Interview Sky Larkin: ‘We Always Wanted To Make Something Powerful’

On tour with DIY this week, Sky Larkin are going from strength to strength.

Three years after the release of their second album ‘Kaleide’, Leeds’ Sky Larkin are returning with their third full-length ‘Motto’. It’s a slightly different Sky Larkin that emerges into the sunlight, with an innate confidence in their new songs and a renewed sense of identity. Often a break can be a spark for regeneration, and in their case, their absence allowed the core members of singer and guitarist Katie Harkin and drummer Nestor Matthews, to explore a different way of working that expanded their sound without losing the beautiful essence of Sky Larkin.

The album was mostly written on the road as Katie toured the world playing with Wild Beasts. Playing keyboards with the band helped reaffirm her desire to make the next Sky Larkin album a pure guitar record. “It just felt right,” she explains. “I always felt that there was a remit that our band has been trying to fulfil to make guitar music that is arresting, that isn’t aggressive and is beautiful without being permissive. I feel like that is a sensation that extends to our live shows. We always wanted to make something powerful that doesn’t sound oppressive or aggressive but melodic and involving.”

The experience of touring with Wild Beasts was an important one in allowing Katie to gain a fresh perspective on her song writing and the songs that make up ‘Motto’. It was a challenge to work on two concurrent projects, but one that the singer feels was hugely beneficial. “It kind of made me realise how strong I was. I feel like there’s strength in the songs. Basically, the second album came out 18 months to the day after the first. I really hadn’t stopped since we started the band and there had been no time for reflection up until that point. With Wild Beasts I was lucky enough that I didn’t have to do the driving and I didn’t have to carry the guitar cases like the life I was accustomed to. It meant I could be the tourist on tour. The boys would do press and I had time that I could use to write. It feels like a real reflective strength.”

That strength is evident in lead single ‘Loom’, a track that is quintessentially Sky Larkin but has a deceptively deeper quality. “I like the power of songs,” Katie pronounces. “I’ve reflected that they can be evocative without being self evident. The power of the three-minute pop song is that it can be evocative. You can hear a song and you might not have even heard the words properly or you might even be singing the wrong words but it still makes you feel something. It’s this that’s so satisfying about writing songs.”

Perhaps the most important factor in Sky Larkin’s musical evolution, or “rebirth” as Katie calls it, was the introduction of two new members to write and record the album, which was once again produced in Seattle with long-time collaborator John Goodmanson. Sam Pryor and Nile Marr on bass and guitar respectively helped to create ‘Motto’’s denser and more dynamic sound, as Nestor explains. “There were two whole new spheres of influence involved. We weren’t really chained to what we used to sound like. Having the second guitar meant that Katie wasn’t chained to hers. It meant that we could spread the sound out and get deeper and more involved in it.” “Playing with two new people was really exciting,” he later adds. “It was a really intense experience. I learnt a lot about myself as a musician and about the band at the same time.”

The band are eager to get back on the road for September’s DIY-supported UK tour. “Of all the things that you can partner up with, this is exactly the sort of thing our band would want to do,” Katie explains. “You’re under the umbrella of the right kind of people.” Perhaps the most exciting thing for the band as Katie explains is the effect that these songs will have on their fans both old and, hopefully, new. “One of the most gratifying things for a musician is that you release this music and kind of forget that it has legs of its own. People will tell you stories about the significance that your songs have had on their lives. That’s going to be the most fun thing.”

Sky Larkin’s new album ‘Motto’ is out now via Wichita Recordings. Catch-up with Sky Larkin’s forthcoming dates on their DIY Presents… UK tour.

Read the full interview in the new edition of DIY Weekly, available from iTunes now.

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