The debut album from retro-futuro, eclectic pop-disco outfit I Know Leopard benefitted from an injection of The Preatures’ Jack Moffit in more ways than one, says vocalist and primary songwriter Luke O’Loughlin.
You’ve said this album (Love Is A Landmine) has less “computer tricks”, and a far bigger focus on playing and recording a track start to finish to preserve a live energy. Did that mean a load more rehearsal before getting into the studio, or that you were less uptight about (happy) mistakes in the moment of recording?
It meant both of those things really. In the past it was actually a rarity that we would learn how to play the song live before we had recorded it. [This time] under [Jack Moffitt’s] influence we were, for the first time ever, rehearsing and tracking the songs live as a band which not only gave the songs a new energy and character but it also opened them up to evolving into something we had never imagined. We kept things pretty fluid in this way, trying different things from take to take until we stumbled across something interesting rather than just striving for perfection.
By ‘computer tricks’ I guess I mean that in the past we would often apply a lot of software-based electronic music production techniques in order to smooth over imperfections or create an effect, but this time around we really put a priority on the personality of our performances and the way things sounded going in. I think the result is something far more honest and immediate than our previous work.
In the past you tried to soften your voice and make it “as easy to listen to as possible.” What do you think the motivation was behind that effort?
I feel like it’s a pretty common thing that singers hate the sound of their own voice. As someone that naturally has a really loud, belty singing voice I always kind of longed to have the opposite. During the making of our first two EPs I was also listening to a lot of very ethereal pop where the singer almost always had a soothing, breathy quality to their voice. So I guess I was heavily influenced by that. This time round however, Jack Moffit really pushed me to be myself vocally and embrace the weirdness of my natural singing voice. In turn this also informed a lot of the music accompanying it. Everything became drier, bolder and generally more present and awake.
Tell us about the effect we can hear in Landmine and especially You Can Blame It On Me, where a vocal is spaghetti-squeezed through a robotic synth?
That is Luke Million’s trusty old Roland Vocoder that you’re hearing there. Luke has one of the original VP-330 Vocoders made in the late ’70s that is in immaculate condition. You basically just plug a mic into it and play the melody on the keys as you sing it. That way you can get full, four-part robot harmonies just by playing chords.
Where does the sweet little snippet of the love poem in that song come from?
That is actually me with a pitch shifter and formant changer on my voice to make me sound a like a little girl. I was looking for samples for a long time but couldn’t find anything that matched the intent of the song, so I just went ahead and wrote and recorded the poem myself.
You’ve said: “We just want to show that the classic song is not dead and can still exist in the modern climate.” What is it that makes a song ‘classic’?
I’m referring to what I see as a classical approach to songwriting. I feel that one of the major hallmarks of so-called classic songs (by artists like Lennon, Jeff Lynne, Bowie) is that you can hear a lucidity in the songwriting that makes it so earnest and in turn relatable. It feels organic. You can really hear that the artist has sat down with a guitar or at a piano and has written the song from start to finish. I think it is that level of purity that has inspired us and that we have endeavoured to achieve on this record.
Love Is A Landmine is out April 5 via Ivy League.
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