The importance of the release date of an album can often be understated, but when Illumine, the debut LP from Stroud outfit Low Chimes, was released in early October, it perfectly captured the late Autumnal and early Winter phases. Combining ethereal vocals with atmospheric instrumentation, the slow-burning nature of the songs belied the group’s relatively new status, possessing a maturity that is rarely found in debut releases.
After the critical success of the release, we talk with all members of the group – Marianne Parrish, Jack Page, Lachlan McLellan and Rob Pemberton – to learn of the road they took to get here, the recording process, and the support they’ve received.
Check out the interview below:
The generic question first – how did you all meet each other and form the band?
We all went to the same school – apart from Pete who has joined the band more recently. We began helping each other out with recording projects, then before we knew it we were playing quite regularly around the area, starting off by putting our own spin on some other people’s tunes. Before long we had a set of original material and people kept coming back to our gigs!
Your unique blend of alternative folk and indie rock has a beautifully ethereal quality, so what are your main musical influences?
Marianne has always been influenced by the folk revival in the 60’s as well as a lot of the older delta blues stuff. Although our influences are more modern generally, i would say a flavour of these older styles remain at the core of what we do. On top of that i would say our main goal is to keep things original with whatever sounds we can muster, be that synthesisers, guitar pedals and effects, or vocal harmonies. Our resulting sounds is a sum and balance of all these elements.
The polished nature of Illumine is impressive considering its a debut album; how far do some of the tracks stem back to?
Some of the songs must be nearly 4 years now! They were already around when we recorded our last EP under our old name, Hot Feet. Others were totally fresh when we began recording in the studio – which was almost 2 years ago now.
Lacuna was a standout on the album for me; would the spacey/ambient quality of the song be something that you would frequently return to in future projects?
Yeah, definitely. That song had an interesting birth. It came together quicker than any other tune on the album, too. We knew we wanted the really laid-back feel but initially struggled to fit in sonically with the other songs. Our producer Greg worked some trickery on it though to give it a load more atmosphere and took it somewhere else a bit more spacey, which we loved!
The album is notable for its complex arrangements; do any of the songs prove to be challenging when playing them live?
We’ve toured the songs all enough now to feel pretty comfortable performing any of them, apart from Taming Trance – that rarely makes the set. Not sure why. I guess we just felt like we couldn’t really do the album version justice as there’s so many synths and other whacky sounds on there. It took the longest time to record, too.
Are any songs enhanced by the raw energy of a live setting?
I’d say Dust Will Blow and Blood Orange definitely have a built-up energy that’s unleashed live – there’s opportunity for us to all wig out a bit more and sing our hearts out!
You’ve been getting a lot of buzz from highly regarded figures in the industry (from Radio 6 DJ’s to the frontman of Elbow); how important is this support to you on a personal and professional level?
It feels great when you hear your songs on the radio, especially knowing how hard we worked to get them to a point where that was a possibility. We’re ever grateful for guys like Marc Riley and Vic Galloway who have gone far beyond just playing the songs – they’ve really supported us, come to shows, given us multiple plays and we keep in touch about what we’re up to which is great! It’s good to know there’s people like that on our side, it can really bolster confidence in ourselves and is one of the things that keeps us writing/performing
I see you’re regularly involved with the Folk and Honey brand. How important is it for you to promote the ‘alt-folk’ movement, and how does it feel being considered one of the flagship groups for it?
Alt-folk is a pretty new term to us that has seemed to come into existence since we recorded the album. I don’t think many artists are comfortable with having to pigeonhole their music into a genre, especially if what they create is a blend of many influences. Having said that, what we do is certainly alternative, and rooted in folk, so most of us are pretty comfortable using that term! It seems to be used in a wide spectrum of folk-influenced music as the word ‘folk’ in isolation seems to have become almost meaningless, applicable to anybody with an acoustic guitar.
You are part of the compilation album from the brand; folk always seems a tad more communal than other genres, so what was it like interacting with other similar bands?
There was a great compilation launch at the 100 Club in London where many of the artists played and collaborated. We know quite a few people on the record, so it was a good party!
As an upcoming band, how important is the festival circuit to you?
We have definitely done our fair share of festivals up to this point – its an amazing way for us to get in front of hundreds of new potential fans and have fun while we’re at it. It can also be exhausting! These days we’re mainly just interested in the ones we really want to do. There’s some gems out there!
Finally – are any upcoming projects/tours on the cards for 2018?
We’re having a little rest at the start of 2018 while we work on some new songs for album 2. Look out for some shows before the summer and perhaps a few festivals!