Without more than a chance meeting or two between them, film composer and musician Mike Lindsay (Tunng, Cheek Mountain Thief) teamed up with Laura Marling to form Lump. The two would have creative frenzies as they frantically made a piece of the album for the other to start building on until they made their record, and found a mascot. We caught up with Mike Lindsay ahead of the band’s set at Latitude Festival in the U.K. to discuss their interesting collaboration and how they found their icon in a yeti.
Northern Transmissions: I understand you had been working on some music leading up to working with Laura, so what made it clear it wasn’t a fit for your other projects?
Mike Lindsay: The movie people it was for went with somebody else, and I was left with this piece of music that I wasn’t sure what to do with. It wasn’t quite as thought out as people realize. I didn’t know Laura, I didn’t know she’d be up for collaborating and I didn’t think she’d also come down to the studio so quickly. So when she came I had this piece of music, I played it for her, and suddenly she was writing lyrics and it all took on a life of its own. It was less of a planned project as this piece of music that connected to other pieces.
NT: Given how long the album took to finally come out, how did your creative process change over the course of making the album?
ML: I was covering the music side of things and Laura was covering the lyrics, so for me there was a lot more switching things out and jig-sawing ideas together. The first track came together really quickly which was really the impetus to do another one. Laura says she’ll come back in a couple weeks and I was scrambling for two weeks to make something follow the first track. When I presented her with the next bit, then she was frantically writing ideas down. Each time we were together she was reacting to what I gave her and then I’d be working away for the time between.
NT: I was also interested to hear you elaborate on how you feel the project passed through you rather than being something personal or necessarily preconceived?
ML: It’s sort of a way of saying this project came out of nowhere, we didn’t tell anyone about it and nobody really knew. We didn’t know what was going to happen song-to-song, and Laura and I never really discussed a plan. So in a way the music did pass through us, but it was also deciding that Lump was this character and we were the vessels for the music. Once we put the third being (Lump) in place, it helped the writing.
NT: Estaban Diacono’s artwork was such a standout on this record, so how did you come to work with them?
ML: Laura had had a few conversations with him and she was a fan. We had this brief for him of a character that was bright and warm, everything else was pretty open. Estaban came up with the yeti and then everything else made sense. He became the third member in a way then, although I still haven’t met him.
NT: How did this Yeti figure fit with your music?
ML: It takes the word Lump and makes this atmosphere that really is warm and hopeful, while having a cuddly feeling to it. Which is good since the name of the band comes from Laura’s goddaughter who was five at the time.
NT: I was also curious where the idea for the credits song came from?
ML: I wanted to maintain the cyclical nature of the record, and it works into restarting the album fairly seamlessly despite the silence at the end. I wanted to carry on the flutes and we had elements from the first song coming back into the song. We had a spoken-word idea and then Laura had the idea to make it credits, because in the digital age you sometimes don’t even see the artwork, let alone read who’s doing what. I also really loved her tone of voice, it has this old BBC session reader from the sixties thing to me, and the whole project has this session feeling to me.
NT: You’ve both worked with a range of artists but how did your orchestral sounds from Hannah Peel and Laura J. Martin come about?
ML: I’ve worked with Hannah and Laura J on their own records, but with this I wanted flute to be the main organic breathing element. I wanted the other instruments to mimic the flute a little too. I would play guitar with her band so it was this trade-off between us. Hannah had a studio in the same building, and she’s just such a great trombone player. At that point in “Rolling Thunder” it need the “Beast” so we used her playing.
NT: How has it been trying to adapt this music for a live show, and how will it differ most?
ML: So it’s Laura and I, and then Simon Winchester & Matt Ingram on drums. So once we locked-in, the shows became an extension of the album. We play everything in the same order, but we extend all of it, and a lot of the drones and in-between moments really became songs in themselves. We’ve wrapped up most of the shows, but they were sold out and people really came out to the Lump “Trip,” it was a lot more juicy live.
Words by Owen Maxwell
Jul 13 – Latitude Festival – Southwold, UK