04 April 2011

Fresh Meat Monday - Laurence and the Slab Boys




Would you care to introduce yourself?


I’m Larry Reid. I’m from Glasgow and spend most of my time moving between there and Berlin. I sing, play guitar and write the songs for a new musical-collective called Laurence and the Slab Boys.




How would you describe the music you make?


It has been called shoegaze or noise-pop, but I like the description “post-apocalyptic folk” that one Italian fan used on a forum. I’m not entirely sure what it means, but I like the sound of it. It is probably dark music, by most people’s definition. When I was a teenager, I resented my music being labelled as “dark”, as I thought that this was just a lazy way of saying that the music has some kind of melancholy and substance about it, but I can recognise now that the lyrics and melodic choices are, indeed, darker even than most other indie guitar music. I think, perhaps, I have a tendency to look at and describe things from a different place than most people.




How did you start out making music?


For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to make music. My dad was forever tinkering with music when I was growing up- he’d play Neil Young songs better than Shakey himself- so there were always acoustic-guitars, keyboards and drum-machines in our house. He also had a Stratocaster and an amp, but he only ever set them up when my mum was out for the night, so the electric-guitar became a mythic thing. I picked the guitar up one time when I was about seven, while my dad was in the bathroom. I was too scared to even strum it, so I just let it feedback a little. Even to this day, I consider myself extremely privileged that I’ve been able to play the electric guitar as a job.


I formed dozens of bands at high-school and university, but I’m fairly self-destructive and I always found some principled reason to leave before it became successful. I joined a Glasgow band called The Cinematics, made some records and toured the world with them for a few years, which was more and less fun than most people imagine. For a while I’ve wanted to make music closer to my personal tastes, so I asked some friends to join me in this project and now we’ll see how far it takes us.




What process goes into the way you write songs?


It can vary enormously. For me, it generally begins with lyrics, either a full set of verses and choruses, or just a motif. The words come at all hours of the day. The idea grows like a seed in my stomach, and it aches until I can get it out. Late at night is the best time for writing, I think. I also get the creative urge earlier in the day, but my head doesn’t work as effectively and I think the results are often too pale or obvious, and I generally have to either disregard these or rework them later on, at night. I build things up from there, starting with my voice and an acoustic guitar.


Sometimes the complete opposite is the case, where I’ll have a guitar melody, a drum-loop or a quirky synth-sound that I’ve fallen in love with, so I’ll build things around that. This method always seems much more contrived to me, but some good songs have come this way.




What can people expect from your live shows?


We’ve only played together a few times so far, with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and at a few parties. We have been offered lots of shows and several support-tours, but I’m loath to become just another gigging band, so we want to hand-pick the shows that we play.


The Pains are one of my favourite bands of the last couple of years. That show went well, I think. I thought that it might be quite shambolic, as our sound is based around guitar-feedback, sparse tom-beats and understated bass-lines, so there is a lot that can go wrong. Plus, my voice can be less accessible than some, so there is always a chance that audiences will wonder what the hell is going on. I think we pulled it off, though.


To answer your question, I’m not what people can expect at our shows in the future, and I don’t know what I expect myself. Adam (bass) and I played in the Cinematics together. That was a very tight band where we simply didn’t make mistakes and everything was quite measured. To go from that to this is both daunting and exciting. I now get an adrenaline-rush before going on stage for the first time in years.


So many bands play with click-tracks and layer-upon-layer of samples these days. It has gotten to the stage where they have to, just to compete with all the other bands who are doing the same, in a war of escalation. I spoke with someone backstage after the Pains show. I don’t want to sell him out by naming him, but suffice to say he plays in a pretty successful Brooklyn band. He agreed with me that it can be stagnating playing live these days, and he yearned to do what we’re doing.


I think that pretty soon audiences are going to get sick of paying to see bands play along to backing-tracks and there will be a reaction. That’s what our live shows are about: throwing away the gimmicks and trickery; getting back to spontaneous rock n’ roll expression.




What are you all listening to at the moment?


I am recording a lot right now, so I try not to listen to very much contemporary music, as this can be distracting, but some inevitably sneaks into my playlists. Between recording-sessions I might relax to a mixture of Bob Dylan, Love, The Zombies, Angus & Julia Stone, the Kills, Twilight Sad, Warren Zevon, Neu!, or Leonard Cohen. My ears often hurt after a day recording, so I find that anything electronic-sounding is too harsh for relaxing to.


I DJ in Berlin a fair bit, so I have to listen to a lot of current music to establish playlists that people can dance to. Therefore, when I’m not DJing, I tend to favour more downbeat sounds.




What can we expect to see/hear from you in 2011?


We’re just about finished recording an album. Right now I’m trying to upload a demo-mix of one new song each week to our SoundCloud page, where I am able. Given the state of the established music industry these days, we’re of a mind to just give the whole thing for free online. I’d prefer to do it in some organised way, however, so that people can hear it as one, intentional piece of art, with cover-artwork and a considered track-listing, as opposed to just a collection of disparate demos ripped from online music-players.


We’re also pretty keen to let people hear the songs live, as I think that is where they will sound best, so hopefully there will be a lot of good gigs in the next year.



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