Lanterns on the Lake – Hazel Wilde on Their New Album “Versions of Us” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, March 3rd, 2024  

Lanterns on the Lake – Hazel Wilde on Their New Album “Versions of Us”

Lighting the Way

Jun 15, 2023 Photography by Rob Irish Web Exclusive
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Following their Mercury Music Prize-nominated record Spook the Herd, the pressure was on for Lanterns on the Lake on their fifth studio album, Versions of Us. Hazel Wilde is chief songwriter and lead vocalist for the band, who remain loyal to their north-east UK roots in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Lanterns on the Lake’s original drummer, Ol Ketteringham, left the band when they were working on the initial version of the new album, which Wilde said in a press release was “heartbreakingly difficult as we were and still are extremely close.” Enter Radiohead’s drummer Philip Selway. The recordings were stripped right back to the bare bones and rebuilt, this time round with Selway as a very welcome guest on the drum riser. Produced and mixed at the home studios of band and life partners, Wilde and guitarist Paul Gregory, the result is a superb LP, potentially their best yet in five attempts.

Lee Campbell (Under the Radar): How much did motherhood impact on the writing for this one and does it continue to influence future lyrics?

Hazel Wilde: I think you have to be quite self-involved when you are an artist. There is a tendency to wallow in self-pity sometimes and then when I became a mam to our daughter, it gave me a slap in the face. There’s other things in life to think about. Previous to the fourth album, I was guilty of catastrophizing a bit. Now I have to show her that there’s something to hope for. I just can’t afford to wallow in that self-pity any more.

Did you feel much pressure on this album following the critical success and Mercury-nominated Spook the Herd?

We’ve always put pressure on ourselves on every album. We have to go one step up every time. This time round was no different. There was the extra thought of, “Shit, people really seemed to like the last one…” There’s all kinds of pressures; it’s our fifth album, we’ve been going for quite a while, we’re also at the end of our record contract. If we’re gonna make something of this, it needs to happen now really. There’s this constant stream of music being announced and released every half hour it feels.

Phil Selway has been so positive about working with you and playing in the band on this record. How was it having Phil play on this album?

I need to talk about the lead-up to that which was that we had recorded a whole first version of this album. We had spent all of our budget and all of our time working on it. Just before the end of that process, we realized that it wasn’t right, there wasn’t the right energy there. Our music has to come from a very real place. It just didn’t feel that it had that heart and soul to it. It felt like we had spiraled down this dark worm-hole of sorts. This would have been May 2022. We still believed in the songs, but we just knew that they weren’t being executed right.

So, we decided to start again, which was a daunting, stressful, and emotional decision to make. The deadline for the album was coming up, as we knew we needed to release the album in early 2023. It was at that point that Ol [Oliver Ketteringham, the band’s drummer], our best mate, played on all of our albums and had been on this journey with us, took a step back. So, we asked Philip [Selway] if he would be up for helping on drums. At that point I didn’t know that he would do the whole album. We had met before, and for his solo albums we had been on the same label. We did a remix for him and he always was very supportive of us. There’s a saying where I come from [Newcastle, UK] that says, “Shy bairns get nowt,” so we asked him to help. Even though Phil is one of the best drummers in the world, that still might not work because it might not fit together with our songs. It was still a risk to take, but luckily it really worked and clicked. We built the album up again from the basic demos. Everything just went into it. We recorded it really quickly, much quicker than anything else we had done before. The whole thing was recorded in three weeks. I recorded all of the vocals in a day. The structures, lyrics, and the vocals stayed the same. It definitely changed how Bob [Allan] played bass because he was locked in together with Phil on that rhythm. The timeline and that pressure definitely gave it a fresh energy.

Can you talk me through the writing, producing. and mixing of the album? It was in-house, right?

A lot of the production decisions are made by us, we’ve never worked with a separate producer. Paul, who is our guitarist and my partner, did the post-production in our home so that’s where he mixed it also. So, when you say “in-house” it literally was produced and mixed in our home. [Laughs]

For the upcoming autumn/winter UK tour will Phil be touring with you?

Yeah, we also have some festivals soon and Phil will be playing with us, yeah.

How did the song “The Likes of Us” come together?

Much like the majority of the songs on the album, it was me writing stuff at home to begin with. That is the skeleton of the song. It’s always really exciting to take it to the band who take it to this much better level. [Laughs] That song in particular went on a bit of a journey. We believed in the song but couldn’t get that execution right for a long time, so we did play it in a few different ways. Sometimes it was quite mellow and other times it was a lot bigger and anthemic.

And the current single, “Real Life”?

It came to me the same day as one of the other songs [“String Theory”]. I was working on the piano and needed to step away from it and clear my head. So I sat down with my acoustic and started writing “Real Life.” I quickly demoed it on my phone and thought I must come back to that. When we came together as a band to flesh out the songs I had forgotten all about it. So it ended up being one of the last ones that we worked on as a band. Phil brought the energy to it in exactly the way we wanted and he knew precisely what was in our head. I am really proud of that one.

The Saboteur” is a really great track. Some of your lyrics are “gripped to the past until your fingers bleed…saboteur of the future me.” Tell me more.

Every time I write, it has to come from a real place in me. I try not to overthink what I am gonna write about or what the song is gonna be about. It’s not difficult to write words that sound nice, but then those words might not necessarily be good. The opposite of that is good lyrics may not sound great to sing. It’s about finding that balance between those two things and not feeling forced. For this one, I was thinking about that idea of not being able to move forward, clinging onto those old habits. When I was writing this album, it was clear that I could link what was going on with me personally with society in general. A lot of people in the UK have this idea that things were so much better in the past. We can’t move forward and get to a better place if we think like that or can’t let go of that.

On “Rich Girls” you sing, “writing these songs is making it worse.” Do you find the songwriting process cathartic?

The writing is cathartic, but being an artist these days is a struggle. And yes, it is the life that I have chosen for myself. We love our music and love what we do, but it hasn’t been an easy life. Although I do find writing cathartic. Also, some of the biggest highs of making music for me and finding that line that really moves me personally or that chord change where you get a real sense of satisfaction from it. There’s certain songs that I am particularly proud of and moved to the next level as a writer. It wasn’t until our third album where I really thought I was hitting my stride and found certain keys to unlock ideas, making the lyrics come much easier.

Any songs on the new album that are you particularly excited about playing live?

We played “String Theory” live in this old hall in Northumberland, UK that got filmed with us and Philip. That was a real high for me, just the feeling of playing that song collectively in that room together. There was this proper magic energy to it that I’ve only really experienced a handful of times while making music, so I am really looking forward to playing that live again.

I think we all felt that. Once the album is out there though, the crowd almost decides what their favorite is, and by the end of the tour you have completely changed your mind about what to play and have in the set list.

Any artists that have inspired you over the years?

Nowadays when I’m working on stuff that sounds like somebody I will purposefully switch that. Radiohead and Bob Dylan are massive influences. As a lyricist, he [Dylan] would be the best for me. Also, a band we toured with previously called Explosions in the Sky, an instrumental band from Texas; really beautiful, heartfelt music. The Cure are a great example of a band who are able to write great pop songs but remain cool.

Also read our 2020 Self-Portrait interview with Lanterns of the Lake’s Hazel Wilde.

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