Q&A: Lo Five
Sydney production duo Lo Five recently took us through their excellent debut, Singularity, which showcases their broad tastes and deep bag of production tricks, taking in Reggae, Soul, Psychedelic vibes, 2Step and much more, sometimes even in the one song. It’s much more cohesive than it has any right to be, given the variety of styles on show, and bodes well for their continued success. We passed them our Q&A, and here’s what they had to say…
Tell us in your own words what your sound is.
Al – Its hard to pin it down to what our sound is because it is constantly evolving and changing.
Our roots are in funk. In the 90s Tam and I used to play live at warehouse dance parties between DJ’s who would play 70s New Orleans style funk. We would improvise and write our own grooves. We used synths and FX so it would have a more electronic edge to it. I think that really influenced our sound.
Tam – Al and I both love funky syncopated grooves from any era and we’re not shy to take any of them as a starting point. That means we are as happy doing a dub style track as an electronic funk track or a classic soul groove. We both love harmony so our songs will tend towards dynamic arrangements over repetitive grooves. As we mature the need to fill tracks with parts is giving way to a stripped back approach and the magic of what you don’t play. Making one note powerful as opposed to a flurry of “look at me” notes.
Who makes up your band?
Lo Five are a Soul and Groove three piece featuring the smooth vocal stylings of super soul master Tam Morris , Al “fingers” Goodman laying down the grooves on keys and “the man in the pocket” super slick Ian Mussington banging the skins.
What were your influences when you first started writing music? And what are your influences now?
Al – My first band was sort of punk B52s style. We just made up songs and jammed.
Influences now… so many… I like a good song in whatever style.
Tam – My Dad was a crooner and dug Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. I learned to sing by imitating Nat. My sisters were into Steely Dan so that black sensibility filtered through a Woody Allen outlook flavoured my own writing. I still love them. In my late teens and early twenties I had an obsession with Prince. Once again he is an artist who most people would think of as a funk composer but his influences are as varied as his wardrobe. At the moment I am excited by an emerging artist out of Birmingham called Laura Mvula. She loves cluster chords and beautiful harmonic structures, which she sets against soul and gospel grooves and minimalist keyboard hooks.
What are you working on at the moment?
Al – Some of the new songs we’ve been playing live. Trying to get that old school sound, but with a new school vibe.
Tam – We have four tracks on the burn. A dub track called ‘You Get High,’ a Motown style groove called ‘You Got To Have That Soul,’ a three four time shuffle called ‘Soul Feed’ which is a rearrangement of a song I wrote in my twenties and a trash beat groove called ‘Stone Man.’
Do you have a procedure for writing music?
Al – Yes, I have a few ways and techniques but you never know when you’re going to get that golden idea.
Tam – I often get ideas in the shower (settle down ?) which can be tunes or just a drum feel which I do bad beat box to until Al and I can get it down and refine it. I have been known to write songs in my sleep, not always great, but sometimes they work. ‘Little Man’ the song we did with The Sweet Inspirations was like that. The song was just there when I woke up in the morning. We don’t really have a set way of working but when it’s happening I think we both feel like we are struggling to keep up because the ideas flow so easily between us on the good days. Which is most of them.
If you could collaborate with any musician in the world, who would you collaborate with, and why?
Al – Stevie Wonder, such an amazing songwriter/musician, a hero of mine
Tam – I would love to get in the studio with Danger Mouse. He is so open and makes such fresh music. His beats are so cool. Or Mark Ronson maybe.
What do you think about Sydney’s music scene? And if you could play anywhere, where would you love to perform?
Al – I think it’s struggling because people don’t go out to see music as much as they used to. but most places in the world live music is struggling. Lately I’m thinking New York.
Tam – When we first started playing the scene seemed pretty rich. It was a party to play. There are still some tasty places to play but not many which makes getting in there quite competitive and that exclusivity inhibits a sense of openness and camaraderie between the bands and limits the sense of community we once had. I don’t think social media has improved the support of the music community as much as you might think. There are a whole lot of good intentions and not much patronage. I’d like to play in the states. New York mos def.
Seen any good acts lately? Who are you digging?
Al – I saw Hiatus Kaiyote from Melbourne at Apollo bay music festival, they were awesome. they played some groovy afro beat.
Tam – I saw Paul Kelly and Neil Finn do each other’s songs at the opera house. Not very funky but if you’re into song writing it doesn’t get much better.
Any interesting stories?
Al – I met John Blackwell (Prince’s drummer) at a gig of mine. He came and jammed with us after his show. totally amazing player and flipped my mind.
Tam – My friend Matt bought a friend of his along to see us at The Mac (Macquarie hotel in Surry Hills). After the first break I went over to say hello to Matt and his friend. The friend says he digs the band but has some feedback if I want to hear it. I say “yeah sure, I’m always up for a bit of feedback” reflecting on the many pieces of “advice” I’ve had from punters over the years. He goes on to say he thought the songs were great but the sound needed filling out with a guitar or another instrument. I agree but neglect to explain that my sample pedal, which I normally use to fill out the songs with delay and vocal loops, was on the fritz. I don’t think I was dismissive but … I wasn’t exactly receptive. Anyway he left after the second set. Matt later told me that he was a producer called Lee Groves and had worked with the likes of Goldfrapp.
Where are you playing next?
We’re not doing any gigs for a bit to recharge after pushing out the album, check our FB for any new announcements.