The next in an ongoing series of the best band you’ve never heard of takes us to Scotland, where, from out of the sunshine on Leith comes Lau.
In the folk scene, they are simply immense. Winners of the best band at the BBC Folk Awards for the last four years out of five, they come from a traditional background but their sound is anything but. Playing guitar, fiddle and accordion might at first glance seem utterly trad, but the music Lau create, with live loops and synth bass, has the hallmarks of audio innovators like Brian Eno.
Cinematic and evocative, Lau on record is one thing, but their live incarnation is in another galaxy.
Martin Green (accordion), Kris Drever (guitar and vocals) and Aidan O’Rourke (fiddle) combine to incredible effect on stage, and that alchemy is on its way to Dublin, with the group set to hit Whelans on June 1.
Gazette Music spoke to Martin as the band were preparing for their latest tour, and we started by talking about their unique music and how it came to be.
“We are all rooted in folk music of one sort or another, and we all come from musical families. This traditional music is still the basis of the music we make in Lau, but we all have interests in other sorts of music, and these influences slip in.
“One of our shared fascination is with sound, sounds possible from acoustic instruments, sounds we can enhance or embellish with effects, areas where we can use electronic sounds.
“We spend a lot of time with our sound engineer Tim Matthew, working on the live sound and trying to make the show sonically interesting.”
Their latest release, Race The Loser, is a distinct evolution in their sound, an achievement that Martin attributes in part to the influence of producer Tucker Martine, who has previously worked with REM and My Morning Jacket.
“Working with Tucker was like working with a musical Gandalf with a Nashville accent. He encouraged a real spirit of exploration and experimentation, and was happy to try out any idea we proposed.”
From their acoustic roots, Lau have added electronic elements and effects to their sound in studio and on stage.
“For us, the increasing technology has been a very slow burn. It has always been something that we have embraced, and Martin has always made bedroom electronica, but it wasn’t clear for a long time how to combine that with the acoustic sound of Lau.
“Tucker is so knowledgeable about so many sorts of music that he was able to help us find a place for more of those electronic elements to come forward. We have been looping ourselves live for a few years now, and always tried to keep it reasonably subtle, I think now we are confident to make more of that. There are more complex bits of laptop use on stage now, and some heavy Moog bass action.
“We are lucky to have an engineer so involved in rehearsals. Tim and Tucker are friends and have a shared sonic sensibility, so the live gig sounds surprisingly like the album.”
As well as recording and touring, Lau curated their own mini-festival, Lau-Land, something they are definitely considering repeating.
“We plan to do at least three more in the next two years. All events will involve local acts as well as international acts. We will encourage as much collaboration and cross-fertilisation of bands as possible, which is one of the main motivations behind these festivals.”
Lau play Whelans on June1. For more, see www.whelanslive.com