Lettie, David Baron-Endless Climb | In Sisyphus’ Mind
Lettie and David Baron are a duo that never disappoint. They have collaborated for many of Lettie’s tracks, and both bring out the best in each other. This symbiotic relationship is often times mesmerizing to listen to. For this album, they come together creating beautiful, flowing music that resonates with the time and train of thought. This is Endless Climb.
Escape was released as a single earlier this year. It has the new wave echo that shaped the late 80s. The electronica paradise is palpable almost, Lettie bringing her vocals with the quaint delicate theme it has. The chorus is a unique and hypnotizing one, where her pipes can truly be appreciated. The contrast can be found with Fairy Tale, the next track. Here, the accompaniment piano arrangement aids the vocals, becoming the rhythmic spine. When the bass and layers drop, the collage is a spectacular image, something to be absorbed from afar.
The craft of composing
From covers to originals, you might have very different styles of approaching the instrumental background. Tell us about this.
The instrumental side of our music can easily be divided into two. The more guitar based indie type instrumentals are nearly always created by myself in the kitchen (I do not have a studio) and the more beautiful instrumentals vastly superior in scope and realization are David Baron composed in his remarkable home studio in up state New York.
The benefit of having both sides is that when I come to perform the guitar tracks, they are a lot easier for me to play! I usually have to learn the songs David creates from scratch, usually on keyboard as I do not use backing tracks, so I tend to adapt them.
This interplay between artists is fascinating, this is the origin of all great music. Like a team sport, it is necessary to appreciate what the back and forth and collaboration can do. This kind of overflow can be even appreciated in their next track, Memory. The synths take control, the intrinsic nature of the beat within the arpeggio. It is a soothing number, bringing a great soothing environment in the process. The title track comes next, the arpeggio being the one that draws you in. The dense cloud of sound is usually characterized by these clean guitar tones and synth/piano ambiances.
A unified aim
The tone in your music is key, a lightness to the vocals and instrumentals saying “all is at ease”. Is that your intention behind the tones?
I have to say, hard or angry vocals are quite difficult to pull off – the problem I suppose is that it can get a bit draining to listen to if you do not have that sexy PJ Harvey alto voice -hard and angry can also sound quite screechy! I noticed when I used to shout/ sing for a band called Smiled when I was much younger I thought it was dreadful but then again some people liked that rock style at the time!
The magic of tone
But it’s easier to work within the boundaries of what you have vocally rather than stretch it.
One thing I have noticed is that live my voice has got a little stronger and lower, but I can still hit all the higher notes. I prefer how my voice sounds now than when I was starting out, and I am composing in lower keys because I like it at the lower end. Like Nico – what a distinct voice!
My intention behind the tones is all about dynamics. I really am trying to create dynamics in the music, either recording or live. I think dynamics is really important. Likewise, I mean in classical music it’s everything of the interpretation and soft and loud parts, so why not with contemporary music as well. So much of the music I hear on the radio is at the same range and volume.
With Shoot the Breeze, the tone might shift into soft rock territory. Lettie has her vocal as a monolithic element, something that is identifiable from anywhere to anytime. The bassline is particularly nice in this track, for the verse. A dreamy chorus follows, transitioning with the sharp deftness that David Baron is known for. Waiting has that Americana twang that everyone loves, the rhythm is quicker as well. This shift is a delightful one, creating a nice crevasse of different sound, so that each song can be appreciated for what it is.
Finding your own voice
What has changed since Colours of Saudade? Is there a particular direction you have consciously taken?
Colours of Saudade was really just a side project to play around with instrumental writing. It was not entirely successful. My favourite instrumental album of all time is Ry Cooder’s soundtrack Paris, Texas. That was my starting point, except I can’t play slide guitar!
I have written for library music in the past and I wanted to see what I could do with the limits of my playing as a self-taught guitarist as I very rarely get to the piano.
But I realized the instrumentals were not recorded to a high enough standard and ultimately falls short of usability.
I wanted to see if I could write to film. So they were sort of written with films in mind, but when I played those instrumentals to some film clips (on YouTube!) it didn’t much work.
Ultimately, it revealed that I am not much good on my own. Without David Baron I am extremely limited and without the label curating my work and helping me realize what songs have resonance I am just back in the bedroom creating work, probably just for myself!
This oneness that Lettie has found with David Baron’s musicality is something that is a unified whole. The truth of it being, it is one picture, but they are missing parts of the puzzle. Both create wonderful music, but bring them together, and you might have something that is a diamond in the rough. Like Joni Mitchell, the vocals have a whole new dimension with the acoustic. The synth tides bring about a refreshing flush of change in the track as well.
From the beginning
Age of Solo was a long time ago. What do you think is the biggest musical direction you’ve got since then?
When David Baron supported my music by inviting me over and writing and producing Age of Solo and Everyman it was a dream come true. I flew to America, and we did it very quickly.
When you are young, ideas come so quickly. Your emotions are deep and vivid, and you don’t think it – you just do it. An unquestionable energy and a lack of fear.
The biggest music direction that has happened since then is that I write so much more slowly because it’s so much more difficult to conjure up ideas and also to have something meaningful to say. Overthinking the music is really a huge problem too.
Age of Solo was David’s first production. It was raw, quick and fresh. We came up with ideas so quickly, and it was in its time and in our time. I suppose as you grow older you do not write in the same way; emotionally you are in a different space, and it would be odd to be writing those same type of songs 14 years later. At the same time the magic is still there in our new recordings, it’s just a bit more grown up I guess.
This dimensional expansion is clearly heard in tracks like Maysong. It represents something, the weather, a mood or just an experience. If Lettie knew what she was writing had a depth to it earlier, David Baron has helped her musically realize it. Her enchanting voice does the job of convincing.
A lot of the times, the vocals are accompanied by finger style gallops on the acoustic, or a soft tone on the electric. Is this an output your duo particularly likes?
This is just my very odd guitar playing. I have never had a lesson and I seem to have got into a habit of creating gallops, pummelling the thumb on the E or A string for some unknown reason. There was a time when I wrote only waltzes because of my limited strumming patterns!
The limits of my guitar playing is the problem, so it’s not conscious. However, at the same time I do listen quite a bit to Davey Graham and I adore his fingerpicking style.
Perhaps I should return to the piano. The problem with writing on the piano is that I constantly get into ballad style songs. I need to develop an ability to write complex lines like Nina Simone and sing at the same time!
Rhythmically too, it is easy to drift off to the romantic style of playing on the piano, which is why I so enjoy working with a drummer like Dave Barbarossa.
What is your direction from here? Where do you see yourselves heading after this album?
I absolutely adore composing and when I’m inspired I always jot something down, even if it never ends up on record.
David Baron is very much in demand as a composer, writer, producer and instrumentalist. I feel extremely honoured that he has put as much time and work into this project as he has, and I feel exceptionally lucky. I think it’s best after 5 years to just enjoy the fruits of our labour finally.
They close the album with Bright Lights, a simple and enjoyable track that shows the chiming, joyful moments of the guitar. It is a perfect closer to this album, something that suggests the change and progress this duo has come across. With each of their skills, they have elevated each other’s music and sensibilities. A master class from a duo that has built a relationship on music and understanding. Listen to their album here: