Lorna are a band from Nottingham (In England) that have been making quite a name for themselves over the past couple of years. Most recently releasing the single “November kicks again” on Becalmed records. Their music is an intriguing mix of Shoegazer, Slo-fi and Emo. Mark R, founder and producer of Lorna, has had his own label Startrip Records for many years. This year Mark has organised and is releasing a Christmas compilation album of original Christmas songs “Lonely this Christmas”, featuring several different artists. I met up with Mark last week to discuss all about Lorna and Christmas-type-stuff.
GOM: So Mark, Lorna have been gigging quite a lot this year. How do Lorna decide on the set lists for gigs?
Mark R: We usually just sit and work out what’s going on, whatever is sounding good, not really what we have to promote or what people will like, just what we think is working best. The sets are quite seasonal though, we can’t really get passionate about playing “November kicks again” in July or “2am Beach Story” in December.
GOM: Does any Lorna material originate for spur of the moment-type events in band rehearsals?
Mark R: More and more recently it does, most Lorna songs are written by myself or Chris sitting at home pre-producing a track and taking it to the guys to do their parts, but occasionally we knock something together in a practice room.
GOM: Lorna seems to generate loads of side projects…
Mark R: Of course! there’s quite a few of us and we are all into so many different things, we all need a creative outlet outside of Lorna. All of the band are song writers, it’s exciting, I’m totally for side projects, there should be more!
GOM: Mark, I remember you mentioning recently that the new direction for Lorna might be less “rockband” orientated, a move back to the early electronic-era Lorna.
Mark R: It comes and goes, the new songs are certainly more electronic yes. Every time we go in and do a bunch of songs it changes, always will too I hope. I always want to keep things fresh, but there is definitely a theme and vibe always keeping things consistent too. As I say the last batch of Songs done in October/November are more sample based. Next we are going to do a song all in 7ths with a shuffle beat but loads of sonic sounds, ear bleeding noises and Beach Boys harmonies. Two months later, who knows?
GOM: Ah! You mentioned the Beach Boys there! Mark, you once stated that Brian Wilson is one of your greatest influences, but on some of your recent songs(“An in-flight memo to god about a girl”, “You Me Barcelona NOW”) I felt there was more of a melancholic Dennis Wilson feel to them. Would you agree?
Mark R: I read a lot about the Beach Boys, particularly on Brian, the whole Euegene Landy and him story was really twisted. But I never really looked that much into Dennis. All I knew about him was that he was the basic drummer, a good singer and that he lived with Charles Manson. But then about 3 years ago in the Pet Sounds shop in Newcastle I picked up a copy of Pacific Ocean Blue and I was amazed. I really thought the likes of “Thought of you” and “Farewell my friend” lived up to some of Brian and Bruce’s (Never forget the importance of Bruce Johnson!) “Surf’s up” and “Sunflower Moments”. Bruce again is of huge importance in the whole Beach Boys story, after the Smile disaster with the Sith Lords of Mike Love and Al Jardine, Bruce was the only one who really wanted to respect Brian’s technique and keep it live. Unfortunately Bruce is still touring with Mike Love’s schmooze explosion, but hey. A guess the short answer is, yes I love Dennis Wilson too.
GOM: Sith Lords? Cool…
Mark R: I could have a degree in the whole Brian Wilson versus Mike Love case of 66-71. I know the conversations, the letters! If you ever want boring with just HOW nasty and vicious it was let me know. Mike Love was an evil man, Al wasn’t great. Bruce was the only thing that saved the Beach Boys and “Surf’s up” was made to encourage Brian back into the studio! The man was a saint! Carl and Dennis didn’t have much to do with it but it’s thought Carl was a nice guy just not outspoken.
GOM: Hey “Surf’s up” is my favourite Beach Boys record. Do you mean to say that Mike Love was taking the piss out of Brian Wilson whilst recording the album? If so, does that reduce this album’s greatness for you?
Mark R: I still think “Surf’s up” is an important record, true it has some shite like a “Take good care of your feet”, but it has passion unlike the 3 albums that followed “Smile”. It’s like a musical venture of Brian waking up, getting rid of the sand pit and going to the gym.
GOM: Neon seems to be a reoccurring theme in Lorna’s artwork, are there any reasons behind this?
Mark R: And the lyrics don’t you think? I could name at least 4-5 songs with the word in. My manager recently told me to stop singing about nightclubs (Bah humbug!). Without wanting to go into the whole disco/club theory deeper than I have done in such lyrics as “Disco Blues” and “2am Beach story”. I’ve often found some of the most intensive feelings can come when faced with ear piercing beats and neon lights. The feeling can be so intense and if the mood catches you right it can be a really intense experience, often triggering thoughts of missing people and wanting what you cannot have. How many people come out of clubs a different person to what they went in? Apart from that it’s my excuse to show off in Photoshop.
GOM: You work with quite an unconventional array of musicians. Efrim from Godspeed You Black Emperor stated that they expanded their band musician-wise as “ a wish to go beyond the conventional rock formula…..There’s no one leader of this band. Different people contribute different things, different flavours which make it more complicated.” Is this the same case with Lorna?
Mark R: I guess. There is a band, that goes on stage and plays their instruments, almost trapped and confined. Then there is the band which makes the records, I’m not really a great player, I’m a producer that’s where my heart is. I can play a lot of instruments to an ok, write-able level but the true playing is done by the others nowadays. My main instrument is a lyric book and a mouse. Like I say though, there is a band that appears live and plays the instruments they have in front of them, then there is the same group of people in the studio but the approach is very different. Peter (drummer) has hardly played many live drums, but has done heaps of vocals, Jim hardly any bass but has done more guitar/vocals, helping out with production. I never play much guitar myself in recording. It’s a free for all, Everyone has played absolutely everything, between us all we can all play some form of guitar, some form or voice, some form of keys and some form of classical instruments. Like Chris live only really plays guitar but in the studio he’s a producer too, a bassist, a drummer, a keyboard player, he’s an essential core. It’s who ever is around at the moment who gets to do the sub-standard stuff…
GOM: Lorna have had much success over the internet, but how did your involvement with mp3.com start?
Mark R: A guy who I had got to know from a Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci site in Brazil put some songs up for me when mp3.com first started in I think 1998. I didn’t know for ages but found out they had done quite well and had people emailing me saying, they liked it and all. And I was like ummm how did you hear it? Then my friend explained, I was very grateful.
GOM: The ownership of mp3.com has recently shifted. Do you think the site is becoming overtly commercial, like the recent “The Grinch” DVD promotion and the introduction of the “Premium artist”?
Mark R: You mean like the 3hr box set of “It’s a wonderful life” with “made for television” CNN-style “documentaries” with Frank Cappra Junior? I don’t disagree with the premium artist service, to their credit mp3 still give you the best deal possible and most flexibility. I guess what has happened in the past 3 years with the huge increase as the net as a marketing tool is more and more and more bands are making there way on to their, some want to use it for fun, some using it for a career step. I think paying $20 a month, if we face it is a few pints and a take away to show you are serious doesn’t hurt.
GOM: You have close ties with Silverman, a band which has had phenomenal success over the internet. How did you first get involved with each other?
Mark R: I’m not going to go into the whole Lorna story that would take too long, but basically myself and Martin where both in the same headspace at the right time. We had both seen the light and taken a new approach, left our conventional Indie-rock bands and started to self produce and self market our music. I found Martin on a bulletin board asking how you can market yourself on the internet, I had logged on to ask the same question. We swapped tapes, fell in love and become close friends and had incestuous music affairs, which are still going strong.
GOM: Would you say that working as a producer helps you become a better songwriter? Like when you have to help form other people’s songs, the experience rubs off on you a little.
Mark R: Definitely, I almost feel guilty I have learnt so much from others. Working with Silverman on the “Star” album was a revelation, the first time I had ever had my techniques questioned and it did me a hell of a lot of good. You learn how to keep peoples concentration span and where to put subliminal parts in the speakers to keep the growth of a track without taking up too much space. Everyone I work with influences me. After I worked on “Star” I got home at 1am on a Monday morning and wrote “Disco Blues” and “96” “borrowing” ideas I had learnt from Silverman (F, G, Am) Martin then borrowed ideas back from “Disco Blues” in “Ctrl Alt Delete” which I originally ripped off “Darling Darling”. And then….
GOM: What inspired you to start a Christmas compilation album?
Mark R: I’m a massive fan of Christmas. Absolutely delirious, despite all the melancholic images I’m actually a very cheesy guy. In November 1990 I saw Christmas Vacation for the first ever time and blew all of my savings on 200 twinkling lights and outdoor reindeers and it kinda grew from there. With regards to the Christmas album(“Lonely this Christmas”), many reasons first and for most to have some fun whilst making money for Charity. Second most I always try and find good new Christmas music every year but I don’t think there’s any left. Robs records has been raided and Ebay was empty so I thought I’d put my own together. It started off as a bit of a joke at first then people started sending me these beautiful songs so I thought I better do something about it.
GOM: “Lonely this Christmas” is an ambitious project, was it hard organise?
Mark R: Very much. I’m not business or market minded, I don’t know how it’s going to sell. I sent out second week of September and put a November 20th deadline on it, people have been fantastic in getting their tracks to me before the deadline. There is only one band behind schedule, and that’s Lorna.
GOM: Have Low prompted the renaissance of the modern Christmas song?
Mark R: I think the album was very important as it showed you can write a truly beautiful album about Christmas without selling out or taking the piss. If you feel some sentiment towards the season don’t be afraid to show it kids!
GOM: You and Chris had a hand in the Alcove track on the album. It really sounds like you had a great time recording it…
Mark R: I had a great time recording all of this album and wouldn’t change that for the world despite all the admin and chasing involved. I actually got to produce 7-8 songs on the album which is where my heart lies. Jorge from Alcove stayed at my house in November and helped out with a lot of the songs (Lorna, Slow Return) so we paid our duties back. The drums where a loop Chris made a few weeks before as we spent a week in the studio at the end of November as Lorna. I just did the spoken word vocals at the end. It was done the same weekend as the Slow Return when there about 12 people in my house, as I say, a LOT of fun.
GOM: I was astounded by Coastal’s contribution to the album. Is it true you will be working with them soon?
Mark R: Get the album! I am such a suck up to Coastal and Aaron Jasinski (friend and producer). Every time I write to them I feel like a 16 year old boy writing to Kurt Cobain or something. I too am amazed by their track and their album has been my favourite album of the entire year. We’ve already started working on a joint EP of me mixing their songs and them ours. Also Jason from Coastal features on the Lorna Christmas song “If every Christmas feeling…….”
GOM: Are Startrip Records going to branch out on the compilation theme album? A summer themed album perhaps or even a tribute album. I noticed that Lorna have already been involved in a couple of tribute albums. So if you did, what artist would you like to organise a tribute album for?
Mark R: Absolutely without a doubt Neil Young. And it is in the works. I think Chris would like to put together a Slowdive one and maybe Sharon a Pink Floyd one? Putting this together has been such a huge job, I never had a clue how much planning it would take. It’s taken 15 hours of each Saturday and Sunday since October, but it’s completely worth it. If this goes well then I definitely think in true Geldof style we’ll be looking at “Still lonely this Christmas?” in 2002.
GOM: What’s your favourite Christmas song from the 1990’s?
Mark R: Have we got all day? In true Nick Hornby style I deserve at least a top 5? I should put a note in my favourite Christmas song of all time wasn’t strictly a Christmas song but it was released in November 1989 and had a Christmassy video and orchestral yuletide undertones. What is Dear Jessie by Madonna. 1. The Posies “Christmas” 1995 2. Gorkys Zygotic Mynci “Christmas eve” 1998 3. Kermit the Frog “one more sleep till Christmas” 1992 4. Mavis Staples “Christmas Vacation” 5. Teenage Fanclub “Jesus Christ”
GOM: Christmas films are great. My personal favourite is Gremlins. Do you empathize with Billy’s dilemma of looking after Gizmo?
Mark R: I’m glad you recognized that as a Christmas film, the opening scene is beautiful with Darlene Love! I especially love the scene where Billy is walking home Kate (Phoebe Cates – we love you). I mean the whole film was Corey Feldmanns’ fault spilling the water in the first place. The whole demise of Kingston falls was down to Corey Feldmann, the guy fucked up everything didn’t he? It was his fault in the Lost Boys for getting Margo not David. It was his fault for delaying the journey in Stand by Me. The boy only did good in the The Goonies with a bit of courage.
GOM: Hey what about as Tommy Jarvis in Friday the 13th 4 and 5? He took on Jason Voorhees the hardest psycho-killer of them all! Just as a kid! It was fantastic as usually they get the heroes in slasher films to be 18-year-old girls. Corey was a kid, and he ruled!!! But as for The Lost Boys the long rumoured sequel is supposedly at script stage, called… The Lost Girls!!! What sequel to a film would you like seen made?
Mark R: Again strange as we were talking about The Lost Girls tonight and hoped it would never see the light. Though Donner IS making a Goonies 2 with all the original cast, I’m slightly frightened but curious of what Feldmanns’ post-crack arse phase could bring to the ongoing world of One-Eyed Willy.
GOM: No, the shock news that will rock the Goonies world is that the original actors for Chunk, Data and Andi will NOT be returning for the sequel!!! They will be replaced by other actors playing their characters. I hate it when they do this is sequels I always think it is a bit Stalin-like, editing the past.
Mark R: No that is awful and I can’t believe Donner would get away with that! Obviously Chunk, Data and Andi haven’t acted since the 80’s so I can see his point. Sean Austin, Martha Plimpton and Corey “Gary Moore” Feldmann have.. I still think that’s awful though I’m off to aintitcool right now to investigate! I thought the full cast was set, I have a picture of all of them together earlier this year outside the set. I’m hurt. Next thing you will tell me is John Candy isn’t in Uncle Buck 2?
GOM: I noticed you’re a big John Hughes fan Mark. If Lorna’s music was in a John Hughes film, which one would it be?
Mark R: John Hughes is the man. In May 1998 I went on a pilgrimage to Chicago after stalking all the addresses of his films from the net, I got a map and alone house, church, school, shop. Breakfast club school/playing field. When I give up music I’m going to write a book about John Hughes, the locations and what happened to every single actor, I’ve got some of their email addresses in fact. Am I scaring you? If I could have a song in any Hughes film it would have to be the closing scene of Planes, Trains & Automobiles when Del and Neil arrive at the house (I’ve been there too) and the crap Paul Young songs come on. I could of made that so much better Johno!!!
GOM: I was listening to Air’s new album the other day and it featured a fantastic sample from Ghostbusters. The really creepy strings bit when they are facing Gozer the Gozarian. I thought “Damn! Wish I thought of doing that!”. What have you heard recently that made you do the same…
Mark R: Mmmm…. my friend Jamie last night was talking about basing a song around that bit where Venkman plays the piano saying “They hate this”. I would love to sample some of the dialogue in either the Virgin Suicides or the Wonder Years. I love film with narration.
GOM: I would rate Bill Murray as the ultimate anti-hero. Are you a great fan as well?
Mark R: Obviously Murray has a huge part in Lorna’s back catalogue being the guest star for “Punxsutawney song”. We have nothing but nice things to say about him.
GOM: If you could hold your breath forever what ocean would you live in?
Mark R: The Med. Without a doubt.
GOM: Go on, plug “Lonely this Christmas” in exactly 29 words. No more, no less.
Mark R: Like the star we fell in love to comes out on Christmas eve. Like Clarke Griswold snogging Lauren Bacoll under Rockerellar centre listening to the Aphex Twin. ho ho.
And so holding a map of Chicago in one hand and some sleigh bells in the another I gave my farewells to Mark. So if it turns out like you’re Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone and Joe Pesci is banging on your door threatening you, slip on Startrip Record’s
“Lonely this Christmas”.
As Bill Murray says in Scrooged, “Your life might just depend on it!”