Thankfully, rather than my usual rambling attempts to describe the band I feature each week, I can direct you to a previous article I wrote on Glasgow’s The Lava Experiments. The second in their series of ‘Blackbody’ EP’s was a cracking wee voyage into the world of psychedelia, so I must admit I was pretty excited when I got sent a copy of the Volume 3, the last in the series. Needless to say it didn’t fail to impress, the band continue to bring innovative ideas to the table and grow in stature as a band at the same time. Ladies and gents, the Lava Experiments…….
Would you care to introduce yourself?
Fraser Rowan – guitar, vocals, laptop programming
Rory McGregor – Bass
Alan Wond – Drums
How would you describe the music you make?
That one used to be a real toughy for us, until Lisa-Marie Ferla (Under The Radar Blog) came along to one of our gigs. She reviewed us and suggested that we are breaking new territory and re-defining genre’s. We didn’t feel the need to argue with that. She described us as “Dark Evolutionary Shoegaze” and “Heart-Achingly Beautiful Post-Rock”. We think that’s spot on. Some Shoegaze can be a bit poppy and formulaic. ‘Dark’ hopefully removes all ambiguity as to which side of the fence we sit on there and the use of ‘evolutionary’ hints towards something new; not the resurgence of another My Bloody Valentine clone. In the same way, there’s a fair amount of Post-Rock that’s just bland. ‘Heart-achingly beautiful’ again clarifies where we sit within the spectrum quite eloquently.
How did you start out making music?
Fraser – I picked up the guitar when I was 13 and have been playing in bands since. I got my first 4-track when I was 19 and started experimenting with sound manipulation. I thought I invented saturating sounds with reverb reversing them and slowing them right down. Gutted to find the Beatles got there first. Aphex Twin’s “Selected Ambient Works 1” got me into electronic music in a big way. I’ve been messing around with organic/analogue sounds ever since.
Rory – Reason I picked up the bass: I liked a girl at school, she liked guys in bands. Found out later she preferred guitarists, but by that stage I had fallen in love with playing. Like Fraser and Alan, I’ve also played in a good few bands, both in Aberdeen (my home town) and in Glasgow. Fraser asked me to step in on bass duties till he found a permanent replacement for the previous bassist. I was only supposed to be on loan from my other band, The Sleepwalkers. However, after we played our first gig together (Blackbody Vol II ep launch) Fraser and Alan asked me to join permanently and that was that.
Alan – Music has always been a big part in my life, growing up I was always interested in playing drums. Both my uncle and brother are accomplished drummers. I got my first kit when I was 8 and started in a pipe band when I was 10. I’ve played in a few local bands, but this is the first time I’ve been in a band playing the type of music I really want to play. There’s a real creative feel to what the three of us are doing right now.
Fraser – The Lava Experiments is a project that’s been around in one form or another for about 4 years now, with me starting off writing ambient electronica (mostly with a guitar, a moog and Ableton on my mac) for my own enjoyment. When a mate forced me into playing a gig it was just me playing guitar and singing and the laptop banging out the beats, bass, strings, etc. (Rory was actually at that first gig so I’m surprised he joined the band after hearing it like that). After a few gigs a mate joined playing bass. It wasn’t until Alan joined about 18 months ago that The Lava Experiments started to resemble what we have now. When Rory joined about a year ago our sound transformed entirely. Alan and Rory gelled immediately. A more innovative drums and bass duo I’ve yet to come across.
What process goes into the way you write songs?
It used to be that I would produce rough but complete tunes on the laptop, remove the drums and sometimes the bass and fill in the blanks. Now the process is far less prescribed. We are writing new stuff at the moment and it’s a very different process; one which all three of us are heavily involved. I’ll create a soundscape – just a backbone of a piece then we all set about engineering a structure round about it. This process is far more collaborative than before and, in my opinion, the results are more creative.
Who are your big musical influences?
Fraser – Michael Gira, Boards of Canada, Dextro, This Will Destroy You, UNKLE, the record label Type (eg. Helios, Xela, Deaf Centre, Machinefabriek, etc).
Rory – Bruce Foxton, Chris Squire, New Order, Swervedriver
Alan – Deftones (Abe Cunningham & Chino), Sigur Ros, This Will Destroy You, Taking Back Sunday
What are you all listening to at the moment?
Fraser – Deftones “Diamond Eyes”, The National “High Violet”, UNKLE – “Where Did The Night Fall”, The XX “XX”.
Rory – Arbouretum “Song of the Pearl”, Pale Saints “In Ribbons”, Quack Quack “Slow as an Eyeball”, Soft Machine “Seven”.
Alan – August Burns Red “Constallations”, Deftones “Saturday Night Wrist”, Mew “Frengers”, This Will Destroy You “This Will Destroy You”.
You are currently up to Volume three in your series of EPs, why did you choose to release your music in this way? Do you plan to continue to put stuff out this way or can we expect an album at some point?
The Blackbody trilogy was created as a challenge to my self. It’s hardly original to release music this way but I wanted to do something a little bit different. I’ve always been into ‘collections’ of music and I suppose it was an ambition of mine to create something like that. It worked out better than I had expected to be honest. There’s a real maturation in the quality of the work from I to II to III. I’m delighted with I and II, but I’m most proud of III. Volume III sounds like a band that’s found its sound and identity and probably more importantly is comfortable in that place. We are already writing new stuff and will release that as an album early next year.
What can we expect to see/hear from you in 2010?
The next 12 months will be really important for us as a band. We have a few exciting propositions in the pipelines for live outings later this year but nothing has been confirmed at this time. The key aim for us is to up our profile and get into the festival circuit next summer.
The Lava Experiments ‘Blackbody trilogy’ is available as a set, including their remix EP ‘Piecing Memories Together’, all for the bargain sum of £12 (including P&P), just head here and order CD Bundle 1. If you fancy catching them live, then you’ll be pleased to learn that they are playing Catapult at Maggie Mays in Glasgow on the 12th of August.
The Lava Experiments – Organise The Box
More from Lloyd at Peenko
Photo Credit: Heidi Kuisma