We’ve all been stuck inside for ages. Unless your one of our lovely key workers. What it has done is given us all time to listen to and appreciate music (that’s why you’re here, right?) and undoubtedly one of our favourite songs of the year, possible our absolute song of the year here at Backseat Mafia towers (I say that like I’m not sat in my kitchen and the ‘we’ is an editors whatsapp group where we bicker over where that extra menu should go and stuff like that) was John’s Gone – this classic, Kinks meets folk rock kind of tune that just melted our hearts.
With her album out tomorrow, we tracked Lavinia Blackwall down to speak of such things as (inevitably) lockdown, the record, where Muggington Lane End is and what she’s digging at the moment.
Hi Lavinia, thanks for talking to us. How are you coping with lockdown? Has it ruined any plans you had in place? Any positives?
I’m a Primary school teacher, as well as a musician, so I’m spending quite a bit of time trying to prepare lessons for my class, as well as going in to care for the children of key workers. There’s the daily exercise, going to the shops to get people’s shopping…It’s funny, I thought I’d have time to read books, paint, watch box sets, write another album… but I’m mega busy!!
I had a week long tour planned in early April that I had to postpone, along with a 6music session for Marc Riley. That was a real shame, as I had planned it months ago, but so many people are in the same boat.
On a positive note, as I’m self-releasing the album, Ive been able to start packing up all the preorders from home without any hitches. I’ve been doing some collaboration with other musicians remotely which has been fun. Hoping to get round to writing album no.2 before the lockdown lifts, here’s hoping!
We absolutely adored John’s Gone. Can you tell us a little about that?
Aww, thanks! It started as a little piano riff with me humming a melody over it, it felt slightly depressing. I began to think of someone who was hopelessly awkward and socially inept, what they looked like, what they got up to and started to build this character in my mind. Then we worked on it with the band and it started to have a Kinks kind of feel. It’s fun to play!
Is that an indication of what your albums like, in terms of sound? Can you tell us more about it?
The album was produced at The Barne Studio, a studio my partner Marco Rea built from an old barn from scratch about 20 years ago. There’s all sorts of lovely kit in it and Marco knows it inside out. Marco produced the album, as well as playing electric guitar on it and backing vocals. He’s great to work with as he totally understands what I’m aiming for and brings out the best in me. The album is a mix of dreamy psych folk and powerpop, with a sprinkling of prog for good measure! Some songs you can bop about to and others tug on the heart strings. The album is a journey best listened to in full.
And what or where is Muggleton Lane End?
Muggington lane end is a place not far from where I grew up in Derbyshire. The only significance of it really is that I used to pass the sign saying ‘Muggington Lane End’ as I drove to school in my mini each day. I always thought it would make a good album title and now I’ve finally made that daydream a reality!
What does it fee like now, it’s all recorded and waiting to go out, but its not out yet – is it exciting, frustrating, nervy?
It’s incredibly exciting! I’ve already sold a lot of the physical copies as pre-orders, it’s been going far better than I could have hoped for. I thought I’d offer limited edition hand made lino prints designed and made by myself as a special extra for preorders of the physical album. I thought I’d only have to make 100…. let’s just say that I massively underestimated and I now have a huge job on my hands! I’m delighted, but I can’t wait till I can get out again and perform the songs live, because that’s what it’s all about for me.
How do you write? Do the band have any imput on it? Is that different from the way Trembling Bells used to work?
It’s a bit different from the way Trembling Bells worked. I get to write the songs exactly as I want without compromise, which is an amazing feeling. The skeleton songs and chord progressions are there, Seb adds his drums – we’ve worked together before, he always knows what feel to go for, he’s an amazingly expressive and intuitive drummer, I just have to wink at him and he gets it. Jim on the bass also has a great feel for where things should go – but also is really happy to be directed. Marco is really supportive and has a tasteful producer’s intuition. He’s great at getting me to put more into things – do you think you could do another harmony over that? What about a third flute part? Maybe you could add another section? We spoke years ago about making this album, it was just about it being the right time. We tend to work with the songs for a bit as a band and inevitibly the songs start to evolve. Everyone adds their own expression to the songs to make them what they are. I work with Marco on his guitar solos, but he tends to come up with the goods without much input from me, I just tend to say – ‘ooh, that bit’s really good!’ or ‘I love that – have you tried this melody?’ etc. He seems to pull stuff off effortlessly. It’s a fun process, it starts with the basic song and then evolves. It’s been great to work with guest musicians like Laura J Martin, she wrote and performed some amazing flute parts for some of the tracks, I sent her the tracks and she went for it! Was a joy to listen back to what she had added!
Do you have a favourite track from the record, or a favourite couple, and why? Or are they like children to you and you couldn’t possibly separate them?
I love all of the songs (without wanting to sound like an arrogant ****hole) You know that way when you think, ‘oh, I’ll skip this one’… well I don’t. I’m proud of them all. They all capture different moods and soundscapes, they’re all related to different periods in time.
Tell us a story about one of the tracks?
The Way That She Laughed is a bit of a tribute to my Granny and also through her to my Mother. I’ve lost both of them, my mum over 10 years ago and my granny early 2018… it’s about returning to her empty house and all that was left were things, but those things were so full of memories. I owe so much of who I am and what I have now to both of those amazing, strong women. I will never forget their fierce love.
What music are you currently listening to / enjoying? Any new tips for us?
I tend to listen to a lot of music from a byegone era! But I do tune in to stuff on the radio. I like BC Camplight, I enjoy Weyes Blood, I’m a fan of pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs – I love Sabbath, the orielles sound pretty cool. In Glasgow there are a lot of artists releasing great new stuff, Molly Linen, Helicon, Tomorrow Syndicate, Lynnie Carson. Alex from The Bells has a great new album out – Andromeda, very different from what Im doing but really great. Also has been great contributing bits and bobs to Laura J Martin’s new album – that’s sounding lush!
Difficult one to answer but what are your plans for the rest of the year, assuming lockdown ends in the not too distant future?
Well, I’m assuming I’ll be back in school teaching Primary four at some point… who knows how or when. Aside from that I’ll be trying to reschedule the tour and festival dates we were going to play. I plan to write and record another album by Christmas. I intend to keep up the daily exercise and at some point, I’ll get into the meditation and book reading I had always planned to do… oh, and tile the bathroom.