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Departure Lounge - Interview

  by Olga Sladeckova

published: 10 / 8 / 2002

Departure Lounge - Interview


Despite its members now living in three different countries, Bella Union signing Departure Lounge have recently released their most acclaimed album yet with 'Too Late to Die Young'. Olga Sladeckova speaks to the band about their career to date

There are countless reasons why people make music. Money and fame are amongst the most fashionable reasons and, to be entirely honest, they are often the most appealing. You can't, however, have bread without the right ingredients, and, to produce music that is worthy of attention, it requires the right people with the right ability at the right place and time. Departure Lounge have definitely found the right mixture to make music that is worthy of such an interest. The Nashville-French-English collective has received much acclaim for its musical creativity and colourful sound, and its musicians' ability to play any instrument or object that comes their way. The band first got together in 1998 on a temporary basis when Tim Keegan (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica, theremin.), who was working on 'Long Distance Learning', a solo album, called in his friends, Jake Kyle (bass, electric & acoustic guitars, trumpet.), Chris Anderson (piano, saxophone, oboe, electric guitar, organ, electravibe, thermin) and Lindsay Jamieson (drums, piano, flute, organ.) to help him out . The constellation of musicians and the final product was so appealing that the four musicians thought that it would be a waste for them not to start a band. They started working on some more music and released their debut album ‘Out Of Here’ (1999) on their own label Meek Giant. They followed this with ‘The Goldfield EP’ (2000), an instrumental record. The group then signed to Bella Union label and released another instrumental album 'Jetlag Dreams' in 2001,before putting out in March 'Too Late To Die Young’, their most acclaimed album to date. The band recently played a set of dates in the United States, before heading to Britain in July where they supported Beautiful South frontman Paul Heaton on his first solo tour. I caught up with the band at a gig at the London ULU and dragged them out of the venue before their sound check and into a pub so that we could chat about their music and everything connected with it. PB: How did you get the chance to support Paul Heaton on this tour? CA : Paul Heaton asked us because he liked ‘Too Late To Die Young’. JK : He saw good reviews in a magazine and bought the album. And said he liked it so he called us up via our agent. PB: What has been the reaction of people on this tour? JK: Surprisingly good because we hadn’t rehearsed much. We just got together for the tour. PB: Departure Lounge is officially based in England, Nashville and France. What are your connections with each place? LJ : Well, Chris and I went to Nashville to record about 5 years ago with a different band (Supermodel-OS) and I fell in love with a girl called Molly who came into the studio one day while Chris was cleaning dishes. So I decided I must move to Nashville and get married which is what happened. Then Tim and Jake came to visit and liked life there so they both moved there for a year. We played a residency at the Slow Bar, one of the pubs which has live bands there, and met all these great Nashville musicians and felt like we'd been adopted. Jake returned to Devon, but Tim stayed. Then Tim met a beautiful French girl while he was in Paris, so since then he spends half his time there and half the time in Nashville, and he goes to England when he has to or when he wants to see his family. Chris is in love on the South coast of England and stares out to sea from his balcony with his wife. So it’s all about women really. PB: How do you rehearse if you all live in different parts of the world? CA: We don’t! (Laughs) LJ: We didn’t for this tour. We only rehearsed on a stage. PB: How does it work when you need to write and rehearse new songs? CA: Well, we all have a few ideas and then listen to each other ideas and when we get together the next time we try playing them. Then we decide what we want to record. LJ: I think it’s quite a good way to work because we have the time to think about our own ideas, and by the time we get together to record it everybody already has some different ideas in their heads. PB: Why did you decide to call your new album 'Too Late to Die Young' ? TK : I think for me ‘Too Late To Die Young’ is a comment on how everything is guided around youth, especially in the music industry. Youth is hailed as a golden age. If you are sort of over 20 then you are past it. We wanted to say that you don’t have to be young to make good music. As musicians and artists, we have been making music for a long time and, if it’s your life’s vocation, you should get better at it as you go along. I think a lot of the media has become much more interested in the stories behind the music rather than the music itself. We are saying as well that, if you are going to be on this earth for a decent amount of time,you might as well learn to live with it and learn to live with yourself and keep doing good things. It’s not just a music thing. It’s a life thing. That is what a lot of our music is about. It’s not a bunch of songs from a band that is trying to be pop stars. It’s music as a part of life. And the music and life are kind of blended together really. I think sometimes the themes come through the songs on the album as many people have said that to us. The songs are about coming to the terms with being a bit older and say "Okay what do we do now? Now we are not all young and beautiful and, Oh my God, look at us. We haven't died" (Laughs !) PB: On the album there is a song called ‘King Kong Frown’ where you compare yourself to King Kong. Why did you do that? TK: I was getting a bit of a reputation for being miserable from my friends. And my girlfriend was also telling me I have a constant frown. It gave me the idea for the song to sing about looking like King Kong. You never see a king Kong looking happy, and so it was a sort of a message to my girlfriend that I’m not really miserable and that I was just concentrating. PB: I suppose the line saying "I’ve got nothing to complain about/I’ve got you babe and the boys in the Lounge" is about "the boys" in the band. TK : Yeah. CA: (Laughs) Because he is extremely lucky. PB: When you perform live do you sometimes change the lines in songs? TK: Yeah, we are not trying to recreate the album on the stage. It’s only four of us when we are in a studio but Chris, Jake and Lindsay can all play a lot of different instruments which means that we can build up the song. When we are on a stage, it’s a bit more difficult, so we tend to take a different approach. PB: Have you always played a lot of different instruments,even before you were in Departure Lounge? JK : Yes, since we were very young. LJ : We did the album at a studio in Hampshire and they have a lot of instruments there so we just started picking things up and trying to play them. TK: We like things that make unusual sounds whether it’s instruments or objects and try using them musically to create an interesting mixture of sounds. CA: Lindsay played a frying pan on one of the songs on the album and it is really beautiful. PB: Which song was that? CA : It’s ‘Alone Again’. LJ : It’s in the background. TK: I think it was a Teffla. CA: It’s very sweet! (All laugh) PB: How did you get in touch with your present label Bella Union? TK : That came about through our first record label here Blue Rose (which released 'Long Distance Information'-OS). They don’t exist anymore because they went bust. The independent labels in UK have their own community and they exchange music with each other. The people who work in the independent music world are big fans of the music they work for and that is why they do what they do. They don’t do it because they want to be multimillionaires. They do it because they have this love and passion for music. So it makes sense that they have friends who work in similar places and they exchange music. PB: So you were exchanged?! TK : Yeah, it was like an exchange thing. I think Blue Rose sent a few CDs out to Bella Union. We met Simon that way and he mixed and produced the songs on our fifst album. First of all we put the album on our own label, Meek Giant, and Bella Union distributed it for us. Eventually they wanted to put our records out. PB: How did you get in touch with Blue Rose? TK: Blue Rose was a very strange because it was an English label but they had a scout in Seattle. And one of their guys saw me opening for Robyn Hitchcock in Seattle. He told Blue Rose about me and they came to see me in London. A waitress interrupts our talk and serves Tim with a plate full of fish & chips. A portion to be envied.... PB: You also have done a radio show in Nashville. Are you still doing that? LJ : Not at the moment but it’s there when we want it. It’s students’ radio. The music programmer saw us playing in Nashville and suggested we should do a show on their radio and we just said "Yes!". It worked really well. PB: You played in US earlier this year. What was it like? JK : We played in Nashville, Boston and Atlanta with Clinic, which was really good. PB: In 2001 you set up a residency in a bar in Nashville and called it the Living Room What did you have on your program? What inspired you to name it the Living Room? LJ : We called it the Living Room because that's how our band started, just jamming and messing around at home with no real intention of forming a band. So it reflects the casual approach we take to performing. Not that we don't try, but that we're there to enjoy ourselves and share our music with whoever's interested. Lots of people would get up onstage and play with us, or we'd play their songs. We had 17 people up there once which was pretty mad. We'll be doing some more shows like that in September. TK: Yeah, that is good fun. It’s all about looking into new avenues to explore in music. That’s what keeps you interested when you do music. You are constantly exploring and looking into new areas that you have not done yet. The Living Room was also partly a way of getting to know people in Nashville. For me personally it’s a way to learn a lot of cover versions. People always ask you to play other people’s songs and I never know any. Chris is very good and plays a lot of Elton John and Meat Loaf. PB: Do you have any plans for the near future? TK : Yes, but we can’t tell you. It’s classified and we would have to kill you (Laughs). PB: I can run fast! TK : Seriously though , there will be a lot of new things. PB: Anything that you can say? TK : We have got quite interested in cover versions while doing the Living Room. And we have got an idea for an album of cover versions but in a certain way and in a certain area of music. Duetting is another thing I’m interested in doing. You know. Frank Sinatra did it . So, why can’t we? (All laugh) PB: I know you are already thinking about recording another album in December. Could you tell me more about it? TK: There are a lot of ideas and a lot of not quite finished songs. And as usual for us it’s quite a wide spectrum of music. We all come from different places musically but where we meet we seem to understand each other well. I think there is going to be more piano, some strings and I want there to be more vocals as well. CA : Jake wants more bass. LJ : More of everything really. TK: Yeah, and if we do more then there will be more. That’s our marketing plan – "more". LJ : We would also like to put out an experimental jazz album. TK : We were also asked to contribute to Bella Union ‘Series 7’ (an instrumental series of Bella Union releases for which they recorded 'Jetlag Dreams'-OS) and we really loved doing that the last time. It was such fun because we felt that we had complete freedom to do what we wanted to do. I think we are probably going to do more of those. Maybe that will be ‘Jetleg Dreams’ II. or III. A bit like Rocky sort of… (laughs) PB: You once said that you started the band to relieve yourselves from stress and problems. If you ever solve all you problems will you keep playing? LJ Absolutely! There is nothing like music as therapy and we'll always need it. I've got 5 kids so I know I'll need it for the next 20 years at least and that might be all the time I have left! It’s nearly 6 o’ clock now and it is the time for the band to return to the venue and get ready for tonight’s show. We thank each other for good talk. I hope there is no more stress in their lives. Well, maybe just a little bit so that they can keep making on such beautiful music....

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Departure Lounge - Interview

Departure Lounge - Interview

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