Lanterns on the Lake – Hazel Wilde on new album ‘Versions of Us’
light the way
June 15, 2023
Photography: Rob Irish
Following the Mercury Music Prize-nominated record frighten the herdThe pressure was on for Lanterns on the Lake on their fifth studio album. our version. Hazel Wilde is the band’s chief songwriter and lead vocalist, and they remain true to their North East English roots in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Original Lanterns on the Lake drummer Ol Ketteringham left the band while working on an early version of the new album, but Wilde said in a press release, “We were and are very close. It’s been heartbreakingly difficult, as it is in any relationship.” Radiohead drummer Philip Selway makes an appearance. The recording was stripped down to its bare essentials and rebuilt, this time with Selway on drum riser as a most welcome guest. Produced and mixed in the home studio of band and life partner Wilde and guitarist Paul Gregory, the result is a stunning LP that could be their masterpiece in five tries. .
Lee Campbell (secretly): How much did motherhood influence the composition of this song, and will it continue to influence the lyrics going forward?
Hazel Wilde: I think when you’re an artist you have to be very involved with yourself. I tend to indulge in self-pity at times, but when I became a mother to my daughter, I got a slap in the face. There are other things to think about in life. Before I released my fourth album, I had a bit of a catastrophe. Now I have to show her that there is something to expect. I cannot afford to indulge in self-pity any longer.
Did you feel a lot of pressure on this album after being nominated for the Mercury Prize and being so successful? frighten the herd?
We always put pressure on ourselves with every album. We have to step up one step each time. This time was no exception. I had the extra thought of, “Oh my god, people really seemed to like the last one…”. There are all kinds of pressures. This is our fifth album, we’ve been making albums for quite some time and we’re nearing the end of our record deal. If you’re going to make any of this happen, you need to make it happen now. There is a constant stream of music announced and released every half hour.
Phil Selway was very open to working with you and playing with the band on this album. What was it like playing Phil on this album?
I have to talk about how we got to the point where we recorded the entire first version of this album. We spent all our budget and time working on it. Just before that process ended, we realized that it was not right, that there was no proper energy there. Our music has to come from a very real place. It didn’t feel like there was that much heart and soul put into it. We felt like we were spiraling down this dark wormhole kind of thing. This was May 2022. We still believed in the song, but we knew it wasn’t executed right.
So I decided to try again, which was a daunting, stressful, and emotional decision. We knew we needed to release the album in early 2023, so the album deadline was looming.At that point Orr [Oliver Ketteringham, the band’s drummer], our best mate, who has played on all of our albums and has been on this journey with us, has taken a step back.So I asked Philip. [Selway] If he can help me with the drums. At that point, I didn’t know he was working on the whole album. We had met before and were on the same label for his solo albums. We made a remix for him and he has always been very supportive of us.There is a saying in my hometown that [Newcastle, UK] It said, “Shy bastards run away quickly,” so we asked him to help us. Phil is one of the best drummers in the world, and yet he might not fit our song, so that might not work. I still had to take risks, but luckily it actually worked and it worked. I built the album again from basic demos. everything went in there. It was very fast, much faster than anything I’ve ever done. We recorded the whole thing over the course of three weeks. All the vocals were recorded in one day. The composition, lyrics and vocals remain intact.It clearly changed Bob’s attitude [Allan] He played bass as he rocked into that rhythm with Phil. The timeline and its pressure definitely gave it some fresh energy.
Can you talk about writing and producing? And what about the album mix? You were in the company, right?
Many of the production decisions are made by us and we have never worked with another producer. Paul, who is a guitarist and my partner, did the post-production in his home, so we mixed it there as well. So “in house” is literally home made and mixed. [Laughs]
Do you plan to tour with Phil on your upcoming autumn/winter UK tour?
Well, there’s a festival coming up soon, and Phil will be playing with us, yeah.
How did the song “The Likes of Us” come about?
Like most of the songs on the album, it was originally written at home. That’s the skeleton of this song. It’s always really exciting to bring that into a band and take it to such a good level. [Laughs] That song in particular took a bit of a trip. We believed in this song, but couldn’t get it right for a long time, so we played it a few different ways. Sometimes it was very mellow, other times it was louder and more anthemic.
And what about the current single “Real Life”?
I came up with it on the same day as the other songs [“String Theory”]. I was working on the piano and needed to clear my mind away from it. So I sat down with my acoustic guitar and started writing “Real Life.” I quickly demoed it on my phone and thought I had to come back to this one. I forgot all about that when we got together as a band to flesh out the song. So it ended up being one of the last pieces we worked on as a band. Phil brought the energy exactly the way we wanted it and he understood exactly what was on our minds. I’m really proud of it.
““The Saboteur” is a really great song. One of your lyrics is “I’m trapped in the past until my fingers bleed…the one who interferes with my future”. Please tell me more.
Whenever I write, it must come from a true place within me. I try not to think too much about what I will write or what the song will be about. It’s not hard to write good-sounding words, but they aren’t always good. The flip side is that good lyrics may not sound great when sung. The key is finding a balance between the two and not feeling forced. This time, I was thinking about clinging to those old habits and not moving forward. When writing this album, it was clear that I could connect what was happening to me personally with society in general. Many in England have the idea that things were better in the old days. If you think that way or if you can’t let go of it, you won’t be able to move forward or get to a better place.
On “Rich Girls,” she sings, “Writing these songs makes things worse.” Do you find the songwriting process to be cathartic?
Writing brings catharsis, but being an artist these days is hard. Yes, that’s the life I chose for myself. We love music and we love what we do, but it hasn’t been an easy life. I think there is catharsis in writing. Also, for me, some of the greatest excitement about making music is finding lines that really touch me personally, or chord changes that I get real satisfaction from. There are songs that I’m particularly proud of and have taken me to the next level as a writer. It wasn’t until the third album that I felt like I was in my element, finding certain keys to unlock ideas and making lyrics much easier.
Are there any songs from the new album that you’re particularly excited to play live?
We played ‘String Theory’ live in this old hall in Northumberland, England, filmed with us and Philip. It was really great for me, just the feeling of playing that song together in the room. There was just the right magical energy in it that I’ve only experienced a few times while making music, and I’m really looking forward to playing it live again.
I think everyone felt it. But once the album comes out, audiences have pretty much decided what they like, and by the end of the tour, their ideas of what to play and what to put on the setlist have completely changed.
Are there any artists who have inspired you over the years?
These days, when I’m working on something that sounds like someone, I intentionally switch it up. Radiohead and Bob Dylan are big influences. As a lyricist, he [Dylan] would be great for me. Also, an instrumental band from Texas called Explosions in the Sky that I toured with before. Really beautiful and heartfelt music. The Cure are a great example of a band that can write great pop songs and still be cool.
Also read our 2020 self-portrait interview with Lanterns of the Lake’s Hazel Wilde.
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