Loon Lake brought to life their debut album, Gloamer, while perched on the edge of the Australian continent, living in a tiny town along the Great Ocean Road. Surfing had a lot to do with it – so it’s only fitting frontman and primary songwriter Sam Nolan has just returned from a surf when we chat. The indie pop-rockers write frustratingly catchy music with instinctively Australian lyricism: Nolan has his heart on his sleeve and a cheeky grin on his face. But despite all the good humour in Nolan’s conversation – and the press descriptions of the band that insist on using that cringe-worthy Aussie label, “larrikins” – Loon Lake have absorbed their storytelling on this album into a world of change, loss and hope.
“It was a bit of change that inspired it all,” Nolan explains. “Two of us had come out of really long relationships a bit prior; actually around the first EP [Not Just Friends]. We were experiencing so many new things as well and we had all these amazing things happening with our music career and we were maybe over-indulging a bit – going out too much – but then a lot of it gets dramatised [in the songs]. It comes from experiences but then I make the songs just kind of bigger stories. Also, what we were listening to influenced us. The two main things were; as a band we were all into that Frank Ocean album [Channel Orange], and we were going through a Beatles stage too. That’s something you just do through your whole life, I reckon. I had a bit of writer’s block and was listening to some full-on cheesy pop music too, like Bruno Mars kinda stuff. It wasn’t to write like that but just to try to step out of that guitar pop formula.”
Nolan is already feeling the pressure of having his lyrics scrutinised and, as is often the case, that pressure generally comes from those that are closest to the action. Friends, family, lovers – they ache to see themselves immortalised in a song and then loathe what they see. “Yeah, big time, that’s so true,” Nolan agrees. “I had a fair bit of shit from the song ‘Bad To Me’, an old song, just because I’d broken up with my girlfriend – but it is embellishment. If it’s a good story, that’s what I care about. ‘Carolina’ is a direct story of a mate’s girlfriend who left and went back to Sweden so I called him and made sure I cleared it with him before I went ahead with it. I think it’s pretty reckless if you start writing songs about the stories of your close friends that are bang on without checking.”
Gloamer was recorded just as Loon Lake exist: relaxed and on their own terms. Steven Schram (Little Red/San Cisco) took on co-production duties with the band’s drummer, Nick Nolan. “It was pretty cool the way it worked,” Sam says. “We did three sets of six or seven day blocks over about two months. Schram encouraged us to learn ProTools and because Nick and I live together, we were able to record a lot of it at home. Schram was really happy for Nick to add his two cents’ worth. I loved all the recording; I was really nervous about it at first but I had a really good time.”
After this tour Loon Lake have a few wildcards up their sleeves. “I don’t think there’ll be anything much bigger than the Big Day Out, hey. We’re doing a few weird gigs – a few strange festivals and stuff – but we’re hoping to do a really big tour next year. We’re pitching for Groovin’ The Moo but if we don’t get that then we want to do a really extensive regional tour.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
Loon Lake play Spectrum with Brother Speed and The Rude Heads on Wednesday October 9. Gloamer out Friday October 11 through Caroline. Loon Lake also appearing alongside Blur, Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire, Snoop Dogg AKA Snoop Lion, Flume and more at Big Day Out, Sydney Showgrounds, Sunday January 26.