Name: Larkin Poe
Members: Rebecca Lovell (RL), Megan Lovell (ML)
Occupation: Singers, songwriters, multi-instrumentalists
Current release: Larkin Poe's Paint The Roses: Live In Concert, a collaboration with the Nu Deco Ensemble, is out September 17th and can be pre-ordered from the Larkin Poe webstore. [Read our Nu Deco Ensemble interview] On the one hand, the new record was simply born from the pandemic ban on touring, from the passionate desire to connect with others through music and the lockdown-induced inability to do so in person. Recorded live, but virtual and socially distanced, the performances captured here nonetheless feel as raw and immediate as those pre-Covid – in fact, they may feel even more urgent, with lead-off singles "Sometimes" and "Every Bird that Flies" ripping along with an irresistible pull.
On the other hand, Paint The Roses is not just another live session. The collaboration with the Nu Deco Ensemble has brought Larkin Poe back to their roots in classical music. The fact that Rebecca and Megan started out by playing the violin is not just cute trivia here: The way their electric rock and folk instrumentation seamlessly fuses with the orchestral sections reveals entirely new details, nuances and layers in their songs. Contrary to similar projects by other acts, the classical ensemble is not just adding a few timbral flourishes. It's an integral part of the music, creating a poetic, mesmerising wall of sound.
According to Larkin Poe in an interview for the press release, "when we recorded 'Every Bird That Flies' for Self Made Man we wanted the song to feel like a journey. So when Nu Deco’s team suggested working up a version together we were pumped to explore a new musical destination. The song is beautifully heightened by the cinematic soaring of the orchestra.” Curiously, it's made the music even heavier and darker - Metallica's S&M albums have nothing against this.
If you enjoyed this interview with Larkin Poe and would like to find out more, visit their offical homepage which offers a plethora of information. You can also keep up with the Lovell sisters on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
RL: In my case, art definitely begets art. Taking time to read, journal, and just enjoy music are very important steps in my creative process — the fires of creativity require fuel in order to burn.
Paradoxically, if ever I feel “burned out” on music, that’s usually the time I need a dose of music the most.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
RL: Most days, my writing process feels a lot like I’m rolling dice for Yahtzee — strategy comes into play, but I rely heavily on chance and good luck. When I sit down with a guitar in my writing room, I usually come armed with some premeditated titles or combinations of words, but my main objective is to just show up, listen, and follow wherever the music leads.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
RL: The vast majority of my songs are built up from music. There is so much nonverbal information communicated by riffs, grooves, and melodies — I feel like I do my best work whenever I get the musical vibe rolling in one direction, with a riff buckled in the backseat, before passing the steering wheel off to the lyrics.
A song like “Holy Ghost Fire” from our record ‘Self Made Man’ is a good example of this process; the riffs that anchor the intro and verses came along first and guided the direction of the lyrics’ topic, the healing power of music.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
ML: I think good lyrics encapsulate the human emotions and life situations that we all experience in a simple, yet profound way. Everyone can find a little bit of themselves in a good piece of writing. Naturally, simple is difficult to write, but we’ve definitely taken a page from the great bluesmen and women; blues music has some of the most heartbreakingly relatable human emotions within a few handful of words.
I’m very proud of my sister’s writing. One of my lyrical favorites of hers is the song “Mad As A Hatter”, which speaks to fear of the mental illness we watched our grandparents descend into. That song has sparked many conversations between us and people around the world — people who have felt the pain of losing loved ones to mental illness or have experienced mental illness themselves … those lyrics have been and continue to be a beautifully connective web.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
RL: Creativity is the key in the lock of the universe. The older I get, the more firmly I believe that when I engage creatively with my life, I am gifted with glimpses of the infinite — so in that way, yes: spirituality accounts for a large part of my mental state when making music.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
ML: More and more, Rebecca and I are of the “less is more” discipline. Technology allows us to tweak and prod music into perfection; but perfection isn’t the goal. Sometimes so-called mistakes can be magical.
As self-producers, we try to leave recordings as raw as we can; our “Kindred Spirits” album was pretty much recorded live with just the two of us in the room and “Paint The Roses” is, of course, completely live!
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
ML: Rebecca and I started self-producing our albums five projects ago with our record “Peach” and it’s made all the difference for us.
We’ve enjoyed the ability to fully enact a vision from tip to tail; from beginning songwriting to finishing the album art. I think people can feel the authenticity in the music we put out into the world … we’re very much involved every step of the way. That’s our goal. It’s a lot more pressure and a much bigger workload, but the end result is massively fulfilling.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
RL: Historically we’ve always finished albums in between touring so, honestly, there’s usually not time to feel empty; We tend to keep our to-do list popping and pack our schedule very full. COVID times have shifted the perspective a little, things have been a touch slower, and there’s more time to reflect, so we can appreciate the feeling of being wrung out after pouring everything into a project.
Touring is hugely inspirational for me. I gain a lot of energy and ideas interacting with a crowd of music lovers … it’s a great way to get the gears turning and the creative juices flowing again.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
RL: The colors of a rainbow are unique from one another, but they’re all a part of the rainbow. I believe creative acts register similarly — whether you’re improvising a recipe in the kitchen or getting out of your comfort zone to sing karaoke, that’s where the magic of creativity is, and that’s where you want to be.