LAKE make music like a funkier Lou Barlow, with vocals like a smoother Will Oldham, coolly shy rather than grizzly man. LAKE make indie-pop with the twee taken out, because twee can’t groove. LAKE are a six piece band from Washington, epicentre of the K Records Teenage Underground Revolution.
They have supported Bonnie Prince Billy and Laura Veirs, played as Adrian Orange’s backing group, and sometimes include legend of the North West, Karl Blau, among their number. Their third album for K Records, Giving & Receiving, will be released in April.
DiS met singer Elijah Moore to talk Washington, K Recs, touring with Adrian Orange and his favourite bands.
Tell us a little about your background? Where do you come from, and how did you start making music?
EM: I grew up in the Seattle area. We moved from Seattle, the city, to an island an hour north of Seattle called Whidbey when I was 5 years old. We moved from a big, nice old Victorian house, in a normal neighbourhood, to a small shack in the woods. It was quite a transition! I remember the day we moved here. Standing on the porch and realizing the profound change my life would take.
We lived in the shack while my father built a log house on the property. My dad and a very close uncle both played guitar, so I had those influences. I remember picking up the guitar as a 11 year old and playing the low strings with my thumb, figuring out the bass lines to Nirvana songs before I knew any chords or anything. But I remember that the first time I really decided to play guitar was when I decided I wanted to play ‘Stairway to Heaven’ when I was in the 8th grade. I asked my dad to show me, not really thinking that I wanted to be a guitarist and play anything else on guitar, but just wanting to know how to play that song. I slaved away for weeks. I remember my fingers literally bleeding, because I had to clip my fingernails back. the skin under my fingernails on my left hand doesn't grow as far forward now as it did before I learned how to play 'Stairway', it really helped my guitar playing in the long run, but I remember it hurting quite badly! After 'Stairway' I asked my dad to teach me ‘Rocky Racoon’, then I asked to learn how to play ‘Blackbird’ (both Beatles songs). People said I was learning really fast, so I kept playing because it was something that made me feel good about myself and that I liked doing.
I really needed something like that at the time, and I can't imagine what the rest of middle school and high school would have been like without guitar. Because I hated sports and was growing out of video games.
What were your formative musical influences?
EM: The Beatles and Led Zeppelin were big influences. Also Nirvana, Soundgarden, Metallica, and stuff like that. It was all a mix when I was a kid. I got really into heavy dark music like Metallica, Pantera, and Tool. But my tastes became more ‘refined’ later in Highschool. In the early 90's there was a period when the mainstream was a little bit unstable. I became aware of smaller bands through Nirvana like Sonic Youth (first), then bands like Sebadoh, and Eric's Trip. that's the kind of music that really made me excited in a new way. Especially the Sebadoh's album The Freed Weed. It’s so lo-fi but so beautiful. It really opened my mind. then slowly I became aware of stuff like K Records. But that path really leads directly from Nirvana. It was a cool time to be a teenager, music-wise.
Introduce us to LAKE. How many of you are there, and who plays what?
EM:LAKE is Ashley Eriksson, her and I write and sing lead vocals on most of the songs in the band. She also plays keyboards, bass, guitar, and occasionally drums. We all switch around quite often. Lindsay Schief is primarily the drummer of the band, but she also plays bass, keyboard, and sings the lead vocals on songs. She's also written a small handful of songs for the band over the years. Andrew Dorsett is the other person who plays a lot of drums. He's more of a technical player, where as Lindsay plays more from the gut. Both are really important to the band, depending on the song. Andrew arranges a lot of the horns and often has a big part in arranging the songs themselves. He plays everything quite well....bass, keyboards, drums, and guitar that is. Markly plays everything as well. He really adds a lot of spice to the band. He has a real knack for writing keyboard or synth hooks and if you hear something hooky, on a keyboard on an album, it's quite likely him. He also is a great guitar player, bass player, and a decent drummer. He writes his own songs in his other bands Lazer Zeppelin, and Skrill Meadow. Everyone sings back up vocals.
How did LAKE start? How did all of the members meet?
EM: LIndsay, Andrew, Ashley, and Mark all knew each other in LA. LIndsay, Ashley, and Andrew even had a short lived band called the Good Looking Attractive People. LIndsay was the first of them to move to Olympia. That's where LIndsay and I met, through the music scene. Lindsay recommended that I meet her friend Ashley while I was visiting my uncle down there (the guitar playing uncle). And when we met we began recording music together immediately (within an hour)! It was awesome and we really hit it off musically. She moved up to Olympia a couple months later, and we had our first band practice that very day.
How has your sound changed since you started playing together?
EM:Our earlier albums, the ones before K Records, were a little bit more mellow. the first album has a lot of songs that sound more 60's influenced. It's just grown and changed. Ashley and I started writing songs together on Oh, The Places We’ll Go (our first K Records release), and that changed our sound because we had completely different songs as co-songwriters. It was really fun to write music and see what Ashley would come up with for lyrics, etc. It's hard to say how our sound has changed, each release (to me) is so different from the last, but also they still sound like us. We're always finding old songs, even from before LAKE, so the songs are all over the place, but as a band I think we've gotten better and better at playing together, and songs come together faster and faster.
How did you end up on K Records?
EM:Olympia is a really small town, so eventually Calvin [Johnson] became familiar with us. Karl helped with that a lot. He invited us to play at his debut K Records release party, which was at the K Records office, so, I may be wrong, but that might have been the first time that they heard us there at K Records. shortly after that he recorded our first album, and gave it to Calvin. over the years we came in to the studio to help with friends albums (Adrian Orange, Your Heart Breaks, and Karl Blau, etc.) and eventually we just became "part of the family". When we finished recording Oh, the Places… we gave it to Mariella [Luz, general manager at K] and Calvin and they called us up and said that they wanted to release it. It was all quite natural and happened over a long period of time. Not to say that it wasn't exciting!
How did you start playing with Karl Blau and what’s his role in the group?
EM:I first met Karl when we played a show together, I played solo. But i think that my friend Clyde Peterson (from the band Your Heart Breaks) may have given Karl some CDRs of my old band Palisades, and also my first solo album Consuming Fire. At the time he was doing KELP, his monthly album subscription service, and offered to record LAKE as issue #24. It was a transformative, and great experience for us to work with Karl because he has such an open attitude towards creativity and "happy accidents." He Loves music so much that he can see through mistakes and loves everything. It's very spiritual, and I call it "faith based" recording. He's a true artist and a big inspiration to the band. We've toured together a bunch and he produced Let's Build a Roof [the band’s second album for K]. He also helped a lot with our upcoming album Giving & Receiving, mixing and helping with the recording of a few songs.
Tell us a bit about the scene in Olympia - is it collaborative or competitive?
EM: Well, I'm sure that there are competitive people, which is probably good for creativity in a lot of ways, and it's certainly filled with people who are collaborating with one another as well. Everyone is really cooperative there, helping out with projects, and going to see local bands all the time. There's always house shows, and always new bands that have a buzz about them.
I haven't lived there for the last 3 years, Ashley and I moved back to Whidbey Island where I grew up and have our own weird, small scene here which we really like, but every time I go back to Olympia I'm stunned. It's great town to live and do music in. I lived there for about 5 years and never thought I would move, but suddenly I did an am now in love with where we live.
What is it about the area that seems to be so inductive to that kind of music so particular to K Recs?
EM: Well, at this point, to people who are familiar with that/this kind of music I’d say that the music itself is the biggest factor in what makes is so inductive. There's lots of trees, and lots of space. And dark rainy winters where you just wanna stay home and record (if you're lucky) or cook with friends, or smoke pot, or whatever.
Can you tell me about your work with Adrian Orange? You played as his band for the last record he did for K, is that right? What was it like working with him? How did he influence your sound, and visa versa?
EM: We played as his backup band while he was working out a lot of the songs for that album Adrian Orange and Her Band. That was a great experience for us, firstly because it was our first tour and was crazy! It was 9 weeks long, and we didn't have any days off. We were basically living hand to mouth, and Adrian was in charge. It was fun, but quite emotional and hard to handle. I broke down a few times, I think we all did. It was musically important for us because we got more interested in African music and rhythms. The album was a lot of fun. We didn't play necessarily the same instruments that we played while we were on tour with him because he had his close friends in Portland and that kind of thing who he had always intended on playing on the album, but he made sure to include us, and he really wanted lots of people to be playing simultaneously. He's a great performer and did all the vocals live. The band was following him, and basically it's how bands should record. I love that album.
Tell us about the new record – has your sound changed at all? Do you know when it’ll be released?
EM: The new album Giving & Receiving is coming out in April. Like all of our albums, we recorded using a different process than we've used in the past. The first album was done to a 1/2inch 8 track tape machine. The second album (our tape) was recorded to a cassette 8track, the third album (which is still unreleased) was done in a fancy studio to pro tools. Its' a great album, but it ended up taking too long to finish, because of scheduling with the engineer/producer Tucker Martine. We went ahead and did the next album while were waiting to find time to mix the album with Tucker, and since then have had a hard time finding time to go back and release it.
What music is inspiring you at the moment?
EM: Lately I've been really enjoying the band Elevator to Hell (which is one of the main songwriters from the band Eric's Trip). I also find Stephen Steinbrink (also goes by French Quarter) to be just mind blowing! He's one of my favourite songwriters ever. I've been listening to the Everly Brothers a lot recently, and T Rex. Lot's of stuff, also on a Roger Miller kick, and a really neat children's album from Estonia that we found called Kodu en Puha. The French band Aquaserge is incredible. LIndsay Buckingham solo albums. A German band called Die Doraus und die Marinas, which is so good. And Captain Beefheart… luckily we've been listening to lots of music these days because we finally got a record player that works well. I have a new band called Baby Island that I'm really excited to record with. I listen to our practice tapes a lot.
Apart from the new album, what are your plans for the future of LAKE?
EM: Well, I’d like to do some songs on the next album (since the one you're referring to is already done and waiting to be released) that are written collaboratively as a band. We've been talking about that for years, but we always end up with too many songs that are already written and we're dying to bring to the band, so we don't get around to writing as a band. That should be fun. We did two short instrumentals on the new album that were written somewhat collaboratively, but I’d like to do it more. I’d like to do a bunch of music videos for the new album Giving & Receiving. We've already shot one with Adam Newport-Berra: He did the video for Karl's song 'Dark Sedan', which LAKE got to act in.
Hmm, I’d love to go to Japan since our last album, and the upcoming album are going to be released there. And if we can, I’d love to do more tours in Europe, but it's quite an expenditure to get all the members over there and rent a van. In the US we can tour and make money, but going to Europe always breaks us. I'm always excited to start a new album as soon as we finish one. I think that is a great sign.