While the rest of the country binged Tiger King or tended to their sourdough starters, Laura Marling spent the first few months of lockdown building a 7ft-tall yeti puppet out of chicken wire and tulle. “He’s in the basement right now, which sounds quite creepy,” she chuckles over Zoom, at home in north-east London.
The hirsute effigy in question is, of course, LUMP: the eponymous mascot of Laura’s collaborative project with Mike Lindsay of Tuung. Three years on from the psychedelic, synth-driven soundscapes of their self-titled debut, the duo are set to release the follow-up, ‘Animal’, sometime in 2021 - though it’s been on the shelf, awaiting release for the best part of a year already.
“Laura started coming here in the spring of 2019,” Mike explains, speaking from his home studio in Margate. “I’d been working on ideas and sketches for a couple of months already, and then between May and November, she would visit every two weeks. I would present her with a piece of music and she would sit on the sofa and react to it in real time, which was always impressive to watch.”
The working arrangement remained much the same as their debut, with Mike acting as lead composer and musical director, while Laura provided vocal melodies and lyrics. Today, Laura beams as she recalls the division of labour. “It’s a huge joy being used in that mercenary way in music, using my voice as another instrument. And to just dive into something in a completely different world and let that take over your psyche, and have someone else direct it to where it needs to go.”
“I invest a lot in LUMP as an escape.”
— Laura Marling
At the time of recording, writing was also underway for her seventh studio album ‘Song For Our Daughter’, meaning she had to hone the art of switching fluidly between musical worlds. “Occasionally there were times where it was obvious to us both that I was using the wrong voice; that it was the wrong songwriter speaking,” she smiles. “I was trying to push Laura Marling down to put all my energies into LUMP and she would occasionally fight her way back up again. But ultimately LUMP won.
“I invest a lot in LUMP as an escape from - what has become - quite a weird prison being an artist under my own name,” she continues. “Because however inadvertently, you do get stuck in a persona. LUMP is the complete opposite of that persona, so it’s personally a big relief for me.”
With Mike, Laura gets to explore her playful side, while Lindsay gets to scale back his usual operations working as part of a seven-piece band, focusing instead on fleshing out the offbeat musical universe of a fictional character. It’s a world that’s definitely got weirder with Album Two. Citing the live dates around the first record as highly influential, alongside the synth sounds of Suzanne Ciani, the textural rhythms of John Hassell and Brian Eno, and Laura’s current studies in psychoanalysis, Mike is billing ‘Animal’ as “a slightly bombastic, twisted synth ride into an inverted universe which we haven’t quite understood yet, with big drums and slightly more proggy moments.”
COVID-permitting, the plan is to take the album on the road, as well as the giant LUMP puppet - if Laura can figure out how to make him move onstage. “He’s attached to a marionette bracket, but to work it would require a 10ft ceiling and some scaffolding,” she explains, while Mike chuckles in the background. “So, basically, watch this space.”
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