Revealing The Image; An interview with Oli Deakin of Lowpines
Lowpines is the recording moniker of British songwriter and producer Oli Deakin. Initially starting out as a series of lo-fi phone recordings, overdubbed with multiple layers of reverb-soaked instruments, Lowpines recordings quickly developed into several EPs, released on ltd edition cassette over the past few years.
Having caught the ear of BBC DJs in the UK (including Huw Stephens, Lauren Laverne and Steve Lamacq), receiving accolades in the press, and regularly soundtracking numerous U.S. TV shows, the first full-length Lowpines record In Silver Halides hit the streets via Adventure Club Records in late February.
In Silver Halides was written in rural England through the winter, and recording began the following spring, in a greenhouse, during an unseasonal heatwave. The heat and the bright sunlight made for intense recording sessions, interrupted by both equipment and artist regularly overheating. Songs filled with images of frozen landscapes, and isolation, took a new direction in the stifling heat. Opting to record with the doors and windows thrown open, much of the early demo recordings are filled with ambient noises of the surrounding countryside, echoing hauntingly through expansive reverb.
Additional recording sessions took place in at Bella Union Studios in London, with in-house producer IggyB (The Duke Spirit, John Grant, Spiritualized). Oli’s brother Jamie Deakin joined to record the drums, tracking the whole album in a day. Later on, flute parts were played by Jesse Chandler (Midlake/BNQT/Mercury Rev). Oli then took the recordings to Brooklyn where it was mixed with Grammy award-winning producer Ted Young (Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth, Rolling Stones).
Outside of Lowpines, Oli Deakin has been involved in a number of other bands and recording projects in recent years. A long-term collaboration with Lyla Foy (WALL), includes her Sub Pop debut Mirrors The Sky which he co-wrote/produced as well as new works in progress. He was a founder member of fuzz-pop band Bear Driver, and has done recent mixing and production work with Toothless, Germans, Swimming Bell and Dream Giant.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Deakin just after In Silver Halides release. This is what he told us.
When did you first begin writing the material for In Silver Halides?
I started writing straight after the release of my last EP in 2016. When I’m finishing one record it tends to make me want to start on the next. I got the basic ideas for the songs together quickly, but it was later that year, between tours, when I found time to really work through them. So there were several rounds of writing and reworking, out in the countryside, then back in London, and eventually in New York for some last sessions.So I finally got to mixing it in summer 2017.
But also, it’s often the case that a number of ideas are already bobbing around, partially formed. So when I start writing specifically for a new record those ideas will often come back to me and weave their way into it. So it’s ongoing really, the process starts with an idea for a sound rather than specific songs.
Where did that album title come from?
I was exploring the idea of things changing and reacting to light and heat. Seeing how this group of songs had taken a journey from a cold, dark winter days to hot, bright summer, I got to thinking about photography and dark rooms. Silver Halide is a chemical used in black and white photography, it reacts to the light to reveal the image. That felt very familiar to me, like this whole record was a photograph gradually appearing.
I recorded a lot of it in a glass room, and the sun would get really hot and blindingly bright. That does strange things to your mind when you’re working on something like this. Things get weird, there are strange voices in your head and tricks of the light. There’s a song on the record called ‘Chambers In The Canopy’ which, for me, perfectly responds to that sensation.
You’ve been releasing EPs for a while now. What made you finally want to do a full LP?
Every EP was intended to be an album, but for different reasons I would always chop away much of the final record down to five or six songs. I always want a group of songs to go together well and with the EPs there was always a few on there that just seemed like the belonged elsewhere. I was moving quickly and writing a lot so by the time I got five or so songs in I’d have moved on into another territory. But this time I figured I’d write a lot more so that even after the chop there’d be a full length album, and also take the time to really let them all develop together rather than rushing towards a release date. It was a close call, there’s a lot of finished songs that didn’t make the cut, but there was still enough to be the album I set out to make. And those others may well get a reprieve in the form of a follow up EP later this year, I’m still working on that.
How did you come to meet, and work with, Midlake’s Jesse Chandler?
I first met Jesse a couple of years ago when the band I was playing in (Lyla Foy) was touring with Midlake. Then in 2017 I met producer Ted Young, who mixed ‘In Silver Halides’, and he knows the Midlake guys too. There was one song with a lot of flute on it (‘Miracle Child’), but it was all played on a keyboard. Ted suggested we ask Jesse to record it for real. By complete luck Jesse was in London a few weeks later and came to my home studio, and we recorded parts for that song and then a bunch of others, many of which he hadn’t even heard. So he was just making parts up on the spot, and it was beautiful so it all stayed in. He’s a wonderful musician and seemed to really get the mood of the record.
Do you have any plans to make any videos for In Silver Halides?
I do, there are a couple up on my YouTube page already – one is a beautiful piece by director Rupert Cresswell for the song ‘We Come Right,’ and another is a live video shot on a rooftop in Brooklyn for ‘Come On Chaos.’ There are others in the making now.
What artists are you listening to these days?
I’m always listening to different things, but in the past few weeks I was diving in to Ezra Furman, John Moreland, Kevin Morby, Sylvan Esso, Lemonheads, revisiting some early Dylan, Lambchop, and totally fell back in love with Smashing Pumpkins.
I also do a lot of production work with other bands, sometimes working on a record, sometimes just workshopping some songs. So I’ve been spending a lot of time with music from new artists like Swimming Bell, Toothless and Germans, and also finishing a new record with Lyla Foy.
Any UK faves we should know about?
Dream Giant has an awesome debut album out – Harry and I had a band called Bear Driver and this is his new thing. Awesome, psychedelic indie pop. Check it out
What’s next for Lowpines? Touring? Perhaps the states?
A shave. I accidentally grew a huge beard this past year. I think the novelty has worn off. I miss soup. It has to go.
Other than that, I just finished some shows in the UK and will be back into studio again for a few weeks, working on something new for later this year. Then more shows in late spring. And yes, first U.S. shows this summer – be sure to follow on my sites for those!
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