In 2007, an area project dubbed Le Loup churned out a pretty addicting record. Hardly Art has just dropped their follow up, one of the most naturally gorgeous albums I've heard all year.
Family builds on all the fantastic looping melodies and beautiful ideas of the first LP, a testament to the band's blossoming sound. I recently had the chance to pry the mind of the group's mastermind, and once Baltimore resident, Sam Simkoff.
We discussed the new record, Bmore, and the Ottobar's bathrooms. Le Loup are beginning their national tour with an album release party at the Ottobar this Friday, October 9th. Check out the interview after the click...
In addition to the name itself, Family has a far more cohesive feel than the debut. What connected?
it's funny, because we were concerned during recording about it not cohering in terms of some of the stylistic elements. the band had expanded from a two to a six person outfit, and that meant a lot of different musical opinions and outlooks thrown into the mix. it was something we'd gotten accustomed to for live performance, but not something we'd ever tried in terms of song-building and recording. so there was a sense during the creation of the album that we had to tread carefully to avoid things sounding like too much of a hodgepodge. i mean, a song like 'morning song' thrown into the same album as 'forgive me...' there was a lot of careful orchestration to make sure that'd work. at the same time, we knew we didn't just want to make a rehash of the first album. i'm still very proud of what i did with that stuff, but we didn't just want to sit on the older aesthetic. we'd gotten really used to the energy and dynamics of the live show, and we wanted to showcase all of it in some sort of meaningful, coherent way. i like to think we succeeded. i certainly think so when i listen to the album.
Nature is one of the many repeated themes throughout the LP, was this due to the studio environment in North Carolina?
i think the mountain cabin thing could be taken pretty lightly. we went there in the last two weeks of recording, and while we got a lot done there, the stark majority of the album was recorded in DC and mixed and messed with in our very own b'more. i don't live there anymore, can i still say 'our very own?' i loved it there. anyhow, a lot of those lyrics had been pretty much committed to paper by the time we got to NC, i don't think we wrote any that stuck when we were up there. i think the 'nature' lyrics are more just a weakness of mine- i love getting into nature, and living in a city makes you really pine for it. so a lot of the songs had to do with wishful thinking, i guess, or this notion of nature as it stands in your head when you can't get there yourself.
The sound itself is much bigger and warmer than your debut, was the recording process different?
yeah, it was completely different. for starters, the first album was recorded entirely through that little hole in your laptop where the mic is, and put together in garageband. the physical setup was a little more sophisticated this time (although not by much)- we'd invested in a couple condenser microphones, and an audio interface, and the cheapo version of protools, which one should never use, by the way. we actually had to find creative ways to inject warmth into it- fully digital recording has a tendency to kind of sap stuff of some of its humanity, and we had about as digital a setup as it got- digital preamp, digital effects plugins, digital EQ, digital mixing. so we had to be really careful about how we recorded things. we experimented with a lot of different mic setups, and running vocals through amps and then micing the amps rather than running them directly into the interface, or using a tube amp head as the preamp before running a mic into the computer.
i think a lot of that eventual warmth just came with five of us playing live as a group rather than just me overdubbing stuff on my lonely, lonely computer. there's a palpable difference (within the album, i mean) between the instances when we had to overdub a lot of stuff and when we could play the songs as a live setup and then work with the live takes.
I understand you've spent some time in Baltimore, what do you miss about the Charm City?
i miss a lot about baltimore. there was an amazing sense of neighborhood and community there. the street on which my wife and i lived, there was always somebody out on the stoop, ol' lloyd was always fixing something on the block and shooting the breeze, and by the time we had to leave, a lot of younger people had moved onto the street and we were having these amazing summer mini block parties every weekend. and i felt like that feeling permeated the entire city. wherever you went, there was this sense of everybody sharing some sort of similar experience. there was a weird sort of openness i don't think you'd get if you just visited the place, you know? also, i miss: matthew's pizzeria, the brewers art, the visionary art museum, and our friends mike and laine. god, what a city.
You chose the Ottobar for your tour-starting record release show, besides the impeccable bathrooms, any specific reason why?
you know, i've never actually been there? that's one thing i was really terrible about when we lived in baltimore, going to live shows. lame, yeah? but we hear great things about ottobar. never heard the bathroom thing, but i think i would have chosen it solely for that. an impeccable bathroom ought not be underrated.