The Leaf Library’s “Daylight Versions” is definitely one of our favourite albums of 2015. Their song “Tilting” can be heard on our podcast number 53 which will be available on this site in the next few days.
Listen to (and then buy) the album whilst you read our interview with guitarist Matt Ashton and bassist Gareth Jones.
CG: How did it all begin for The Leaf Library?
MA: I’ve known Kate for years and, in the early days we always talked about doing a band but never got around to it. I went off and did Saloon for a few years and, when it was obvious that that was coming to an end, I decided I wanted to start my own thing. I didn’t want to sing and Kate was the obvious choice. Everything we’ve done since has been built around her voice.
GJ: Do you remember Myspace? Oh those heady days of 2006. I joined as I wanted to pay Matt back in the form of physical labour for only buying Saloon’s albums from the promo bins at Vinyl Exchange.
CG: This is your 2nd album but your first for wiaiwya, how was it different working with a more established label?
MA: Most of the records I’ve put out over the years (in various different groups) have been on established labels so there were no surprises. I’ve known John for many years and it was nice knowing that we could talk to each other and understand each other. The label / artist relationship is a delicate one!
GJ: You have to remember to be nice about your labelmates occasionally.
CG: How long did the album take to record? Was it a difficult “birth”?
MA: The album took about a year and a half from first demo session to final mastering. It wasn’t a difficult birth but it was very hard work. That may sound like a long time but that was us actually rushing to get it finished. We obviously weren’t going to cut any corners but we didn’t do loads of takes.
What took time was editing all the layers we recorded, recording all the guests and then mixing the whole lot. Lots of late nights. Simon the producer (from Cosines, and now our sort of ‘touring’ guitarist) did an amazing job. Gareth helped engineer it but it was mainly Simon at the controls for the whole thing. And neither he, nor any of the others complained about staying late to get something done.
GJ: I went for the full epidural.
CG: The music sounds very collaborative, as if it’s been constructed live with the full band playing together, is that accurate?
MA: No, that’s not how it is. But it’s very well arranged and recorded so I’m glad that that comes across. All the parts (apart from a couple of the group backing vocals) were recorded seperately. We don’t have the space at the studio we use (Studio Klank) to do a full band set up.
But there was lots of collaboration on the record with all the guests that came in to play on it. People were given a bit of direction but were mainly left to their own devices.
CG: The drones and electronic soundscapes add a huge amount to the songs both live and on record. At what point do they appear? Are they a starting point for some songs or added on after the rest of the songs?
MA: They can appear at any point, actually. Some of them are the starting point for a track and others are added towards the end. To be honest though, if we’re getting towards the end of a track and we need a drone then maybe there’s something wrong with it. There are lots of little, non-droney electronic details that Lewis added on all the tracks as well, some of which are my favourite bits.
Your singer Kate has a fantastic voice, which suits the flow of the group’s music. Please could you ask her which singers have influenced her?
Kate Gibson: There are loads of singers that I like but I very rarely listen to something to try and sound like it, I just try and do the best with my own voice.
CG: Lyrically there’s a lot of references to time (e.g. seasons passing, leaves changing colour, morning/day/night, stuff about stars & planets). Is that a deliberate theme for the album?
MA: Yes, very deliberate. Over the last couple of years seasons, time and the weather started making more of an appearance in the things I was writing. I was reading more about the world outside of cities (as opposed to cities themselves) and I think that had quite an influence. The weather is something I find really useful for songwriting as it’s universal but also very personal. I try not to write deliberately sad songs but I like using little bits of weather writing to create an atmosphere or to subtley shift a song’s direction.
CG: What other themes are lurking in the lyrics? I’ve noticed that water is mentioned quite a bit.
MA: The water stuff is a more recent thing. It was something that started to come up more and more so I decided to embrace it. I’ve always loved the sea (being near it as opposed to on it) but I’ve never been able to write about it before without sounding cliched. It started with the flooding theme of Acre and then spread to songs about Suffolk (Rings of Saturn, April), swimming (Pushing/Swimming), and washing away / new beginnings (Slow Spring), to flooding as a metaphor for dying (Sailing Day).
CG: That bit in Evening Gathers with the multiple drummers is amazing. Whose crazy idea was that?
MA: Um, I can’t remember. Either Lewis or I but I can’t be sure. It started as a 4/4 krautrock thing but we decided that it was too obvious and that we wanted to do something unexpected with it.
CG: Are there any favourite phrases in your lyrics?
MA: I’m really proud of all the lyrics on this record. I always take care with the words but, for the first time ever, there’s nothing on the entire record that doesn’t have some kind of meaning. I’m particularly pleased with the lyrics in Summer Moon. They were the last ones to be finished and proved the hardest. I’ve been trying to capture that particular atmosphere in a song for a while now and I think I’ve got pretty close.
CG: What is your favourite word that you have not managed to get into one of your lyrics? (yet)
MA: Bathysphere [TTW Ed: Smog want to live in one of those in this song]
CG: Which other artists do people say you sound like and how do you feel about it when they say that?
MA: For ages we just got compared to Stereolab which was both a compliment and a big frustration as I don’t think we sound all that much like them. Of course, there are some similarities and complaining about being compared to such a great band could seem churlish, but there was possibly a couple of cases of lazy journalism (girl singer, keyboards, slight dearth of choruses) and you sometimes wonder that, if they’re not noticing all the other people we stole from, what else are they missing. We love Stereolab but we also love LOADS of other people and borrow from them all on a regular basis.
That said, on this new record we’ve had other comparisons – Yo La Tengo, REM, The Clientele, Galaxie 500, Broadcast, Epic 45, Talk Talk. And of course Stereolab, but they’ve been a bit better directed than usual.
CG: I heard you first at Indietracks in the summer. Did you enjoy the gig in the chapel and did you manage to catch any other bands over the weekend?
GJ: I had a great time – hadn’t been to Indietracks since my other band Wintergreen played in 2007 (also in the church). Such a lovely atmosphere all weekend despite the weather. I can’t really remember much else apart from the buffet bar carriage and the secret campsite disco.
MA: I LOVED the Indietracks show. I’ve never been before as I’m not into that many of the bands that usually play but it was still a big honour to be on, and especially on that stage. And they really look after the bands too which is nice.
We worked hard on that set and I think it went really well, even if I did get into trouble for playing an unannounced Morrissey cover. And Simon did a good job of recruiting drummers to play with us at the end of Evening Gathers. It felt pretty good making that much noise in that little church!
CG: What’s planned for 2016?
MA: We’ve got an album of just the drones from Daylight Versions coming out on cassette at some point and I’d like to do a proper release of all the amazing remixes we’ve had back so far. I’d also like to do some recording with Dan and Dave from The Drink, and to start a new record.
GJ: Looking forward to kicking 2016 off at the Winter Sprinter [TTW Ed: brilliant line-up with 4 other bands that have featured in our Best of 2015 list Simon Love, Milky Wimpshake, Martha and Evans the Death] I’d like to play a bit more this year and I think we’re looking at recording new ideas as we go too. Also, there’s a Wintergreen LP out at some point.
Watch this space for Part 2 of this interview coming very soon.
- Buy the album “Daylight Versions” here
- Indietracks review podcast part 1
- Indietracks review podcast part 2 (includes The Leaf Library)