been considering playing live shows after that, and I’d said I’ll do six shows and that’s it, and it turned into a 24-date world tour that ended tour in Australia. The rollercoaster ride was great fun.”

Long held in the hearts of many Australian festival-goers, Lamb have been renown for their live show, one that is far more interesting and nuanced than that of many predominantly electronic bands. The Australian shows, she hastens to add, are not album launches, rather sneak peaks. “We’re not actually officially launching the album until May fifth. We’re still finishing the album right now; in fact, I was doing a vocal for the last song for the album right before I picked up the phone for this interview. There wasn’t a plan to come to Australia; we just didn’t want to turn down the opportunity when we were asked. It was like ‘what the hell, let’s do it’, so now it’s all a bit of a panic. We will be playing some of the new songs, and it will be a chance to let Australians get an exclusive listen to the new album.”

This new album follows on from 2003's Between Darkness and Light, 2001's What Sound and, possibly their most famous album, 1999’s Fear of Fours in which Lamb studiously avoided using the 4/4 time signature and track four was rendered a two-second segue between tracks three and five.

“We’re getting a bit obsessed with numbers now,” says Lou laughing in a way that seems to play down their true significance. “Basically it’s our fifth record and five is Andy’s lucky number. He was thrilled to bits when he realised it was the fifth album, I kind of tried to put up resistance to this number thing of his, but it was futile,” she says with a laugh.

Though Lamb are most known for their 1997 single Gorecki, which has turned up everywhere from the soundtracks of Moulin Rouge!, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and Tomb Raider, to several hundred weddings, there was never the sense the band rested on their laurels or sought to recreate whatever magic occurred when this song was written. With its accompanying self-titled album entering charts around the world and ensuing albums doing the same, 2011 finds Lamb very much deciding their own pace and not at all beholden to audience or label expectations. Indeed this reunion only occurred because, as Rhodes says, “Lamb would only come back if there was something fresh to say, and it seems that time is definitely here.” She also adds that 5 is very much a follow on from that successful debut album. Though much has changed, the songwriting dynamic of the two has remained remarkably consistent, but as Rhodes is the first to point out, it’s very different from the largely acoustic solo work she’s done during intervening years.

“The songwriting has been undergoing quite a change, for me coming back to writing in the context of Lamb, it’s very different to writing for a solo album. With Lamb, because we live at opposite sides of the country and we spend short blocks of time together, obviously we’ve had a very focused way of writing the album. Each has it’s own pressures so it’s very different. With Andy, it’s more like we both turn up and ask the other ‘so what’ve you got?’ And the album comes from there.”

Other changes since their split have been more of an industrial way. Shifts in the music industry have left some artists poorer and more empowered than ever, changes that have influenced Lamb but have not dictated the terms of their reunion.

“I don’t think our reunion has come about because of that, but the way the industry is it’s difficult because people don’t buy records the way they used to, so it’s some ways, it’s more difficult to make a living out of music. With this new album, we could fund making the record out of pre-orders. We were a little worried that there wouldn’t be many but, thankfully, that’s not been an issue. In some ways it was a leap of faith, but in other ways it’s the cheapest record we’ve ever made,” she says with a laugh before justifying herself. “I mean cheapest in the monetary sense, because with the earlier albums we spent a lot of record label money making records. Technically we owed it to them at the end of our contract, but it’s very easy to throw money around and for 5 we’ve been recording everything in Andy’s studio and house, so costs are a lot lower.” The location of this studio, on a sheep farm in the English countryside, covered in snow and ice (slipping on which recently resulted in Rhodes’ fracturing her ankle), has provided a cocoon for the two to incubate ideas at their own pace. “It’s so much more of an honest relationship in a way; to not have a record company worried about shifting records. It’s so rare to find someone in a record company these days who actually cares about music before profit. We’ve been lucky in the past, but now I feel we’re kind of masters of our own destiny in a way.”

Australian Tour Dates:
Thursday 17th February – Prince of Wales, Melbourne, VIC
Tickets available through
Friday 18th February – Hi Fi, Brisbane, QLD
Tickets available through
Sunday 20th February - Playground Weekender Festival, Wisemans Ferry, NSW
Tickets available through

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