Photo by Angel Ceballos
This year has been one of highlights for Cate Le Bon. The Welsh songstress not only released her sophomore album CYRK to grand reviews, she recently released a follow-up EP aptly titled CYRK II as well. Amidst the chaos of writing, recording and releasing new music, Le Bon has also been spending a lot of 2012 on the road, both in UK and U.S. (including her first headlining North American gig back in February). In fact, the psychedelic-influenced chanteuse is currently driving in a van through the United States for a short jaunt Stateside after playing dates in UK. While still on the other side of the pond, Cate Le Bon was nice enough to chat with me about growing up in the Brit Pop scene, her odd recording process, and how she feels when she tours in the U.S.
I’m going to be honest, I’m not usually a huge fan of singer-songwriters, but I absolutely love your work. What do you think makes you stand out amongst the sea of solo acts today?
Aw, thanks. I have no idea. I suppose I have never thought of myself as a singer songwriter either but just a maker of whatever music I fancy making at the time.
I like that you add a hint of psychedelia to your songs. What would you say are your largest influences?
When the Brit Pop scene hit and I was 13 growing up in Wales, we had bands like Gorky’s and Super Furry Animals who were carving their own unique path with a polite disregard for the confines of any scene or genre. Being exposed to that approach to music at such a young age has been the biggest influence.
I’ve heard you be compared to Nico. Do you agree with this comparison? Has she influenced your music at all?
It is true to say we both have strong accents and can sing lower than most men. I have no objection with any comparisons made, once you release something you no longer have any control over how people perceive it so there’s little point kicking against it.
You are currently touring with a full band, but do you record everything yourself?
I like to record the bare bones live with a band and then play most of the overdubs on my own or with one other person in the studio.
Can you talk to me about your writing/recording process?
I write in my mind on an imaginary 4-track. I never make demos. Its equal parts laziness, fear and wanting to keep things exciting when entering the studio. I will then record as quickly as possible so that meandering is not an option and decisions have to be made quickly.
Do you prefer writing/recording by yourself or with a band?
I write by myself but love having musicians help with the recording process. It’s far more enjoyable bashing things out live and watching each other whilst doing it. I think that energy is captured in the recording.
You released CYRK earlier this year and released the CYRK II EP in August. What made you decide to release this short follow-up?
All the songs were recorded in the same sitting and naturally pooled into two camps. The full-length album seemed like the best way to lead people into the session followed by CYRK II which bears the songs of a more confessional nature I suppose.
You are currently in UK right now. How’s that tour going?
It’s trundling along like a dream. Old friends have hopped on and off the van along the way for the ride, which makes the whole process more like a weird and wonderful holiday than a tour. The audiences have been brilliant too; they seem to get wilder the further North you travel.
In mid-September you are heading to North America for a headlining tour. What are you looking forward to most?
All of it. I love the feeling of being in the van with the band, driving to all these cities we’ve never been to, having no expectations whatsoever. We keep our plans loose in the U.S. so we can go off if we so wish just as long as we rock up to the gigs on time. It’s an adventure.
Being from UK, I’m sure you have had lots of experience playing gigs both there and U.S. What do you find to be the largest difference between playing in each country?
I’ve gigged extensively in the UK and so there’s always the added excitement of being abroad in unfamiliar territories in the U.S. I found the crowds in the U.S. are more prone to going bananas at gigs, which is always fun. The distances in the U.S. can sometimes feel hugely liberating but sometimes be unfathomable. It is unusual to play a UK tour and have to drive longer than 4 hours between gigs.
What has been your highlight of 2012 so far?
We played our first headline show in North America in February and finished it by selling out McCabes guitar shop in Santa Monica with my favorite band, White Fence, opening. It was an absolute highlight and an incredible way to end what had been an amazing tour. We were all on cloud 9.
Cate Le Bon Tour Dates:
09.28 New Orleans, LA: Circle Bar
09.29 Austin, TX: Red 7
10.02 Los Angeles, CA: Bootleg Theater