Named after the female protagonist from a spaghetti western with the same name, Lola Colt are currently rising through the ranks of the London scene. Their psychedelia hued post-punk offers cinematic, saturated soundscapes which have seen them play a host of festivals already this year and last. I caught up with the band’s Danish lead singer Gun and drummer Martin to talk about psych, films, their infamous live set and new releases on the horizon...
You guys are getting quite a bit of attention at the moment and doing a lot of stuff: Detestival, The Great Escape and soon to be your own headline show – how is all of that going?
Martin: Yeah, its been great so far - it’s nice to get out of the studio. Basically for the last four or five months, before Christmas anyway, we’ve been working on the record and now we’ve made a conscious decision to try and pin down the live shows because we’ve had so much work to get through in the studio. It’s been nice to get out of London to Manchester and Liverpool and do gigs in front of people who don’t normally turn up to your shows – you can test yourself against that and see how it goes.
Talking of Liverpool, you played the Liverpool Psych Fest recently, it must have been nice to play alongside ‘like minded people’. Gun: We’ve played it twice already and the second time we played it the whole festival had really changed.
Martin: It’s nice to play that kind of festival because it’s been particularly good to us, as Gun said we’ve played it twice, they were kind enough to ask us back after the first time! With the ‘like minded people’ thing it’s a strange one because I don’t really feel part of any scene, but I think that’s a consequence of when you’re in it you don’t see it sort of thing. We do spend most of our time practicing and not necessarily playing gigs, so when you go to somewhere like that and there is this bunch of people who are all interested in the same sort of music then it is very refreshing actually.
Your name Lola Colt comes from a character in a spaghetti western who also doesn’t necessarily fit it to one persona, is it fair to say that reflects in yourselves?
Gun: We don’t try to fit in, or not fit in – we just try to make music and interpret things in our own way and the character came to us because it was the same in the way that she didn’t fit in or Lola Colt doesn’t fit in. Martin: There’s this sort of burgeoning psych scene that we have been lumped in with and personally speaking I don’t really feel that we are that kind of band, but you know it’s nice to be placed into that because there’s lots of good bands there and it’s nice to play with them and all that, but I don’t think we particularly sound like them. It’s a lot more song based and it’s a lot more structured than that kind of thing usually, so the name does kind of dovetail in quite nicely I suppose.
There is a lot of psych stuff being brought over from Denmark at the moment, and there is something about Scandinavia that produces this sort of dark, brooding sound – is there something particular about Scandinavia that creates this?
Gun: Perhaps. Psych has only really occurred to me in the last couple of years, Denmark didn’t really seem like the music producing country when I grew up -Sweden was and Germany was. If it’s darker and moodier, I don’t know. I think it’s tastier – it has a good sense of taste. Bands like The Wands have been coming over here and doing very well – is there something particular about Britain and London that makes them want to come here? Martin: I’m not sure – it’s hard to say obviously coming from here, but if you flip it round the other way I always thought that touring Scandinavia or touring Europe was much more appealing than touring in Britain. It always surprises me when bands want to come to the UK! I guess it kind of harks back to the long and fairly illustrious history of music and again it’s that thing of testing yourself against what else is out there – it’s inevitable. Gun: For me there is a whole language thing as well, where as a songwriter I wanted to learn English so that I could write in English and I felt that I had to come here to really learn music from within rather than trying to write English lyrics sat in another country away from the context of it. That felt a bit like cheating. I knew I wanted to come to an English speaking city, whether it was New York or London.
So your new track ‘Vacant Hearts’ is coming out soon, you worked with Jim Sclavunos from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds on that – what was it like working him?
Martin: It was great; Jim is one of these guys that comes with a list of bands as long as your arm that he has worked with and he is pretty much a living history of music, so I think we learned a lot working with Jim. Gun: He was a bit of a hero for you. Martin: Yeah, for me particularly – he’s always been a drum hero of mine, I’m a big Bad Seeds fan so it was slightly intimidating. I think the thing as well is that making a record with him, we had a pretty clear idea of how we wanted the record to be ourselves and the historic role of the producer is someone who can take a diamond in the rough and produce this different thing out of a raw element, but it didn’t really apply because we were so clear on what we wanted to do and how it should sound and all that. Jim was great at things like being able to step in and say when enough is enough, because we could be pretty guilty of going for details, details, details so he was quite good at saying “leave it there” and “you are the only person in the world that is really going to notice this” – that was useful I think.
Do you think having such an experienced musician on board with you being an up and coming band gave you that backbone?
Gun: Well that’s exactly where his experience came in to say “now that’s enough” kind of thing. Martin: Yeah I think so for sure. I think we spent so long working these songs out and figuring them out to the point where we were happy with them. The performance element wasn’t so much of a factor, but it was more helping us to stop focusing so much on these tiny details which were important to us, but after a while you need to draw a line under certain things – there are only so many tambourine bits that you can fret over!
Do you have a date for the record yet and what can we expect?
Martin: The plan is after summer some time, the wheels are in motion for that at the moment – to be decided when it comes out. Gun: There’s a lot of different tracks, different flavours. I think that’s one thing that I’m really proud of that we’ve been able to have something that sounds like Lola Colt throughout, but we’re bringing new stuff to the table. We’ve been playing around now for a couple of years, but we’re bringing out an album that no one has heard before – that’s probably the hook for me. Martin: The thing that struck me about it was how accessible it is. I didn’t expect it to be so... listenable! [laughs]Me speaking personally when I’m done making a record, I’m done with it and never listen to it again, but I’ve gone back to it and listened to it more and more. I think it’s pretty listenable and I think it’s pretty accessible – there’s a lot of good tunes on there I’d say!
So in your beginnings some of you met over a mutual love for film, is that as inspirational to you as other music? Gun: I think in terms of how we constructed and worked through the album it’s more like orchestrating – it makes me think more in terms of films, I can visualise it. Martin: I think everyone in this band is of the opinion that there is a lot to be learnt from film scores in the way they are structured and crafted to elicit very specific responses at any given time. Whether that’s the Bugsy Malone Soundtrack, or The Third Man, or Ennio Morricone, or whoever it is there is a craft there that a lot of times rock n’ roll bands don’t have. They have the other side of the coin which is this raw energy and raw emotion. I think it’s finding the balance between the two which is the interesting thing for us. I think film soundtrack are a big part of this band.
So if I held a knife up to you and demanded you told me some of your favourite film scores what would they be? Martin: I think I should stay out of this question because the Frozen soundtrack is currently being played a lot in my car. I will say I’ve got kids so it’s not entirely my doing! In terms of influencing this record it’s not high on the list. There’s the obvious Touchstones, Warren Ellis/Nick Cave collaborations – god, what else.. Gun: There’s so many classics – It’s the general mood of it as well. Martin: Yeah, I was going to say even like Clint Mansell and things like that. If you listen to the record you’d probably never pick that out, but again it’s the idea of the craft of a film soundtrack and being able to bring up these emotions, rather than having a specific reference from there, or we were listening to this a lot – it’s just a general idea.
You’re also getting a bit of a reputation for your live performances, is this something you consciously think about when you are writing?
Martin: No very much the other way around. The song is written and worked out to the nth degree and then it is how on earth do we play this live... If you come and see us you’ll notice there is a lot of juggling and changing instruments. Gun: I actually think that’s one of the things that we’ve had to work out a lot recently and we’ve got good at knowing “here’s the bells, i’ll take the acoustic guitar” and it’s much, much smoother. I think that’s making our shows more exciting to play because it’s hard to juggle all the things and get it done. Martin: There are six of us and even with that we’re struggling to cover all of our uses. But yeah, the song comes first and then we figure out how to play it live.
Did it take a long time to work out those kinks?
Martin: It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of hours in the rehearsal room – probably more than I’ve ever had to do. Just sheer hours put in and so in answer to your question yes it’s taken a while, but it seems to be paying off because it’s becoming a lot easier to figure these things out quicker than it was before. If that means throwing a tambourine across the stage so the next person can play the chorus then so be it! Gun: I think we’ve bought a lot more tambourines. You are playing a headline show at the Oslo soon, is that ine of your first headliners? Martin: We’ve played headliners for a couple of single releases, but yeah we are very much looking forward to it. We’re always striving to make it a bit of an event in some way, whether it’s the visual aspect or a couple of surprises musically. Gun: We’ve got a couple of surprises for it. Martin: Yeah, we are looking forward to it very much!
Lola Colot play The Shacklewell Arms, London on July 11th with Moksha Medicine.