Long Distance Calling are promising you one of the TRIPS of your life, the German sometime instrumental, sometime vocal led act upping the ante in a variety of ways with their fifth full length release. With a new singer on board and an ever broadening musical landscape to explore, Long Distance Calling haven't been afraid to stretch and expand their sound, yet somehow they always stay true to their roots. Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid stops LDC guitarist Flo in his tracks to delve deep into the inner working of his band and the creation of the quite wonderful TRIPS…
Long Distance Calling have never been a band to stay in a musical rut, however I'd suggest that with TRIPS you have possibly created your most diverse and eclectic collection of songs to date. Was this something you consciously planned out before beginning work on the album?
Thanks for your kind words. I think the same about TRIPS. When we start to write the songs for a new album there is no masterplan how the album will sound. We just try to focus on the whole process of writing and try to explore new shores with every release. This time we took a bit more time to figure out what is good and special and what is not. I think this time we managed to include all of our musical influences and preferences better than ever before. We worked really hard to get to the point where everyone in the band was satisfied. Of course this gets harder with every new release because we don´t want to repeat ourselves and do the same thing over and over again and we always try to experiment with new sound and things we have never done before. As an artist it's really important to move forward, of course, without forgetting your past. Otherwise you will get bored. I think this is an album for open minded music lovers who like everything from 80s pop to stoner rock and Metal with an all over melancholic vibe in it. Every single song on the album is a little trip to another world where hopefully everyone can find something he likes. It has uptempo songs and very long and heavy/slow songs as well, with our trademarks hopefully still shining through.
I believe that the band completely changed the environment in which you wrote songs this time. Was that a major factor in the album's direction?
You are absolutely right!! When we started to write songs in our rehearsal room we somehow couldn't feel the right vibes you need to let your creativity flow, so we decided to rent a cabin in the woods for a week. There was nothing but snow and woods all around and there was nothing much to do except for writing songs and eating, haha. The turnout was really satisfying so we decided to do this a second time, in another cabin with similar surroundings. Beside that this was the first time we did a proper pre-production with a producer where we had the chance to work on our ideas in a studio atmosphere, which felt really good. He often said, "this is ok but I know you can be better and more interesting – so don´t be lazy and show me what you are able to do". We like to explore new shores. Our definition of progressive is not to be afraid to try something new and be open minded. Every LDC album sounds a bit different than the one before. This is a natural process when we write songs. We like the challenge of putting new elements and styles into our music and trying to make it sound like LDC.
Does the process ever produce songs that are considered not Long Distance Calling enough to fit the band's outlook?
Of course we do. We had some songs or some ideas which did not really fit into our world so we just didn't use them. When we write something we realise pretty fast if this is something with potential or not, or if it fits us or not. Of course sometimes we try to make something unusual fit but not always with success. If this happens we start all over again. If someone in the band is totally unhappy with an idea or we have the feeling that it might be a bit too strange we don´t do it.
I do sometimes wonder however, do you think the band having such a wide musical remit, incorporating rock, prog, post-rock, psychedelic, electronic, alt-rock and so on and so on; subsequently making it hard to pigeon hole the band, actually makes it more difficult for people to have the opportunity to hear your music in the first place? After all, the world is very keen to fit everything neatly into "boxes" these days and LDC don't really fit in any one box.
I know our music is not for people with short attention spans, it takes a few listens to get into it. But I do understand that people feel the need to put music into boxes or categories to know what they might like or not. Like I said before I think our music is for open minded people who are interested in exciting rock music and not particular styles in general. I often describe our style as atmospheric rock.
The band have, over the years, made a slow evolution from mainly instrumental, to now incorporating quite a lot of vocals and lyrics. When the band started out, did you think you'd always remain a mainly instrumental band?
When we started we were searching for a singer but couldn't find the right one, so being instrumental did not happen on purpose. We just decided to give it a try as an instrumental band, which worked surprisingly well but we were always open minded to working with a voice. We always said that if we find someone that fits, we will do songs with vocals or at least try to. That's why we had at least one song with vocals on every release just to try and see if we are able to do that.
However, you've parted ways with singer Marsen Fischer since your last album. How did that departure happen?
He wanted to focus on his family and private life. Sometimes it's hard to be in a touring band and be a family man at the same time and try to give 100% to each of them. So he decided to leave but not without doing all the keys and sound for TRIPS first.
Although you've now teamed up with vocalist Petter Carlsen, who does a wonderful job on TRIPS. How did he come to join the band?
We met Petter for the first time when we were touring with Anathema in 2010. He was the opening act and we fell in love with his voice immediately. Beside that he is a really nice guy and we got along very well. He offered to sing on one of our songs on our previous album The Flood Inside, so it felt natural for us to ask him if he was interested in doing some vocals for TRIPS as well. Luckily he agreed and we had a great time in the studio.
The album contains some wonderful instrumental tracks and yet the songs with lyrics are no less captivating. At what stage do you know whether a song needs vocals or not? Are they written initially with lyrics in mind, or as things come together do you realise vocals will add to the mix, or is it a case of finishing everything and then seeing where lyrics will work best on the album?
When we start to write a song we decide if it´s going to be instrumental or vocal song because instrumental songs need to be written in a different way. There is no voice so you have to fill the empty spaces with your instruments and keep the tension. When you know that there will be some vocals in a certain part you have to keep it cleaned up a bit to leave space for the voice.
Has it been Petter who has written the lyrics for the album, or is it a joint effort from within the band?
The basic concept for the lyrics has been written by Jan and me. However because Petter had to sing it we changed some words and lines to make it fit to the songs, so the final version is a product of Jan, Petter and me.
Lyrically and perhaps even musically the album seems to be one looking back on regrets and moments lost, while looking to still tap into a hope of what the future might bring. If I'm correct, where did that starting point come from and what are the thoughts and emotions behind the album?
There is a concept behind TRIPS. It's about travelling through time and space in your dreams. Based on this concept we wrote the lyrics about different situations happening while dreaming. There are different scenarios like dreaming about the future while regretting the past and feeling some kind of epiphany after waking up. Other scenarios are that in your dreams you are able to be what you like to be without boundaries or trying to make things right before it is too late. While writing songs for the album five people in our families passed away and a child was born. This influenced the lyrics a lot. With this concept there was some kind of guide for the stories to create. Of course the content has to fit to the music. I think an aggressive song needs lyrics that fit and so does a mellow song for example.
You mentioned before that for what is the first time, you've used an outside producer, Vincent Sorg. What was it that spurred you into taking such a bold, brave step this time?
We just wanted to try something new. Sometimes you need someone who is not part of the band as an observer who understands what you are trying to say. At first we were insecure if this is the right thing to do but after we met for the first time we knew that he was the right kind of guy. He is a guy who is not afraid to tell you if something is not good or if it's boring. He has talent to push you to new levels as an artist and musician. He has a special flair to learn pretty fast about the different personalities within a band and how to treat them to make it work. We often talk too much about our ideas and music so sometimes someone who tells you to shut up and just play is nice to have.
How big an impact do you think Vincent had on the music, band and album in the process of creating and recording TRIPS?
He is not easy to satisfy so we had to rehearse harder and be more creative than ever before. When someone came up with an idea he always wanted us to think about if it is really good enough. Sometimes you get really pissed at first but then you think about it and come up with something better or find a way to make it sound better.
With the results being so strong, do you think you'll be asking Vincent to be involved again?
We didn't really think about this yet. But since it was fun to work with him we are not averse to the ideas.
Having seen you on your last UK tour, I know Long Distance Calling are an excellent live band. Do you have much touring/live activity planned to help promote TRIPS?
We are going to tour Europe for two weeks starting one day before the album is released. In fall 2016 we are planning to do another tour through Europe which will be longer where will play countries and cities we haven't played on the first tour. And of course we'll be playing as many single shows as possible.
(Click here to read our reviews of TRIPS)