Hazel Wilde of Lanterns On the Lake

Just before Thanksgiving in America and just after the latest national shutdown in Britain, QRO got to talk to Hazel Wilde of Lanterns On the Lake....

Hazel Wilde of Lanterns On the Lake : Q&A

Just before Thanksgiving in America and just after the latest national shutdown in Britain, QRO got to talk to Hazel Wilde of Lanterns On the Lake.  In the conversation, Wilde discussed upcoming EP The Realist (out December 18th), earlier-this-year-LP Spook the Herd (QRO review), quarantining with her one-year-old, playing to nobody, dystopian America, getting shortlisted for the Mercury Prize (but not winning – or getting to go to any awards ceremony), and more…

 

QRO: How are you holding up, during all of this?

Hazel Wilde: Some good days, some bad, like most people, I think.

Been kept pretty busy, because I’ve got a one-year-old.  So, it’s not like I’m sitting around, twiddling my thumbs…

QRO: Where in the U.K. are you quarantining?

HW: I’m in the northeast, Newcastle.

QRO: Newcastle, where the band’s from.  How are things there?

HW: Okay.  We’re in another lockdown, another national lockdown.  Just get through that.

Although a lot of people don’t seem to be completely following the rules, but you know…

QRO: Has there been any specific government help for musicians or music venues in the U.K.?

HW: There’s been a lot of campaigning & pressure on the government to help musicians and venues and stuff like that.  And there have been some grants that have been awarded to venues, specifically.

For musicians, not so much.  I think we’re being pretty much told that we should just retrain.  Pretty simply used…

But there have been some charities that have offered a bit of help, but not a lot.

You’d think somebody like, I don’t know, Spotify could definitely help.  Put some funds behind some more struggling artists, because they’ve definitely got the money to do that, and that would be a nice thing for them to do.  But it hasn’t happened.

QRO: I know Bandcamp does ‘Bandcamp Fridays’, where they wave their fee.

I think we [musicians] are being pretty much told that we should just retrain. Pretty simply used…

At least you don’t have to worry about losing your health care…

HW: No, we do have that here, yeah.  That is a hugely valuable thing to us.

I can’t imagine how scary life must be, just in general, never mind in a pandemic, to not have that free health care.

QRO: How do things in America right now look to people in Britain?

HW: Terrifying.

It looks like we’re watching, I don’t know, a dystopian movie or something.  It’s really unnerving.

The kind of news footage you see about other countries, maybe an African country, where the leader won’t concede, and it looks like it’s gonna be civil war kind of thing.  It’s the kind of thing that, normally, our government would talk about intervening in, but we can’t with America.  It’s pretty worrying; who knows what’s going to happen?

And also, just for the rest of the world, that’s pretty destabilizing, really.  Is somebody like Putin going to take advantage of this turmoil going on, and cause problems for Europe?  Quite worrying.

 

Lanterns On the Lake playing “Baddies” live at Sage Gateshead:

 

QRO: And how is the rest of the band doing?

HW: They’re good.

Obviously, we’ve not been able to spend much time together.  We would like to be writing new music and things at the minute, but it’s been a bit difficult with everybody on lockdown.

When we were last together, we did an online gig, a streamed gig.  We were last together to do that.

QRO: Was that just before everything was locked down?

HW: They had locked everything down.  But our council spoke to the venue, and they agreed we could still do the gig as a streamed gig.

So, that was good to be able to play, but just like properly surreal to be playing in a massive venue that was empty.

QRO: Oh, I had thought there were tickets sold, to a limited audience.  But they cancelled the limited audience?

HW: Yeah, they weren’t allowed to attend.  But we could still do it, and they filmed it, and it was streamed.

So, it was just surreal, because you’re playing in this really big venue, that’s normally full.  And then, between the songs, there’s no applause or anything like that; it’s just silence.  It felt properly weird.

QRO: Had you ever played that place, the Sage Gateshead before?

HW: Yeah, we go quite far back with that venue.  Since our first album, I think we’ve pretty much played on every record, we’ve gone there.

We played with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, a big forty-piece orchestra.  We’ve played there, with them.

QRO: How is Sage Gateshead faring during all of this?

HW: I think they had to lay off a lot of people.  And they did a little bit of funding to help.

But that was partly why we wanted to do the gig, as well, just to show our support to the staff there.

It was just surreal, because you’re playing in this really big venue, that’s normally full. And then, between the songs, there’s no applause or anything like that; it’s just silence.

QRO: Does a show like that at least somewhat ‘scratch the itch’ of not being able to tour?

HW: It does, but I’m not gonna lie: it’s not the same, is it?  Like I said, you’re not getting anything back in the room.

The atmosphere still felt quite charged, because we knew it was live, and there were hundreds of people watching in the moment.  So, it still felt like a charged atmosphere, but not the same as that kind of shared experience of being in the same room together, and feeling the music live in the moment, like in the room.

QRO: I saw that there’s a U.K. tour scheduled for February 2021 – are you still holding out hope?

HW: It probably be naive to think that the world will be okay by them.  I’d imagine it’ll probably get moved, but I don’t know, I can’t say for sure.

It doesn’t look likely that things are going to go back to normal for quite a bit of time.

QRO: Are there drive-in shows in the U.K., or is that just an American thing?

HW: No, I didn’t know they had drive-in shows…

They did have a big thing [Virgin Money Unity Arena], on a festival site, which was actually up here, in Newcastle.  They had a socially-distance big outdoor show, where people were in little pens.

QRO: Oh yeah, I saw they had a little table…

HW: Yeah, that was up here in Newcastle.

 

 

QRO: When did you make The Realist EP?

HW: Well, the songs were written around the time that the album was written, but we just didn’t feel the songs fit in, really, with those songs on Spook the Herd.

We had recorded a couple of them, already.  The rest we recorded during this year, separately, in our houses.

QRO: So, those were made during the pandemic.  But you recorded them separately?

HW: So, we recorded things separately in our houses, and then sent them over to each other.

But there are two songs on there, “The Realist” (QRO review) and “Romans”, which we recorded before, during the Spook sessions, we recorded those.

QRO: Why did you decide to do this sort of ‘follow-up EP’ to Spook the Herd?

HW: For a couple of reasons, really.

We had those songs, and we did want to do something with them.  We didn’t just want to give them away.  We didn’t want to treat them by just make them a free download, or anything like that.

We liked the idea of kind of bookending the year.  Opening the year with the full album, Spook the Herd, and then ending it with this EP, which is more introspective, I think?  More, kind of, I call it “headphones record.”  We thought that would just be a nice way to round off the year.

The other reason was, just to remind people of us, because we weren’t able to tour.

QRO: And why the new version of “Baddies”?

HW: That was a version I was playing around with a while, and I just liked the feel of it.  It was a lot more mournful.  I felt like it almost changed the meaning of it, in a way, how you would hear the lyrics.

It was a version that we tried playing.  When we first put the album out, we did some stripped-down launch gigs, down in London, where we didn’t have drums, and we played all the songs quite differently.  And we really liked how that song felt, so do a recorded version of it.

We liked the idea of kind of bookending the year.

QRO: Back in the before-time, how was making Spook the Herd?

HW: It was good.  It was a lot different to what we’re used to.  Cause, in the past, we’d always recorded ourselves, recorded in our houses, or recorded in our rehearsal room and things like that.

This time, we had quite a clear vision for how we wanted the record to sound, and what we wanted to achieve.  So, we knew how to get that, and we wanted to go into the studio.

So, we went into a studio in Yorkshire, called Distant City, and it was a really nice little place.  And we had someone engineering for us, Joss [Worthington], who owns the studio.  So, we’ve never had another person involved in the record.  And he was engineering.

It was a really nice way to do it.  It was a lot easier than it’d been in the past, and a lot more enjoyable experience.

Stayed in this little house near to the studio, and there was this really old pub nearby, where we would just go and sit after doing some work.  It was a really good way to reflect on the day’s work.

QRO: So, the records before this one, you’d almost recorded the way you did for the EP?

HW: Yeah, pretty much.

With the first album [2011’s Gracious Tide, Take Me Home], it was all pretty much done in our houses.

And the second one [2013’s Until the Colours RunQRO review], we hired this old school hall.  We recorded it in there.

And the third [2015’s Beings], we recorded it pretty much in our rehearsal room.

 

This time, we had quite a clear vision for how we wanted the record to sound, and what we wanted to achieve. So, we knew how to get that, and we wanted to go into the studio.

 

QRO: How did they let you know that you’d been long-listed – and then short-listed – for the Mercury Prize for Spook the Herd?  Do get like a call or an e-mail or something?

HW: We got a call to tell us we’re on the short-list – we wouldn’t have known we were on the long-list; I don’t think they let that information out.  Got a call off our manager, said we were one of the twelve albums of the year.

And then we had to keep it a secret for a week, wasn’t allowed to tell.  Was really, really difficult…

QRO: [laughs] But I assume you weren’t able to go to any awards ceremony this year.  Did you feel a little bit cheated?

HW: Yeah, I’m not gonna lie.  I was little gutted not to be able to do that.

I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, people have gone through a lot of shit this year, it’s really not a big problem, is it, to miss an awards ceremony?  But it would have been a pretty cool thing to experience.

In other ways, this year was so different, the Mercurys, that maybe people will remember the short-list…

QRO: Since there was no ceremony, how did you find out that you didn’t win?

HW: I got a call on the night – there was a broadcast of all the performances.  We got a call to say – they were still talking about the final three, and we weren’t in the final three…

 

Lanterns On the Lake’s video for “Baddies (Model City Version)”:

QRO: How was making the video for “Baddies (Model City Version)”?  Was that shot in your homes?

HW: We wanted to do something, and we just thought we would record something.

I did it here in my dining room.  There’s only me, Bob [Allan, bassist], and Angela [Chan, viola] playing on that version, anyway, so it was a bit easier than having all of this, having drums, things like that.

QRO: Have you been working on any new music since The Realist?

HW: We’re trying to.  It’s really hard to fit the time in.  Cause, like I said, I’ve got a one-year-old.  We’re really struggling to find the time.

QRO: How is it, being a parent of a one-year-old during the pandemic?

HW: Some days it’s fun, and some days it’s not so fun.

It’s a bit sad – she’s never really met any other little people, you know?  She’s never been in any ‘baby groups’ or anything like that.

And mostly, her family is missing her a lot, and missing her growing up.  So, that has been quite difficult.

QRO: During this time, have you picked up and/or accelerated any bad habits?  Like I only recently got my first pandemic haircut…

HW: I probably drink even more tea than I used to…

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