"There are always noises happening around my flat" - Lily Higham and Gordon Johnstone talk isolation and recording.

 Interview by Isabella Eastwood

This interview ran a little differently – for one, it went on for over a week – as it was all done via WhatsApp chat. However, despite being a lot more confusing than expected with everyone dipping in and out of the conversation, going about our daily lives (as is symptomatic of digital dialogue), I managed to get all the main information relating to L-Space’s song of choice, their lockdown lives and projects to come. The result was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle of Q&As to put together, but what else is lockdown for, if not to brush up on your jigsaw skills?


Could you tell me about the process of choosing the song you decided to cover, why and how you adapted it, what you thought was necessary to make it "yours"?

Gordon: For me, it was difficult to pick a track that I thought we could do justice. Our style of music and composition is very different to most of the bands on LNFG; I didn't want to pick something that would sound incongruous when recomposed on synth. Mt Doubt already dabble in the electronic side of things so Headless felt like a good choice.

To make a song "ours", as much as a song written by anyone else ever can be, I deconstructed it to its constituent chords and started to play around with synth tones. Once I settled on a general palate, I made up the beats and the structure, then eventually I stitched it all together and handed it over to Lily so she could work her magic.

Lily: I listened to lots of LNFG artists songs (which was fun), and Headless stood out to me because of the atmosphere, the lyrics, and the song writing was interesting and unpredictable. Leo has an amazing voice, and I liked that I could do a version of his melody with my very different sounding voice, giving it a different feel. Gordon did a great job working on the arrangement, and when I heard it I knew we had a good version of the song. It added a synthy driving sound to it which made the same melody have different emphasis. It was fun adding some extra harmonies in too.


Gordon mentioned finding space in your respective homes to make music was difficult, could you elaborate on that? Have you been able to work on any releases despite this?

Gordon: I've found trying to be creative at home tough, but not impossible. The trick for me was giving myself set times of day where I would work on creative pursuits and then the rest of the time I'd tend to my "normal" life.

We've managed to get a fair bit done during lockdown - we released the first PCPQ single (You Wouldn't Download a Car) and our first collaborative single (Body of Water) with our friends in Japan, Macaroom, which has been really well received. Probably the best received song we've ever released! I also finished a sort of neoclassical EP of recomposed L-space songs which I may release one day soon. Our album, Feed The Engines!, also came out during lockdown. We were supposed to do a tour of London, Tokyo, Glasgow and Edinburgh, but obviously we're rescheduling for next year we hope.

Lily: I don't really have a good space to make music, so creativity and productivity isn't great right now. Unless I record really early in the morning before people wake up, there are always noises happening around my flat, and no peace during the day. So it's hard to find good time for music, and for space; I don't have a good space to physically write or record. The room I would have used for music is now my office where I spend most of my weekdays working from home, and I just associate it with non-relaxation, so it takes me out of the music zone. I'm actually spending hours after work walking just to not be in the house and to get exercise.

Apart from the Mt. Doubt cover recording, which fortunately is expected to be slightly lo-fi, the other releases were recorded before lockdown, and it was great we got those done before so we had things to release during! The newer releases have been worked with other great musicians: Macaroom on Body of Water, and David Maitland of Hostel Freaks and producer Keith Muir on You Wouldn't Download a Car. It was so good to work with them.


Would you be able to tell me more about the Macaroom collaboration?

Gordon: I discovered Macaroom when my Spotify playlist recommended them and I fell in love with their sound straight away. They're so unique but with a gift for writing infectious pop hooks as well. I contacted them to ask if I could remix one of their tracks and from there, once we got chatting, we ended up joining their label and coming up with the plan for collaborative singles. Body of Water is one of my favourite tracks we've ever released. Lily and Emaru complement each other so nicely and Gaku and I have similar approaches to composition. Right now they're working on another song that Lily and I composed and we can't wait to see what they do with it! 

The Tokyo music scene is absolutely incredible - there are so many fantastic musicians really pushing the envelope of what pop music can be. In my opinion, compared to the Scottish scene, they're lightyears ahead of us in terms of originality and sheer inventiveness.


Is there a particular cover you're looking forward to/you've enjoyed? What's it like having your own work covered?

Gordon: It's strange hearing someone interpret your songs. It's like seeing someone you know really well with a different haircut - familiar, but unexpected. It's always very humbling when someone takes the time and effort to do something with music you've written though. Something we've created now exists in multiple forms out there and that's really cool.

Lily: The track that first stood out to me was The Gracious Losers covering Six Degrees of Separation by Domiciles. It has a cool gritty sound with a mixture of chaos and preciseness.


Has the lockdown given you time to reflect on how you're doing things, musically/in your life that you might do differently?

Gordon: Lockdown has made me reassess and evaluate what I enjoy about music. What I enjoy most is writing music with Lily and pushing ourselves sonically and ability-wise to make the most interesting music we can. As much as I like gigs, I haven't missed the cliques and the predatory promoters and the feeling that if you're not invited to the trendy festivals or shows that you're failing. All that can get itself to fuck. Frankly, until we both pick up guitars full time and Lily starts writing vapid lyrics about relationships we're never going to be in those cliques - life in lockdown has given me space and time to realise that being that kind of band isn't a dream worth aspiring to. To paraphrase Kanye West, I just want to do dope shit because our lives are dope.

Lily: The lockdown situation has made me think about becoming more self-sufficient with recording. It will mean we can be more flexible when things out of our control happen. I'd like to get some equipment which will allow me to record vocals well at home, although I worry it is still not possible to get a good enough sound in my flat because of the nature of the sound of the room and the noise of the environment outside. We will try. If it works it means all our recording can be done at home, and then for the mixing and working on some effects on the layers we can get the help of a sound engineer. It's always been good getting other expertise and ideas from other people in that stage of the process.


Any particular pastime that's been your saving grace?

Gordon: I've found writing about music to be a great way of passing time during lockdown. It gives me an opportunity to hear what else is going on in the Scottish scene and opens me up to new artists I may not have heard otherwise. Much of Scottish music journalism seems to be unpaid PR these days, so it's nice to have some platforms to try and break out of that mindset. I hadn't written anything creatively in quite a while before lockdown and it has been really nice getting back to it.

Lily: My favourite pastime in lockdown has been reading. It's one of the only things I have been doing that feels peaceful. I have just finished The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, and it absorbed me and kept me from thinking about the real world. Sometimes what I read also gives me inspiration for music.

Because I don't have exercise built into my day anymore with no commute, and the gyms are closed, it means I have been getting my exercise by running and walking around Glasgow and I have discovered so many nice places that I didn't know existed on my doorstep. So that has been a benefit of lockdown. Getting to know my city better. Maybe some of the places would be good for filming music videos.


One last question: Gordon, you mentioned you were writing about music too - is this journalistic, on a blog? If so, does that affect how you approach music as a musician?

Gordon: I started writing reviews for a few websites at the beginning of lockdown and I've really enjoyed it. It had made me realise that the Scottish scene is remarkably homogenous in its makeup (the cast majority of submissions are from white, male guitar bands), but once you sift through all that there are some insanely talented people doing absolutely wonderful things in Scotland.

In terms of how writing has affected my approach to music, I wouldn't say it has to be honest. We write the kind of music we want to listen to - if we were worried about what the press would say we wouldn't make the decisions we do haha.


Post Coal Prom Queen, in Gordon’s own words, is “the evolution of L-Space”. After bassist Dickson Telfer left the band, Gordon and Lily decided to rebrand:The music PCPQ releases is exactly what L-space would have released, but we're much more electronic now. So PCPQ is a separate entity from L-space but we'll be playing the L-space back catalogue live.”

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You can buy Feed The Engines and Music For Megastrutures Here!


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