Luna Webster has been quietly prolific this year despite only playing a handful of shows (writes Andy Wood). There have been two E.P.’s and a single this year under her own name and a collaborative release as part of Old Barber, a more electronic project.
The latest E.P. Songs For Public Transport has just sneaked out and contains four gorgeous, understated gems on it. The instrumentation is sparser than on the debut E.P., the wonderful Hollywood May Be Dead But Let’s Dance On The Gravestones but the voice is brought to the forefront with lovely, multi-tracked vocals and harmonies that bring forward the melodies and words in each song. There is a melancholy feel to Luna’s songs but also wit and wisdom as well. ‘Dumb’ is perhaps my favourite song with its starkly beautiful chorus with the vocals soaring but each song is pretty special. ‘Nothing On Earth’ is also rather fine, with it’s gentle keyboards picking out the melody. It has a gently euphoric feel before drifting off with some echoing, spacey harmonica. There is a real earthiness to these songs, where the debut E.P. was all faded glamour Songs For Public Transport is somehow eerier and autumnal.
Old Barber, a duo in which Luna works with Taylor Stewart is, on the surface, a different kind of proposition with a bigger sound and focus on electronics but, having listened to their debut E.P. UFO Phil quite a few times it begins to feel as much a part of Luna’s work as her solo records.
The five tracks are still stark and spartan and spookily beautiful, albeit it more percussive. There’s a sense of exploration, and of the unsaid spaces and things unspoken in the music which is there on the solo material as well. The five songs work well as a collaboration rather than just a guest vocalist on a producer’s record which is so often the case in such projects.
As Old Barber, Luna and Taylor have produced something very special which works wonderfully. ‘Liquor and Lipstick’ has a pretty dark, pop feel with a really lovely melody tempered by dub like spaces and a hint of something dark and despairing. I look forward to hearing more from both Old Barber and Luna Webster in the coming months.
Luna took time to answer a bunch of questions for Manic Pop Thrills. A bit like the recordings which have came out quicker than I can occasionally keep up with sometimes Luna was answering questions before I’d got to them. Anyway here we go.
Hello, how are things and what have you been up to recently?
“Hi! Things are pretty good, thanks! The last few months of my life have been a bit of an adventure really. I left school and had a four month summer basically, in which time I did a Luna Webster EP and my band’s debut EP too, and a music video too. I’m at college now, studying journalism, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been pretty busy!”
You’ve just released a new E.P. Songs For Public Transport. Can you tell us a little bit about it please?
“Well, I wrote this EP in September/October time. Since starting college I’ve been travelling via bus for an hour each way, three times a week, and all I do is sit and listen to music.
“I started to have “ideal” bus songs, which is really weird, but it got me thinking about music being written for very specific times and places. I wanted to write something that I would enjoy listening to on a dull commute. It’s really pretentious when you think about it. Writing songs for someone to sit and stare out of a bus window to.
“But I travel a lot and I think when you’re travelling and listening to music, your mind wanders more than at any other time, so I decided to write four very different, lyric-focused songs that are perfect for staring at scenery and letting your mind wander.”
On the new E.P. your voice is very much to the forefront, with harmonies and multi-tracking while the backing is very minimal. Was this deliberate?
“Yeah! As important as my instruments are to my music, I wanted this EP to be focused on lyrics and on voice. I’ve been listening to a lot of Jenny Hval, and I like how everything works around her voice, rather than her just accompanying instruments. I set out to make this kind of hazy, day dreamy EP, and I associate voices with that idea of drifting off and just hearing your own thoughts and nothing else.”
What is your favourite mode of transport? Do you prefer to look out of the window and dream or to read on long journeys?
“Trains, undoubtedly! However, I’m not made of money so I rarely get to use them. Maybe that’s what’s so appealing about them, the fact I can’t really afford to take them, the grass is always greener on the other side, of course. I’m definitely a dreamer. And not just because I feel like I might spew when I read on public transport. Glamorous image, I know.”
You’ve been pretty prolific on the recording front, releasing another E.P. and single as opposed to performing live. Any particular reason for this?
“I get stupidly nervous when I play live. I don’t know what it is. I’m quite a confident person, I can talk to anyone, it’s just when it comes to gigging my stomach does somersaults.
“I always end up enjoying performing too, I just don’t see myself as a performer, I just play guitar and sing. I feel like if I had to sit through one of my own gigs I’d be like, wow, nice tunes, but can’t she dance or something. I sway sometimes.
“My band Old Barber are going to do live gigs and I WILL dance then. Promise. I just remembered when my music video got screened at the GFT and they wrote in the programme, “good tune, awkward dancing though”. I feel that aptly describes my live performances.”
You’ve been collaborating as part of a duo, Old Barber. The music is more electronic than your solo stuff although there are continuities. How did Old Barber come about?
“Old Barber is me and a really good friend of mine, Taylor Stewart, who also produces under the name Jinzo. He’s in a band called Herbert Powell too (who are fantastic and I’ve seen them live more times than I have any other band, not biased I swear) and I actually did guest vocals on one of their experimental album demos. We met through that, then he asked me to feature on one of his Jinzo albums, Acid Bank (which is one of my favourites of the year, again, not biased), and it worked really well. So from there we formed Old Barber!”
Are there plans afoot for either a solo album or an Old Barber album?
“There are indeed! We are in the process of writing our full length Old Barber album and I am very excited about that. Writing experimental electronic pop is the most fun in the world. We’re channeling the most ridiculous things, like Kylie, Death Grips, Abba, Talking Heads, just absolutely insanely dumb things that shouldn’t work together but somehow do. I can’t wait.
“As for me, I don’t really know. I don’t really plan very much for me, I’m happy doing my wee EPs for now. I would like to do an album at some point. But I think I work best in small doses.”
You made a video for the Old Barber song, ‘Liquor and Lipstick’. How did you approach the process and how did you feel about the medium?
“Our friend Matthew who is incredibly cool and has directed stuff before, including this brilliant music video for a band called A Kestrel’s Manoeuvres In The Park, and he approached us and said, do you want to come to Cumbernauld and make a music video in a day. And we thought why not?
“It was quite mental, it was the first time I’d actually met Taylor in person the day we filmed it, up to then we’d just been exchanging songs via facebook messenger. We didn’t have any plan at all, it was a case of me putting some glitter on my face and trusting Matthew’s judgement when he said my dancing looked ok. It’s probably easy to tell I am NOT a dancer.
“I loved doing it though, and releasing that totally boosted Old Barber’s popularity, we had people like Rab Florence and Bailey Jay complimenting us and retweeting it, it was mental.”
Given that you only began performing in 2011 you have been quietly prolific and released some really great songs. How do you feel the experience has been, writing, performing and recording so much in such a short period?
“I love music, I love writing and recording and playing, whatever. I usually don’t think about it on a time scale as such, it’s such an everyday part of life now, just picking up a guitar or sitting at the keyboard, seeing what happens. I’ve enjoyed it mostly.
“There have been times when I felt very hopeless and I think every musician gets that, but I have such a brilliant support group online, it’s like every time I release an EP or single there’s people there saying lovely things and making it worth it. I started writing music for myself, I basically still do.”
Do you have a game plan or are you content to see what happens next?
“I’m happy just to float around and see what happens. That’s what I’ve done so far, and frankly doing that has introduced me to some of the most wonderful important people in my life, my best friends, my boyfriend, I wouldn’t know them if I hadn’t done music. So I’ll go where the wind takes me.”
Any artists or performers who you would like to play with or collaborate with in the future?
“I will be collaborating with Passion Pusher at some point in the future. James is a really good friend of mine and we’ve been meaning to do something together for a while. He sings really deep and I’m the opposite, it’ll be fun to see how it turns out.
“I’d love to collab with Jenny Hval, if only so she could teach me how to make such gorgeous music. I’ve always dreamt of working with Warpaint too. And if we delve even further into ridiculousness, Nick Cave would be my absolute dream collaborative partner. Or Prince!”
What do the coming months hold for you?
“I’m doing my first gig since April at Beat Generator, supporting Tuff Love who are incredibly cool. We’ll be releasing the Old Barber album. I’ll be doing some guest vocals for Passion Pusher. Probably other things too, but things I am entirely unaware of at this moment in time.”
What question would you most like to be asked? And what would your answer be?
“Probably “do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” and I would answer “yes”.”
The Old Barber E.P. is available here.
Andy’s favourite track from the new E.P.:
and here’s a look at the Liquor and Lipstick video: