Six years is a long time. The Beatles released the first 11 of their 13 albums in six years, the entire second World War took place within six years and a day and, of course that’s how long London five-piece Left With Pictures took to make their latest record Afterlife. But it isn’t for nothing. They started out in the early 2000s as a chamber-pop outfit – lots of acoustic and folk instruments – and Afterlife is something of a rebirth: they have emerged from their six-year sabbatical as an atmospheric electro band. So what happened?
Have you been working on this set of 11 songs – and only these songs – constantly, without pause for six whole years?
Errr...yes and no! We’ve all had other jobs and other projects going on too. It would be an inexcusably slow process otherwise really. Also, we worked on around 20/25 songs for Afterlife, which gradually whittled down to the 11 you hear on the record.
After the release of your last record, In Time, did you set out with a change of direction in mind?
We definitely set out with a change of approach in mind. In Time was created under great time-pressure, as we released a song and a video every month. This time round we decided to do the opposite and take our time, not releasing until we were wholly satisfied with what we were putting out. That partly explains why it took so long.
Do you miss the banjo?
It’s gone a bit out of fashion, hasn’t it! Maybe it’s time to bring it back. We all bought banjos inspired by Sufjan Stevens ‘Seven Swans’ album – then Mumford and Sons appropriated it and it’s become a slightly toxic brand as a result. An artfully deployed banjo is a thing of beauty, as Sufjan has showed us.
The new record sounds much harder to replicate live. How do you deal with all those electronic instruments and layers of sound?
Well, some of the modular synth parts we trigger via a sampler, but a lot of it we re-interpret live. I don’t think it’s wise to try to recreate every sound when you play live, but there were certain elements we felt we couldn’t live without. We think we’ve found a balance now, but it has taken a while.
You used to produce all of your music yourselves, but this time you’ve outsourced the production to super producer Richard Formby. How did you feel giving up that element of control?
We wanted to give up control! We’d never had an outside eye to guide us through the process before and that is exactly why we approached producers and ended up working with Richard.
What did you enjoy about having someone else in the studio with you?
Richard Formby is not only an exceptional producer, but a very calm, creative presence in the studio. His expertise in vintage studio gear is second to none really, and he introduced us to a lot of exciting things – not least the modular synth, which he is a master of. Working with him has influenced us a lot, even outside the context of the band. We enjoyed everything about it, in all honesty.
Have you started working on the next record (release date some time in 2022)?
We haven’t I’m afraid. We’ve been so busy getting this one ready and promoting it etc. 2022 seems a bit ambitious to me. You don’t want to rush these things. Let’s say 2025, eh?
Left With Pictures are performing at The Hospital Club on Friday 24th June. Click here for tickets.