Not Even the Pacific Can Keep Those Folk Apart
Touring their brand new album 'Pacific Passages', Those Folk are one big, folk-fuelled love story.
To fall in love and start a travelling folk band seems the impossible, unticked box on every romantic's bucket list. He wields a banjo, she sings, photos are taken, albums are released and life becomes one big beautiful folk ballad. It's impossibly unlikely for most, but for musical duo Those Folk it came quite naturally — as will your jealousy upon learning their story.
He, Lawrence, was from California; she, Clare, was from Brisbane. They met in Scotland and before Nicholas Sparks had a chance to steal their story, they were up and away, writing tunes and performing for those who couldn't help but fall in love with their sound. You could listen to their songs with no context of their journey and still feel the heart of the story that precedes their sound. Between Clare's howling voice, and Lawrence's knack for just about everything with strings, keys and buttons, the talent that orbits around these two is rather unbelievable — talk about landing a catch.
Now, for what seems like once in their career, they're keeping within 100km radius of home, as they tour their first album, Pacific Passages. We had a chat to Clare in Brisbane and Lawrence in England, about the creation of Those Folk, making their first album and what happens when Australian and Zydeco folk become one.
Clare, Lawrence, could you paint us a picture of Those Folk and how you came together?
Clare: Those Folk are a musical duo, comprised of myself, Clare Quinn and Lawrence Menard. I'm a Queensland local, whereas Lawrence hails from USA; he was born in the state of Louisiana and grew up in Southern California. In 2012, I took a year off from my music degree in Brisbane to go backpacking through Europe. I met Lawrence at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in Scotland in August of 2012. He has spent a lot of time in the UK as he studied music over there and is in an English band called The Buffalo Skinners. Since then we've travelled around a lot together between the UK, Europe, USA and Australia, making music all along the way.
You've both been unbelievably busy, and trotting all around the globe this year — what's been a highlight of 2014 so far?
Lawrence: 2014 has been full of producing two albums, and doing a lot of gigging and world travel. I recorded an album with The Buffalo Skinners last summer in California. Then a month later, Clare arrived and we decided to record an album as well. Once all of the recording was done which took about a month, I began a nearly ten month long mixing and mastering process which carried over into 2014. A lot of that time was spent in Brisbane with Clare where we continued to gig and polish our sound. I then headed to the UK in May to begin touring the new Buffalo Skinners album, and have been on the road since! Now back to Australia to release Pacific Passage.
Clare: My highlights of the year would have to be spending the month of January in Tasmania, where we played a few gigs and a intimate festival called Forest Festival, as well as visiting Lawrence and The Buffalo Skinners in the UK in June and July. It was great to tag along with that band and experience life on the touring road with a bunch of good people, playing shows, making friends, attending festivals. We even got to spend a week in France where I performed a bit — and the French hospitality was superb.
Congratulations on the album — tell us about Pacific Passage and the process of making it? Lawrence, would you be able to tell us about your analogue approach to sound production?
Lawrence: Thank you! Well, when Clare first arrived to California, we spent a lot of time passing guitars around and sitting at the piano. Then one day we just said, "Should we record an album?" So upon realising that we had enough songs for a full length album, we headed to my studio. First we recorded all of the main parts to a four-track tape machine. So, if it was a song with ukulele and piano, we'd record those instruments onto two channels, then our vocals on the other two.
I really like how analogue tape reacts to the human voice and acoustic instruments, so to have the main foundation of the song on tape is important to me. Also, it removes the computer screen from the early stages of the song — so we can really just listen and focus on the song in our heads rather than seeing it as a waveform on a screen right off the bat. But then, so we can build the song and overdub more instruments and harmonies, I record the tape into the computer.
We can then listen to the analogue recordings and make unlimited overdubs in the computer. However, I still use vintage tube pre-amps and analogue EQs to stay consistent with the warmth and sparkle of the tape. So once all of the recordings are in the computer, I can travel with them and mix just about anywhere.
Do you each have a favourite track on Pacific Passages?
Lawrence: I think that Clare's voice in 'Higher' sounds magical (laughs). And the drums were recorded at twice the speed by our friend Anders, which is very hard to do for a drummer. I then slowed the tape down to half the speed, which pitched the drums down and dragged each beat out making it feel extra heavy. It's a highlight for me.
Clare: Personally I'm really enjoying the final track, 'Willow Tree'. It's a gentle song about accepting death and the notion of reincarnating to become a beautiful tree. I think that this track gives some nice closure to the end of the album.
Clare, your roots lie in Australian folk and Lawrence, your music is described as English 'Zydefolk and Roll'. How have you found each of your styles have combined?
Lawrence: I think it's a pretty nice mix. The style of music that the Buffalo Skinners play is only one outlet I suppose of music that I strive to create. Even within that band there are songs that some of us present and everyone says, "No, it's not really a Buffalo Skinners song." But with Clare, there aren't any limitations. Because there are only two of us, anything that we play still sounds like 'us'. So I really enjoy exploring other styles and pulling from some other musical influences. I also think we blend well because we complete a lot of each other's ideas. We truly write music and lyrics together, rather than "here's my song, here's your song" etc.
Clare: I am thoroughly enjoying sharing music with Lawrence and swapping skills and ideas in regards to the creation of chord structures, melodies, lyrics and performance techniques. It's great because Lawrence is teaching me a lot about the music side of things and I like to call myself the vocal coach, so between us we have all bases covered.
What else have you got in store once you've finished the Pacific Passage tour?
Lawrence: America! Come late November, Clare and I finally get to enjoy being in the same country without having to watch the calendar and renew visas. So we will be planning a West Coast release and tour of Pacific Passage, with support from some of our friends who are already doing great things musically in California. We're really excited to jump on board and be a part of it all. Also I'll be running my recording studio full time, which means plenty of new music by Those Folk coming right up.
Those Folk will play at Black Bear Lodge this Wednesday, October 8 for their Pacific Passages tour. More info here.
Published on October 07, 2014 by Molly Glassey