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Lorna - Interview

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 16 / 9 / 2005

Lorna - Interview


Nottingham-based band Lorna's new album is more like a film score than an indie guitar albums and is a combination of shoegaze, and jazz. Ben Howarth talks band members Mark Rolfe and Sharon Cohen about it and touring America

Listening to Lorna’s 'Static Patterns and Magazines' is a relaxing experience.Their music flows, with only the most occasional ebb, on a wave of harmonies,and slow, yearning instrumental lines. Coming across often like a film score more than an indie guitar album, the sound is broadened with nods to shoegaze, and jazz. It is nothing short of being one of the best albums of the year. And yet, the band is almost unknown. Lorna began as the studio project of Mark Rolfe, during the latter part of the last decade. In 2001 Lorna released its first single and got a publishing deal with EMI, but took their first album, 'This Time, Each Year' to an indie in 2003. Unfortunately, that label ceased to exist almost as soon as that album came out, and whilst it is possible to order copies over the internet, it is to all extensive purposes out of circulation now. In October 2004, the band got in contact with Words On Music, who released the aforementioned second album. “I’d been in lots of indie/noise bands around Nottingham, and I wanted to do something a bit more quiet. It started as a side project that people ended up liking so I reinvented into a band in about 2001”, says Mark about the development of his band in an exclusive interview with Pennyblackmusic. He is joined by three other full time members, including Sharon Cohen (who plays keyboards, and sings) and also joins us for this interview. On the album the band are joined by an extensive cast of live musicians. “There are another two full time members”, says Mark. “There is Matt Harrison , who plays flute and who is starting to write more songs for the band and a bassist, Andrew Bullock, who left and we basically conned him into coming back because the bass player that replaced him went to live in America.” Perhaps a little disappointingly, the band are not what we could call hard touring, but they do play live on selected occasions. “I think we’ve got a lot better in recent years.” Mark decides, “We’re always trying to find ways to reproduce the songs live, without making them sound exactly like the record.There is a fine balance between using too many samples, and too few samples while trying to keep it interesting. But we’re really a studio band that plays live every so often. We basically take care of whatever needs doing when we playlive. None of the band have too much of a set role”. I ask the band what sort of gigs they most enjoy playing. Sharon: “I think we are limited to a certain kind of venue, and you come to know which venues your music will work in. If the venue isn’t right, you don’t really want to waste your time doing it.” Mark: “It’s really hard. When our label mates on Words on Music Coastal came over for a mini tour of the UK, they played the first night at the Social in Nottingham, which is a really good gig, but people were talking all through it. But if you tell people to shut up when you are playing, you look really pretentious. But the next night they played in London with Low, and people were really quiet and it was like listening to a different band.” Sharon: “I think our louder songs go down better.” 'Static Patterns and Souvenirs' has immense stylistic diversity, and that is its strength, yet the album is most rewarding when listened to uninterrupted. Mark is happy to say that the album was planned to be a cohesive whole. “I hate the term concept album but every time we wrote a track, we pretty much knew whereabouts it would be on the album, and which track was going to follow it.We have wanted to do an album like this for a while, and I think it was the least spontaneous thing we‘ve ever done”. Lorna is a studio project, and the band record their own music, something it is apparent they enjoy. But I wonder if there would be any producers who they would be interested in working with, given the chance. Mark: “Ha ha. Dave Fridman! Brian Eno” Sharon: “If it meant us having fresh ideas. We’re working on our third album now, and though we’re really happy producing it ourselves, we would never turn down a brilliant producer who wanted to help us out in the studio, and get some fresh ideas for our new album” Mark: “I’d like to collaborate with people, but I wouldn’t want to be in a position where we were being told what to do.” Sharon: “Oh no, no. It would always be us being 100% involved in making decisions. We would never get involved in a situation where someone was telling us to change or get rid of things from the songs, or telling us what to play”. When I first got in contact with Lorna, having been so impressed with the album, they were playing a series of dates in California with Coastal (another very impressive band). Mark: “America was beautiful. We had an amazing time” Sharon: “We managed to play a few shows out there. We had members of Coastal helping us out with drums, and bass and other instruments, which was nice.” Mark: “We repaid the favour and backed up Coastal when they performed over here. Only bits of Lorna could come on the tour and only bits of Coastal could come on the tour, so we ended up being pretty much the same band for both sets, playing each other’s songs”. Lorna are almost unknown in Britain, although their profile should be growing,but – somewhat bizarrely they have a big following in Spain. Not being an expert on the Spanish music scene I am curious to find out how this came to be. Sharon: “We didn’t pursue Spain really. These two guys liked our music, and asked if they could get our music in Spain, and when we said no, they asked if they could put it out on their own little label. That is how it started.” Mark: “That was a really successful period for Lorna. We got to go over and play some good dates to some of the biggest crowds we’ve ever played to. It was lovely while it lasted and it really helped us. But sadly the label didn’t last. We were really disheartened. They were really nice guys but possibly over ambitious. But it was lovely while it lasted, and set the foundations for the second album.” Is the second album a big improvement on the first, I ask? Mark: “Yes. I don’t think I would have allowed it to be heard if it wasn’t! Everything we do has to be a step forward. I think that is the core of what Lorna is about.” With such a wide variety of styles and instruments, it isn’t immediately clear what sort of music inspires Lorna. Of course it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to be indefinable, quite the opposite, but I can’t help wondering what inspires the band to play music the way they do. Mark: “Sharon’s smiling because she knows I can talk about Neil Young for an hour! Obviously Neil Young is my favourite artist, and my biggest influence. But I’ll try and find something different to talk about. When I was growing up I liked a warm and fuzzy American sound, bands like Pavement and Sebadoh, more than the British bands of the mid to early 90's, and that has inspired my music in that I don’t like it to be too flashy, I like it downbeat. Then, gosh, discovering the Beach Boys when I was about 21 was a huge thing. Then towards the ends of the 90's I listened to more and more electronic music.” Sharon: “Death Cab For Cutie. Tindersticks.” Mark: “Sharon’s very interested in the string arrangements on the album, and she likes the way bands like Tindersticks use their strings.” Sharon: “I’m a sucker for strings!” Does your hometown affect your music? Is there much of a music scene there? Mark: “I think Nottingham is an awful place to make music. We don’t fit in with the art-punk scene of the music. When you play these sad, slow, soppy songs with a flute people think you’re just silly. The best band from Nottingham, Six By Seven, have just spilt up and I think that is indicative of how Nottingham is at the moment. That is half the reason why we don‘t play much locally.” I wonder if the band has any long-term aspirations or dreams that provide them with motivation? Sharon: “The main thing we would like to do is play full time. But it is a big dream. Even Low have only very recently been able to do this full time.” Mark: “We’re realistic and we know that it will probably never happen. We have sometimes played the game and tried to impress labels, publishers and managers, and you feel like you’re living a lie.” Mark: “Musically, we’ve only really started to experiment on the last album, so we want to continue that process. We want to keep the Lorna sound, but put a different set of clothes on it every time. We’d love to work with orchestras.” Have you had much feedback about 'Static Patterns and Souvenirs'? Do you read reviews? Sharon: “We’ve had some really great reviews. Every couple of days we seem to get an e-mail from Eric Ostermeier, the label boss at Words On Music sending us some reviews. It may sound big headed, but we’ve only had a couple of bad reviews. We do seem to get positive reviews. I was really excited to get a positive review from 'Mojo' and that meant a lot to us.” Do reviews, or does criticism – good or bad – affect how you approach making music? Mark: “I guess I should stick to my guns and say that I always stick to my guns, but I do listen to what people say. Criticism can stick in the back of your head, and that will come out when you next record something.” Sharon: “Of course, it depends if it is constructive or not.” As for the future of Lorna, the band has two projects on the go.There is, of course, the new album, currently being written and recorded. But the band also have some live videos and other bits of footage, with which they intend to produce a DVD to be given to people on the band’s mailing lists, and who have been a big help. This is a tradition for the band. They did a Christmas EP last year, but this will be their first DVD outing, but if the instinctive quality and tastefulness of their music is anything to go by, it should be a treat.

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Lorna - Interview

Lorna - Interview

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Interview (2013)
Lorna - Interview
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