Early this year (February to be exact) an album produced by 3 friends from East London was released via Instra:mental’s bass/electronica label NonPlus+ Records. The friends made up the trio that are known as LOL, and the album in question was titled ‘Me Me’.
Though it may have escaped many a tastemaker’s ears, its fusion of sultry, heartfelt r&b vocals with charged dubstep and electronica made for intriguing listening. The result was an album that saw no creative boundaries and dared to challenge the conventions of the London bass music scene, earning itself a place amongst its most forward thinking members. We caught up with the man behind the production, former drum & bass producer James ‘Mistabishi’ Pullen to talk through the connection with NonPlus+, Gregorian monks and Fleetwood Mac’s influence on his work…
You’re housed amid releases by Actress, Boddika and Skream on Instra:mental’s NonPlus+ label. How did NonPlus+ pick up on you guys?
They’d heard some music that I’d done in the past and I sent them what I thought was an anonymous link and they took a chance on it. It was a link on MySpace actually, probably the last week that everyone was still using it. The link got through and they asked me what was happening with it and I said “nothing”. It was supposed to come out on Hospital records [as Mistabishi] and it was made with one of their interns. I’d released some drum & bass records through them, but they didn’t want to release everything I did. We said “hey listen we’ve made this with one of your interns, reckon you could put it out?” to which they replied “No, we’re too niche, we only want to release drum & bass records”. NonPlus+ were the most interested from the people we sent it out to and it showed them to be a label that wanted to do something different.
The record seems spawned from traits of self-obsession, social anxiety, drug abuse and failed relationships – were those from personal experiences or did you draw upon the commonalities of modern day youth?
Everyone has those worries but they’re kind of ignored. Especially no one wants to have a dance about them. If you’re gonna sit down and make a dance record it’s all about “in the club, with the shortys and the girls and the DJ, DJ play that sound”, not “I’m running out of money. I can’t sleep. Am I in the right job?” – it’s not the best dance music in the world.
Was the adoption of vocals purely to help get these ideas across?
This is the other side of the record. You can do a lot with just sounds. People have been doing it for centuries just through resonance. The Gregorian Monks used to sing in harmonies. Not only did they note down the harmonies but they noted down the emotion that they felt when they were singing them. So they registered it if they felt euphoria. So you can do a lot with sound, but then you can do a lot with poetry – you can do the exact same thing. We have always married both.
Emotions aside, what music was influential in creating your album?
In the early 90s they used to be magazine that came with a double CD compilation called Volume. On it would be absolutely anything and everything, like ambient to bands. It was a CD where everything was from the same kind of place, New York-y type people, but it all sounded really different. Cocteau Twins, Stereolab, bit of Sepultura for the guitars… everything.
There is a diverse range of sounds on the album, are you able to give us some insight into your production technique?
All those noises that those guys developed, I found out how to do them. There was a magazine called Sound Unsound and they used to have features about how the band recorded the album, say how Bob Dylan recorded ‘Desire’, the mics that he used, the kind of room it was made in… All the information about how the bands record is out there, some keep it closer to their chest than others so you have to go out and find it. It involved tracking down old bits of kit and just doing what they did. I bought all the instruments that made my favourite records. The API2500 mix bus compressor was my favourite. When you plug into it, it’s how you get the sound of a Fleetwood Mac record. It’s like the hipstamatic app for the iPhone, you take a picture of something, it automatically makes it looks like it’s from the 70s
I note the name came after the album was made. Is the name a swipe at bands more concerned with their exterior than the music they’re making?
It was the first thing that came into my head. You can’t Google ‘LOL’. People decide the name of their band before they make any music. So many decisions are made before they sit down and make a piece of music. “Is the snare as loud as their snare? No. Well we must turn it up even though it makes no sense for the record”. So we just called it, ‘LOL’.
5 of the track names follow a submissive and instructive convention (Squeeze Me, Pinch Me, Dare Me etc). Were these songs written as a group and do they focus around a particular concept? Why this particular naming?
They were all written in the same week. They were written very quickly so that’s why that set of songs came out like that. They probably sound a bit different from the rest of the album.
‘Hello Hell’ is a 12 minute finale at the darker, more experimental end of the spectrum of your sound. What was the thinking behind the track and it’s placing on the album? Is it a conclusion?
It was a conclusion, yeah. We struggled to see this record going anywhere as Maggie works on an oil rig. She’s out there most of the year so touring is out of the question. The record as a whole is religiously anti-commercial and never made for a happy ending. So when it came to the last track we did we thought ‘let’s just make something really fucking horrible, let’s send this album to Hell’. The last sound on the track is of Maggie speaking random stuff into one ear, in the other ear there’s the sound of fire and then in stereo there’s the sound of people screaming.
Finally – there’s a particular answer phone message at the end… Dare I ask?
Ah jesus! That’s our housemate Jenny! It was on her Blackberry for 5 days. Its an amazing message. She slept with a neighbour and her girlfriend found out and left her that message. In terms of the conclusion – don’t cheat.
LOL’s debut album ‘Me Me’ is out now on NonPlus+
Interview: Luke Ferrar.