Le Loup came through town on Monday to perform a set at the hi-dive. Jared and myself were able to catch up with Sam, the lead singer, and sit down for a pretty great interview. Read it below.
KRCX: Listening to the older album and then listening to the newer album, you can hear a more melancholy sound in the older album. The newer album is less depressing. Did the motivation for the more upbeat sound of the new album come from working with more people?
Sam: Absolutely, that’s pretty much exactly it. The first album was very reactive to my surroundings at that point. I was at a point where I didn’t really have my bearings I had just moved to D.C. and I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I’ve done music for a long time as a compulsive thing, so it was natural for me to make music to cope with everything that was going on, that uncertainty. It came out as kind of a darker undertaking. It was a way to both deal with what was going on around me and a way to filter things in a certain lens to make it more palatable. This newest album was purely done out of the joy of making music. It was done with a live band and so obviously a collaborative effort instead of a solo fare. We were trying to convey that sense of music as spiritual celebratory and holistic. As something that can heal and augment what’s goin on around you. And we did make a conscious effort to make it lighter.
KRCX: With that being said, was it harder to write songs for the latest album working more as a team?
Sam: No it was harder to write songs because I wasn’t so depressed. No, initially I was afraid it might be just because when you’re doing something by yourself there’s no filter. It goes straight from your head to recording. And I was constrained in the first album by my lack of technical expertise. It wasn’t an exact transition but it was a close enough process. And when you invite more people to share in that, there’s gonna be a certain dilution of your ideas and themes and sounds you hear in your head. So yeah, initially I was worried that it would be harder to get across the emotions I wanted to get across. And it was to a certain extent, but not in a bad way. Once we really started buckling down and working on the album, (but we had already been touring as a live band for a year and a half so we were already used to each others musical sensibilities and comfortable with that) it was a series of happy accidents and surprises. It didn’t sound like what I thought it would sound like, but that was a really great thing rather than a bad thing. And I think had I done it by myself, it would’ve sounded a lot like the first album. Which I like a lot, but I didn’t want to do another one. If your not trying to push yourself further and change your sound a little bit, you’re not really being creative.
KRCX: Who did the album art?
Sam: Christian. He added some electronic stuff. And he’s been my friend since high school. He’s a really good designer.
KRCX: You guys are touring the US right now? Where has been your favorite place to play so far?
Sam: I don’t really have a cut and dry answer for that just because it depends so much on the ambiance of the crowd. There are certain venues that are a either little nicer or seedier in appearance. But it really depends on the sound you get on stage and the audience reaction. This tour, thus far, Philadelphia was really fun, New York was really fun. Our first show that wasn’t officially on the tour was in Princeton, NJ at a kind of frat house and that was a lot of fun. It was a party atmosphere and it was really informal. I tend to really like the shows with people just throwing their hearts into it. It’s been a really fun tour, everywhere has been really nice.
KRCX: Originally from Baltimore?
Sam: Christian and I are from Portland Oregon. I moved to DC shortly after college and formed the band there. And then I moved to Baltimore shortly thereafter and I dragged Christian there. And we lived there for only two and half years. And then Christian moved back to Portland and I moved to Seattle.
KRCX: Le Loup, the wolf, how’d you get the name?
Sam: It was kind of a joke. It was around the time when a bunch of wolf bands popping up. And our old band was thinking of names. Le Loup would be a play on the wolf and even more pretentious. And I liked it for its aesthetic value. I don’t speak any French, but the word itself is soft and open. There’s something very pleasing about it. Since then I’ve wondered if I should’ve picked a better name but ya know.
KRCX: Are there any themes on “family” that really dominate the album?
Sam: Yeah sure. We tried not to be too overt with it. And a lot of people have taken it the album title to mean that the album is all about family. And I think that’s a little too literal a translation. Obviously there are a certain songs about the literal family. But we used family as a broader term to mean anybody or anyplace that has strongly influenced you or put you in a certain context or people that have seen you in a certain light. But later on that context has completely shifted. Family can be the places you’ve lived or the experiences that have shaped you. So it’s much broader than the dictionary definition. Throughout album there are a lot of allusions to places we’ve lived or specific themes that have kind of stuck in my mind over longer periods of time. I’m kind of preoccupied with the natural world as awkward as that can be sometimes. That kind of flips throughout. So more a sense of belonging or finding a place more than anything to specific. Being around friends and celebrating that.
KRCX: When you guys perform live do you guys prefer to play the new album over the older one?
Sam: We’re pretty focused on the new album right now. You know, over the course of a few years, musical tastes change and we cant help that. Also partly out of necessity too, we shifted more to the new stuff because we lost a few band members and had to retool the sound for that and we were more accustomed to playing the new things as a 5 piece rather than a 6 or 7 piece band. But beyond that, there was a point when we were touring last time that we became kind tired of playing the old songs not because I thought they were bad, but because the live translation of them was so straightforward and rockish. And that might be good for a first time listener but when you’re playing them every night for two months you searching for something further. With the new ones there was a bit more wiggle room to twist them and make them a bit stranger. And I think we’re probably not as open ended as we wanna be but we’re getting there.
KRCX: Would you cite any particular bands as influences?
Sam: I dunno, there’s not a band out there that’s not influenced by somebody. It’s just a matter of degree. We tried to keep our overt influences as far removed from the album making process as possible. A lot of people have compared us to the Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear trifecta. It’s a little frustrating to me. I do honestly love those bands and im not afraid to say so, its great music. But I don’t see any parallel or at least as overtly as we’ve been painted to draw from them. Someone said a few of the songs sounded like Fleet Foxes Morning Songs. We were listening to a lot of stuff, but it was a bit more complicated than that. But in terms of what we wanted to draw into the album, we were listening to choral arrangements, West African polyrhythms for those jangly guitar lines that interlock with each other. The beats of that music is stuff we drew on. We were listening to some Argentinean folk music. I dunno, it was all sorts of shit. It sounds pretentious in my ears to spout that off but we listen to all sorts of music. Throughout that we tried to forge our own sound and whether or not people hear that is up to them. I listen to it and I hear us.