Oh, Australia. You’ve given us Jet, Tame Impala and now The Laurels. The Laurels began in 2006 but recently caught the attention of fans nationally and internationally, with their 2009 EP, Mesozoic. At The Laurels’ core is a love and appreciation for shoegazing vibes. (Think My Bloody Valentine and Ride.) However, the group balances their luscious dreamscapes with head-bobbing grooves and chant-like vocals. This approach makes up most of the group’s latest album, Plains. Drummer Kate Wilson and bassist Conor Hannan serve as the band’s driving momentum, as guitarists and vocalists Piers Cornelius and Luke O’Farrell provide layers of melodies and reverb-drenched riffs.
The band is currently on their first ever U.S. tour, and will be performing in Austin for this year’s Austin Psych Fest. O’Farrell spoke with Red River Noise about Plains, why his favorite guitar pedal is the Experience Fuzz and future plans.
You recently released your latest album, Plains. How does it feel to finally have the album out?
Luke O’Farrell: Well, it’s almost been a year since the album was released in Australia. Some of the songs on the record are almost as old as the band! So it’s kind of weird treating it as a new release all over again. It’s exciting to finally have the chance to tour it overseas, of course. We’ve been working with these songs for so long, but they’ve always been evolving within a live context. So in that sense, it helps to maintain the interest and enthusiasm.
How was the recording process for Plains and what did you learn from the experience? (Recording techniques, etc.)
O’Farrell: The album was recorded in two weeks with our good friend, Liam Judson. We deliberately removed ourselves from the city and our normal lives, taking all the recording equipment and our instruments with us, and shacking up in an old cabin in a quiet rural town. We essentially made it a home away from home. It was just a matter of waking up each day and getting straight into it. There weren’t any distractions and we had to remain focused on getting everything done in the time frame we’d been given. It was completely different to the recording process of Mesozoic. That took months and it was very sporadic because we never had set blocks of time to work on it. We had to work around each other’s schedules. We deliberately wanted to condense the whole process for Plains and get the album recorded as quickly as possible. It was a very liberating experience, mainly because we had to prove to ourselves that we could do it. But it was also extremely stressful and scary working under such a strict time frame.
What led to the decision to create a much more gentle and smooth record, in comparison to past release Mesozoic?
O’Farrell: Well, Mesozoic is what it is. I think a lot of people were expecting a continuation of that sound, but we just wanted to try something different. Our influences don’t remain stagnant and we are constantly formulating new ideas and concepts when picking up new influences and inspirations. That is inevitably going to affect our sonic development. I feel the intention of the EP was to capture our live sound on record, whereas we wanted Plains to be a studio album. Something we could experiment with rather than just plugging in and playing through the songs. In my mind, it was paying homage to The Beatles’ Revolver by using the studio as a tool to create something more dynamically stimulating and atmospheric. I love that both records express different sides of the band. I’m of the opinion that each recorded document should be its own thing. My greatest fear is that we’ll repeat ourselves. So with the next record, you can expect to hear something completely different again.
Gerald Murnane’s The Plains served a big part for your album, but what else did you take inspiration from? The title conveys a sense of traveling and venturing. Is the title also a reference to your upcoming first ever U.S. shows?
O’Farrell: There’s definitely a sense of traveling and venturing, but I feel that it applies in more of a universal sense. The record encompasses the experiences and lessons that we take in on our own personal inner and outer journeys. Existing is a pretty big source of inspiration!
Speaking of U.S. shows how excited are you for them, and being a part of this year’s Austin Psych Fest?
O’Farrell: Pretty damn excited. I’ve never been overseas before so I’m ecstatic I get to visit all these cities, and also attend a festival where some of our favorite bands will be playing!
I read in one interview that there are between 20-25 guitar pedals onstage for your shows. Has that changed recently, what pedal is your favorite to use and why?
O’Farrell: At last count I had 20 just to myself. My favorite is probably my Prescription Electronics Experience Fuzz. I like it because it sounds awesome with every other pedal I own. I can make it sound like a dying dinosaur with a reverse reverb pedal, or a rusty chainsaw when it’s running through a wah pedal. It pretty much cuts through anything. I think it’s the main reason I suffer from tinnitus.
Lastly, what is the band’s future plans for the rest of 2013?
O’Farrell: To start work on our next record. We’ve accumulated a lot of gear over the lifespan of the band, so we’re going to try a more hands on approach and do it ourselves this time around. Piers and I have also been listening to a lot of hip hop and we’re working with samples and loops, so the recording process is going to revolve around that and will require an entirely new approach. I like the idea of treating it as a collage of sound. We’ve already got the blueprints for most of the songs recorded, so it’ll be a matter of getting everyone else in the band involved when we’re home from the US and building it up from there!
Listen to Plains from The Laurels below.