Track by Track: The Laurels Bring a Kaleidoscope of Otherworldly Sonics on New Album 'Homecoming'
Track by Track is a segment where we interview artists to dig a little deeper and take us inside the tracks of their latest releases. We caught up with Sydney psych wanderers The Laurels who reemerged in March with their long-awaited third album Homecoming leading listeners into an amalgamation of dreamlike sounds.
After making a comeback last year with two singles, Sydney noisemakers The Laurels shared their long-awaited third full-length effort, Homecoming, another musical palate with swirling splashes of psychedelia and layered synths accompanied by guitars with just the right amount of grit. Released through Third Eye Stimuli (Sunfruits, Gimmy Flowens, Chet Sounds), the new album is an exhilarating display of the band's new chemistry with newly recruited members bassist Kat Harley and drummer Ben James joining longtime guitarists and vocalists Luke O'Farrell and Piers Cornelius. From evocative vocals to restless, tangled guitars, the band throws everything at the wall across their new album, especially after working with producer Lachlan Mitchell who the band referred to as somewhat of a fifth member in a press release. To dig deeper into the new album, we had the pleasure of catching up with O'Farrell and Cornelius who walks us through the etches of each track on Homecoming.
Luke O'Farrell: This was the first track we recorded together with the new lineup back in 2019, so we thought it was a good way to open the record. The demo was composed on an interstate drive using a crude phone app, originally it was all robotic synths and drum machines that were trying to emulate the feel of LCD Sound System's "Get Innocuous." We tried to ground it more in a Laurels territory by adding guitars in discordant open tunings (and a big dose of fuzz in the outro), while keeping some of the more ethereal synth sounds in there. The lyrics in the breakdown section are pretty much taken directly from Brother JC Crawford’s rousing speech before Wayne Kramer kicks off the MC5's "Ramblin' Rose." The track is really just lamenting venues we've lost in Sydney like The Hopetoun and The Annandale, which had been really important to us when we first started, they were places that had a real familial nature and provided an environment that helped to nurture bands that were starting out.
Piers Cornelius: A few years ago we were in the middle of touring our last album
and on one particular flight to my hometown in Western Australia, I watched a documentary named Sherpa. I'd always been fascinated by Tenzing Norgay and am a sucker for literally anything about Mt. Everest. Anyway, watching these western "adventurers" be waited on hand and foot by the Sherpa people resonated with me so I guess the song is about conflict, spiritual corruption or being in a state of emotional confusion. The lyrics endeavor to document the process of realization that doing any type of work or activity that isn't spiritually rewarding can manifest in ill health and inner/outer turmoil.
LO: "L.E.S.S." has been floating around in various forms since the Plains sessions in 2012. It originally started out as a really stripped back synth led beat that was heavily influenced by Gary Numan and Black Moth Super Rainbow (so much so that the lead vocal was run through a vocoder). It went through a ton of different iterations before we ended up with the album version. The song is a mantra for replacing mind numbing daily routine with endeavors that might push you outside your comfort zone but inevitably bring you more worthwhile experiences. It looks into the idea that we can rewire neural pathways in the brain to break bad connections and form new rewarding ones which is pretty inspiring when you're trying to put those changes into practice.
PC: It's about leaving home when I was 19, packing all my musical gear into my car and moving from Perth to Sydney to play in a band. The song is sort of a comparison of all the different things that people do when they reach that age where the possibilities seem endless. The chorus is sort of a play on words about teenage romance and sweethearts — it could be a person you are pining for, or it could be that music is your one true love. The demo originally had really fat breakbeat drums which made it sound like a Moby song – I think I was feeling the nostalgia of all those big, emotionally charged '90s sounding high school/graduation type songs (think "Bittersweet Symphony," "Porcelain," etc). I've always loved the album Remain In Light by Talking Heads and the way its songs were constructed from looped sections of different instrumental jams.
LO: "Fortuitous Turn" evolved a lot over the course of us preparing for the album. We did quite a lot of pre-production together on the original demo, and there were so many different versions and variations of this track to choose from. Ultimately the album version didn’t end up like any of them, it was really a product of us experimenting with all the instruments we had at our disposal, which is why it’s such a weird mix of sounds. Even though it’s a pretty standard pop song structure, it’s probably one of the more experimental tracks on the album because we were really throwing anything we could think of into the mix to see what direction it would go in.
"Ten Thousand Years"
PC: The phrase "Ten Thousand Years" originated in ancient China as an expression used to wish long life to the emperor, and there is also this mountain in China called Mount Song which is one of the sacred Taoist mountains — it's like the birthplace of Zen. According to legend, Mount Song itself once called out the phrase to address the emperor, which I thought was kind of cool, like the land is able to speak to us. With that in mind, the song was kind of written for a friend of mine from Perth, wishing them luck in life, etc., but written as though a river was talking to them. This particular friend used to sit by the river and meditate, and told me about this experience they had where time seemed as though it was warping and when they looked up from the foreshore at the city looming in the distance all the buildings just turned into trees. Anyway, whenever I would try to look up information like when the river was formed, it would always just say "over 10,000 years ago" and that was the most accurate time I could find. So the song is a serendipitous amalgamation of ideas and subject matter.
LO: This track has been floating around for a while, it was another outtake from the ‘Plains’ writing sessions. It was probably my favorite session during recording, we had a pretty clear idea of how we wanted it to sound going into the studio and Lach [Mitchell] really helped us achieve what we had in mind. It was the first time using the Mellotron during the recording sessions and then we became addicted — it ended up on so many other songs on the album. It was also really fun adding the harmonium overdubs because it has such a unique sound that fits the track really well.
LO: The track came together towards the end of us finishing Sonicology, so it just ended up sitting around as a shitty voice memo recording for a few years. The lyrics came out of quite a transformational period several years later where I had to deal with a lot of personal issues I'd become really good at masking, particularly the death of my father after his long battle with depression. The song was just a way to reacquaint myself with mindfulness during that time and to make peace with a lot of these issues. Originally the track was just a real straight-ahead, lo-fi garage rock song that clocked in at around two-and-a-half minutes that was way more immediate. But once we got into the studio with Lachlan Mitchell, he suggested letting different sections breathe a lot more and that took it in a much more interesting direction.
PC: This was originally released as a demo on an overseas psych compilation that came out before our first album. The quality was super shoddy so we kind of did some restoration, refurbishing and reworking of lyrics etc. We've had a few lineup changes so we thought it would be cool to have a bit of a throwback to something from our early days for fans that have stuck with us throughout, but I guess it's also sort of similar to how The Vines released about five versions of their song "Autumn Shade."
Someone on YouTube has set and synced our original demo to this occult/witchcraft horror film called Häxan, so we tried to give it a bit more of an uplifting and positive atmosphere. If you isolate our chorus vocals it sounds a bit like a gospel group singing in a church, and I think it's the only song on the album that has all four of us singing at the same time. We tried to give the verses a bit of a trip-hop vibe before we went full "blues/cocaine rock" in the outro with Luke playing some mad slide guitar.
PC: This one started off as a pretty repetitive demo with vocal loops — trying to be some sort of psychedelic version of Madonna's "Justify My Love" crossed with "Temptations" by 2Pac. We reworked it a little bit in pre-production before Mitchell completed his magnum opus, which was the outro. He had a burst of inspiration while we were laying down tracks and decided to manipulate and blend lots of our instrument takes and vocals into this big whirlpool of sound at the end, which later became the album closer. This song has my favorite snare drum sound on the album, and the lyrics are a bit of a doff of the hat to Don Quixote — the original delusional adventurer.
Homecoming is out now via Third Eye Stimuli Records.
Stream the new album below.