Sonic – relating to or using sound waves; Ology – a subject of study; a branch of knowledge.
The Laurels really hit that one on the head.
It’s been almost a month now since the band released their second record; and for an album like Sonicology, that’s probably the minimum amount of time needed for it to have fully sunk in.
A month after Sonicology has been released and we’re still exploring the ocean of substance within. In the meantime, The Laurels have been kind enough to share an exclusive track from the sessions with us called Recognition.
The curse of album number two is very real for some bands, where too much is spent trying to recreate a debut, or too little time is spent in the endeavour of evolution. But over the last four years, The Laurels have been unshakable in their resolve to move forward from their much-loved debut Plains.
Sonicology, as a result, sees the band pushing the limits of their sonic capabilities. The album represents a deeper understanding of the way music works, with greater complexity and aural audacity pushing it out of the realm of shoegaze that The Laurels dwelled in on Plains and into somewhere less fathomable.
The record is hard to pigeonhole in terms of genre, with elements of hip-hop, funk, disco and psychedelia swirling around one another in a cosmic battle royale. Nonetheless, the core elements of The Laurels are still there: twin vocalists, a penchant for imaginative guitar work and a knack for profound songwriting. What this culminates in is a record that ages wonderfully – one listen is barely enough to dip your toes into the ocean of substance within Sonicology.
It’s definitely one of our favourite records of the year, and while we’re still exploring every inch of it, we thought we’d reach out to the band to see if they had any surplus material from the album sessions that they could share with us. Being the sonic hoarders they are they of course had a bunch of stuff.
Recognition is the track they chose – a dark loomer of a tune dating back to before Plains was released. We’re stoked to share it, and a chat with Luke from the band, with you below.
HAPPY: Recognition definitely had a darker vibe than the rest of Sonicology – can you tell us a bit about the track?
LUKE: Recognition has been floating around for years – the earliest demo was recorded before we’d even started Plains. This is actually the fourth version, it’s been through a lot of different incarnations but this one seemed to suit the Laurels more with the heavy Sunn O))) inspired guitars.
HAPPY: There’s some pretty prominent use of sampling in the opening of the track – something that is all over Sonicology too. Where did your fascination with samples stem from on this record? Can you tell us a bit about your process of sourcing samples.
LUKE: That’s GZA from Wu-Tang! There’s also some pretty intense string samples from The Exorcist soundtrack on there too. We’ve dabbled with samples in the past but with the amount of hip hop we were listening to this time around we decided we wanted to make an album that used them more prominently. There wasn’t really any particular process when finding samples sources, some of the stuff we’d just stumble upon by accident or maybe there was a quote we’d been inspired by in the past that we wanted to incorporate.
HAPPY: Aside from Recognition, how much unused material do you have leftover from the Sonicology sessions? Will any more of it see the light of day.
LUKE: I think we had a pool of about 30 songs that we originally had to pick from and we worked solidly on 15 in the studio together before we settled on the final track list. Outside the sample-heavy stuff we wouldn’t be able to clear there’s probably a few tracks that will surface down the track. There’s material we’ve been saving since before we recorded the Mesozoic EP that just hasn’t fit in with groups of songs we’ve picked for each album, we’ve just been waiting for the right time to use them.
HAPPY: The album version of Zodiac K is different to the original one we heard last year. Did many of the tracks on Sonicology have different incarnations?
LUKE: Yeah, totally. A song like Sonicology was written during the writing sessions for Plains but it was way more frantic and had a Sonic Youth feel to it, the complete opposite of the chilled version that we ended up with. Like most of the tracks on the album, it went through multiple versions while we were trying to figure out a way to approach the album sonically. We were generally working off the original demos of tracks and adding and subtracting elements as we went along – it really helped working closely together and encouraging everyone to come up with multiple ideas, it kept the songs fresh in that span of time because they were continually evolving.
HAPPY: Did much of the material you demo’d make it into the final mixes, or are you guys more inclined to scrap everything and start from scratch?
LUKE: There’s definitely elements leftover from the original sketches on all the songs on the record because that’s what we were working off. One of the main incentives for working that way is keeping those fresh and raw feelings you capture when first laying down ideas, we wanted to keep as many of those moments as possible.
HAPPY: Sonicology feels ripe for remixing. Do you have any plans for any collaborations in the future?
LUKE: Yes! We’ve actually been in talks with some mates about doing remixes, we’re just waiting on SPOD to get back from his honeymoon so he can send us the stems.
HAPPY: If you could have one artist remix the entire record, who would it be and why?
LUKE: I’d say Hank Shocklee from The Bomb Squad. Public Enemy initially inspired us to head in this direction and they have a tendency to work with really eclectic sample sources. I love the way they repurpose really heavy guitar samples and squeals of feedback – I wish he would produce our next album!
HAPPY: In retrospect, now that the record is done, what do you reckon were the 5 most crucial pieces of gear you used?
LUKE: Akai MPC 2500, Korg Microkorg, a toy robot we found on the side of the road, Shure SM57, an old bike bell.
HAPPY: Sonicology is such a bloody great record. You can really hear and feel that there is four years of work put into it. Do you guys feel like you could have worked on it forever? Or did you get to a point where you felt it was done.
LUKE: We were continually pushing back our self-imposed submission date until Rice Is Nice thankfully stepped in and gave us a proper deadline. It wasn’t necessarily a case of us obsessing over details as it was us trying to find the time to record outside of day jobs and stuff going on in our personal lives. I think there was still stuff we could have gone back and changed but that’s the case with every album we’ve done. Maybe we could do a Kanye and keep updating every couple of months.
HAPPY: Is there going to be another four year wait for another Laurels record, or do you feel on a bit more of a roll than after Plains?
LUKE: Yeah, 2020 sounds about right!
Sonicology is out now via Rice Is Nice. Stream the record and buy the vinyl here.