The anticipation has been lifted and the expectation fulfilled. After eight long years, UK duo Lamb are back with ‘5’ – their latest collection of fresh, whimsical, electronic-based tracks. Having both pursued solo projects; Lou Rhodes and Andy Barlow knew it was only a matter a time before they were back in the studio together again. That time is now. From the Southwest of London, Rhodes spoke to us candidly about the journey, the sound and what makes Lamb, well…Lamb.
After over six years apart (eight since your last album) what brought you two back together?
It was a whole number of things really. Back in 2009 we did a bunch of dates together. We’d been apart for a long time and had various requests to do some live shows and thought, “Ok. We’ll do a few and see how that is…” That turned into more than a few, it was going to be about six shows and ended up being god knows how many! We then did the Australian shows at Christmas and New Year 2009/2010. In the process of doing those shows we kind of looked again at the old material. Andy programmed a lot of it to bring it up to date and we really enjoyed playing. There was a kind of feeling that we got along much better, the music was flowing. At the end of that process I was recording my third solo album and I ended up recording that in Andy’s studio with his help. Part of that deal was that I would sing on a track for his LOWB album. In that process we wrote Strong The Root which was so definitely a Lamb song, it was almost as if the Lamb record started to write itself. I guess that was the beginning really.
Do you feel like you’ve conquered what you want to achieve on a solo level? To now be able to bring a fresh outlook to Lamb or is just a matter of timing?
Yeah, it’s timing. My acoustic stuff is always a real hunger for me and I guess that’s what I was feeling towards the last chapter of Lamb. When we last spoke in 2004 I was really feeling the need to go and do that. I certainly wouldn’t say that I’ve put that aside, it’s definitely something that it always there for me. The fact that I was able to go and feed that need has meant that coming back, I’ve been able to do that from a much clearer space. I’m not trying to pull Lamb in a direction that it doesn’t go in. Lamb is very specifically Andy and my songs and voice they kind of interplay. That sort of jarring rawness of those two things coming together…
Your new album, 5, has been met with much anticipation. How do you overcome the expectation?
I think when you’re in the studio you’re kind of in a bubble. You don’t really think about the outside world very much and what they might think or expect. It’s only when the record’s done and finished that you start to think “Oh gosh, I wonder what people are going to make of this!” and so on. We feel really positive about it. That’s strong enough. We feel so good about it that it doesn’t really matter.
Australia was the first country to get their hands on 5, released on May 5th compared to the UK’s August 1st release date. Why’s that?
Because we’d had a few shows earlier over there this spring, we played some of the songs there before the record was even finished. It made sense to bring it out earlier there. It came out digitally in the UK and Europe on May 5th– the 5/5 keeping that theme running – we felt that over here, we needed to get the press campaign up and running so we delayed the actual physical release a little bit. Things were up and running so much earlier in Australia because of those shows.
Your lyrics are often relatable and capture feeling through the use of metaphors. What’s your creative process?
For this album, I was questioning the whole process because life had changed a lot for me. In the past, probably 80% of my songs were inspired by romantic love. I think I’ve come to a point where I was questioning even that. I was questioning what romantic love meant. I guess I was pretty disillusioned with it. Suddenly the subject matter that I’d relied on for the whole time until now had gone away. I was left questioning the whole process and certainly where my starting point was. In light of this album it was like the song became the process in a way, the lyrics are about that questioning and about that journey of what the hell’s going on. I think that’s why a lot of people can relate to it. I certainly like the fact that there isn’t a love song on the album. To me it feels like a whole departure, particularly from my point of view.
How did the track Back To Beginning with Damien Rice come about?
He’s a good friend of Andy’s, he’s known Damien over the years. We got into him early on before O (Rice’s debut album) became so massive. He actually supported us once on a little tour in Portugal – which is quite funny to think about now, considering how huge he is. He’s worked with Andy over the years and Back To Beginning came from that really. It was actually initially going to be a song on Andy’s LOWB album. I came into the picture quite late on that, with quite mixed feelings about it, it’s a very strong song but it didn’t really feel like it sat with the rest of the Lamb album. As the album progressed it kind of had this angular-rawness to it and Back To Beginning was a conventional pop song if anything. Which is why it is an extra track rather than in the running order of the album. It’s a great song but it just doesn’t feel like a Lamb song, as Lamb is manifesting itself these days.
What do you think it is that connects you both musically? You both come from completely different backgrounds in terms of what you can bring to the table…
We do come from quite different points of view in a lot of ways. Over the years, particularly over the six years we’ve been apart, I think we’ve crossed over in a lot of ways as well. Andy’s a lot more into vocal music and acoustic music than he ever was. There’s some new electronic stuff that I’m really enjoying at the moment as well. When we were writing the album we were gathering up a lot of the new stuff that’s around. With acoustic music there was a real resurgence a few years ago, electronic music is definitely going through a real renaissance now. That’s quite inspiring. We found to our surprise that we were bugging on the same stuff. It was great fun and again a big part of how the record sounds.
What’s next for Lamb?
Well I don’t think we can look beyond touring at the moment. We’re in the middle of festival season here in the UK so we’re doing a summer of shows all around the country and Europe. In the autumn we’ll be doing tours again around the UK and Europe, hopefully then coming to Australia, the States and Japan. So basically our diaries are full of touring for the next year and we don’t like to project too much beyond that…
5 is out now. Keep track of all the ‘official’ important bits here!