Erin Lang is an up and coming artist based out of the UK who is on the verge of making for herself a nice dent in the music industry there. Teamed up with Roger O’Donnell (formerly of The Cure), Lang is putting the finishing touches on what is promising to be an excellent study in moody songs. She is also establishing the music label she co-owns, 99X/10. We caught up with Lang in the midst of her busy schedule, and asked her these questions:
How did you get your start in music?
My Dad was the bass player in a band called April Wine (until they split up in 92) so there was always music and instruments around, I was glued to my am radio and loved the oldies as a kid, I remember taping ‘Brunch with the Beatles’ on Sunday mornings off the radio and I loved the little stories and banter between John and Ringo and Paul, sometimes George (he was pretty quiet) that were on the rare 7″s that only fan club members got in the 60s…
I started playing trumpet when I was 10 and was so passionate about it, looking back it’s pretty funny but my parents must have thought it was a bit much, I learned every trumpet part on every one of their cds that I could find, like the ‘Mambo Kings’ sound track and Nat King Cole. When I had to give the instrument back to the school I cried for two days.
I started playing bass when I was 13, people in my high school were starting to put together bands and most people didn’t even really know what a bass was at that age let alone had one (my dad’s) so I started to learn bass lines from records (I had some of my own by then) I became passionate about the bass the first time I stepped on stage.
Why did you decide to move to the UK? What is the music scene there like?
I decided to move to the UK because the opportunity presented itself, actually it was less of a decision and just kind of happened. I had begun to write and record with Roger O’Donnell who had a studio here and I just ended up coming over for longer and longer. The scene is amazing and daunting, people are really passionate about music and have a real hunger for something new and everyone wants the be the one to discover it, so there is a kind of scavenger hunt feel kind of scrambling around checking under rocks and picnic tables. London is such a massive city it is hard to feel like you get to know it or the scene for that matter, there is just so much happening it would take a lifetime.
How did you hook up with Roger O’Donnell, and what is it like working with him?
I met Roger in Toronto where he had lived in the past so he was spending a couple of days with friends between Cure shows. I had actually been to the show with some friends who are fans but we really met afterwards at a creepy bar I used to go to, we talked about music, he wanted to hear some of my songs and then we started to work together. It was really a great process, I hadn’t focused on my songs very much at that point and Roger really helped me figure out what direction I wanted to be going in, he gave me confidence in my voice which I had never felt comfortable with and he brought a huge element to the songs. Since then it has evolved into a really comfortable place and though he is a harsh critic in some ways I can trust his opinion and rely on his incredible skills as a musician with a producer’s ear.
Tell us what recording Choose Your Own Adventure was like.
Choose Your Own Adventure was a long time in the making, since I had met Roger in 2000 I had just been writing and writing and then finally in 2005 I felt like I had an album I was ready to release. I thought I would start with a preview just to see what the reaction would be since I really work in a vacuum. It was great and scary to have something out there and to be getting reviews but great also that the response was mostly positive.
But I guess more literally what it was like writing and recording those songs; the studio is in the middle of the country in England, lots of cows and birds and not much else. I usually think of ideas while driving or if I have been in London late nights I will scribble things down. The studio has big windows so I spend a few days in there figuring out guitar parts and writing more lyrics, recording them as I go. When I have finished the guitars and have done a scratch vocal Roger will come in and start programming some drums and playing keyboards. I will play a bass line and then Roger helps me do the final vocal and we mix it. It is a peaceful but also exciting process. There is nothing like the feeling of thinking of a lyric that says something I have been meaning to say, and then when a song comes together around it, that makes the story so much more powerful.
How did you come to find your unique “sound”? What went into the development of your sound?
So much writing, I was playing in rock groups mostly when I was still in Canada, I listened to a lot of music of all different styles but I was mostly going along with the tastes of my band mates in terms of the music we played since I was the bass player and didn’t have a big role in the writing. It took a big jump to start listening to music and writing music that I really identified with and related to. I started listening to a lot more European music and electronic music and folk music. After a lot of writing and Roger and I identifying that we had developed a sound we just kept evolving it in little bits. I really wanted to be doing something that was different but also that people could relate to. I pushed myself a lot with the lyrics not stopping until I had the way of saying something that seemed just right to me.
Have you tried to showcase your songs in a live format? How have they been received?
I have only done one live show so far, it went alright but it was a late London night in a tiny club where many a pint had been consumed, let’s say I didn’t get booed off the stage and I consider that a result.
I have more shows planned for the fall.
What made you decide to start your own label?
The label was more Rogers’s idea. He had made a solo record that he could not find a record deal for, it being very different electronic ambient and mostly instrumental. Simultaneously people in bands were emailing Roger asking for advice and if he could help them out. Suddenly it seemed like this was a good chance to do something like this, with the success of indie labels all over the world and the quickly changing marketplace and digital distribution. We thought we would dive in!
How did you come across the talent that you have featured in your label?
A lot of people sent Roger their albums even before we began the label, once it was official there were lots more. Also we were spending a lot of time promoting our own music on the internet and on myspace and started to come across really amazing and unsigned things. We really were floored by the amount of great music out there once you start looking. Ecce is also in my band in London and I always loved the music he was making, it was a thrill to be able to get him on the label and he was the only one of the bands who we actually knew personally at first!
What are some of the challenges you face as an independent artist, working out of the UK?
The sheer size of the music business. Here you are a very very small fish in a huge pond, more like an ocean, and maybe you are a fresh water fish used to the current of a little stream carrying you along and now here you are in this murky endless salt water sea and your eyes sting and you better just start swimming aimlessly or you wont get anywhere. On the other hand it is very exciting and the possibilities seem endless and of course touring in the UK is a snap because for all its people it is a tiny place and you would never have to drive more than 4 hours to the next town as opposed to the glorious 18 hour drives of a Canadian tour.
Who are some artists you admire, and what are some of your favorite CD’s?
I love Nick Cave, his lyrics and voice the mood of his songs, the other worldliness. Let Love In, The Boatman’s Call
I love Tom Waits for similar reasons. SwordfishTrombones
Bjork for always being so incredibly inventive. Medulla, Vespertine, Homogenic.
Arab Strap for their Charles Bukouski-esness. The Red Thread
Astor Piazzolla, I love tango and accordion. Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night.
Juana Molina, an amazing Argentinean artist. Tres Cosas.
Francoiz Breut, a french singer/songwriter, very nice and moody. Vingt A Trent Mille Jours.
Jose Gonzales, Veneer.
Efterklang , Tripper
but I could go on an on..
What’s in the future for Erin Lang?
In July I return to Germany to finish my album, which has incidentally lost the title of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ and is now called ‘You Are Found’. I have been making the record with Mario Thaller who produced the Notwist and Lali Puna and Ms. John Soda and it has been an amazing experience so far but I can’t wait to have the finished album. I am working on the live show to be playing in the fall and also since I sang 3 songs on Roger O’Donnell’s album ‘The Truth In Me’ I will be on tour with that project in October and November.
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