Interview by Isabella Eastwood - April 2020
What with coronavirus supplanting the mandatory weather chat, Lemon Drink’s Sophie and I exchanged the usual “How are you coping with lockdown?” “It’s a bit shit, how are you coping with lockdown?” while she kindly ignored my struggles with a packet of biscuits. Once that was done, she shared her experiences of isolation, working with limited resources, and the healing powers of juggling.
“TeenCanteen’s “How We Met (Cherry Pie)” was the obvious choice, firstly because I really like their music, and secondly because I really like Carla J Easton’s other work,” she explained, “and from the perspective of an artist on the label that I connect with the most, it’s them. We don’t really sound like each other at all, but I think we have the same vibe. Which is both a pro and a con – for example, Deer Leader covering us is really cool because it’ll be so different – but TeenCanteen already sound poppy, so I had to find a way to maintain the arrangement while making it sound like our own.”
It took a few tries before surpassing a simple cover, and it was by exploring the ambiguity of the lyrics that Sophie was able to take the song somewhere new: “I wondered what it would be like in a minor key and tried to put a darker, spookier, more bluesy spin on it. And as soon as I did this, the whole thing took on a completely different meaning.”
“The original is a lot more upbeat and could easily be about a relationship that’s going really well. In the minor key, it became so much more melancholy, like it could be about a couple who have broken up, and they’re looking back in a nostalgic way.”
While the lockdown shut down Lemon Drink’s usual creative process, it also opened up something new for Sophie.
“Either myself, or me and KC generally write the bones of the song, the lyrics, the melody and the chord structure. Then we’ll workshop it full band, which is where it really comes to life,” she explains.
“This time, I could hear how the arrangement would be if we were covering it full band, but I was limited in what I was able to do from the flat instrumentally. But it was tough without everybody else’s range of input. KC was my main soundboard throughout the process as the track is essentially just vocals and guitars.”
Without the band’s input, Sophie shifted the focus toward her strength:
“I’m a singer first, so I’ve really come at it from a vocalist perspective instead of a technical guitarist’s, so there are fewer riffs, for example. I amped up the vocals, so they really drive the rhythm, and instead of bass there are low-end vocals to anchor the song, as well as some synth which doesn’t usually feature in a LD song.”
“It really, really pushed my creativity aspect. But the way it is now, I think there’s a certain richness to it. I’ve never made a “vocal” song before, so layering even more backing vocals is something we might try in the future.”
For those who find inspiration in their daily experience and interactions with other people, the lockdown feels creatively suffocating. And if you already sport the mantle of “creative” the added pressure lends weight to the burden.
“I was furloughed pretty early on and everyone I worked with who knew I was in a band were saying how great it was that I now had more time to make music. I quickly fell into the mind-set of “You’re wasting your day!” because I thought I had to be really productive.”
“I don’t think I had realised how much I struggle with self-motivation and without a structure in my life. I was surprised to see how easily I fell back into the same habits that I had as a student. My boyfriend is also a musician and he’s really been channelling energy into his stuff and has even recorded an entire single in our living room. Co-existing with someone who is so creatively productive made me feel like I should be doing more but I realised that everyone is reacting to lockdown differently so I need to stop being so hard on myself.”
Social expectations tend to strangle rather than stimulate, and comparison, more often than not, is little more than the thief of joy (I’ll fight you). Fortunately for Sophie, discovering she could juggle became an unlikely catalyst to creativity.
“I learned to juggle! I think that’s the thing that actually may have gotten me out of my slump! I was having such a shit day, and it just kind of happened when I was putting away some socks. It made me so happy!”
“But also, talking to people about it helped. I was getting pretty down about a lack of creative thinking but after chatting to a few other musicians, I quickly realised that the feeling was very mutual amongst others. It’s easy to feel pretty alone at the moment and imagining how productive other artists are being but actually talking to like-minded people has helped massively.”
So what can we expect from Lemon Drink in the future?
After launching their EP on March 13, this time was initially to be spent practicing and working on a potential new single. While this was unfortunately nipped in the bud soon after their release, Sophie notes some other seeds have been sown in the meantime: a song about isolation “but without using the word isolation” as well a different creative set-up: “Lauren our bassist sent me some poetry ideas over, so this might also be an interesting development in our writing process.”