Virginian trio Labradford have so far released
four albums of lush minimalism over the last five years, emanating
from the respected Kranky label in the US. Blast First, one of Britain's
most consistently interesting labels, have given them a home after
the collapse of their Euro deal with Flying Nun. Mi Media Naranja
emerged towards the end of last year, showing a more orchestral
side to their mournful muse. I met them on Hallowe'en, mere hours
before the end of my world.
I was told to mention British films
what do you like?
Mark Nelson (guitar/whispering
vocals): I guess I do like some. My mind's a bit blank, could
you give me a more specific example?
Mike Leigh, Ken Loach.
M: Carter's (Carter Brown
keyboard) a bit more into film history like that. I'm
just trying to think. Secrets and Lies is good. We saw it
on the airplane leaving London last time.
Do you find these interesting,
as they're not traditionally appealing, are they?
M: They can be. Secrets
and Lies is a very charming movie. You can see the appeal of
the characters; they just seem to be really honest.
What about the work of US directors such
as Kevin Smith or Hal Hartley?
M: Kevin Smith I don't know,
but I like Hal Hartley. As for Richard Linklater Stars of
the Lid (tonight's support) are from Austin and their projectionist
is sort of tied into the film community down there. It's a pretty
accurate sort of independent thing down there, on the back of Slacker
it's emerged as a centre for film making. Hal Hartley I like a lot.
It doesn't seem like he uses much music though, it's kind of like
almost video style to his movies.
He uses post-grunge/rock stuff
like Jesus Lizard, which seems at odds with the naiveté of
M: Yeah, I don't know what
would be appropriate for that really because it seems just like
in the background of the conversations. Hal doesn't seem like he's
someone who has a particularly cinematic vision; it's just tight
shots, interiors, that kind of thing. I think we'd be more suited
to something a little bit more open. Stanley Kubrick is an extreme
Have you had any offers or ambition to
score films yourselves?
M: We have some ambitions,
it's something we'd love to do but it seems a very difficult sort
of field to get into. You have to be approached to do it.
Would it be easier if you or you
friends had an independent project to work on?
M: It's probably more likely that
someone with a lot of power would have to decide that they liked
it, to force it through.
Have you ever used visual images with
your own music?
M: No, I've shot some Super
8 footage and never really had the money or the inclination to do
anything with it. It seems like the good idea for a band like us
to do would be to put out our own video, but not just one song,
more like with a whole album and I think something like that could
work on an independent level. That would be really interesting.
Do you ever use projections in
M: No. We've done it twice and both
times we were playing in big theatres. I tend to think it doesn't
really work that well in rock clubs. Stars of the Lid do it, and
it's really well done, but there's something about it things
being projected over a band to me it always looks a little
It can end up looking pretentious.
M: It so easily falls into
that. I just have these pictures in my mind of what it would be.
It's popular to peg instrumental/post-rock
music as soundtracks for films that don't exist. Lazy?
M: It's sort of an easy shorthand
for saying it's not pop songs. I don't think it's a very well developed
Is yours a music of personal experience,
or with a mind on playing to the public?
M: At this point it's sort
of both. It certainly started as a personal experience and there's
never been... there's always been a very realistic sort of idea
about what sort of market would be. One could see what our market
is so in some ways we've never really thought about it. As we continue
and things build in a very mild way it entered into the equation
a little bit, but for the most part we don't really think about
Do song titles matter as Mi
Media Naranja only has initial letters for tracks.
I think the only people who know what the song titles are the people
who are trying to write about a specific song, and especially for
people with CDs who have like 10 songs in a row, I don't think anybody
pays any attention. The only way they're interesting is as a type
of poem in themselves, written on the sleeve. I think we've looked
at it like that before.
The only song of yours I can put the
title to is Scenic Recovery
M: That's probably our best
title. In practical terms for this album, because we were working
with the painter for the cover, we wanted to give the paintings
as much power in the packaging as possible. For all practical purposes
we put this album together because we met Nick Terry (the artist)
and like the work that he showed us, so we kind of knew what we
Given that you want the sleeve as clear
as possible, how to you feel about the record company slapping a
sticker on it?
M: It's one of those things
you just have to accept. If it was up to me there wouldn't have
been song titles at all, but for publishing purposes you have to
have something. The original idea was no album title, no band information,
but there has to be something. It works a little better in the States
because it's shrink-wrapped and the sticker's on the shrink-wrap
instead of the case.
Doesn't that assume that the record-buying
public are stupid?
M: Yeah, I think it's a safe
assumption. I think it's the people who do the marketing who are
just sort of paranoid about their thing. You have to go through
certain channels no matter what you do.
You're using violins and cello in some
recordings. Have you used these live, or do you use samples?
N: Neither actually. We do
have samples but not of the string parts. It's just another thing
that never quite sounds right because the texture of the bow on
the strings is really three-quarters of the sound and it's impossible
to get that on a sample. You can get it on a recording by mic-ing
closely. It's not feasible financially either to have an extra couple
of people with us.
You've tried live drums before. Could
that be something for the future.
M: Perhaps. We have no direct plans
for it. It think it's the type of thing where we just like it with
the three of us, so we're not really tied into anything. If a certain
song calls for that or suggests it we could do it, but we're not
really ready to make a commitment to it.
Do you place much reliance on tape-loops/samples?
M: At this point we're completely
reliant on them because there are rhythm sequences for every song.
It's usually sequenced to begin with; on the new album it all was.
Are you more interested in studio work
or live performances?
M: I guess I feel more comfortable
in the studio just because there's a lot more control. There's something
really frustrating about putting a lot of work into something and
turning up at a club to find that the PA is somebody's home stereo
or something. But I do like it, and even during this tour you learn
to enjoy the chaos, you don't know what you're getting into. Usually
there are enough people interested to make it worthwhile.
I hear you're not to fond of being interviewed.
M: Interviews only work when
they turn into a conversation. Sometimes it can be very awkward
when it's just like a question where you're sort of reduced to one
line as an answer and you always look stupid. It's never personal,
it's just sometimes not the thing you want to do after you've driven
So I was duped into using that
films line as an ice breaker?
M: Who knows about British
films? Who told you this?
Carter: I wonder if they mean British authors, we read a
lot of those. So talk to us about British authors!
Tell me more about British authors.
C: Martin Amis that
says it all.
When you're writing do you work from
pre-conceived ideas or through improving?
C: We have an idea of what
to do. But the time it's recorded it's completely structured for
the most part. The actual writing process involves some kind of
improvisation, but once it's sorted out it's fixed.
Can you stray far from recorded structures
when playing live?
M: No especially because
of the sequencers, we're pretty locked into it. There are moments
where, in our own way, we do.
Do you think experimental musicians can
get away with loads of pretentious noodling?
M: I think that I would not
want to make that generalisation. I might feel that way about specific
people, but then there's other specific people who can do it; I
thank God every night that we're doing it.
Post-rock would be called ambient if
there weren't any guitars involved. Why is there this double standard?
M: By the same token a lot
of it would be called industrial. There was a time, at least in
America, when industrial can just as mean Savage Republic or zoviet>france
as it could Nine Inch Nails. Some sort of band emerges and all of
a sudden nobody else fits and the media struggle to reassign them
to their categories.
You're using sampled speech/sound more
than your own vocals on the last album is the voice another
instrument to you?
C: The lyric, or the human
voice is an important element, and with the new record we're playing
with it in a different way than we have done in the past, rather
than have Mark sing into a mic. It's for a different kind of sound
more than anything.
Will you continue with more traditional
instruments, such as the strings?
M: In a way we've done that
just within ourselves. Carter uses very few synthesisers now, it's
mostly piano and organ, so definitely seems like we're moving towards
a more organic sound.
You're influenced by minimalist composers
such as John Taverner and Erik Satire.
C: I think we listen to very
little of what people would consider to be our contemporaries. It's
not that we don't like it, but there are exotic extremes that are
a little bit more appealing. Arvo Part is another very spiritual,
minimalist kind of composer. We listen to pure electronic music
or drum 'n' bass or stuff that's not really... I mean we don't listen
to other bands that sound like us.
Have you much of an encounter
with drum 'n' bass then?
C: Yeah, I love it. I like
Roni Size and Omni Trio. And Boymerang y'see I like Bark
Psychosis, so that's how I found out about that. You should listen
to that album Hex. They rip off Talk Talk a little bit, and
that's a really good band to rip off.
That's a thing Fuck were going
on about Talk Talk a few weeks ago. Are they that influential?
C: Have you heard Spirit
of Eden and Laughing Stock? You should get those records.
It's only in retrospect that we
see how important some of these
bands were, but when they're pushed at us in the UK it makes you
C: You have to get beyond
that, you can't buy into that.
We made our way from pub to venue, where
Stars of the Lid and Labradford mesmerised the residents of Highbury.
I met a member of Panasonic (a big moment for me), made some friends,
lost some friends. And my world? That grew back a lot quicker than
I expected. You've got to laugh really, haven't you?