I Know Leopard‘s lead vocalist and chief songwriter, Luke O’Loughlin made time to have a chat with GC Live right before the release of their debut album, ‘Love Is A Landmine’ OUT TODAY (APRIL 5) which will also take them on a comprehensive nation-wide tour.
Interview by Elizabeth Sharpe @ummagummamumma
I Know Leopard aren’t new on the Australian Music Scene or the airwaves, you guys were triple j’s unearthed feature artists way back in 2014 … but this is your first full length album. How has your music and sound evolved since then?
It’s evolved pretty dramatically I’d say. I think that when we started off in 2014 it was quite a different line up in the way that I suppose we used to be a lot more kind of guitar driven and we used to call ourselves dream pop because we were all listening to a lot of dream pop and shoe-gazey sound type bands and we were influenced by a lot of that at that time. Bit by bit I guess over the years we just started stripping away a lot of the layers. There’s still guitars in a lot of our music but it became a lot more synth heavy. I think that where we are at now, we are taking a much more minimalistic approach to music making. Yeah, it was a big change up for us this album because I suppose there was always a lot of these sort of soft rock, late 70’s influences that have been floating around in me since I was a kid because it was the music that I was brought up on, but I think that with this album I finally got it out of my system, once and for all.
The full album is out today (April 5) and I’ve been lucky enough to have an advanced listen. It’s super easy listening, dreamy & crisp, and as an ELO fan I completely dig it. What was it like recording with Jack Moffitt from The Preatures as the producer? How involved did he get with the development of each track?
It was so cosy working with Jack, we’ve all known Jack for quite a while. When Todd and I, Todd’s the guitarist in the band, we lived in Adelaide and we both moved up to Sydney, probably like about 10 years ago now, and we met Jack and Izzy and Luke back in the day before they were The Preatures and we were friends. We always sort of kept an eye on what each other was doing musically…
So there were already those comfort levels there which would have been nice to go in with?
Yeah, exactly. It really was great to have that to go in with. He was amazing to work with. He was really involved. There was two phases to the making of the record. The first was with Jack basically recording all the live stuff, which is like the guitars, the drums, the vocals and stuff like that. The second phase was kind of more of the electronic side of things which was done with just myself and a guy called Luke Million in Adelaide my hometown and that was like the electronic stuff and all the mixing. But yeah Jack was really like a producer in the purest sense of a producer. He kind of came in and really challenged us. What I mean by that is that, we never to that point really tracked the songs live as a band in a room you know, playing together. We always kind of learnt how to play the songs afterwards, you know, after we had recorded them. So it’d always be a recording project in a way, like I’d start working on a demo just by all of us contributing bits and pieces and people coming into the studio and just laying down bits of guitar and violin or whatever and the demo would gradually become the real thing. Whereas this time we kind of wrote and demoed for 3 years or something, and the actual recording of it happened within 6 months. That’s why I think the record has a far more cohesive, uniform sound to it than we’ve ever had before. And that came out of us tracking it all live as a band and that’s what Jack really pushed us all to do, to really get those quirks and imperfections that you get from playing live as a band.
That must show in the live performances too with those becoming a bit more natural as well…
I think so. That was one of the reasons that Jack pushed that on us because he was like I have seen you guys play live before and it’s a different and way more energetic experience than what it’s like recorded, let’s try and capture that. And we thought, oh god, to record live as a band, we’ll be too nervous to do that. But he really gave us the confidence to just kind of shed any of those inhibitions and just go for it and really learn to embrace those imperfections because that’s what gives an album character. Some of those imperfections on the album became my favourite moments on the album. That was his big influence on the band and that just made the album as bold as it could be as well, it was a really bold statement for us and I really felt like we needed to put out something bold because we’d made music in the past we’d been really proud of but…
Didn’t feel like you were really breaking through as many barriers as you were with this one perhaps?
Yeah, yeah exactly.
I saw the Heather video clip on Rage a few weeks ago and found myself automatically singing along with the chorus, it’s a real ear-worm. The lyrics have a moody undertone but they’re disguised by the overall sound making it a light and airy bopper that you can really groove to. Being the chief song writer, are you willing to divulge a little on what the song is about… perhaps who it is about? Basically what I’m asking is… Is there a real Heather out there and does she know who she is?
You know what, there’s not actually a real Heather out there. Heather was just actually a name that seemed to work really well, it just sounded really great in the song.
It DOES sound really great, hence why it gets me singing along and then it gets me wondering, who am I singing to? Is there a Heather? Or is this just an anthem for every Heather out there?
It is. I think that’s more what it’s about. I suppose people can relate to that kind of situation. It is about feeling kind of chewed up and spat out in a relationship. The funny thing is that pretty much all the other songs on the record are about kind of real experiences, some of them are quite raw experiences. But this one was more of like I really wanted to write a frustrated in love kind of song. I’ve heard a lot of those sort of songs from the 70’s and 80’s and it was a bit of an ode to those. It was a chance to do a really sassy pop song and those lyrics and the name Heather just came out while we were writing and it was one of those things I didn’t really think about too much, the lyrics just came out on a subconscious level.
Landmine is the other single from the album – and aside from that track & Heather, what is your personal stand-out track?
I think everyone has different favourites but I think mine is Everything Goes With You. It’s one that I really enjoy playing live, it’s a ballad and I love a good ballad, I’m just a ballad person. And you were talking about ELO before and that I think is our ELO moment. I just love the way everything sounds, I love the way that instead of recording the strings really perfectly we kind of ran the strings through really crappy little tiny guitar amps to get them kind of sounding a bit warped. I just love all the choices we made in the end and how we delivered that song.
I believe the most intriguingly titled track from the eleven songs on the album is Mums and Dads of Satanists Sitting in the middle there as an intentional instrumental interlude – but I have to ask, what is the reference with the title?
Yeah ha ha. So originally it was a song with a verse and a chorus and everything but there’s just something about the vocals, they just weren’t working for the track. We really loved it but I think what we liked most about it was the chord changes and the sonics to it. We were going to get rid of it so it didn’t make the cut, but then I was going back through the steamers one day and stripped all the vocals away and took most of the live drums off it, put the drum machine in and it just worked really nicely as an instrumental. The lyric were kind of really bizarre, they just came complete out of left field, and although I really did like the lyrics, the were really fun, I just didn’t like them for this record.
So you dropped the lyrics, left the music, and kept the song title…
Yeah, kept the song title, couldn’t get rid of the song title ha ha
The sound that you’ve achieved is super fresh but at the same time, has this throwback or homage to the 70s, I immediately assume that your fan base must be multigenerational- have you noticed this at all and does it show in your crowd diversity at live shows?
It does, yeah, absolutely. It is that music that the mum and dads out there grew up with and are really passionate about. We’ve got all the demographics that come to our shows at the moment so that’s wonderful, I love it that everyone can connect with it. That was always what we wanted to do, was find a place for these classic songs to live in the modern music climate. If that can keep happening we’ll be very happy.
I Know Leopards fans must be super happy with the tour announcement, you guys have jam packed it full of a decent number of dates and are even heading to WA for not one, but two shows, which is a state that often sadly misses out. With all this touring, and having just been to the states for the SXSW music conference, have you had any time to go out to a gig yourself?
There was lots of gigs we went to see in SXSW obviously. There’s a band called Deer Hunter that we’ve been fans of ever since we started the band and we got to see them in a really small intimate venue and that was just incredible, super inspiring. While we were over there as well, we saw an Australian band called Haiku Hands, they’re so much fun and there was a huge buzz for them at SXSW as well. Just because they’re so different and they’re so singular with what they’re doing. There was a really profound moment when they played at one point actually, there was just such a huge crowd, I felt proud to be Australian.
What is your quintessential Aussie Album?
Yeah that’s a tough one. Give me one sec…
*disappears for a few moments to go through his vinyl collection*
I reckon my favourite would be the Crowded House self-titled album pretty much they’re debut one which was out in ’86. That’s just one of those albums where the song writing is just like perfect to me. I love Neil Finn and anything he’s ever done, I love all the Split Enz stuff.
I Know Leopard
‘Love Is A Landmine’ Tour
May & June 2019
All tour information available here
‘Love Is A Landmine’ is officially out now and GC Live recommends you check it out!