Letting Up Despite Great Faults, the shoegaze brainchild of musician Mike Lee, has grown into an auditory dreamscape. Luscious electronic melodies blend with upbeat rhythms and Lee’s celestial vocal delivery, to create a world similar to that of My Bloody Valentine and The Postal Service.
Having left Los Angeles and moved to Austin, Lee has since reformed LUDGF into a full band: Kent Zambrana (bass, keys), Daniel Schmidt (drums), Annah Fisette (vocals, keys) and Lee (guitar, vocals).
Both Lee and Zambrana spoke to Red River Noise about their latest album, Untogether, serenading people during SXSW and future plans.
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All of Letting up Despite Great Faults’ songs have been written by you, Mike. Now that you have a complete band do you feel that there is a lot more collaboration going on?
Mike Lee: Yeah. How I wrote in the past—it was something I needed to do on my own. Now that we have two albums out I feel like I have my share of what I’ve wanted to say. I think now all I want to do is create the best songs possible. Before, I didn’t care about that very much. Now I just want to have very solid songs and releases.
Mike, I read in another interview that if you had not created LUDGF you would have been a DJ. What would your DJ name be, and what songs would you begin and end your sets with?
Lee: [laughs] As long as you drop the DJ in the name you will be fine. Song-wise, that’s a tough one. “Crave You” by Flight Facilities and Giselle would be fun. Or Shinichi Osawa’s remix of the Chemical Brothers’ “Star Guitar.”
Kent Zambrana: Back in the day, Mike used to go by the name “M. Lee.” If he became a DJ instead of pursuing LUDGF M. Lee probably would have been his DJ name.
For your most recent release, Untogether, you recorded the album in your home studio. Have you done that for previous recordings too?
Lee: Yes. I usually track everything at my house except for live drums. There’s so much electronic production that can easily be done at my house. Plus it saves us studio money. [laughs]
How was recording Untogether and has recording in general, become much easier for you?
Lee: Recording has become easier for me. It’s definitely a blessing and a curse. Songwriting, mixing, recording—it’s all a skill. I now know not to do certain things that will hold me back as an artist. But at the same time I do not want my music to be formulaic. I will say that I am a much better musician from when I first started. [laughs]
Kent, since Mike writes most of the parts for the band, how would you say you contribute to the group?
Zambrana: I’ve been working with Mike for a long time now, and he enjoys bouncing ideas off of me. I also sometimes give him suggestions that may force him to think outside the box. Plus I dance around during our live performances.
Lee: One of my favorite things about working with Kent is his optimism. He’s really good at picking the good parts of our songs and making sure they shine. He’s really good at not letting me completely drop songs.
Kent, Is it true that you serenaded a group of people during SXSW?
Zambrana: [laughs] We were performing near the emergency exit of some venue during SXSW, and I ran out of the exit into the street. People came around and pulled out their phones, and played for a bit before going back inside.
Lee, was it difficult leaving Los Angeles after living there for so long, and do you feel that any of the songs on Untogether reflect that?
Lee: Before I made the move to Austin there was a crap-load of separation happening in my life. My grandma had passed away; I had broken up with an ex-fiance—just a lot of things slapping me in the face. However, Untogether is not a break up album. It’s more about being with the people you love. When I moved here I felt I had a clean slate, as cliche as that sounds.
What would you say was your definitive, “Wow I’m in Texas” moment?
Lee: I actually did not like Lone Star, but all I drink now is Lone Star. It’s probably because it’s free everywhere. [laughs]
Zambrana: There are so many good local beers.