|All photography by Eleonora C. Collini
Usually, music collaborations are either a pick at the best (or worst) bits of the contributors’ previous work or (in rare cases) a well-achieved change of direction towards sonic territories previously unexplored by the collaborators.
DRINKS, a.k.a. the new project of Tim Presley, the SoCal psych-folk revivalist best known as White Fence, and Welsh folkish singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon, falls into the latter category.
The pair, who met in Los Angeles where they now both live, just released Hermits on Holiday, a unique fusion of late-‘60s psychedelia and German art rock, filtered through the angular sounds of post-punk.
I caught up with the duo before their show at London’s Lexington and we discussed the album’s effortless writing process and production, Wales vs Los Angeles, and what record they would play to seduce someone.
How did you guys meet and how did the idea of starting this project together come about?
Cate: I was doing a headline tour in the States and we asked White Fence to support in Santa Monica. I feel that a lot of things came from that night…. First of all seeing a band that I loved was exciting, then I asked their touring drummer Nick Murray [now also DRINKS’ drummer] to play drum on my last album, which was the reason why I relocated to Los Angeles. Also, Cynhyrchwyd Gan, White Fence bassist, produced the record fixing everything for me out there. As for Tim and I, we kept in touch, he came over to my house when I was still living in Wales and when I finally moved to L.A. we started hanging out, drinking coffee and stuff. We were fans of each other music, so we had the idea of making an album together and miraculously we got around to do it.
Tell us about the album writing process.
Cate: It was done relatively quickly. We wrote it all together in a room and recorded demos.
Did you record digital or analogue?
Tim: Both. The basics were recorded to tapes.
How long did you spend in the studio?
Cate: A week and an half. The nature of the album dictated that it should happen quickly.
Who produced the record?
Tim: We did, but our friends Drew Fischer and Robert Barbato helped us engineer it. They were really good at either getting sounds or putting microphones in certain areas. We trusted them sonically, so it was easy.
Cate: Then Samur Khouja mixed the album and found space for everything we recorded quite recklessly.
You guys have collaborated with other musicians in the past, but you have mainly been solo artists. How would you describe the difference between writing on your own and as a collaboration? And this time what were the challenges of working as a team?
Cate: I don’t think there are many people I could make a record with. Before starting this project with Tim, I actually thought there wouldn’t be any at all. Making this record with Tim come from trusting him implicitly and having a friendship as well, so it was easy and we didn’t even fight. If Tim didn’t like anything, I would trust him 100%, and then there would be something more exciting to take his mind off it.
Tim: Yeah, but that is a true collaboration when you are able to say “No, I don’t like that” and they don’t take it in a weird way. I have been in bands where unfortunately that was the case, but this time it wasn’t like that at all, as I understood where she was coming from and I trusted her musically more than myself even, so it was just a good back and forth.
Is the title autobiographical and do you ever feel like “Hermits on Holiday”?
Cate: Yeah, we both make a great value of solitude and that helps to understand each other.
Tim, did you draw the album cover?
Cate, can you draw?
Cate: Everybody can draw. So yeah, sometimes. It depends on the mood I am in.
Tim, the video for “Hermits on Holiday” features your parents. How supportive of your music have they been?
Tim: They have always been very good about it. There was never a moment when they made me feel like I wasn’t doing something serious. They have always been very supportive, which is great.
Still talking about videos, you wear make-up and lady clothes for the video of “Laying down rock”. What is your worst fashion secret, Tim?
Cate: He has jeans in which he doesn’t have an ass….. I mean, he has lots of jeans that have disintegrated in the ass area.
Tim: Oh, I thought you were saying “don’t wear jeans because you don’t have an ass in them”!
Cate: Oh no, I woudnt be so mean……
Tim: She means that I have jeans with lots of wholes in the butt area….
Cate: And instead of throwing them out he just keeps rocking in them.
Do you feel more comfortable singing or playing guitar?
Cate: I think it is that strange thing that when there are songs I am just singing I love it, but then I am jealous that I am not playing guitar, and then when I am playing guitar and Tim is singing I am jealous that I am not singing.
Tim, what is the funniest thing about Cate?
Tim: Genuinely, it is her wit.
Cate, what is the funniest thing about Tim?
Tim: She doesn’t think I am funny…
Cate: He doesn’t know how to use “a.k.a.”. He uses so incorrectly all the time. Like “hey do you want to go get some coffee, a.k.a. we could pick some cigs up on the way?”
Tim: But I do it as a joke like that, on purpose…
Cate: Yeah, but it is funny. And he is also a great dancer, which makes me laugh in a good way.
Cate, what is the thing about Wales you miss the most?
Cate: Just the green, the colour green.
And how would you compare Los Angeles with Wales aesthetically?
Cate: L.A. is a strange city as it is huge and so spread out, but I love the fact that nature is prevailing and filling any little pocket that it can, and I find that quite inspiring.
What record would you play to seduce somebody?
Cate: Probably something really terrible, as I don’t think I am really good at that stuff. Maybe I could play my own records, then I’d leave.
Tim: Probably something by Slayer or Guns ‘N’ Roses.
What artist of the past would you like to make come back from the dead and invite for dinner?
Cate: Barbara Hepworth
Tim: Francesca Woodman, because she seemed so interesting and was so young when she died. She seemed like someone I know, and I’d be interested to see what her personality was like.
“Hermits on Holiday” is out now on Heavenly Records