THE LA'S INTERVIEW
FIRST PUBLISHED: Phaze One, 1988
“The La’s are me favourite band,” insists Chris Sharrock. “Bit’s of all my favourite bands are in there.”
Despite his youthful appearance, Sharrock is no novice to the business, having spent seven years as one-third of the Icicle Works – notching up a few minor chart hits and establishing a personal reputation as an exceptional young drummer. But, such is the power of the La’s catalogue of self-penned pop songs, that not only was Chris tempted to join, but he has even toyed with the idea of giving up the drums. “I’m starting to learn the guitar now,” he says with a boyish smile. “All these good songs make me want to play guitar.”
Bass player John Power is wrapped up in the same kind of La-mania: “The La’s were my first band,” he says. “The minute this got together, I just knew what was going to happen. It took me just two minutes to decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life!”
The La’s, if you hadn’t already tracked down either of their two remarkable Go-Disks recordings, are a band heavily – and deservedly – tipped to go on to big-time success. Their second single, the wonderful ‘There She Goes’, blew a breath of melodic fresh air through the cobwebs of Radio One, challenging the myth that acoustic guitars and off-beat harmonies have no place in the Eighties chartland fantasy. Creeping into the outer regions of the hit parade, the La’s have established a forward camp to build from – but can they really see themselves creating an Acid-free zone at the top end of the charts?
Lee Mavers – singer, songwriter and Chief La – doesn’t recognize a problem: “I see the sea of acid house drying up,” he argues. “It strikes me that a lot of people around don’t know about real songs any more. Songs are all there is really. At the end of the day, that’s all you’ve got to take home with you – a song. You sing when you’re happy, you sing when you’re sad… the song is the vehicle for an emotion! Songs are everything.”
Maybe the fact that the members of this band all speak in a Liverpool drawl helps to explain their love of songs. With broad scouse accents and scally haircuts, you get the feeling that these boys would feel uncomfortable on a ferry across the Mersey, let alone in the heart of London. Is the pull of Liverpool that strong?
“I never used to think so,” says Lee. “But back home I’m more creative than when I’m down here.”
John: “Liverpool’s a very magnetic place; you don’t know how good it is until you go away, and then you just wanna go back… it’s got something about it, I don’t know what it is. If I’m there all the time, it does my head in, but the minute I go away I realise what I’m missing.”
The mere mention of Liverpool will always conjour up images of a town with it’s own special musical folklore. Do the La’s see themselves following in an illustrious Liverpool tradition? Indeed, do the La’s think that Liverpool has an illustrious musical tradition?
Chris Sharrocck, having contributed a little bit to Liverpool’s latterday rock heritage himself, believes so. “Even if it was just The Beatles and nobody else ever came from there, it would still be a special town, but the fact that you’ve got all these other bands knocking around… it’s strange, it must be something to do with the water.”
“I don’t think there’s been any tradition,” disagrees Lee. “I only think there was The Beatles basically. All the rest, like Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes and Frankie Goes To Hollywood – where are they now, how many songs of theirs do you sing? Know what I mean. You’ve forgotten about them. There’s only The Beatles that stand up, so there’s no tradition there.”
This may be a band unable to arrive on a concensus view of their hometown heritage, but they all agree that the age of modern technology is not suited to the La’s. Their two singles may both have been cracking songs – and, to these ears, tremendous records – but The La’s have yet to capture the sound that they say is typically ‘them’.
“We’ve already got a sound,” insists Lee emphatically, “but we’re trying to get it to come back through the studio speakers. Modern studios and us don’t mix – chalk and cheese. They’re all geared up for synthesizers and sequencers and all that, which is all very well, but we’re not.”
John: “We’ve been through all the main studios in the industry that you can name, all the big ones, and we’ve had all the producers that are supposed to be good, and it hasn’t sounded too good.”
The objection, it would seem, is that modern studios fail dismally to capture the ‘reality’ of what’s being played. The La’s don’t see the world through rose tinted glasses, and they definitely don’t want to hear their sound through a filter of technological effects. What they want, as Lee puts it, is “the hard nosed reality”.
In total rejection of all the technology that has so far failed to come up with the goods, The La’s are going back to the four-track studio where they recorded their original raw demos. “There are only four of us,” insists Lee, “why do you need 28 tracks.”
“We want to get back to the basics,” continues John, “like early Motown and rhythm & blues recordings”.
The Liverpool studio, where they hope to recapture this spirit, is engineered by someone they describe as an “old BBC sound fella”. “He just speaks in sound,” explains John. “There’s no crap – when he hears a snare, he knows that sounds like a snare! It’s just basic recording, because today’s studios just can’t do it for us, we can’t get our sound… we can cut it – it’s not the playing that we can’t get down on tape, it’s the sound.”
Chris: "The thing with producers is that they spend such a long time getting a sound – like days on a snare drum! That’s the thing about going to this other studio, all he’s going to do is turn it up until it sounds like a snare drum. When I think of the amount of money we’ve spent on getting a sound for the drums – I’m not into doing any of that at all, that’s just not what it’s about.”
The La’s sound is indeed something a little bit special, but it would seem that no one but the band recognises exactly what it should be.
“It’s close to the Bo Diddley textured kind of sound,” says Lee. “It’s a stomp, you know what I mean. Very accoustic, very warm and deep.”
John takes the description a step further. “It’s got Chuck’s rhythm, The Who’s energy, the dirty Stones, the melodies of The Beatles…”
“But,” chips in Chris, “it’s all very ‘La’s’!”
“People should see the La’s and make their own ideas up,” concludes John.
I think he might have a point.
© Words copyright Chris Hunt 2007