Interview: Luckless

Last year saw Ivy Rossiter of Luckless move to the small, but vibrant creative community of Lyttelton, where she recorded her excellent new album Vindication BluesOriginally formed in 2010 as a solo projectLuckless draws inspiration from 90’s heroes like PJ Harvey, Mark Lanegan and Sparklehorse, and modern acts like The Kills and Warpaint. 

Swiftly gathering praise for Vindication Blues, Ivy took time out to answer a few questions about the album.

Hey Ivy, did I see somewhere you moved to Lyttelton?
Yes indeed, I moved to Lyttelton in the middle of last year, interspersed with some pretty steady touring on both sides of the move.  We recorded at the Sitting Room Studio in Lyttelton with Ben Edwards as well, so that was convenient for me, if not for our Auckland-based drummer Logan.

What drew you to working there?
I had made some good friends in the music community in Lyttelton through 2012, and their work ethic and motivation made a big impression on me.  There was a real focus on the getting-your-hands-dirty work of being a musician - writing songs, booking gigs, touring - and less focus on the creation (distraction) of hype or buzz around the work.  It felt like a place that would help me to focus on what is important, rather than letting myself be bothered with the business of being a social butterfly.  And also, at the time (although not so much now) it was cheaper to live down here than in Auckland.

Can you tell me a bit about working there and the recording process of Vindication Blues?
We roped in Rob Collins, previously from Dictaphone Blues, who had moved down to Christchurch just a little while after I had, to play bass. It seems very straightforward in retrospect - we all pretty much sat in a room together with the charts and the demos, had a listen, and then started to learn and play them as a band.  There were a few shaky moments where we were confronted with our own limitations, like any recording session, but ultimately it was a very relaxed and enjoyable time.  Ben Edwards was a wonderful presence and really helped guide and steer the process; he has a perfect instinct for when a take will be improved by more whiskey. 

We took the album up to the Lab to mix with Olly Harmer, where some piano and synths were added by Matthias Jordan and Jol Mulholland respectively, and we ended up with a completely finished record by Christmas last year.  It was a pretty excellent present to ourselves.

What did you learn from making your debut album, and what did you want to do differently on this album to that one?
With the first album, we grabbed small pieces of time where we could find them to try and piece together the album.  This made the process less draining on the pocket, but much more draining on the soul.  By the time the record was released, we were over 18 months past the date we started recording it; while we were still excited to be putting out a record, a lot of the spontaneity and joy of the process had slowly drained away.

That meant that with Vindication Blues we took a much more smash-and-grab approach - we knuckled down in the studio for three weeks straight, did another week of mixing, and came out of the process with something that still felt fresh and exciting to us.  I think that’s had a great impact on the sound of the record - we were able to grab at instant moments of inspiration and left very little time for second-guessing or fretting.  The songs were already arranged and produced to some extent, so it wasn’t an entirely spontaneous exercise, but watching the tracks take shape over weeks rather than months was a really rewarding experience.

Where did you initially want to take things musically on Vindication Blues, and how did that evolve once you started recording/mixing?
I wanted to commit completely to the sounds and textures that I was drawn towards; more-so than on the first record, where I was just learning and feeling my way through the process of making an album.  I think that often diverse and eclectic records can be challenging to the listener, but some of my favourite artists - PJ Harvey, Sparklehorse, Neko Case - really move all over the show within their own records, both sonically and emotionally.  I had a collection of songs that certainly did just that, and rather than ironing out the differences, I think we took the songs and committed to the core idea of each wholeheartedly.

We played a lot more of the record live, which while being a challenge, I really enjoyed, as it felt like the songs had room to breathe and develop.  We added lots of layers to the original tracks as well, which gave much more dimension and scope to the record

What were you listening to around the time you made this record? And were there any sorts of things that kinda snuck in via osmosis?
Sparklehorse and PJ Harvey are constants in my life, through everything, always.  I was also listening to Low, Mark Lanegan, Wilco… And newer artists to me like St Vincent, Anna Calvi, Savages…  Most of the decisions we made were pretty intentional, there are a few ‘homages’ on the record - I’d prefer to say that than that we blatantly ripped off the musicians that we love, but I guess it’s very much left to the eye (or ear) of the beholder now.

What do you think this record is about, deep down?
Underneath the more immediate layers and meanings behind each song, I feel like this album is about dislocation and alienation. From people, from landscapes, from relationships and from the familiar…

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