Larkin Poe are rock ‘n’ roll’s next best thing. For over a decade the blues rock playing duo, comprised of sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, have been working tirelessly on the scene, releasing five EPs, three studio albums, and a live DVD, along with being the backing band for Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, and Don Henley.
However, it’s their viral cover videos that have seen them soar to new heights, not to mention gain thousands of followers across the globe. Playing everything from Tom Petty to Son House, Larkin Poe have set a new precedent for what it means to be a great modern blues artist.
I caught up with the sisters ahead of their first Australian tour to discuss Bluesfest, pouring blood and sweat into the making of their soon to be released album Venom and Faith, their relation to Edgar Allan Poe, how their viral videos have changed things, and more.
Ahead of their first ever Australian tour, we take five with Larkin Poe to find out more about Bluesfest, Venom and Faith, and their massive last 12 months.
HAPPY: You’ve been announced to play the renowned Bluesfest next year, as well as a few sideshows. This will be your first time in Aus, what’re you most looking forward to about playing down under?
REBECCA: Oh my gosh, everything! Never having been to Australia we have all these stereotypes in our heads, and I’m excited to dispel those and just come and actually just come and experience it for ourselves. I mean, everyone says that Australians are all so lovely, and we’ve had about 15 interviews thus far today and you all have been amazing and kind so I’m really looking forward to this trip, and maybe throwing some shrimp on the barbie, and seeing some koalas.
HAPPY: Most people know you from your videos, but what can we expect to see in your live shows?
REBECCA: We travel as a four piece so it will be Megan and myself fronting the band then we have drums and bass, so we sort of deliver just a very lean and mean rock ‘n’ roll outfit with a definite blues twist, so people can expect just a real high impact, energetic show. We have a lot of fun, and feel very passionate about music so we like to hopefully spread a lot of joy to an audience.
HAPPY: Great. So, tell me the story of how you girls got your start in music? What was it that inspired you to start singing and playing lapsteel?
MEGAN: We started very young, we were probably three and four when our mum and our dad put us into classical violin and piano lessons. We ended up playing classical music well into our teens, but having grown up in the south of course there’s a lot of blues, bluegrass, and country music that happens in and around the southern states, and so that was something that has always pulled at our heart strings.
When we were teens we actually put down all of our classical instruments and fell headlong into the music of the south playing the blues, and bluegrass, and Americana, and that sort of kicked started our ‘til now lifelong relationship with music. Just loving writing, loving performing, loving everything about making music, and that’s also when we picked up our current instruments. That’s when I switched over to Dobro, and later lap steel, and Rebecca picked up the guitar, mandolin, and banjo.
HAPPY: Cool. So Megan, who in particular was inspiring your playing?
MEGAN: Early on it was definitely Alisson Krauss, and then Bonnie Raitt, and folks like Mark Knopfler, and the Allman Brothers. More recently Robert Johnson, and Son House, and Muddy Waters, Skip James, just blues legends out the wazoo. That’s been a huge stepping stone for us in the last few years.
HAPPY: And so a lot of people wonder about the origin of your band name, could you explain it for me?
MEGAN: Yeah, Larkin Poe is our great, great, great, grandfather on our dad’s side. His name was ‘Larkin Poe’, and one kind of tid bit that we like to spill out is that he was the cousin of Edgar Allan Poe, so we kind of have some famous ancestors back in our family tree.
HAPPY: Very cool! Speaking of family, did you two always want to make music with one another or did it just happen that way?
REBECCA: It definitely happened naturally, I don’t think we ever would’ve imagined at the outset 10-15 years ago that we’d be on the road touring full time, and having adopted music as our livelihood, but I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I mean we share everything together as sisters, and so being able to share a band and having travelled the world together, going to Australia for the first time together! I mean it’s just something I wouldn’t trade for the world certainly.
HAPPY: Definitely. Your online presence has grown exponentially in recent years. What’s it been like to see your videos being shared around so enthusiastically and by some of the best artists in the business? How’s that attention changed things?
MEGAN: You know, it hasn’t really changed much. It’s hugely flattering and it’s really exciting that because of the shares and the love and the fact that people bother to watch the videos it means that we’re able to sell more tickets and raise awareness of the band. But it still feels surreal because we haven’t changed at all, and we’re still doing exactly what it is that we want to be doing, and I think a lot of people assume that would somehow have a shift in want it means to be ‘Larkin Poe’ or what it means to be us.
But you know it’s still relatively small scale in the grand scheme, and we just dig what we get to do and hope that we can continue doing that, and if people dig it that’s just more icing on top of the cake, we just feel really, really thankful that people seem to be enjoying what we’re putting out. The love that we’ve been getting on the videos, specifically this Tip of the Hat series that we’ve been doing of our favourite cover songs has really dictated the direction of the album, it gave us the confidence to go into the studio just the two of us, so it really has been just such a great thing for us.
HAPPY: Mhmm. And so how do you decide on which songs to cover together for your videos?
MEGAN: A lot of kicking and screaming between the two of us, lots of scratching (laughs) no, actually you know it’s a fun history lesson because oftentimes on a Monday we’ll pull up a ‘thisdayinmusic.com’ type website, and see what historical events in music took place during the week. You’ll see people who were born, or people who have passed away, you know, different milestones. And so that’s kind of a cool jump off point for us in deciding what we choose to cover but also mainly it’s the songs that we love, it’s songs that we already know the words of because our mum and our dad played it for us nonstop when we were kids, that’s the biggest driving passion, just wanting to sing songs that we love.
HAPPY: Awesome. Now, last year you released your latest album Peach. Tell me about the making of the album.
REBECCA: So we actually made Peach just about in a long weekend. We were sort of in a weird transitional period last year in the summer because we’d taken some time off the road to actually go into the studio and make a record, and we had made half of a record that we weren’t super excited about. We were sort of in this weird creative crux and weren’t entirely sure of what it was that we wanted to do, and as Megan said we had received a lot of positive feedback from the Tip of The Hat series, and got the idea to go into the studio and really strip it back to just the essential elements of just Megan and I.
At that point in time we were listening to so many traditional blues artists like Robert Johnson, and Son House, and wanted to make records that were reminiscent of those artists and sort of the bare bones nature of the recordings that they would’ve released about 100 years ago. So, that was the main jump off point, and then it was just getting into the studio and sweating about 18 gallons of sweat, and bleeding a bunch all over the studio and walking out with something that really felt like us.
HAPPY: Great. And so how do you go about writing original songs? Do one of you take the lead or is it a team effort?
MEGAN: Rebecca does a lot of the writing for the band, so generally she’ll bring forward the meat of a song and then we’ll sit down the two of us and finalise it. But yeah, she does a lot of the writing, specifically the lyrical writing for the band. I’m still mystified by song writing because whenever I finish a song I feel like it’s probably the last song I’ll ever write, and I’m like one of those really crazy insane songwriters who feels like they’re perpetually tapped out like “oh, this is it for me, I’m done!” but somehow I always come back around to needing to get something out.
For me, songwriting is typically a therapeutic thing, I’ll write a song and not necessarily know what it is in myself or in my world that I’m writing to, but give it a little bit of time, a few weeks and some space, and I’ll look back at the song and realise “ahh, that’s what I was writing to myself abut”, so it’s definitely like a baring of the soul process. It felt really good to write for this record Venom and Faith, the most recent record that’s going to be coming out just before we come to see you guys in Australia. It really feels like we were writing from a more personal perspective about things that were happening in our lives at the time, and I think people can hear that process of self-discovery in the record.
HAPPY: You two have had some incredible moments in your careers so far, from being the backing band for MusiCares to playing with Elvis Costello, and travelling the world. What’s been the highlight?
REBECCA: Well, this year there have been a lot of highlights. Being on tour with Keith Urban this year playing arenas all across the US and Canada has been just exhilarating. He’s such an amazing artist, and to be able to walk onto his stage every night and to have such a warm reaction from not only him but his crowd has been a really, really cool couple of months for us.
But to be honest with you, the fact that we’re over a decade into our music making career and still making music, that’s the biggest thing. It’s a really difficult way to make a living and it’s a really competitive industry and the fact that we’re able to do what it is that we love, and still love what it is that we’re doing, that to me is the peak of the mountain, to still be doing it, and to be happy, and fulfilled, and hopefully spreading that same joy and engagement with the world.
HAPPY: Beautiful. So, what’s next for Larkin Poe?
REBECCA: November 9th is when Venom and Faith will be coming out, so we hope people will check out the album cause that’s certainly where a lot of our love has gone over the summer, working on the new songs, and working on a brand new set of music that we’re going to be playing for the rest of the year. So yeah, we hope people will check out that album, and keep following us on our social media too because there’s a lot of time to kill in green rooms so we’re always releasing videos for our Tip of the Hat series. So, if people just want to fall down a rabbit hole on social media come on to Larkin Poe cause we’ll hook you up (laughs)!
Larkin Poe Australian tour
Also performing at Bluesfest 2019.