Nine Songs: LUMP
There’s a certain musical magic to be found when artists collaborate.
The results aren’t always golden - have a listen to Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s ‘Ebony and Ivory’ - but when artists find a natural chemistry together, the songs they write complement and enhance one another and create something brilliantly new in the process.
Such joy can be heard in Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay's work together as LUMP. Their spirit of collaboration is writ large throughout their eponymously titled record, where Marling adds words and vocals to Lindsay’s music and is literally spelt out on the final song, “LUMP is a Product (credits)”, which starts with the lyric “LUMP is a product of Mike Lindsay and Laura Marling.” There’s also the mysterious LUMP himself in the mix, the figurative embodiment of their work and the albums’ cover star who they’ve described as “Bagpuss but mixed with a yeti."
Before we talk about their favourite collaborations by other artists, I ask what makes a great collaboration in the first place. Lindsay thinks it’s when things become greater than the sum of its parts. “When its two sides, or more than two sides, that come together and create something each participant wouldn’t perhaps have done by themselves. That’s when it becomes exciting and I think that’s what happened with the LUMP project.” Marling laughs and adds “That’s excellent Mike! That’s a lot better than what I was going to say!”
In keeping with the nature of collaboration they split their choices down the middle, although they deliberate over a song that didn’t make the cut, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s psychedelic opus “Some Velvet Morning.” Lindsay and Marling’s choices - from Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot to Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue - show that meetings of musical minds have always been a golden part of music and can work in any genre, from jazz, dance, Bossa nova to pop music. LUMP are the only artists to add a yeti to the mix though, which is further proof that in the world of collaboration, uniqueness is everything.
Laura: “The record they did together, Gentlewoman, Ruby Man was very good and actually it’s probably the easiest equivalent to LUMP in some ways. I thought it was a brilliant use of her timeless, weird ‘60s’/‘70s vibe and his production style."
Mike: “I hadn’t actually heard it and what’s been nice about doing this is the opportunity to listen to things; you can explore a little bit. I know both artists but I hadn’t heard their collaboration and I really loved it when Laura sent it through. I don’t always sit down and listen to records when they come out, it sometimes takes a nudge or two here or there for me to notice what’s going on in the world."
Laura: “I only discover things when people tell me that something’s great. I can’t remember who put me onto it, but I listened to the whole album and I thought it was really good, their ‘Grease’ cover is really good too. 'Govindam' is like yoga music or something, this esoteric music, and she sings it brilliantly. She’s got that strange Bollywood tone to her voice and I thought it was a clever choice.”
Mike: “I’ve only heard of Jon Hassell recently. When a friend of mine Geoff Dolman, who runs Static Caravan records, first heard the LUMP record two years ago, he said ‘Oh, it’s got a real Jon Hassell feel’, so I checked him out and he’s amazing. He’s this avant-garde trumpet, experimental noise man and I thought it was fantastic. Then I found this collaboration with the other ambient genius, Brian Eno.
“It’s not just about this song, it’s about the whole record really. It’s all sort of one piece, which is like the LUMP record. It has these fantastic textures - bubbling, breathy organic moments mixed with all sorts of ambient synths and things - it’s pretty special.”
Laura: “Is that the one on Dead Oceans, the album they gave us?”
Mike: “That was Brian Eno and Tom from Three Trapped Tigers. It’s interesting that you pointed that out though, because that’s a similar collaboration to this, but with a very different aesthetic, this is from 1980. Like I said earlier, when someone suggests something you delve into things a little bit, so have a little search for it, it’s good!”
Laura: “This was my choice; my choices are all of the obvious ones! This is one of the greatest and weirdest musical collaborations of all time, I love the sincerity of it. It’s the same with ‘Some Velvet Morning’, the Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood stuff, its the performance, the real, sincere performance of them both is so brilliant."
Mike: “I was going to put ‘Some Velvet Morning’ in here, but you choose ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, so I left it off."
Laura: “We could have both of them?”
Mike: “We can’t have them both! The beautiful Brigitte, good choice."
Laura: “I don’t know whether it’s lost in translation or if it’s heightened because of the French accent, but it’s got a caricatureness to it because it’s such an Americana story told in a French accent, sung by someone who’s not a singer. I don’t think Brigitte Bardot was particularly known for her singing, so it’s got that kind of wooden, charming Nico-ness to it, which I think is a happy accident."
Mike: “In terms of what they both bring to it, Serge has the badass attitude so I guess he’s the Clyde, but there’d be no Clyde without Bonnie would there? Brigitte clearly brings that sparkle of naughty magic that Clyde needs to get all the cash!”
Laura: “Isn’t this incredible? It’s beautiful, it’s from that school of ‘70s Brazilian music, when Bossa nova and Brazilian music became funky and weird; it’s part of that gang. She’s got this angelic voice and he’s got this gnarly, forty years of smoking voice and it’s sweet, it’s such a sweet contrast.”
Mike: “I didn’t know this one, but it fits the mood of my kitchen in a very good way! I had it on for quite a long time when I was making some food - not that that means anything - but sometimes I like to listen to music like that. Let’s pretend it’s a bohemian kitchen, I can’t see the sea but I’ve got an old wooden table and a record player, so that’ll do it.”
Laura: “It’s from the early 70s’ and I do a lot of excavating of that era; I really like the period between ‘69 and ‘72. It’s one of those songs that’s sort of a curiosity, because certainly the rest of Antônio Carlos Jobim’s stuff is not so fun and Elis Regina was like a chanteur, she was a Brazilian icon.”
Laura: “This was mine as well. It’s beautiful, it’s just a great piece of music."
Mike: “I didn’t know it that much before either, but it takes you on a beautiful journey doesn’t it? There’s a really good documentary on John Coltrane I’ve been watching on Netflix recently that’s worth checking out, he was a spiritual beast of a man. Duke Ellington and John Coltrane are from two different generations and they bring something to each other, from the future and the past."
Laura: “The whole record that ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ is on is accessible jazz I guess. That’s an awful term, I’m sure I’ll be cast out of any jazz purist’s gang! It has this song quality rather than a predominantly musical quality, with a lyric-less thing. Chilly Gonzales is the king of that now, but with ‘In a Sentimental Mood’, they imply a mood.”
Mike: “I discovered this when I walked into a pub in London a few years ago with my girlfriend and this song was playing. She was so obsessed with it she demanded that the DJ tell her what the song was, then we found out that it was Robert Fripp doing the eBow guitar part and I figured that’s good enough for a collaboration for me. We found the vinyl of it and “Hammond Song” is the only song on the record that I really like actually.
“I heard a really great story about one of the sisters leaving the band to go and live with her boyfriend and then Robert Fripp comes in with this ridiculous guitar. The rest of it is quite an acoustic sounding song and then it’s this electric guitar, eBow kind of thing. I don’t think Robert Fripp plays on any of the other songs on the record, it’s more of a ‘featuring’ than a collaboration, but what he brings to it is so unexpected and that’s the collaboration aspect of it. It’s great and it’s cool and that’s what I like about it.”
“Until his recent album Love is Magic - which he produced with Benge from Wrangler - I’ve never heard John Grant do anything so sassy and so sort of dirty disco funky. The squelch of the whole thing is my kind of sound, the surprise aspects of some of the rhythms and the time signatures, especially on this track, it’s just fun.
“I think it influenced John a lot too. I know he’s been into dance music for a long time - especially Cabaret Voltaire - and Steven Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire is in Wrangler. It’s a wonderful case of someone following someone they really admire musically and trying to work with them, which I’ve done a little bit with Laura Marling and we did a record called LUMP! It’s nice to know that other people do it too.”
Laura: “It’s funny to think about what you like about music. I don’t often think about it, which is a terrible thing to say, but you’re in the moment. Collaborations are worth a pause for thought, because as Mike said, they do create something that are more than the sum of their parts.”
Mike: “Well, check out Creep Show, because it’s badass.”
Mike: “This is a personal one for me, because I used to live in Iceland and this was one of my favourite shows when I was there. It’s just a bass guitar and a saxophone on the whole album, The Box Tree. Skúli is the bass guitarist and Óskar is the saxophonist, they just kind of dance around each other for one side of the record and then you flip it over and it keeps on dancing.
“It has an overblown, very soft saxophone, which is really human and there’s this almost classical style, finger-picked bass, I think it’s a six-string bass guitar. It’s lovely, it’s just beautiful and it’s my favourite record in the house.”
Mike: “I threw this one in, I don’t know if you know it or not Laura?”
Laura: “I remember it, I haven’t really listened to it since it came out, but I remember thinking it was an amazing clash of two worlds and a very smart move on both of their parts.”
Mike: “My ten year old self used to have posters of Kylie Minogue on my wall, I’m a secret fan of early Kylie. This was the turning point for her, when suddenly her whole persona of a sweet pop star kind of disappeared. It was amazing she was singing with Nick Cave and that’s definitely a sign of the greater than the sum of its best parts scenario - Nick Cave hadn’t worked with someone like that before, from that side of the pop world and she hadn’t gone over to the dark side. It’s a great song, this is about collaborations and ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ is a good one.
“When you think about ‘What collaborations are out there?’ then this song needs to be on here. You wonder how these artists started working together and why they wanted to work together, what the backstory is and how that affected the music. That’s the other thing about collaborations, it’s a unity of minds and people as much as it is musical exploration and that can somehow bring a story that didn’t exist before.”
Laura: “There’s a lot of men and women collaborations on here. Especially with the ones where you hear two voices - the Elis Regina and Antônio Carlos Jobim one is such a beautiful contrast - you don’t hear that very often. It doesn’t have to be men and women, there’s something theatrical about collaborations, something that’s more like a play. The Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot song certainly has that and it offers a different dynamic, which I guess LUMP doesn’t, because it’s Mike’s sound and my voice, but in some ways they’re in communication with each other."
Mike: “Until we do it live and then we interpret it through dance?”
Laura: “Well, you do, yes!”