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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Interview: Laura Hocking

"Like biting into a cream cake and finding a razor blade" Intrigued? You should be. We certainly are! Here's our conversation with the folk-tinted freak pop chanteuse, which delves into Expressionism, opera-writing, and how to brew homemade beer.

Written by Cari Steel


Illustration by Georgia Coote

As with all the best new music discoveries, my introduction to Laura Hocking and The Long Goodbye began with snippets from light-hearted conversations. By the time that three separate friends, (whose judgement I value deeply) had announced excitedly that they were off to see her play, waxing lyrical about her delicate voice, gorgeous harmonies and all-round One To Watch-ness, I couldn’t resist it any longer. Cut to a few Sunday nights back where I found myself in the top room of the Old Queen’s Head in Angel. So it seemed, did a lot of people; the room was packed – always a good sign! On Saturday night they take this heady brew to Deptford, where they will be playing at the consistently excellent Folie à Deux. The wonder and magic of standing in a converted dairy shed whilst hearing the best of the new alt:folk scene never abates. Laura Hocking and The Long Goodbye describe their sound as ‘folk-tinted freak pop’, which sounds alright by me.

I saw your set at the Old Queen’s Head; I thought it was wonderful, you have a new found fan in me! How did you find the night? 
Thanks! It’s always a nice place to play – the gig was put on by a band we’re friends with so most people knew each other and were into similar music, which makes for a good show. I like the decor in there. Sometimes mid-song you’re faced with yourself in a mirror, which is disconcerting. 

For the uninitiated, can you describe your music? 
 Best description ever came from Jon, who composes music for films. He said it was like biting into a cream cake and finding a razor blade. We call it folk-tinted freak-pop. 

Your Myspace lists a truly expansive and diverse list of influences, and I’m especially intrigued by Expressionism, Edvard Munch, David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman. What is it about expressionism that appeals to you?
Ha, I wrote that a while ago, I haven’t thought about it in a while. I’m fascinated by dark, uncomfortable, macabre things. Expressionism seems to access that place in a person where anxiety and vulnerability meet with violent creativity. Those artists create weird worlds which express their individualism in a ferocious and inventive way, but they also capture elements of human experience that we can all recognise. It rips the scab off of life for you, and I like that. 

 You also mention that your EP is based on “love, anxiety, devastation and renewal”. Do you find writing and performing your songs to be a cathartic process, and has it helped you deal with emotional setbacks?
Writing is always cathartic for me, but the material is not directly about my life. It’s often about all the things I would like to say to people, but don’t have the guts to. So most of my songs are ‘to’ people, rather about them, but I like to hide that message inside a story. It’s a trixy thing to do, I get a kick out of it. If the person wants to find the message, they will.
Writing and performing do help you deal with other parts of your life, because they give you something bigger than yourself to think about. For me, song is bigger than anything.

You are – as yet – unsigned. Do you find it a struggle to do everything yourself (marketing, distribution etc) or do you relish the freedom of being able to navigate your own path? 
It’s been a huge joint effort between me, my band, and our various friends who’ve put together things like the cover design and the website. We’ve really put our heads down and really pushed hard on this release. It’s a hard learning curve, I feel like I’m being schooled and it is quite humbling, but I want to understand how the industry works, and how far we can get under our own steam. It’s going bloody well, we’re more than halfway to selling out our physical stock.
In terms of marketing, music fans are what really count – people who love music and want to support artists and spread the word are a PR force to be reckoned with, and that’s what’s helped me the most. 
     
Your interests outside of performing: this is when most people say something like “long walks, hanging out with friends”, but you say that you have learnt to brew beer and have written an opera?!  I’m not sure what I’m most impressed by…  First, could you give me some pointers on home brewing, and then could you tell me a little more about the opera that you have written?
The formula for a beer is thus: steep something (could be ginger, nettles, elderflower or grains) in hot water for a few hours. Strain. Add lots of sugar. Cool. Add beer yeast. Sterilise a large container  (like a  5l water bottle) pour it in, top with an airlock (at it’s easiest, this can be a balloon over the neck), and leave for about 10 days. Taste with interest. My current brew is quince wine. You can brew anything, but beware of coconut milk…the fat makes it explode. 

The opera is something me and Dan (violinist) worked on together. It’s a translation and adaptation of La Serva Padrona by Pergolesi, a comic operetta from the C18th. I’m writing the libretto (lyrics) and he’s doing the instumentals. It’s like a musical version of Fawlty Towers. We want to stage it, so we’re looking for a space we can use for free. 

You mentioned that you are originally from West Yorkshire.  Do you miss life up North? I lived in Cornwall as a child and deeply miss the open skies, the countryside, the friendliness of locals, the pace of life – but that could be just me!  -  how do you find being a transplanted Northerner in London?
More than anything, I miss being alone in the countryside. I used borrow a neighbour’s dog and walk for a few hours across fields, and not see anyone at all. I don’t think that the North is necessarily friendlier than the South, but people definitely show their emotions more in public – one person can be having a big moan to their friend on the bus, and other passengers will chip in. In London, many people have their Tube face on all the time. Pubs are friendlier in the countryside. Curry is hotter in Bradford than in Brick Lane. I love meeting other Northerners in London. I get all giddy, like a puppy at the park, and out come my northern vowels.     

What are your plans musically in the next year?  I hope to hear about more songs and more live dates!
I have a lot of studio time ahead of me, with about 15 songs which are ready to be demoed out an arranged. I’m lucky that some very talented people have offered their time and resources to work on songs, which I’m grateful for. When a good proportion of them are in the shape I want them, I’ll be looking to release through a label. It’s quite a flirtatious thing to try and arrange – I’ve had interest from several sources but until the songs are ready it’s difficult to talk in concrete terms. 
There will always be lots of live shows in London, I’ve been offered some gigs in California and New York, so I plan to go there next summer. But more than anything I want to get back to the North and play there. 

Where can we find out more, and get hold of your music?
http://laurahocking.bandcamp.com   – as the place to buy music
www.laurahocking.com    - my website
www.facebook.com/laurahockingmusic –  as the best place to network, find gig details and sign up for the mailing list
@laurahocking – my twitter cos I <3 talking to people on there!
 
You can catch Laura this Saturday 30th April, along with Mary Hampton and Nick Mulvey at Folie à Deux in Deptford.

Illustrations by Georgia Coote, you can find her work here, and here, and follow her on Twitter here.

Original photographs by Anika Mottershaw and Holly Falconer.

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One Response to “Interview: Laura Hocking”

  1. ben says:

    re 4th question, if i was trying to hash out why it was i admired as well as liked your song lyrics, i’d probably resort to a comparison with my own experience of writing; my poems seem to fail proportionally as they accept their beginnings in spontaneous emotion, while your songs are at their most luminous where the emotional force they embody seems most concentrated, which is exactly not to say they are sentimental, but that they make objective for others to receive and modify feelings which came about in the refractory privacy of a single self

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