Sky Larkin are new to the scene, signing to Witchita (which handles Conor Oberst, Broken Social Scene and Bloc Party, among others) earlier this year. I first met them in New York when our bands shared a bill at Pianos. It was their first time in New York and they had officially signed to Wichita a week prior. Almost immediately following the signing, they flew to New York for two shows and a video shoot.
Classifying them as brit-rock would be easy. It’s all there; jangly guitars, groovy, nearly danceable back beats and, um, their being a bunch Brits playing rock n’ roll. But then they dip into some Pavement-inspired dissonance, throw some delicate vocals over abrasive, ever-evolving guitar lines and use the bass and drums beat the hell out of the middle ground. And it all sounds so pretty. They’re the type of songs that make a walk to work an epic journey, or an ordinary dusk a romanticized cityscape. Listen to Sky Larkin and weave in and out of people on the sidewalk. It is a lot of fun.
They just returned from a three week European tour with Conor Oberst, and are embarking on another lengthy tour with friends Los Campesinos. In between all that craziness, lead singer/head-songwriter Katie Harkin found time to answer a few questions, via e-mail, about getting signed to Witchita, recording their album and getting fed by Conor Oberst’s crew. And below, way below, find some mp3s and the video for “Fossil, I,” shot in Brooklyn.
So, typical background questions: How long have you been a band/how did you meet?
We’ve been a fully fledged band for about 18 months. I started writing songs that would end up becoming Sky Larkin when I went to London to study but it was only when we all moved back to Leeds that things really got going.
You told me a little about recording your new album, somewhere in Seattle – how did you get hooked up with the studio? Was your label involved? Was there any pressure to record a certain type of album?
Wichita asked us what we wanted to do, and we wanted to work with John Goodmanson because we loved the sound of some of the music he had produced (Death Cab, Sleater Kinney, Blood Brothers, Bikini Kill). We had no pressure to record a certain type of anything! Wichita are a very artist-friendly label and they were interested to see what kind of noise we’d make together.
How did you become involved with Witchita? From what you told me, it sounded like a fairy tale story – is your experience at all typical for European bands? Is the label system there as fucked as it is here?
Well we only have our experience to reference, but out of the labels we spoke to, it seemed like no-one does it quite like Wichita! There are amazing labels out there so don’t lose heart!
You went from an unsigned indie-band to having a multi-month, European tour with a super high-profile headliner (Conor Oberst) – what was that transition like? Was it a lot to take in all at once? Are groupies and fans just throwing themselves at you after shows?
Haha, there were some crazy Conor fans. In Belgium there were people waiting outside six hours before the show. The big adjustment for us was the food! We are used to eating just bread and cheese on tour but because we were part of a big touring party we got a hot meal every night, which really helped as we’re driving ourselves around Europe (the longest drive being 11 and half hours from Berlin to Calais!).
As a three piece, how do you manage such a full-sound live? Or does it just come naturally? When I saw you in New York, I was impressed with how abrasive a rock sound you could manage from just three people, and after listening to your songs, how much you do them justice. I think it might have a lot do with how Nestor absolutely beats the shit out of his drums.
There is that! I’m really glad you felt that- its one of our remits really. As a three piece we want to make something honest and vital sounding whilst being as full as possible, there’s nothing to hide behind with a small line up so each member has to pull their weight!
And on that note, how did you manage the live translation going from small, intimate venues to what I assume would be larger venues, considering Conor Oberst’s reputation? Did you play in any stadiums or generally outrageous venues?
We played in an old botanical gardens in Brussels that was amazing, really beautiful. We just played in an old train station in Berlin called Postbahnhof which was a huge complex with a venue at the heart of it.
Tell me about your tour! Did people come out to see you specifically? Good crowd reaction? Is Conor Oberst a cool dude?
A very cool cat, his band and crew were awesome too, they helped us put our gear back together when it fell apart! Our most dramatic tour day was when we got very lost in the czech republic and could not find our way back onto the autobahn. We were driving around in the pitch black countryside waiting to die but we eventually found the right way!
Were I on Witchita, I know I’d kinda freak out, since I look up to the majority of the people/bands on that label. Have you had any run-ins with label mates that you might consider idols? If so, did you like, totally freak!?
I met Kele from bloc party chaining up his bicycle outside the office, he was wearing a Holy Fuck t-shirt, diamond geezer. We are very good friends with Los Campesinos, they are total freaks.
In the video for “Fossil, I” how did you get those amps to hover over Brooklyn? I tried to do it, since I imitate everything I see in TV, and not only destroyed a vintage 60s Fender Twin Reverb, but the Mazda Miata below the building.
Years of training with our sensei, next time we come to New York we’ll teach you some secret moves…
Do you think Brittany Spears is making a comeback? If so, why didn’t she perform at the VMAs?
No idea I’m afraid!
Unfortunately, my above attempt at humor might have been lost on Katie. Being European, she probably does not share our nations rabid obsession with the fallen poptress. I think I made up that word. Yeah, probably.
And from their One of Two 7″
And here is the video for their first single, “Fossil, I”:
AHH. I just found out about this website and and I already LOVE IT. It’s everything I want. THANK YOU THANK YOU.
Damn. These guys are good, I can listen to Fossil, I and Molten for hours :D LOVE IT !