Saturday, August 28, 2021

Song-Writing, Happiness and The Future: In Conversation With The Lathums

Wigan-based indie band The Lathums are set to release their debut album ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ on September 24th. With fans eagerly awaiting the twelve track record, I caught up with frontman Alex for Music Is To Blame as they work towards their UK tour, happening later this year.

Not long now till album release day! The title of the album ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ is an apt reflection of the last 18 months with the pandemic and seeing the good in all things. Did the pandemic affect the album-making process or inspire any tracks?


The majority of the songs on the first album are ones that I wrote prior – they were already sitting. There were maybe a couple including ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ that got spurred on through the situation we were all in. But yeah, I can’t lie and say it’s been terrible, apart from the life side which has been terrible. I’ve had quite a lot of time to reflect and gather a bit of ammunition.


I can imagine from a creative side it’s been crazy because you’re used to playing gigs and it all stopped. The songs put out from the album so far are quite personal, such as ‘Oh My Love’. Does it feel scary to put personal songs out into the world when they are based on events you have gone through and used song-writing to get through?


I used to be a bit worried about opening myself up because I put myself in a very vulnerable place when I show people these songs. Like you say it’s come from my experiences and usually it’s sadness or anger, so that makes it a lot harder to open up to people, but from the support that we get, me personally from my family and then from the fanbase that are always so good to us, I’ve learnt that it’s good to be a bit vulnerable and just open yourself up to people because people do appreciate it. It’s given me a lot more confidence to do that, but at the beginning I was a bit apprehensive. I used to kind of change the lyrics to make it not as personal or open, but I’ve stopped that now. I think it was just a bit of confidence really.


Do you hope that your fans can get something from the music and use it to help them get through tough times? Were there any artists who did this with their music that you admired?


I don’t think I ever admired anybody. I used to listen to a lot of Jake Bugg songs – his first album, a lot of the songs on there resonated with me but I hope that I can help as many people as possible as, like you say, I have been in that situation and music’s really helped me. Thankfully I can write it for myself which is a good form of therapy, whereas a lot of people can’t do that – they can’t write their own songs and make them personal, so I’m kind of doing that for them which is really good, helping another human being without me doing anything extra. I’m just writing these songs because they make me feel better, so the fact that it resonates with people is an amazing feeling.


Certain tracks such as ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ and ‘I See Your Ghost’ have an upbeat melodic tone. What was behind the decision to keep the tone of the songs upbeat despite their raw and honest lyricism?


I think at first it kind of just happened that way. I used to write dark minor songs but that was just because of the place I was in. Obviously those kind of songs are important and I’ll never turn away from them, but now I feel that I want to help people. I want to be happy and I want other people to be happy so the music must correlate with that, otherwise they would just be really slow minor songs. Especially with the lyrics, I feel like they need a bit of innocence and naivety to them because the words are so deep. I think the music needs to have the fun side to it, the innocence to it where people can let themselves go and jump about. At the start that’s just how it happened but as I’ve got older I’ve kind of realised what I want to do at this time is to make people happy, is to make myself happy, and you have to write a certain kind of song for that.


Your music is great to discuss topics that a lot of artists don’t want to touch upon but doing it in a way which is good for fans to listen to and good for gigging. Your album is an amalgamation of songs which have already been released or written. Was this a conscious decision to chart your musical journey so far?


Yeah, I think that’s the best way to do it because the journey from pub band to venue band to being signed was all very quick, so I think it was good for this debut album to be a little story of the journey so far. Songs that I was writing when I was a young lad from before I met the boys, and some songs I wrote just before the studio session or during the session, so it’s all an amalgamation of the story so far, a nice way to do it.


Out of the songs which haven’t been released yet which are you most looking forward to fans hearing?


I’m looking forward to people hearing ‘The Redemption of Sonic Beauty’ as I feel like that’s a song which no one would expect us to do, especially for our first album. It’s quite out there.


What’s your personal favourite from the album?


I think it’s ‘I’ll Never Forget The Time I’ve Spent With You’ as there’s a lot in that song that has come from me emotionally and mentally. I wrote it in two different bodies almost. I was in a very different place emotionally and mentally when I finished the song as opposed to writing it, so I feel like there’s a lot of development within one song and the words mean a lot to me.


Does it take a while writing such deep and personal songs? What’s your song-writing process behind that?


A lot of the time it’s a bit strange. Sometimes I feel like I don’t write them – I don’t know where they come from, if I knew that I’d be a very rich man! I’m quite a deep person and I’m not very good at talking about things. I don’t really let things out – I kind of bottle it up and I think the lyrics and the songs are like forces of energy coming out of me. I’m relieving that thing off my head and off my chest and it all just pours out of me. It can happen within 5 minutes, or it can be longer. Usually, the best ones that I’ve wrote happen spontaneously – I’ll get my guitar and I’ll have something in my head and it can just all fall into place. It’s a bit strange, sometimes I don’t write them I just remember them – it’s hard to describe, these little voices, these little melodies come and speak to me for a bit, and we have a little conversation, and they fly away, and I write it all down.


Song-writing is a form of art and a great form of therapy. The music video for ‘I’ll Get By’ seemed like an ode to your hometown - does it mean you are consciously trying to stay close to your roots and where you came from as a band and as a singer?


I think it’s important for us to recognise where we come from and give it the time but I do realise that there’s a big world out there and there’s more people to connect with and more places to see, more things to experience. Especially with my family being from where they’re from, I’ll always have that connection with where I’ve grown up and what’s made me the man I am today. If I wasn’t in that place growing up, I’d be a very different person I think, and maybe not for the better. So it is important to recognise where we come from and understand and give it the time and the attention that it deserves, but there’s a huge world out there and I want to experience everything and connect with as many people as I possibly can.


Is the personal touch of going out and seeing fans something that you missed in the pandemic?


Yeah definitely. It’s a bit strange – if we aren’t on the road I like my own space and I like being on my own, but when I get into that situation I get quite excited and happy to see other human beings. It’s strange to me because I’m not used to having that many people around me, but now there’s so many people that genuinely love us and love the songs, so it’s exciting to meet them and speak to new people and hear their story.


From an artist’s perspective, I can imagine it’s quite overwhelming to see so many people resonating with something that is still so personal to you.


Overwhelming is a good word, I still haven’t quite got the hang of it all! But it’s good that we’ve got such a wide and diverse fanbase. When people come to speak to me it can be a lad my age, or a girl my age, or a 50-year-old bloke or someone’s grandma. There’s always something different which is good and shows that we aren’t pigeon-holed, and everyone should feel comfortable or happy to be there, no matter who you are or how old you are.


The music industry can be quite hard to break into. ‘I Know That Much’ is about keeping going despite any adversity. Does that reflect your experience as a band? Was it quite hard to be an up-and-coming band in a wide music industry?


Yeah, it was – I paused for a second then because I’m getting more used to it now, but if I’m thinking back to when I wrote that song there were times where I didn’t know if it was right or if I was doing the right thing. There were so many different things going on in my life and then mixing that with jumping from playing The Crown pub to Kendal Calling, all these massive venues and festivals, it kind of crept up on me without me knowing. I thought I was okay and in a good place but life’s very peculiar, you don’t know what’s around the corner. I’m just trying to keep my feet on the ground and keep focussed, keep my head down and keep being who I am. I don’t want to change for anything or anyone. I want to be the person I’m supposed to be.


That’s a great ethos to have. Is there any advice that you have for artists trying to break into the industry?


Always always always be yourself. Even when you feel uncomfortable about who else is there or who else is doing something that you might be doing, like another band who you think is better than you, don’t think like that and just enjoy it.


It seems like a crazy ride to be on!


Yeah, it’s a bit strange! Especially because I’m not of this time – I’m not good with my phone, I don’t use Spotify or anything, I’m not a social media whizz so it’s quite overwhelming, but just enjoy it. Just think, we’re only here once and you want to make the best of it. Experience everything and take everything as it comes.


Back to the album and talking about staying true to your roots – some of the songs on the album such as ‘The Great Escape’ have been remastered. I wondered what it was like revisiting older tracks and reworking them, and why you decided to do this?


That came from Ireland – the argument was that if we released this first album, there’s so many songs that people will never hear, such as ‘Fight On’ or ‘The Great Escape’ because we kind of skipped a year almost. They wouldn’t get the time or attention they need when they still have loads of life left in them, particularly ‘The Great Escape’ which was kind of the catalyst for us. If we get a whole new fanbase from this album who have never heard us, they will have never heard the songs that got us to this position. If it was up to me I’d put 20 new songs on it but you have to do things correctly I suppose!


Was it ruthless getting to 12 tracks for the album?


Yeah! It was a good problem to have because there were too many songs for the plan. We had to really think about it and think what songs need to be on this album rather than what we wanted. In hindsight, it maybe wasn’t the best way to go about it, but I think we have got a really strong album and it just leaves more time for all the songs we didn’t use. I’ve been writing for so long now that there’s just a massive backlog of songs that I’ve sent in months and months ago that haven’t been used because we don’t have enough time. It was quite a task but having too many songs was a good problem to have.


Are there any songs you’re particularly looking forward to performing live on the tour?


I think I’m just so scuppered by the fact that we’ve not been able to play to people for so long that it doesn’t really matter as long as I can sing my songs to people. Any of them, even if it was just one!


Have you got any plans to make it a memorable gig and translate the intimate and personal messages of the songs across?


The production level has taken a step up. We’ve got James Hein in who is a wizard. He’s our tour manager helping us out with stuff. The actual performance and stage presence will be much more appealing and aesthetic to people, but I think, especially for the kind of band we are, all we need is a little bit of music and the fans there. We don’t need anything special to take people’s attention – I will just stand in front of you all and sing to you and you can sing back if you want. Without sounding cheesy it’s kind of magical – we don’t need anything. I can just turn up with an acoustic and I think people will still appreciate it and still listen and take in what I’m trying to tell people.


It feels surreal that gigs are going ahead again!


It is strange, we played a good few gigs throughout lockdown and then we did a socially distanced gig. Even though it was amazing to get back into it, it still doesn’t feel real, but I feel like when we get on our own tour and back to doing what we love we’ll all kind of start to change back. I feel like everybody, not just us, has kind of gained a new personality almost because of this lockdown. You don’t want to put yourself out there or expect anything in case it gets knocked back, but once we get to a good place I think we will start to become who we are again. I think it’s affected us all more than people realise.


What does the future hold for the band and where do you see yourself in 10 years' time?


Hopefully, I’ll have bought my mum a house and I just hope I’m happy, that’s all. I just hope I’m happy within myself and in a better place. I hope the people who love our music are in a better place and I hope they’re happy. I just want us all to be happy and experience the life we were supposed to live – kind of get back to normal and enjoy things, experience things and not shy away from them.


Amrit Virdi 

 @_amritvirdi @thevinylwriter 

Image: How Beautiful Life Can Be Album Artwork



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