Lola Colt provide such a rich deep vein of sound and vision to tap into that it’s almost too tempting to overdose the adjectives and comparisons. It’s Psych-edged, carefully honed and sculpted from a widely-sourced spectrum, before being transmuted into seductive new forms. So while you’ll find evidence that their inspirations are pulled from a diverse repertoire: Morricone Spagetti-Western soundtracks; the combo-organ sound of The Doors Manzarek; the anthemic power of Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick and the down-and-dirty ‘billy guitars of The Cramps to name but a few… this is a knowing nod, as opposed to any puny derivative.
On first listen, you are immediately drawn to their multi-faceted moodscapes, but it’s seeing them live that really hooks you in. To a backdrop of insistent looping drum, bass and guitar, vocalist/guitarist Gun Overbye gives a powerful, hypnotic performance, near-matched by the crouched and screaming feedback of Matt Loft‘s lead guitar. Kitty Austen, applying deft and dancing skills to keyboards and percussion, is close behind. It’s a compelling front-line trinity, given the freedom to unleash via the highly-skilled back-rhythms provided by Sinah, Martin P Scott and James Hurst.
“I think we’re the type of band that people will either love or hate, which we’re fine with,” opines Matt. “It would upset us more if people were indifferent. We really haven’t consciously set out to appeal to a certain audience. Instead we’ve concentrated on developing both the music and the performance the way we envision it. The people who like what we’re doing, tend to be the sort of people will also actively seek it out.”
We are sitting with Matt and Gun in a noisy bar upstairs from tonight’s gig venue in Liverpool, early on in their current headline tour.
“It’s great to be back here headlining,” says Gun. “We played at the Liverpool International Psych Festival twice, two years running, so it’s really a special place for us to return to.”
I could see Lola Colt’s compelling blend of expansive sound really going well over in the States, home to the original Psychedelic scene. Is it somewhere you’d particularly like to tour?
“We’d love to,” confirms Matt. “We’ve actually been invited to do the Austin Psych Festival, which would be a dream to do. However, its the logistics of flying the six of us – plus all the equipment – over there. Financially that’s just not possible now. The UK gigs have to fit around work commitments, which can be difficult. We have to go home just as we’re really getting into the spirit of being out on the road together. We’re looking forward to the European dates and the chance to stay out touring. We have a lot of fun over there.”
With fixed stare and lips issuing evocative strings of word-song, Gun possesses the stage with a fiery presence. Off-stage she is much quieter. Friendly, but slightly withdrawn, perhaps saving her energy for the performance later. Matt is more talkative, showing an analytical, almost directorial side to their shared imaginative vision. We discuss developments since the release of their debut album `Away From the Water’. Superbly and sympathetically produced by Bad Seeds/Grinderman supremo Jim Sclavunos it was received with across-the-board enthusiasm by the music press.
“We were very happy to get so many good reviews, but now it’s like we are nervously waiting for a bad one!” laughs Gun. “It’s brought more interest and opportunities maybe, but for us, its about now. Especially playing live again after being locked away in the studio for so long. We’ve really missed it.”
“The live show is very important,” Matt elaborates. “I’d say it actually comes first for us, above recording, but it affects how we approach working in the studio too. There are so many possibilities to experiment with in there, but I think it’s important to find the right balance between how a piece of music will come across on record and how it will work live.”
“For us, both are about capturing and expressing a feeling… creating a mood or emotion,” adds Gun. “it takes away the separation between the audience and us, so there’s an interaction. That’s what excites us.”
“Ideally we would direct them, write and produce them,” says Matt, with emphasis and without hesitation. “We are very careful about who we work with because it’s important to maintain creative control and not be pushed in other directions from outside forces.” Gun: “We’ve definitely always had a vision for what we’ve wanted to do from the start, especially for the live performances. We are always looking to how we can expand the visual concept. ”
I’m fascinated they have such a fully-formed maturity for a relatively young band.
Matt: “I was a session musician for a long time, and there was an earlier incarnation of the band called Fur. We are also lucky to have people in our lives who know the business and give us good advice. We always had a strong concept for what we wanted to do which is to create something different, where performance is as important as studio output, if not more so. It took a really long time to find all the right people who we could fulfil that vision with. That’s been the most difficult part so far.”
I can’t help but gush a little about how impressed I am by Matt’s searing guitar work.
“I’ve taught him well, I think,” grins Gun good-humouredly. “He’s getting quite good now, but umm, perhaps there’s still some room for improvement.”
(In my defence, she and James are also great guitarists, but live their masterly-chords are somewhat overshadowed by both Gun’s hypnotic countenance and Mr Loft’s feverishly twisted fretwork).
As an outsider to the Psych scene, it fascinates me how this new wave of underground Psychedelia seems to be flourishing worldwide. Lola Colt are seen as part-and-parcel of this wave, yet to my ears and eyes that’s only a facet of what they represent. Does the label fit or pigeon-hole you?
“The whole Psych scene has really developed over time. It’s not purely psychedelic music, it’s really evolved and developed its own identity,” Matt explains. “People seem to get really obsessed about genres! I suppose from a marketing perspective and to writers it’s probably important, but not so much for us. We just have a tendency to gravitate towards working with the people who `get us’, which many of the people involved in the Psych scene do.”
There appears to be many differing flavours and textures intermingling in the Lola Colt melting pot. Morricone gets picked up on regularly, as do the 60s mainstays, but there’s also a flavour of the guitar-led post-punk era of Banshees, Cramps and Birthday Party. How did you become influenced by such a wide range of music, most of which was made before you were even born?
“I think you take in everything that’s around you,” says Matt. “We were influenced by the sounds around us as we grew up, even the music our parents were listening to, like The Shadows. When you hear, see or read something that really inspires or moves you, I think it’s a natural progression to follow the trail, find out who those artists took inspiration from. We are primarily inspired by music that is imaginative and mood-driven.”
On a lighter note… Gun, I was reading that you were a synchronised Ice-Skating Champion in Denmark. Can we expect to see a `Lola Colt On Ice’ show at some point?!
“Ha, well, you never know!” She giggles. “It’s strange actually, I’ve been doing some yoga and find some of the advance poses easier to do than some of the advanced practitioners. We are always looking at adding new dimensions visually as well as musically. So yeah, you never know.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Matt feigns alarm, before grinning, then continues “but we are always looking for extra dimensions visually. We haven’t been able to do it out on tour so far, because of the cost and limited space, but in London we’ve been able to add extra elements like additional drummers. We also work with some great light-show designers. Having a bigger stage and less restrictions gives us the chance to recreate the more expansive sound of the album with all the additional instrumentation.
“On the other hand having restrictions, with smaller stages and less room to manoeuvre, has been a pretty interesting experience too. We’ve found stripping the sound right back gives us a rawer edge, allows us to see what happens when some elements are discarded, so it allows you to explore the textures of the sound in a different way.”
“I live in North London, but Gun lives over in the East End and we’re over there a lot because of the studio. There’s a lot of creativity going on over there which is great. It does attract a lot of like-minded people.”
As I remember, Camden used to be London’s hot-spot for alternative culture and creativity.
“It’s mostly moved over now. It’s like a group of creative types will move to an area because it’s affordable. Because of that, over time it becomes very popular, the property prices jump, then the rents follow. As a result the scene grows stale, the creative people move away and something new springs up somewhere else. “It’s ever-changing and evolving, but I think that’s a good thing. You hear people moaning that things have changed and getting nostalgic for a place or time, but I like that it stays moving. It keeps everything fresh and challenging. I don’t actually like to look back. I’m far more excited by the uncertainty of the future.”
Lola Colt are dancing on the edge of two happening scenes and watching them play, I can’t help but imagine how their future might unfurl. A band of seeming contradiction, drawing strongly from previous counter-cultures and differing mediums to create a vision uniquely their own. It’s music as performance art, intelligent and expressionistic. With such huge presence and potential there’s a good possibility they’ll go far… either way I envision it being a very interesting trip.
Lola Colt’s new single `Heartbreaker’ is out now on Black Tigress Records. Find it via their official website: www.lolacolt.com or read the review here. Catch them Live now
7 Where The Wild Things Are Festival, Holland
8 Utrecht, Ekko
10 Hamburg, Prinzenbar
11 Berlin, Kantine Am Berghain
12 Munich, Orange House
13 Zurich, Kinski
16 Cologne, Studio 672
17 Brussels, Witloof Bar
18 Paris, Point Ephemere