The Laurels are back everyone!
It’s been four long years since the Sydney band dropped their explosive debut record, Plains, which established them as one of the finest young bands in the country. Throughout those four years they’ve by no means been sitting on their arses, punching cones, waiting for inspiration to hit and for a new record to just fall out of their brains.
No, these guys are meticulous in their craft, working tirelessly to learn as much they can about music and the processes that must be taken to create something truly exceptional.
We’ve had two tastes of their follow-up to Plains, an LP to be titled Sonicology; the first being Zodiac K which appeared out of the ether about a year ago, and more recently Reentry just a few weeks ago. Both exude the essence of a band who have grown immensely, dropping the wall-of-sound mentality that permeated Plains for something more delicate and artful but still as rapturous.
There are more far-reaching influences present in their new work, ranging from golden age hip-hop and Avalanches-esuqe plunderphonics to quirky psych and ambient pop.
We wanted to know just what the hell they’ve been listening to over the past four years that has motivated such a sharp artistic change, so we asked The Laurels to put together a Youtube playlist for us and tell us about their choices. Check it out below
(WARNING: These guys know a lot about music and will probably make you feel bad about how little you know)
Drink from the vast pools of The Laurels’ musical knowledge with this epic playlist and track rundown they put together for us.
Large Professor – The Entrance
We picked this up while touring around America and along with Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band it was probably the most influential song in terms of how to start our album, right down to cheering crowd sounds etc. It helped us realise you can have a really repetitive song that just talks up how good you are and not sound totally ridiculous. He is pretty slept on but was really instrumental in helping Nas create Illmatic, which is one of my favourite albums. I still don’t know where the sampled guitar comes from, but Large Professor is the ultimate dope shit.
Brand Nubian – Meaning Of The 5%
This track samples a Farrakhan speech over the top of a Marvin Gaye loop. I suppose it was more useful in terms of providing a head space and an example of the power of spoken word samples, rather than a “sound”. Sometimes you can learn more in a song of duration 3 minutes than you can in a year of school/education. Teach what you know to those who do not know.
Edward Artemiev – Meditation (Stalker Movie Soundtrack)
This wiki link will give a better description of this song/soundtrack than I ever could, but this track really gives off a feeling of inner peace which is what the composer set out to do. It features a synth trying to recreate a tamboura drone, with a tar (Iranian instrument) and a flute. Probably my favourite film and soundtrack, and the dialogue was just as much an influence as the music.
Carly Simon – Why
This song seemed to follow me around a lot, would always hear it playing in grocery stores and various shops (when I wasn’t listening to it on headphones). I don’t really know any other Carly Simon songs but this one was produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic. They are amazing songwriters / producers / instrumentalists. We went through a period of listening to songs produced by them both and some that Nile just did on his own (Let’s Dance) in the hope it would rub off (don’t think it did). This is one of the best.
Erik B. & Rakim – Casualties Of War
Probably the most unrelenting song I’ve ever heard. Definitely a lyrical influence, but the sax wailing out over pumping drums with dulcet organ tones was a big sonic influence too. Along with Kool G Rap, Rakim has the best flow of any rapper I’ve heard. A good lesson in history repeating, this song is incredible.
Funkadelic – Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow
If songs were paintings this one would rival any of Dali’s for the title of most surreal. The freak out section and instrument tones were a good reference point for many parts of our album. Good life advice also.
Ian Brown – F.E.A.R.
One of the coolest songs I’ve heard lyrically and probably the reason why I try and include strings in every song in the hope they will sound as good as this. Back in the day when I actually went to a hairdresser I used to take in a picture of Ian Brown with a mullet and request that my hair look like that. After years of coming out of the hairdresser looking like a total f***wit I recently bought some clippers and now shave my own head. Ian Brown can join our BMX gang any day.
Jeru The Damaja – Jungle Music
My favourite and most listened to song whilst making the album. Although I can’t rap I’m sure it rubbed off somehow, probably the keyboard tones and sounds. The best beat I’ve ever heard featuring the most underrated rapper ever. There’s so much imagery in Jeru’s lyrics and it contains a sample from the best James Brown album (In The Jungle Groove).
Mr Fingers – Stars
Arpeggiated synths! There are lots of different versions of this track (different speeds) but pretty much all of them are gold. I am forever trying to get into house music ‘cos I think it all sounds like this and Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald. Hopefully one day I will cut my losses and just accept that these two tracks are the peak and that I will never find anything better. This track has caused me to miss my train stop multiple times and is a good reminder of how effective repetition can be.
Regurgitator – ! (The Song Formerly Known As)
Was going to choose a Prince song but very few of them are available on youtube. Given that this song is a Prince tribute and has stuck with us since we were around 11 years of age, it’s probably more suitable. The funk guitar on this has always been a big influence and in retrospect they are one of the few bands that successfully mixed rock with hip-hop. I once saw a cover band playing this song when I was a kid and had an out of body experience. After this song they then played Elevation by U2 which did not live up to its title. Come down.
Wu Tang – Campfire
8 Diagrams is definitely an underrated Wu Tang album. Even Raekwon was giving RZA shit for the production on this record but I think these are some of his best beats! Sam and Jon from the Holy Soul will agree. The Persuasions sample on this track is on point and Ghostface’s verse is almost as funny as his Action Bronson diss video.
Edan – Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme
We picked this up on vinyl when we visited Mississippi Records in Portland and the girl behind the counter pointed out that the cover of Beauty and The Beat featured the faces of the hip hop emcees that had inspired Edan superimposed over the bodies of the 60’s artists that he’d sampled. It’s a pretty good analogy for the overall sound of the record. It’s like an amazing lost psychedelic album but with blistering breakneck rhymes instead of sunshine harmonies. This track in particular is a great lesson in hip hop history as Edan effortlessly name checks all the greats.
Portishead – Cowboys
I’ve listened to Third religiously for the last four years but constantly come back to their second album as well. Their production techniques just blew our minds and we ended up employing a lot of their methods when we were resampling ourselves – this track in particular has Adrian’s guitar solo pressed to vinyl and scratched. Unfortunately we couldn’t afford to press our stems onto vinyl but we did bounce a lot of stuff to cassette and through Space Echo tape. Thanks for the sweet tip, Geoff!
Lalo Schifrin – Danube Incident
I guess this counts as another nod to Portishead, but we really got into a lot of soundtrack work which inspired some of the more atmospheric moments on the album. Schifrin, Ennio Morricone and Angelo Badalamenti were all pivotal to us employing new instrumentation like brass and strings. Their compositions are so good at conveying mood with the most simple melodic structures. Even when you separate the soundtrack from the film, their arrangements are so expressive that they conjure such visceral imagery while you’re listening to them.
Beastie Boys – Intergalactic
I always humiliate myself when this comes on the jukebox at a pub. The crazy vocoder spazzing out on “another dimension” automatically makes me want to jump up and do the robot, much to the disgust of everyone dancing around me/backing away slowly. But there’s no way you can’t feel hyped up when this comes on cos Beastie Boys are known to let the beat droooopppp! We’re planning a cover of this for our album tour which should cause further embarrassment for all involved.
Primal Scream – Kill All Hippies
When we first started the band we’d fantasise about how our albums would progress sonically over each release. We had always intended to make a more electronic based record and Primal Scream was a major factor in that decision from early on, we appreciated how they’d have such huge stylistic shifts between their albums. Screamadelica always seems to get the most praise but XTRMNTR (closely followed by Vanishing Point) is definitely our favourite Scream album! How can you go wrong when you’ve got Kevin Shields and Mani on board? Fun fact: the Labi Siffre song that Primal Scream sampled for this track also features the sample from Eminem’s My Name Is in the outro.
Radiohead – Just
We always like to go back and revisit the stuff we were listening to when we were kids just to see if it’s still inspiring. We took a Rage Against The Machine album on a drive to Melbourne once and it was vetoed about 3 songs in. Conor won’t let us play Radiohead in the car but Jonny’s guitar on this track was a good reference point for some of the more sonically aggressive moments on our album.
Black Moon – I Got Cha Opin
Enta Da Stage ended up becoming my favourite hip hop album for a period while we were making our record (KMD’s Black Bastards should get an honourable mention too). Da Beatminerz’ production is so minimal and dark and I always put this song on when I have to walk home by myself late at night because it makes me feel like I might be able to defend myself if I get mugged. In reality I would instantly hand over my belongings and crawl into a ball crying uncontrollably.
A Tribe Called Quest – Excursions
For most of our recorded output we’ve always made sure the guitar was at the forefront of our mixes, but we really wanted bass and drums to be a dominate feature on this album. Low End Theory was an important album for us, particularly with the kind of drum production we were going for by layering Jasper’s breaks with sampled kick and snare hits. Tip’s beats on Low End are fire, but he’s also one of hip hop’s best lyricists as he’s always got something meaningful and intelligent to say. Phife doesn’t feature on this track but his presence is integral to Tribe and was an important aspect for Tip to play off. RIP Phife!
David Axelrod – Divine Image
David Axelrod has been sampled a fair bit in hip hop – the strings on this track have proven quite useful to a few producers (I reckon Finesse did it best.) The great thing about plunderphonic music is that you’re intrigued by the parts they’ve borrowed and encouraged to look deeper into the history of the source material. It’s become such an impossible task for artists to clear samples due to the sheer cost of it all, which is a shame because it’s a great way for people to continually discover music from other eras or genres that they wouldn’t have heard otherwise. Good starting points for the classics are the Dusty Fingers and Ultimate Breaks and Beats compilations – guaranteed awesome drum breaks!
Sonicology is out a little later in the year via Rice Is Nice. Pre-order it now and score some sweet prints of the album art.