Image Courtesy of Laneway
When Laneway’s Louise O’Reilly called in for a chat with Gareth Hugh Evans she apologised in case her phone dropped out. It turned out that the sheep had been rubbing on the phone lines putting her landline out of commission and forcing her to make the call on her mobile phone from a hill in the middle of a field (as this is where she got the best reception). Such are the pitfalls of country living – O’Reilly and her musicial partner Paul Hannan moved to their current property in the southeast Queensland rainforest of Natural Bridge two and a half years ago.
Having just released their latest album Turn Your Love Up and being awarded the 2012 Grant McLennan Memorial Fellowship, Laneway are about to embark on a national tour taking them to some of the most celebrated intimate venues in the country.
Gareth Hugh Evans: Let’s start with your new album Turn Up Your Love which came out at the beginning of the month. How’s that been going for you so far?
Louise O’Reilly: Once it was out we just sort of let it go which has sort have been a bit of a relief. I don’t know what most people are like but the period between getting it mastered and finished and having physical CDs in boxes in our house was for some reason quite heavy. But now that it’s done and it’s out we’re just sort of surrendered to the fact that all those decisions were made and it’s out there, which is good. We’re looking forward to playing it live now and we feel like we worked quite hard on and the fun part is seeing what happens. It’s a relief [laughes]
GHE: You can’t go back and tweak it.
LO: No, once the master comes back you’re like “well, we can’t afford to do it all again”
GHE: How’s the reaction been so far from fans?
LO: It’s one of those things that just keeps unrolling and unravelling. We were really fortunate that just straight after we released it we were awarded a Grant McLennan Memorial Fellowship, in the same week. That helped as well with feeling a huge relief – the album was out and someone thinks we’re doing fairly good work. A gift of permission to enjoy that moment of releasing the album and stepping over to the next part of that process which is playing it live. It’s been perfect timing for us because it’s a very different headspace to be in as well, going from working meticulously hard on little arrangements and stuff to just embodying the songs and playing them live. The Fellowship combined with the release and just a warm, rippling response to the album has been quite encouraging. I just can’t wait until September when we go and play it.
GHE: I wanted to ask you about the Grant McLennan Memorial Fellowship. How did that come about? Is it something you apply for?
LO: You apply for it. We actually applied for it last year and we were short listed which was also a huge encouragement. Certainly in the landscape we work in which is remote and regional and rural and a little bit insular in that we’re a couple as well and we’re bouncing off each other all the time – we sort of put in for it as a way of defining “ok, we are doing this and we really care about it and let’s put our work up”. It’s essentially a gift of time to go and travel overseas and write and experience things that are different to your normal day to day life is. There’s nothing really like it that I can think of. This year we felt incredibly lucky – and we get to go to Berlin!
GHE: That’s really cool – you’re kind of plucked out of rural Queensland and suddenly the Grant McLennan Memorial Fellowship sends you to Berlin.
LO: I know! It’s like a huge contrast in environmental continuums. Up here, which is very inspiring in its own way, can get a little introspective living in the hills. The other end of that scale is inspiring as well – being no one in a city where so many things are happening. We just can’t wait to go and walk amongst that culture and that history.
GHE: I’m jealous. I hope it’s a great experience when you eventually get to go.
LO: We’re thinking European Spring so hopefully we’ll be back then by August  – we’ve got to do it within a year. We’re just so excited, it will be fabulous.
GHE: Let’s talk about your upcoming tour. You’ve got dates through September and October and you’re playing a bunch of intimate venues – venues that can attract a big crowd but are still small enough to be intimate. Obviously you’re playing The Workers Club which is a show we’re presenting…
LO: We’re so excited about that show. We started the project in Melbourne so it always feels like a bit of a home for us even though neither of us are Melbournians – I think Paul [Hannan] was there for 10 years and I was there for six. Playing in Melbourne just feels right for us and it’s going to be really fun this time to come back and play at The Workers because we were always on the north side of the river – we started the project in Brunswick. Just to do a matinee show is going to be really beautiful. We’ve just managed to get a bunch of really lovely shows – the Palais should be beautiful and we love going to the Wheatsheaf and Katoomba is going to be great. And of course Folk Club. It’s just a really lovely feeling that we’re finding that space where the show’s going to sit well and the audiences are going to be there. When you find that territory where you’re meant to be it feels like you’re finding a home for yourself which is lovely.
GHE: Folk Club is such a nice little space in Sydney – that’s going to be great for you guys I think. And you’re playing the Heritage Hotel in Bulli which is one of my favourite venues in the country even though it’s in a small town.
LO: That’s funny because that one was just plucked out of no where. It was just one of those moments when you’re booking a tour and suddenly a date is released for whatever reason – I was looking for a place in Wollongong and just thought I’d approach them. We’re actually getting a local choir to open for us. It’s a choir of retired ex-unionists and social activists. Everything fell into place and I thought “Bulli might be one of the highlights!”.
GHE: You mentioned that you’re finding spaces that really suit your music, and hopefully audiences that suit your music. Listening to your album – and I know musicians hate to have labels put on them and hate the “what are your influences?” question – it sounds like you’ve got a bit of folk, a bit of country, a bit of jazz, a bit of blues all mixed in together. There’s something kind of sexy about the music you play which is not usually associated with folk or country or blues – where has that sound come from?
LO: [laughs] I don’t know maybe it’s a reflection of whatever tension Paul and I have. He’ll be so embarrassed to think that translates as sexy. I’m sure he’d be much more comfortable with the idea that it translates as awkward [laughs]. It’s funny that you list all those things because we’re both huge Bob Dylan fans and blues and folk and jazz even they’re the influences on his career. We do fall into the habit of only listening to Dylan for long stretches on end. I think it’s also a reflection of our eclectic tastes – on our first record we felt like we had to go for something to tie the record together. This one was all about songs which stood out as ready to be put on an album, which at the time we thought “are they going to be pulled together to make an album properly”. But I feel like it sounds like a continuous thing.
GHE: After the tour and aside from the European trip what’s next on the agenda for you guys?
LO: This record was a little bit hard to get through in many ways. We were probably a bit overdue for a release so we maybe sweated on it more than we should have. Hopefully we’re doing another release soon – taking the time in Europe to write as much as we can and come back with another release then, at least a double-A side but possibly even a record if we can pull it out.
GHE: Thank you so much for chatting to us today Louise. I hope the shows go well and good luck with Berlin!
LO: Thank you!
Laneway are touring nationally this September and October. The full list of dates is below:
Saturday 8th September – Babushka Bar, Ballarat, VIC
Friday 14th September – The Wheatsheaf, Adelaide, SA
Saturday 15th September – The Palais Theatre, Hepburn Springs, VIC
Sunday 16th September – Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 20th September – The Front, Canberra, ACT
Friday 21st September – The Heritage Hotel, Bulli, NSW
Saturday 22nd September – The Great Northern, Newcastle, NSW
Sunday 23rd September – The Clarendon Guesthouse, Katoomba, NSW
Wednesday 26th September – Folk Club, Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW
Friday 28th September – The Soundlounge, Gold Coast, QLD
Sunday 21st October – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 27th October – Drill Hall, Mullumbimby NSW