INTERVIEW: MURRALIN LANE: TEXTURA (2010)
On pictures, Swedish city Eskilstuna, graced by red brick houses, charming stretches of green and a picturesque waterfront, comes across as a tranquil oasis of peace and bliss. Judging by Murraline Lane's debut album "Our House is on the Wall", the silence at its surface however seems to be nothing but a portal to David-Lynch-like underworld, in which regrets, painful memories and the demons of the past rear their ugly head. Without any doubt, the outward calm of the album is deceptive. If these seven tracks between waking and sleeping are pop, they are certainly closer to Nick Cave than to Britney Spears. If they are dreams, they constitute veritable fever visions: While David Wenngren sprays nervously flickering clouds of psychedelic vapour from a sonic syringe filled up with hallucinogens, the vocals of his partner Ylva Wiklund reach the ears of the listener as though coming from the end of a tunnel, where light and wamth hold no sway. It can come as no surprise, then, that they were recorded in the wee hours of the morning, when the remains of the day slowly faded into the rays of the approaching sun. For Wenngren, everything about this project marked a radical change from the projects he has become best known for: His solo-effort Library Tapes as well as Le Lendemain, a collaboration with Danny Norbury. While these focus on the brittle beauty of his piano motives, Murralin Lane is consciously more disturbing and raw, dissecting the carefully construed poetry of Library Tapes-albums such as the upcoming ”Like green grass against a blue sky” . On the other hand, the mysterious moods of "Our House is on the Wall" never amount to fully-fledged depressions: As Wenngren points out in our interview, it was written in a bubble of love, not negativity.
In which way do you feel living in Eskilstuna has shaped the music of Library Tapes and Murralin Lane?
It must be impossible not to have the surroundings influence your work. I think this goes with everything you do and especially when working with something creative like music. I’ve only been living in Eskilstuna for the last one and a half years or so. I’m not sure exactly how this move have shaped the sound of my music, but I think the songs recorded after meeting Ylva are a bit more happy perhaps. Love is bound to make songs a bit brighter …As for Murralin Lane, we’ve only been living in Eskilstuna with this project, so I can’t really compare the sound with another surrounding than this one. But I suppose our experiences together influence us with regards to the project, both when it comes to me making the music and for Ylva writing the lyrics and song melodies. Ylva has been living here for a very long time, so I guess the surroundings of Eskilstuna have a deeper impact on her work than one mine.
Murralin Lane happened, when you were looking for female vocals for one of your tracks. Does this mean you were trying to look for alternatives to your piano-dominated set-up and looking for new approaches?
Well, I wasn’t actually actively looking for vocals. I started Murralin Lane with Ylva a few months before we began working on Our House is on the Wall. When we started out with these songs we didn’t really plan to make an album, it was just something fun to do together. We were just playing the piano together and doing some field recordings, much in the way I work with Library Tapes. Then, one night, I made the music for ”She was climbing” without having any idea what to do with it. A few days earlier we had listened to an album - I can’t recall what it was, but it had some whispery cute vocals, perhaps it was some Japanese Pop, and Ylva said something like: ”I could sing like that too”. And after hearing Ylva singing in a not so very serious way for a pretty long time I didn’t really believe her at first - not many would have, I’m sure… But with this in mind I thought it could be fun to see if she actually could pull it off. I’d like to think she did. After finishing the third song or so we started to realize we were on to something good.
What does the project-name, Murralin Lane, refer to?
Like most band names I guess, it’s just a stupid story … Our friend’s parents have a dog called Merlin. He’s this small, black, fuzzy, overly-excited-about-everything awesome animal. We like to call him Murralin in these annoying high pitch voices that makes him even more excited. One day we were googling Murralin and this street in Australia came up. Murralin Lane … We thought it sounded pretty great and we still like it today, luckily enough. Looks like a pretty sweet street to live on as well actually.
What were the Murralin Lane sessions like?
As you know now, the first song started just by chance pretty much. After that, I tried more to create music that would be suitable for Ylva’s voice which was a lot of fun. I haven’t worked on anything like that before so it was all new and exciting. After making a song I handed it over to Ylva. She likes to write, so she was taking care of pretty much all the lyrics and the melodies for the songs as well.
Large parts of “Our House is on the Wall” were recorded in the early morning. How did this come about?
We stayed up for recordings. As the album were recorded in our living room at home we needed it to be quite outside, so this was the only way to actually record without being interrupted all the time.
In which way did recording early benefit the recordings, would you say?
I’m not sure. It could have sounded better recording during the day if that would have been possible. We’ll never know. I always feel more creative at night and do most of my best work during late evenings and nights. For Ylva, it might be a bit of the opposite.
The early morning is also a time of the day when the mind works differently and one can see some issues with more clarity. Do you feel this was reflected thematically in both the music and the lyrics in a way?
All the music was recorded during night while Ylva’s lyrics were written during daytime mostly. I’m not sure recording during the night works for everyone, but for me it’s absolutely the best. In the morning, I love listening to the recordings made during the night, and see if it was as good as I thought it was when making them. Sometimes they’re not, but when they are, that's a pretty exciting thing.
Does it occasionally feel as though the music were written by an entirely different person?
Well, kind of. In a way it's almost like when you have this dream and you wake up and you're not really sure if it's something that has really happened or not. I've noticed that if I'm editing material on my laptop really early in the morning some very interesting things can come out of that.
How did the interaction between you and Ylva compare to your work with Danny Norbury as Le Lendemain in musical terms?
I’ve never recorded in person with Danny. I’ve just sent him files to work on, trusting him he will do something amazing with it - and he's always delivered. I’ve never had anything sent from him that I didn’t love. It’s also easier for me to make a song, when the idea is to send it to Danny for him to add strings, for example, then when I make a song for Ylva to sing on. I got the piano-thing down pretty good I think, but making songs as a basis for vocals … It’s new to me. Ylva and I are just two people having pretty much no clue about what we’re doing. I think that’s the reason to why Murralin Lane doesn’t really sound like anyone else. Even if we wanted to do copy someone we love, we wouldn’t have any idea how to pull it off.
How important was it that you could actually work on the tracks in person and in the same room rather than merely online and through file exchanges?
The interaction is really enjoyable. It’s been a long time since I worked with someone in person on songs. It’s great to be able to talk about ideas and experiment with stuff together. I really love to send files to people I admire as well, though. It’s very exciting to get something finished back and have no clue of what it will sound like. It’s all good but very different.
Was it particularly relevant that the entire album, including vocals, was recorded in a very private and intimate space - your own home - rather than an anonymous studio?
Yeah, for sure. Especially for Ylva I’d think. Stepping into a studio without any experience of singing in front of people like that. I think that would have been really scary. I remember when me and Per Jardsell, who was in Library Tapes before, recorded our first album together. Going to the studio and trying all these weird things we wanted to do and have this producer we didn’t know that well. Terrifying!
Could you imagine doing it now?
I think, going back to a studio now wouldn't be as terrifying as it was back then for me. Then again, I think I would still feel a bit stupid trying some of the things I would most likely want to do. I think this goes with most of the musicians working in a studio. If you don't have a producer that you feel safe with, the end result will never be as good as it could have been.
The press release speaks about a focus on “process intensive creation”. Could you elaborate on that a bit?
It is a very experimental album for me. There’s plenty of instruments and sounds in there that sounds nowhere near as they did when I started working on them. I tried to test lots of things I haven’t been exploring that much before. I wanted to create something that didn’t just sound like Library Tapes with vocals. For example, we did the vocals for the songs ”Our house is on the wall” and the last part of ”When I told you” through a mobile phone. Ylva recorded most of her ideas on the phone in the first place, simply so she wouldn’t forget them and sometimes she played them to me of the phone. Those two recordings sounded really good I think, and we decided to use them just as they were. On the other hand, I don’t think too much in the terms lo-fi or hi-fi, as long as I like the sounds I will use them in my recordings. Lo-fi is not something I set out to make, it’s just something that happens … Very often …
How do you, in general, balance the desire for spontaneity with an ideal of realising your ideas as professionally and precisely as possible?
As long as you can go back to recordings and see that maybe a particular idea was better than the actual result sometimes, there's no limit to spontaneity, exploring and trying new things. To me, as long as I'm happy with the end result it doesn't matter how the sounds were conceived.
At just over half an hour, Our House is on the Wall is remarkably focused. When, in this case, did you decide that you had enough material for a full-length?
We made these seven songs and decided to send them around to labels. We weren’t really sure if we would keep the album as it was or to add one more song to it. I think putting it in order for the demo and listening to it from start to finish a few times made us realize that it had this really good flow and we didn’t want to mess too much with that and forcing another song in somewhere. I’ve always had a soft spot for the 30-35 minute albums. Perhaps I have a short attention span, I’m not sure.
What can you tell us about the new Library Tapes album, which is also due these days?
It’s called ”Like green grass against a blue sky” and it will be released on October 18th on my own label Auetic. It was recorded over the last two years or so. It’s the longest I’ve been working on an album by far. I’ve been making a lot of songs for it, and in the end I narrowed it down to nine tracks clocking in at around 30 minutes. Once again, I do like them short …
By Tobias Fischer