INTERVIEW: Lavender Hill

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

We’ve been well, thanks very much.  While we’ve been in lockdown it’s been good to have a project, so recording the album, and our single released in June, ‘Dancing in Silence’ kept us really busy. 

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Fire”?

Silver wrote it in 2017 and we’ve been playing it at live gigs since then.  We really like the energy coming from the song. and in rehearsal and live we often repeat the final chorus just because we enjoy playing it so much.     

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Silver wrote it at his home in southwestern France one evening.  He was sitting by the fire pit in the garden watching the sun set over the Pyrenees, probably with a glass of red wine close to hand.  His partner was a few feet away reading and he just started to write about her, how he felt about her and their relationship.  Then he got his guitar and worked out the melody as the evening drew in. It may not be a ballad but it’s definitely a love song.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

There’s a video on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZ56B3Rm5BU .  To be honest it wasn’t the video we were planning but just as we had lined up a location and dates, we were locked down.  So the plan is to produce videos for this song together with a few other songs on the album as soon as we can meet.   

The single comes off your new self-titled album– why naming the album after?

You can possibly get away with self-titling your first album.  We considered calling it after one of the tracks but couldn’t agree which one!  “London Rules” was in the frame for a while, then “The Fire”.  It’s different in the days of streaming because listeners are more likely to identify individual tracks they want to hear rather than the full album.  Probably better to admit our inspiration deserted us!  We’ll try to do better with the next album and not call it Lavender Hill 2!

How was the recording and writing process?

Two of the songs had been in Silver’s notebook since the 1990s.  He was working with the African producer and singer Tom Yom’s in Cameroon and Paris, and there are early versions of “Temptation” and “Apocalypse” dating back to that time.  “Picture” and “The Fire” were written in late 2017, but he went on a burst in 2018 and 2019, bringing demo’s into the rehearsal studio for the band to workshop.

We’re so grateful to our producer Tom Hughes.  He made it as painless as it can be to record an album which is never simple.  Being a musician, Tom has a really good sense of the band’s priorities and when you have a producer working with you rather than taking an adversarial position.  Having said that, he didn’t cut us any slack.  If we had to re-record he didn’t pull his punches, but you don’t mind honesty if you’re working in the same direction.  We recorded all the drum tracks over 4 days in October 2019 at Dragonfly Studios in Reigate, Surrey.  Then Rob recorded the bass tracks at Silver’s place.  Just as Tom had edited and knocked the rhythm tracks into shape, lockdown happened so all guitars, keyboards and vocals were laid down, of necessity, at Silver’s home.  We were all sharing files with Tom on DropBox, WeShare, email, even mailing USB sticks.  The logistics were really complicated.  Then, when we actually managed to move around, Chantelle Bartlett came into the studio to lay down backing vocals on four of the tracks.  The last was Dom Harvey’s (lead guitarist of the metal band Dead Before Mourning) solo on “What Did You Do?”  He did it in one take.    

What role does Surrey play in your music?

Surrey is actually a great place to live because it’s between London and real English countryside.  If it’s good enough for Eric Clapton and Paul Weller there’s something in the Surrey air that’s good for music!  There’s a great local music scene where we started playing in pubs.  Razz and Rob live just over the border in Sussex, we rehearse at Barnstorm near Redhill where a lot of big bands have come to record and practice, and we recorded part of the album in Reigate.  Even Silver, who would gladly spend his life between London or his home in France, likes it here most of the time. 

What aspect of love and anger did you get to explore on this record?

Let’s start with anger!  I guess the angriest by far is “Chainsaw”.  Silver’s inspiration was a previous, disastrous relationship but we’ve been surprised by the number of people who identified with the lyrics!  “Apocalypse” is about revenge, and “Temptation”… the subject is just angry with himself.  Love songs – we’ve talked about “The Fire”.  The track “Lavender Hill” is very much about Silver’s love for his roots.  Lavender Hill is a street in Clapham, south London and he grew up near there.  It’s also a tribute to his late father.  “Picture” and “Electra” are also love songs but in different ways.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Honestly, inspiration comes from everywhere.  The first track is the extended version of our single from last June, “Dancing in Silence”.  It’s about how we deal with the pandemic.  “Apocalypse” is the result of Silver’s weird thought processes.  He was thinking about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as you do, and wondered what caused them to become the bringers of famine, plague, war and death? So he created a back story about a guy whose family was torn apart and his desire for revenge.  “Electra” comes from Greek Mythology.  She was the daughter of Agamemnon, the general of the Greek army in the Trojan War but the song is more about family loyalty.  “Favourite Son” was the result of Silver and Rob messing around after rehearsal.  They came across the opening riff and the melody came from there.  The title was inspired by Razz but Silver has no idea where the lyrics came from!  He woke up early one morning with the entire song in his head and wrote it there and then.  “Speaking Russian” was another What If question that sprang into Silver’s mind.  When we played covers, The Beatles’ “Back in the USSR” was in our repertoire, and he wondered what happened to the guy in the song.  Had he stayed in Russia since 1968?  What was his life like?  And we used the structure of Paul McCartney’s song as a tribute to him.  “What Did You Do” was suggested by Dom Harvey of Dead Before Mourning.  In 2017 Silver visited Hungary and Dom suggested he visit Elizabeth Bathory’s castle.  She was a 16th century noblewoman known as the ‘Blood Countess’ who was reputed to be the most prolific female serial killer in history, having supposedly murdered 650 young women and girls.  Silver didn’t get to visit the castle because it is now in Slovakia and was too far from Budapest, but he did start researching her gruesome history and he wrote the lyrics one evening after watching a film of Bathory’s life.

What else is happening next in Lavender Hill’s world?

We’re already working on songs for the next album.  Based on experience to date we’re not exactly lightning fast when it comes to recording but we hope to have a follow-up album out by the end of the year.  We have plenty of material so it’s not the number of songs, it’s really a question of getting together to tighten them up.  We are bringing in two new members, Lukas Kelly (keys) and Russell Gibson (guitar).  As soon as we come out of lockdown we’ll be back in rehearsal, working on videos for songs from the album and preparing for a really good 1 hour livestream.  And hopefully, as soon as we can arrange some gigs and get on the road, we’ll be out there doing what we love most.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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