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Interview - Larkin Poe: "It's wonderful to be able to sing instinctively with someone"

By Chante Basma |

Sisters Rebecca (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Megan Lovell (lap-steel guitar, backing vocals) are back with their seventh album "Blood Harmony", a concentrate of blues, folk and rock that follows "Kindred Spirits", their cover album produced during the pandemic. For Qobuz, they talk about their evolution as artists, their method of composing and the pleasure of singing together as sisters.

Do you have a writing routine while you're on tour? Do you write and try stuff out, or do you just wait until you’re back home in the studio?

Rebecca Lovell : It's a bit of both. We tour so aggressively that I have to be very aware of protecting my voice. I don't speak too much. I don't drink on the road in between shows. I don't go out and party. I'll go to the bus and sleep or go to the hotel and sleep. Though I would like to write on the road, sometimes it's just not possible. But I have a songwriting notebook where I keep all my ideas religiously, so that whenever we are home, and I have some time, I can begin to puzzle through my ideas and create.
Megan Lovell : My feeling is, as a team, we like to write when there's a goal in mind. Specifically, sometimes when we've gotten off the road, we've used all of the experiences we've garnered over the past year to think about what we want the next record to be. We for sure did that with this record because we wanted it to sound much more like our live show and we had some definite ideas for what we wanted to write. So this time around, we did things a little bit differently, but I think it benefited us greatly because we spent more time on pre-production. We actually set aside a few weeks for us just to get together and play together, so we were much more involved with each other. Rather than each of us going off separately and working on something difficult, we made ourselves be together through some of the difficult ideas. Sometimes ideas come easily, and they just flow out. One day you could be like: ‘okay, I think I have this idea for a blues riff…’ Then the next day, you could hear the song and be like, "okay, well, this is a fully formed idea. Let's just follow it." But then sometimes you have to labour over a song, because every song has a different process.

Larkin Poe © Jason Stoltzfusv

You grew up surrounded by blues and country music. Is that in your blood, would you say?

Rebecca : Very much so. Our mother grew up singing harmony with her siblings - she has a beautiful voice. Even outside of the family record collection that was constantly spinning in our house, music was always the background and the foreground of our soundscape as children. We’d sit with our mom at the piano and learn how to sing: songs for the church, gospel songs, hymns... She'd be like ‘alright, you're gonna sit here and then you're gonna go up three notes and sing here’, teaching us how to sing a chord. Those are very fond memories. I think singing with one another from such a young age has really developed not only who we are as artists, and our vocal blend, but also how close we are as sisters. When you can sing instinctively with someone, it’s a very unique and wonderful thing to share.
Megan : You never forget it. Even now, if we get together and sing with our older sisters, it happens immediately. It's in your blood.

When you grew into teenagers, how did you expand and discover new music? Was it natural? Did you spend much time on it?

Rebecca : Absolutely. I think our cover series was a really great vehicle for us to go and learn songs and interpret those songs in our own unique way. We have over 100 cover songs online at this point: 100 songs that we've learned, 100 times that we've learned how to take a song that we love and respect and make it sound like Larkin Poe. So I think that was a really great tool of exploration for us over the years.

Since the beginning of your career, how picky have you been when working in a studio as independent artists? The industry has evolved a lot in that time, with streaming etc. How do you manage all of that?

Rebecca : I feel like we are a bit of a dichotomy on that front. We began our career by making four EPs, the first year that we were a band in 2010. I'm very proud of the work that we did, but they were recorded in such low quality that we decided not to reprint those releases because they don’t have the quality that we feel is appropriate, and that we want to give to our fans. So we have that angle, but it's been a learning curve. I'm also the kind of person who listens to records on my phone or on my laptop speakers, so I'm not a huge dick about it, either. You know what I mean? Sometimes I annoy myself by being a little bit ‘a foot in each world’.
Megan : The idea is to provide people with the best possible quality.

Like you said, you’ve covered a lot of songs on social media. Which of those songs best defines Larkin Poe??

Megan : Just because, in a weird way, it feels a little bit like ours, I would say ‘Preachin’ Blues’ by Son House. We have huge respect for them. That song in particular was written nearly 100 years ago, but it's very catchy and very humorous. We took that song and allowed ourselves to bring it into our fold; to have respect, but also make it our own and rewrite it a little bit. That song has done so much for us, I mean, it was one of our first songs to go viral and we still play it in our shows today. Bob Seger also listened to that one. He found it on social media and invited us out to play with him. So it's just been really a really special one.
Rebecca : And also honourable mention to ‘Sleep Walk’ by Johnny & Santo (Farina). We always love sibling bands and I think there's a special connection there. As a sibling band, we're obsessed with other sibling bands, including Santo & Johnny.

You entered the industry as teenagers with your first band, the Lovell Sisters, in the early 2000s. Since then, a lot has changed: streaming, but also building a community of fans on the Internet, which you do very well with your videos. What is your take on that?

Rebecca : I think it's very easy for artists in this day and age to be very resentful of social media, and I don't think that's wholly inappropriate. As a general rule, I don’t think social media is very healthy, so there are moments when I feel very conflicted about being someone who creates content on social media. That being said, people aren't not going to use it. So when we create content to share with our fans, we're trying to create content that, firstly, is not hurtful; secondly, will hopefully engender some sort of human connection; and thirdly, will hopefully expand people's musical horizons. Kids that are beneath my sister and I in age have limited access to a wide range of musical genres. It's very refreshing when you see certain bands coming out like Greta Van Fleet who are really figuring out how to connect with younger generations and create awareness for this style of music, since it’s outside of pop, rap, dance, house or EDM. There's actually like, a very real human connection that you can have with an instrument, if you devote time to learning how to play your guitar, or your piano or writing your own songs. It helps you to grow and realise your own humanity. I think that drives a lot of the ways in which we connect with people on social media.
Megan : With social media and the internet, they’re tools - they aren’t inherently evil. It's about how you use them. I think using them to build a community is wonderful because it allows people with similar mindsets to connect, and human connection is what we all seek, after all. I love seeing our fans become friends with each other. It actually brings a tear to my eye. They go to the concerts together, they meet up in different cities - it's wonderful. I think that we're very lucky to have a fan base of very cool people. They’re people that I’d want to hang out with.

To finish, any guilty pleasures? ?

Rebecca : So many! Probably ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears. I know… but the production is great. Also Tony's Chocolate, the Amsterdam brand. Specifically, the purple one. Try it - it will change your life!
Megan : For me, a cream-filled donut is definitely a guilty pleasure. (laughs)
Rebecca : So we grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, with Krispy Kreme.

LISTEN TO "BLOOD HARMONY" BY LARKIN POE SUR QOBUZ

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