The Luxembourg Signal are a dream pop seven-piece with members on either side of the Atlantic. Their sophomore LP ‘Blue Field’ was released October of last year to critics pleasure. You can find the album (released via Shelflife Records) on many of 2017’s “best of” lists, this one included.
How would you describe ‘Blue Field‘ to those who haven’t given your album a shot yet? What’s the general thread running through it?
We grew up listing to the underground indie music scene during the 80’s and 90’s so those bands will always be a big influence on our sound. As we’ve gotten older, life experiences play a much larger role in our direction since there is a much larger pool of experiences to pull from compared to when you’re 18.
Overall, I think that ‘Blue Field‘ is a record that sits at the edge of transition; the transition between light and darkness, the transition between life and death, the transition from the known to the unknown. As the years go by these themes start to resonate more with all of us. Sonically, lyrically and the direction of the LP and single artwork was composed in a way to try to capture this.
‘Laura Palmer’, your first single off the LP was immediately beloved. Could you tell our readers a bit about this track in particular? What’s the story behind it?
‘Laura Palmer‘ was a track we started working on several years ago (I think it was around 2011). We were in a room together playing around with a few ideas and Daniel played the main guitar lick. Ginny added a high synth and just hearing those two parts together I knew we had something. Betsy’s melody and lyrics played off the loneliness that the music evoked and the song started to take its shape. The dual vocals by Betsy and Beth made it quite haunting. It’s a song that continues to evolve over its six minutes building up momentum until it reaches its climax.
With the song still in its infancy we gave it the working title of ‘Laura Palmer‘ as we happened to be re-watching the first season of “Twin Peaks“, which was a few years before they announced that they were going to do a new season and after a while the title just stuck. We sat on the song for a few years and ended up finishing it before our live dates in 2015. It was the first song we had finished for the ‘Blue Field‘ LP and in some ways set the tone for writing the rest of the record. Ultimately the timing of the ‘Laura Palmer‘ single was amusing as it was coincidently released a week after the first episode of the new “Twin Peaks” season aired.
What is the songwriting process like for a band with seven members? Does someone usually take the lead or is it all one big lavish soundscape fest with everyone throwing their thoughts into the mix?
The writing process does vary. Typically I will have various ideas I’ve been playing around with that I will share with the rest of the group for their feedback. I use the recorder on my phone to record various parts and might have 30-40 ideas that we will whittle down to 10 or so to start flushing out and recording. In other cases such as ‘Laura Palmer‘ the song came together as we were experimenting together in a room. Another example would be ‘Are You Numb‘, which was written around the two Moog parts that Brian had written at home and sent to me. We ended up writing the song around those parts, which were luckily done using a click track so we were able to use his original recordings (which I find are always the best). Ultimately I find it beneficial to have multiple ways for the band to write music as it keeps the process fresh and allows each of us to look at the creative process from different angles.
Since your debut you’ve had the additions of Kelly Davis and Daniel Kumiega. How did the two gel with the rest of the band in your creative evolvement?
We’re all very close friends so in many ways Daniel and Kelly were always part of the band. When the first record was completed we were invited to play Indie Tracks along with some other shows in the UK and need to fill out the live set up so that cemented it. Daniel actually played on the first LP and co-wrote ‘Let it Go‘. Kelly and Brian played together in Super 31 a couple decades ago so we all go way back.
Take us back to when you were signed by Shelflife Records and into your current relationship with the label.
Beth has known Ed at Shelflife Records for many years so when it came time to look for a label for release, Shelflife was the first label we approached. We sent Ed a few tracks and he loved them so it happened pretty quick. Shelflife has had some great releases these past years so we’re pleased to be part of the catalog and Ed has been great to work with.
Working with Mark Rains on ‘Blue Field‘ must’ve been a treat.
Mark is terrific and has a great studio (Station House) in Echo Park with his trusty dog Darkness. Mark mixed the first LP so we were already pretty comfortable working with him. We ended up doing all of the drums and most of the bass parts at Marks studio and then brought the tracks home to work out guitars and keyboard parts as well as Beth and Betsy’s vocals. Beth flew over from London and we were able to do her vocals over 3-4 days while the rest of us had a bit more time to noodle (which you tend to do at home). Once we were done we took the tracks back into Marks for mixing. It’s pretty common of us to end up with multiple guitar parts per song, which if not mixed right, can start to sound like a dull wall of noise without any definition Mark has a great ear and is able to EQ the parts to provide space and definition so they can breathe.
Gearheads? What equipment are you using for distortion and those aforementioned lavish soundscapes?
For distortions I’ve been using the ProCo Rat 2 along with a Boss Super Overdrive. For delays I have been using the Strymon El Capistan along with a MXR Carbon Copy. For amps I typically use a 1979 Fender Deluxe Reverb, which has been my go to amp for the last 15+ years and also occasionally use a Fender Super Reverb, but I’ve also used an Ampeg GVT-52, which is a pretty versatile amp with a nice overdrive channel that I really like.
‘Fall Feeling’ features Bobby Wratten on guest vocals. How did a collaboration with a former member of The Field Mice come about? From listening to your albums, I can sense you’re fans of Sarah Records’ catalogue.
Bobby has been a good friend for a while and our love of his music goes back even further. When we wrote ‘Fall Feeling‘ the melody and key was more suited for a male voice so Beth suggested that we ask Bobby and he agreed. We are thrilled to have him on the record and always look forward to him releasing new music.
Are you all back in the recording frame of mind? Can fans expect a fresh dose of music next year perhaps?
We are currently working/recording new material that we hope to release as an EP by the end of this year.
I would say about 99% of all underground critics were obsessed with ‘Blue Field‘ last year, how would that support effect your upcoming efforts? Do expectations play a role?
Thank you and that’s kind of you to say. We were pretty pleased with the feedback that the ‘Blue Field‘ LP received. When you are writing and recording a record you’re in a pretty small vacuum with only a handful of people listening to these tracks over and over again over several months so when you come out of it you’re not always sure how they will be received, as you’re too close to the music. It’s always a bit of a rollercoaster as you go after trying to capture the sounds and emotions in your head. You have to trust each other as there are always disagreements to work through. Ultimately if we as a band are excited about the material we have a certain level of confidence that our audience will be too.
I think there is always a desire for the next record to be one that takes you in a forward direct rather than one that simply retraces your earlier steps. Moving forward is what keeps it exciting for us. We have some new songs that we are pretty excited about that we think our audience will like as well.
Do you have any upcoming shows? When can fans catch you live and in person?
We played a hand full of shows in Germany and Paris at the end of last year. For 2018 we plan on finishing and releasing the new EP, and hope to follow that up with another set of live dates in 2019.
Are there any tracks off the album that you feel resonate more so in the format of a gig than listening to the recorded version?
I think one of our favorite tracks from the last set of shows was ‘Antarctica‘. When it’s a good night and the seven of us are locked in together it can really soar.
Photo credits: Leah Zeis