Possessing a sound that meets somewhere between of ambient-electronica, The Cure and U2’s good stuff…
Brad recently caught up with Markus and Julien from Berlin based band Lea Porcelain to talk all about recording their debut record, touring with Alt-J and their creative vision behind their video clip out is in.
Metratone: Congrats on your record ‘Hymns To The Night’.
Lea Porcelain: Thanks
Metratone: You guys have been working on the project for quiet some time now right?
Markus: Yeah, I think we started the first session in June / July 2014 so it’s been almost 3 years now.
Metratone: How did you meet?
Julien: I was doing some techno stuff and playing some gigs around Frankfurt back then… Markus had seen me playing at one of the clubs and it turned out we both knew similar people, so after the gig we got together and just became friends really quick after that.
Metratone: So Julien you were obviously a techno producer but Markus you were like a singer song writer am I right.
Markus: Yeah, but it was a bit more peculiar, I didn’t do folk songs or anything it was more like Ableton and a keyboard kind thing.
Metratone: I think I’ve heard some of your stuff, Cunt Cunt Chanel?
Markus: Yeah haha, that was with the painted guy.
Metratone: Well I’m interested in how your two styles have managed to meet in the middle and evolve into Lea Porcelain. Talk me through a song like Similar Familiar, how do you arrive at the sound.
Julien: It was actually very simple, I was basically just lying in bed experimenting with some synths and pads over the top of this drum loop I’d recorded. So I had all these synthesizers and sounds finished when Markus came to Berlin the next day. Then we just went to the studio and recorded the vocal in like an hour I think.
Metratone: It does seem like a very directed album though, it’s obviously taken some time to figure out what it should sound like?
Julien: It was a pretty quick process actually, it wasn’t like we had to figure out how we could both work together on the project… From the first session it just really worked and we didn’t have to think about anything, it was just combining my sounds and production with Markus’ voice .
Metratone: Had you both been in bands before?
Julien: No not at all I was just a total techno producer.
Markus: I mean after I gave up Cunt Cunt Chanel, which was more like a student art project than a band haha… I moved to Berlin, which was only meant to be for like three weeks but I ended up staying for 18 months and started a band. That band, which was like a three-piece… got signed on a New York label which got me over to New York and Moscow but it was all really vague. So when I started making music with Julien it was very straight forward and everything was super clear and I basically just gave that project up to work on this.
Metratone: It does sound like you’ve kind of reached a point where the album is pretty cohesive as a whole. That couldn’t have been that easy to achieve when, Julien especially, you’re new to the collaborative space…
Julien: Well for me it was kind of a relief. I had been working for 3 or so years by myself and when you’re just sitting alone in your studio and then suddenly you’re in a situation where you can work with a good friend… you are just doing the same thing but it’s easier, and on the other side of things you have a greater output at the end of it all. It was really just like magic because we were in the studio and all these songs were coming out so easily… we were even thinking like “OK are we just drunk and we’re going to wake up tomorrow to all these shit songs? Or… is there something special going on here and these epic songs are really just coming out this easy”.
I don’t know… I think if something works it has to be easy. I know with other bands that have writing sessions with producers and stuff, but I mean that’s just not our style. Writing songs should be very natural and also very different, I mean we can write a song in a bed and breakfast, for example I did the instrumentals for “Loose Life” at the beach in Cornwall and then Markus wrote some lyrics and we recorded those in a bedroom… there was no studio involved it was just the microphone, a sound card and my laptop. Obviously afterwards we went to the studio in London to mix everything down with analogue gear but the process of writing music is always very natural and out of the moment .
Metratone: To be honest that’s not what I thought you were going to say because it sounded like quite a hard project to get your head around.
Julien: Yeah but I think a lot of people expected this project to have been done in a big studio with all this massive gear, and on the one side it’s true because we went through all that gear for the mix down, but the writing process was really easy.
Metratone: All the acoustic instruments were recorded in a studio right?
Julien: Of coarse, but I mean for one song I might have recorded the drums in the studio and then taken my MacBook onto the train and finished it… it doesn’t really matter where I was I would just continue to produce the instrumentals and all these sounds until I’d meet Markus somewhere and record the vocals. It’s all very futuristic kind of studio thinking because now days you don’t really need a big studio to record an album. I also think that’s why people can sometimes get a bit stuck in their own structures too because they’re always going to the same studio with the same room, and the same smell and the same feeling and then they’re expected to write 12 songs? I mean it has to be a journey and if you write 12 songs in the same place, I can understand how it might be difficult to get that feeling of a journey. I also think surroundings are really important for inspiration and maybe that’s one of the reasons Hymns to The Night has come out so diverse.
Metratone: Speaking about Journeys… you guys only put out your album last month and you’ve already toured with Alt-J, how was that experience of going from your bedroom to touring with Alt-J.
Markus: That was amazing actually. I mean we have known these guys for a while now because the drummer Tom from Alt-J is a big fan of ours, he actually asked us in London last year if he could play drums for one of our live shows so we went into rehearsals with him for 2 or 3 days and played the show together… Since then I think we have become friends and they’re all big fans of ours now. So when they recently came to Europe we went along with them for three shows, it was lovely. Like their fans really loved our style which is pretty diverse to theirs so it was a nice contrast… Hopefully we can go on a real tour with them somewhere soon, we don’t know where yet though.
Metratone: Well correct me if I’m wrong but your last show with Alt-J was at the Funkhaus where you recorded some of your album right?
Markus: Yeah yeah, we have our studio here so we did record some of our other tracks there… We’re actually parked outside the Funkhaus now, so we are always here.
Metratone: From my understanding the Funkhaus is quite a communal artists space, so when you guys played with Alt-J that must have been quite a special gig for you guys.
Julien: Yeah it definitely was. It was like being at home… we have done some of our videos here and quite a lot of rehearsals. We have always had the goal to actually play there but that was the first time. I mean of course it was sold out because “Alt-J” but we also had heaps of people who knew our music which was a very special atmosphere.
Metratone: It must almost feel like you’ve come full circle at that point?
Markus: Well this place… it’s really unique, I mean we haven’t seen anything like this place in the last 3 years. When we were living in London we were searching for a place like this, but there isn’t enough space in London for a place like this. It’s just so massive, everything is too big because obviously the soviets wanted to show the Germans how rich they were so everything is just massively exaggerated… it’s beautiful though.
Metratone: I just want to talk quickly about your film clip for ‘Out Is In’. It’s quiet a dark song, but walk me through the intentions behind the video clip?
Julien: Actually the intention was meant to be really positive, so when we went to the director with our idea the director told us it was going to turn out great… but at the end no body really got it. Originally we wanted to tell a story about a fucked up the world where the infrastructure and everything had been completely destroyed. We had then imagined that these young kids would go around hunting the people who were destroying the planet, but then the director just took a guy who looked poor and made these young kids look like they were hunting down the poor guy. It turned out completely different to what we’d expected but it was a big budget for us so we just had to leave it… It looked really nice, but we weren’t on the same page and now people don’t get the positive angle that we originally wanted to have in the video.
Markus: It was actually the start for us to think “Ok we shouldn’t give up our vision and put it in someone else’s hands”, from then on we have started to make all our video clips ourselves no matter what. We were quite disappointed that some art student had come along after shooting a couple of Rayban commercials and starting promising a lot but then just turning around and doing his own thing… It was just a nice image and didn’t have any feeling. I mean we were on set in London and none of the actors even knew the song, we were like “don’t you want the actors to listen to the song so they know how they should feel?”. I mean it looks great but without the feeling its hard to get the message delivered. With our new videos the feeling is just there… we’re not hippie art students but we know the feeling we want to portray and for every video we have made the feeling is somehow there.
Metratone: Whether its reflected through the music into the lyrics or through the music into the video…
Markus: Yeah, well what we originally saw for the clip was… I mean we had just played in Brussels right after the Paris attacks and the terrorist had gone to Brussels… So everything was on red alert and there were military trucks everywhere, it was a very fearful situation… we were pretty much living in a security state. We just wanted to show people what comes after that in a world where we have literally fucked everything up and there are guns and anarchy going on everywhere… Then you meet this group of young kids who are actually hunting down the people who are responsible for that, do you know what I mean? It was a very basic thought of taking the power back. The lyrics “the only way out is in” literally mean deciding for your life and taking it into your own hands, holding your own… no matter how big the bullshit is, you have to stand up for yourself no matter how many people are against you. Maybe that was a hard message to deliver but I still think if you listen to the song you can hear all that…
Metratone: There’s definitely a massive production value to that video clip, but your right without the understanding of the meaning behind it, it doesn’t make much sense. I’m glad you’ve got to clear that up.
Julien: Sometimes you just have to learn the hard way.
Metratone: So what are you plans next?
Julien: Well now we are going to play some festivals like Redding and Leads and then the album tour is planned for around September / October
Metratone: So when do you think you’ll get over to Australia?
Julien: As soon as possible, when’s the best time to come?
Metratone: Well in the Summer of course!
Follow: Lea Porcelain
Buy: ‘Hymns To The Night’