Though hype seems easy to come by in this digital age of YouTube ‘shares’ and Facebook ‘likes,’ UK act Echo Lake have unwittingly caused a legitimate stir. Within one week of posting tracks to Myspace, label No Pain In Pop saw to their first EP, Young Silence (2011), while promoters began ringing them up to come out and play. An unsuspecting Thom Hill (guitars) and Linda Jarvis (vocals), unprepared for such attention, swiftly rallied three of their closest friends — Steve, Peter and Kier — and as a five-piece began working their way to where they are now: weeks away from releasing debut LP, Wild Peace.
While their reviews are riddled with ‘shoegaze’, ‘ethereal’ and ‘dreamlike’, and simplified (though complimentary) comparisons to My Bloody Valentine, Hill proclaims their noise is far from an uninspired copy of the eyes-cast-downward bands of yore. Certainly given their current track record, continued great music, some well-placed luck and lots of homemade tees will soon make it clear that this fuzzy-sounding quintet are none other than the Echo Lake.
Hi Thom, it’s April from Talk Rock To Me.
Uh…Oh right, the interview! I’ve been in all day making t-shirts and completely forgot you were calling!
So a day in the life of a indie rocker consists of toiling away making band t-shirts, eh?
(laughs) Yeah; I’ve tried to be really active today and make t-shirts and little videos for songs on the album…I’ve been lost inside my own little world trying to get all this done.
Would you have ever guessed Echo Lake would become this much work?
Not really, no (laughs). It was formed without any real intention of doing it on such an intensive level. I was just writing instrumental songs on my own, and in my head it was just going to be a minimalist solo project. I met Linda at college and when I found out she could sing and she found out I was writing music, she started coming around to my house and sang to a couple of my songs. We put what we did online and that’s when it started getting lots of attention. Before we knew it, we were being asked to play gigs and release a record…and so it just all happened from there — and we officially formed.
Ryan from The Cribs recently told me that the music industry “isn’t exactly the most fun industry to operate in…” How do you find it thus far?
Um…I’ve never met anyone bad or anything like that so far. Everyone who has approached us have been really, really good people and that includes promoters and journalists (laughs). We’ve only met one guy who was an asshole…and he was a promoter actually…but yeah. That was a long time ago now.
There’s always one in every bunch.
Yeah, that’s true. He was a real nightmare. But it was over a year ago now and we moved on. It is such hard work and there’s not a lot of money’s in it…but it’s all worth it, really.
What has the reception to Echo Lake been like from other musicians? Have any of your ‘colleagues’ reached out with words of praise or encouragement?
Honestly, pretty much every band we’ve come across and formed relationships with in London have been really awesome. Everyone’s been really supportive of us…especially No Pain in Pop. They reached out to us first and have been there for us since the start.
So, the words “shoegaze band” almost always pop up in front of your name. We’re you aware that your music might get lumped in under that label?
Uh…yeah; I’d be lying if I said no. At first we thought what we were doing could be described as ambient pop or light noise pop but no…everyone just says shoegaze. Hopefully when people hear the album though, they hear that there’s more to it. It’s not a regurgitation of that genre — there’s loads of different artists and genres that we listen to that are all influences on this album.
Does the label bother you?
I don’t really mind the label – I understand why people need to do it – but I would more describe what we do as dream pop. Ultimately, Linda and I want to make pop music. We’re already working on a new record and it’s already taking on a different sound from what we’ve done to date. So long as we’re not labeled shoegaze for the rest of our career…it’s important for us to progress past this.
With time, labels tend to fade and you simply become Echo Lake.
That’s the dream, isn’t it? At one point down the line people will be saying, ‘Have you heard this band? They sound like Echo Lake.’
(laughs) Exactly! So tell me about the new album, Wild Peace.
We’ve been working on it for a while — and mixing it for a long time. It was the same sort of procedure as the Young Silence EP: recorded at home with minimal equipment and basically whatever I could get my hands on. It feels like a mix tape, really, because there are older songs like Even the Blind and then there’s stuff that I only would’ve finished writing maybe like two months ago.
Are there particular reasons why you’ve been working on it for so long?
We felt like it was better to not rush it, you know what I mean? Especially if there’s a lot of hype, you can’t just jump in to exploit that and then make a mistake. We’re just really happy it’s done because it’s been really stressful trying to juggle that and everything else that goes on…like work and paying rent and stuff.
You mentioned you composed with whatever you could put your hands on — Is Echo Lake’s sound reliant on what’s at hand or are you diligently working to replicate the ‘sound’ you hear for the band in your head?
I think a bit of both actually. At the beginning, you kind of work out of necessity — I’ll start writing a song with what I’ve got around the house — I’ve got a couple of guitars. Then as the song starts to progress and you build on different layers, you start getting a better idea of how you want it to sound. That’s part of the reason why the record took so long: I was trying to learn how to make songs sound a certain way and how to not make it sound like it was made in my bedroom. I wanted them to be as ‘anti lo-fi’ as possible and sound as slick as possible.
But, you know, everything happened so fast in the beginning and I was still learning how to record and mix. Now 18 months later, I have a much better grasp on things and a better sense of how to achieve the sound we want. That being said, sometimes someone will leave their keyboard at my house, then I’ll just plug it in and write with that for the week (laughs).
And that opens up a whole week’s worth of possibilities, right? (laughs)
(laughs) Yeah, exactly. A lot of bands go into the studio after they’ve written a bunch of songs and record them, but with us, it’s always been the other way around. I might write a guitar or bass line for a song, not touch it for three months, then come back to it, do something else and leave it again. When it’s finally finished, we learn how to play it as a band. It’s almost working backwards.
That’s interesting…I imagine that when you learn as you go and teach yourself how to play the songs you want to make, that you get inspired as you go, too. It’s little wonder you’re already at work on the next record.
Yeah, absolutely. When we started recording this album before Christmas, mixing took a bit longer than we hoped because when we got the first mixes back, being the way I am, I listened to them and thought,’That would sound better if I recorded this and that and…the whole thing basically (laughs). Of course, I couldn’t send them back again to the guy who already mixed everything so I had to learn how to mix to his quality so the album sounded consistent, you know? But you’re totally right — the things you learn really quickly get the ball rolling on other songs alongside the ones you’re already finishing up. I just did a count last week of how many songs we’d have to put toward another album and it’s nearly 20…
(laughs) Wow, that sounds more like a double album.
Yeah, and we don’t even have the first one out of the way first!
So you’ve mentioned tinkering with friend’s keyboards left at your house and of recording songs in your bedroom — but how is it for you to step out on stage? Are you comfortable there?
Completely. When we first started getting our songs out and getting offers to do gigs, we didn’t even have a full band lineup so we’d turn people down not knowing what to do. Luckily three of my oldest friends live here in London and they came on board to make Echo Lake a five piece. I’ve played with all of them before and I’ve known them since childhood. When we were 15 and finished school, literally the first thing we did was form a band and play gigs around where we used to live.
You must have terrific chemistry.
I think we really understand each other and know how to play together as musicians. We work quickly and we know how to make things sound different for a live setting versus the record. On the record, a song may sound dense and quite mellow, but live, because we know each other so well and have an understanding, it sounds totally unique.
I admit I wondered several times during Wild Peace, what it might sound like live.
The more and more we go along, we try to sound as much like the record as we can. The title track is really bare and stripped down and we tried to really make use of space in the song…and when we’re live, cool stuff happens. Pete will come up with a really cool drumbeat for it — enough to give it a whole new identity. It’s fun.
So what’s the most fun then? Is it experimenting on stage or futzing on new songs at home?
Every time we play a gig, I spend like, two hours beforehand totally freaking out. I get pretty nervous. Once we’re out there though and playing, I feel just fine. Overall, the best part of being in this band is playing live…We just played the Camden Crawl and I have to say after 18 months of doing this, it was probably our best gig yet.
Oh yeah? Why is that?
The crowd were just really responsive and really into it, and I came away feeling really good. Mixing and figuring out frequencies and all that crap can never compare to that great feeling when you play a gig like that.
Where would your wildest dreams for the band put you in five years time?
I don’t know…The level we aspire to is like…Grizzly Bear, for example. I’ve been listening to them ever since they started and were doing the weirdest stuff on that first record. Five years later they come out with something like Veckitimist and they become big…but not super famous. They can go on TV shows and put out records and do cool stuff, but they’re not having to cater to anybody. I think the ideal thing for us would be to become bigger than we are now but just enough that we could make a living off the band. That would be the best that I could ask for really. If we could do this and not have to worry about paying rent, that would definitely be alright.
And it’d be nice to have someone else make the band t-shirts too, I suppose.
Uh…(laughs) Definitely. But if you asked me that same question 18 months ago of where we’d like to be in 18 months, I would’ve said to be releasing our first album — and that’s what we’re doing, so I’m happy. We had goals when we started and we’re seeing them happen now, so in five years, if we’re still putting out albums and living off it, then that would be just great.
Wild Peace Tracklist
01. Further Down
02. Another Day
03. Wild Peace
04. Even The Blind
05. Monday 5AM
06. Young Silence
07. In Dreams
08. Last Song Of The Year
10. Just Kids
UPCOMING ECHO LAKE SHOWS
Jul 4 – Echo Lake album launch party w/ Evans the Death – The Lexington, London
Jul 8 – Indie Tracks Festival on the Slumberland Records Stage – Ripley, Derbyshire