In a fickle, hyper-speed age of quick and easy consumption, taking one’s time to evolve seems a luxury. But Landshapes did just that. “We needed time to work things out…we’ve been brewing I suppose…” explains Luisa.
As their previous incarnation Lulu and the Lampshades, they’re probably best known for the viral cup song You’re Gonna Miss Me – over 3 million hits on Youtube and counting – but in the ensuing period they’ve undergone a considerable musical metamorphosis.
They have learnt and grown together, four distinctive personalities jostling and pulling, each with their own set of influences and sensibilities – an unlikely alchemy which comes together and makes sense. Broad brushstrokes, big sounds and mournful melodies forged a new soundscape, so that when a typo accidentally billed them as ‘Landshapes’ it seemed an appropriate description for an altogether new sound, and an altogether new band.
Landshapes is the sound of four people in a dingy practice room, building on accidents, listening over and reworking obsessively until every band member is satisfied. An unconventional and serendipitous a process it might be, but it’s crucial to Landshapes overall sound.
Their debut album Rambutan – the name chosen “not so much after the fruit but for the sound the word makes” and produced by Ash Workman is a distillation of songs old and new, re-worked and fine tuned with a deft precision.
In Limbo, with its stunning video, proves a triumphant opening salvo. “It’s always felt like a fighting song both musically and lyrically” says Luisa Gerstein. With images of Bolivia’s Cholita female wrestlers proving a major stimulus whilst recording, Luisa sought them out, traveling to La Paz and teaming up with director Ian Pons Jewell. The resulting film is a dignified response to a “Latin American society where being both indigenous and a woman is a double sub-class” – a celebration of these extraordinary women both in and out of the wrestling ring.
Their unorthodox approach to songwriting is writ large across the ten tracks. Impasse “the oldest song on the record was a “tinkery ukulele thing” that became something “bigger and better with the band”; Threads “a lot of ideas that came together in the practice room, has the feel of different parts interjecting like a conversation” and Racehorses “a truculent song” that was to become one of their favourites after Heloise and Jemma developed a new bass and guitar part. Demons acts as a marker of their evolution – “recorded as Lulu And The Lampshades, it felt closer to the sound we were developing and tracks that change in the way it sounds and how we worked together as a band.”
Forthcoming single Insomniacs Club “is cursed” according to the band. “Anyone who gets involved with it gets insomnia. The guy making the video hasn’t slept for days, true story.”
Landshapes take on another dimension in a live setting. With drummer Dan the only constant, multi instrumentalists Luisa, Heloise and Jemma shift seamlessly from one song to the next swapping instruments and vocals with a fluid dexterity. This synchronicity – and their evolution as a band – was helped by some intensive touring under their previous moniker. Weeks spent in each others’ company, experiencing each others’ music and film selections, means – explains Dan – that “you start to absorb what you like and dislike, individually and collectively. Figuring out which direction you’re heading in via shared experience and foggy disparate influences. I think we’re still fine tuning that direction – and that’s good.”
Rambutan is released on Bella Union on June 17th.
Landshapes are Dan Blackett (drums, vocals), Luisa Gerstein (ukelele, vocals), Heloise Tunstall-Behrens (bass, ukelele, vocals, violin), Jemma Freeman (guitar, bass, vocals).