Lail Arad released her second album ‘The Onion‘ was released through The Vinyl Factory last month. We caught up with her to ask some questions:
Cougar Microbes: What time did you wake up today? Was it out of choice or necessity?
Lail Arad: 7am. Necessity but happily. Mornings are good.
CM: Describe your sound to the uninitiated?
LA: Loudon Wainwright III and PJ Harvey’s love child.
CM: What have been the highlights of your year (musically) so far.
LA: So far so good for 2016. The new album came out, I guess that’s a highlight! But it’s always the shows that are the real highs. Playing at Shakespeare & Company in Paris recently for the launch of my lyrics book was beautiful, it’s the best bookshop on the continent. Opening for Ezra Furman’s secret warehouse show in Hackney was one for the books too. Especially the spontaneous Leonard Cohen duet! It was Valentine’s Day.
CM: How do you kill time when on the road? hobbies/games?
LA: A good book is essential… And I’m a pretty dedicated diary-writer, especially when traveling. So I read in order to stock up on words and then pour them all out again.
CM: What have been your favourite venues to play? Any venues you hated?
LA: I’ve played a few churches recently. It’s such a thing now I know, but for good reasons. They come with a ready-made atmosphere of ceremony and mystique. Which you can play to or against.. I had a launch show St Pancras Old Church, so magical with all the candles, and more recently played a tiny chapel in a tiny town called Figeac in the South-West of France. There was a very old grand piano. So old that some of the notes had gone to sleep. Perfect.
CM: you able to write on the road or do you do this in your off time? What is the songwriting process like for you?
LA: I note down a lot of ideas when traveling, lines that come my way, but I usually need a bit more calm and space for full songs to materialise. I know I’m talking about the songs as though they mysteriously arrive to me, outside of my control. It’s not exactly how it works.. but there’s an element of that. I never sit down to write unless there’s something that needs to be written. I think.
CM: Is there a song you are simply sick of playing live?
LA: It come in phases. Right now I’m working with new musicians for the album launch tour so everything feels new again. It’s important to keep yourself interested and mix things up. At the same time when you play in different cities and the songs are new to the audience that’s enough to make them feel new to you. So it depends a lot on the context too. And also on the subject matter – it’s incredible how a song you wrote years ago can suddenly become relevant again. I won’t single one out…
CM: Do your songs go through many revisions and demos before recordings?
LA: I did a lot of pre-production on this record. Demoing yes, on my phone and also with different producers. A lot of recording and listening back. A whole lot of trying things out live. I also did strange things like take two songs I wasn’t quite happy with and mix them together. Or take the lyrics from one song and put them to the music of another. It’s hard to remember the original versions now!
CM: What came first, the lyrics or the melody?
LA: The lyrics. But somehow with a melody already encoded in them? It’s hard to explain but they arrive with a rhythm and a shape. Anyhow definitely not the other way around. Never a melody looking for a meaning. Maybe I should try that next…
CM: What is your favourite track of your own both live and in general?
LA: That’s like asking a parent which child they like best! It changes all the time. There a few of the album tracks that I don’t love performing solo, which have now come to life with the new band – “Mary’s Song“, “Whirlybird” – so that’s exciting. But my favourite song is always the one I’ve just finished writing…
CM: If you could record any cover in the world what would it be?
LA: Dolly Parton, “9 To 5“.
CM: What are your views on auto tune?
LA: I abstain.
CM: Any other artists/bands from your local scene we really should know about?
LA: We had Laish opening the London album launch show for us at Chats Palace on May 17th – I’m really taken by his songwriting. Check out the track called “Warm The Wind“. “Love is a work in progress” – what a line!
CM: What is the most flattering thing you’ve read about yourselves?
LA: Erm.. there have definitely been some ego-boosting reviews for this album. But I shan’t quote them. It’s been kind of affirming to hear those reactions though.
CM: What was the first record/tape/cd you ever bought?
LA: The first CD that I really consumed was ‘Jagged Little Pill‘ by The Guardian’s very own agony aunt, Alanis Morissette. I was 12 and it way over my head and far too exciting.
CM: What was the last song that got stuck in your head?
LA: “I Don’t Want To Get Over You“, by The Magnetic Fields. I stuck it in my own head.
CM: What was the last show you paid and queued up for?
LA: I queued for the Jeffrey Lewis show last week. But I can’t pretend I paid for it. Maybe I paid, but not with money. (Amazing show!)
CM: If you had to bring on artist back from the dead in exchange for sending a living artist down ,which artists would it be and why??
LA: This is a cruel question! I’m going to bring two artists back from the dead in exchange for zero artists down. The maths is the same. Janis Joplin. Jimi Hendrix. John Lennon. Okay that’s three, but they all begin with J, so the maths is still the same.