Interview by Andy Hittle
After a busy five years honing its signature heavy drums-and-cello sound and maintaining a near-constant touring schedule, the pandemic forced the duo Lung into a different mode. But it didn’t slow them down. Daisy Caplan and Kate Wakefield used the worst year ever to write and record their strongest record yet, Come Clean Right Now, which refines their sinewy, proggy opera into a tight coil of doomy riffs and snaking melodies. We caught up with Kate after a successful return to live shows as Lung prepares its next tour.
Andy: Your albums are always sonically varied and interesting - especially in vocal harmony and counterpoint. When you are writing and recording, how much thought do you put into replicating the arrangements live?
Kate: I’m a big fan of adding harmonies to music. Until recently our live show didn’t have any, however during the last few years of minimal shows, we’ve been working to incorporate live vocal and cello looped harmonies into our set.
A. Over the last five years, you’ve become known for your relentless touring schedules. What’s it like to reenter civilian life after all that traveling?
K. Back before the pandemic we played between 100 and 250 shows a year, most of them on the road. When we were touring that frequently, I remember it was sort of a jolt back to ‘regular’ life, and that it didn’t feel regular at all. In those days, touring felt like my regular and normal routine of a life, and being off the road felt strange. Little things felt like luxuries, like always having access to your own shower, bed, and a kitchen.
A. Is there a sweet spot of shows–per-year?
K. I don’t think I have a number for a sweet-spot for shows per year- just because every year feels so different. Example, 2020, the sweet spot for shows was like . . . the 10 shows we played before March. This year I’m hoping we do a lot more.
A. How did the pandemic and the cancellation of your spring and summer tour impact Lung and all the momentum that you had built up til then?
K. It slowed our momentum externally but helped our internal momentum. We have always been a band that constantly tours, so having time to stop, to re-examine how we do things, was helpful. We have been writing so many more songs since the pandemic started. Which is a small silver lining to how tragic and awful everything has been for everyone.
A. How did recording Come Clean Right Now during the pandemic affect your writing and recording process? Were there any upsides to being forced into a new mode?
K. It changed the way we wrote for sure. Up until then we had pretty much written songs together in our practice space, or in very pieced together ways on the road. Daisy was actually the one who suggested in March that I send him some ideas. I initially thought it was NOT going to work, but when he sent the file back, rearranging things, and adding drums, I began to really love the process. Collaborating at a distance allows you to really listen to what your creative partner is adding to the mix, and to respond to it more thoughtfully.
A. Bit of a gear question - Kate, how do you get such a monstrous tone from your cello? I’m hearing stacks and stacks of drive and pitch manipulation - is that difficult to tame through a classical stringed instrument? Is this something you work out before the studio or do you discover new colors and tones while recording?
K. The monstrous tone is pretty integral to what we do, and is definitely present when we play live. We use amps to give the instrument that dark and rich sound, and add pedals to add grit and some lower octave to things. Of course, the studio is always an awesome spot to try new things, and add layers, but as far as the base of our tone goes, we work in the studio to get it as close to how it feels in a live setting as possible.
A. I know in the past you’ve avoided 21+ bar venues whenever possible. As you’ve grown in stature, is it still possible to play in less traditional settings? What have been some of your favorite/most unusual venues?
K. We haven’t really avoided 21+ bar venues, but we’ve prioritized including DIY and all ages venues. All of our tours are all over the map as far as venues go, and great shows can happen in all types of settings. One of my favorite venues is in Charleston, West Virginia, at Rock City Cake Co. It’s this awesome rock bakery that hosts all kinds of shows, and is run by great people. They always give us dozens of delicious desserts before we go as well. We also played a festival once in Billings Montana called Julia Louis DreyFest at a record shop venue. The next day everyone in the fest met in the park and had a giant potluck with guest speakers and good times. I’d be remiss not to mention Sluggos in Chattanooga which is a vegan restaurant with a stage in the basement. Such fantastic people and tasty vegan food! No matter how much we grow in stature we’ll always find ways to play less traditional venues run by awesome people who we love.
A. You’ve just had a run of dates in December. What is your 2022 looking like for shows? Has the forced hiatus changed the way you will approach touring?
K. Our shows in early December were so wonderful. It felt great to be back doing what we do. We have a pretty dense and great looking tour schedule for 2022, provided the world doesn’t completely catch on fire.
Grab your copy of Lung's "Come Clean Right Now" from our webstore at the link below, and make sure to check them out live on their upcoming tour!