Monday, 13 July 2015

Orlando; 'Far Out and Fantastic'

Photo by Kathy Coleman.

Orlando is the musical identity/project of multi instrumentalist Cathy Lucas who adopted the name from a Virginia Woolf novel about a gender-bending dreamer who lives for 500 years! In March 2014 she released 'Earth Moon Earth and Other Round Trips' a split tape with Tom Furse and in March this year came 'Play Time', again a split tape, with Tomaga on Ram Tapes. On this Orlando sounds like the offspring of a 60s Sci-Fi soundtrack and a 70s Cinema advert but live as a full band it feels like you could be witnessing the rebirth of (a very danceable) Flower Power! Cathy is also involved with the School of Hypnosis, an East London collective that re-interprets minimalist pieces at living room parties. They are also preparing a self penned piece 'Sonic Tides' for Station to Station at the Barbican on Sunday 26th July. Ahead of playing Dalston Music Festival she kindly agreed to an interview.

Earlier this year Orlando and Tomaga released a split cassette 'Play Time: Music for Video Games' on Ram Tapes-how did that come about and what was the concept behind it?
I find there is a special kind of beauty in music that stretches out beyond itself, into some other world, implying it, but not fully revealing it. That’s why I love soundtracks so much, and library music generally. There is mystery there, inviting you in. Part of it is the sounds – far more interesting and un-identifiable than other genres.
So for the cassette music I start with a piece of music I like – in the case of MFVG it was Theme for a Telepathic Amphibian – and that inspires the concept. All the other music was written around that, as a soundtrack for videogames that have never been made. I had been talking about doing a RAM tape with Tomaga for a while – we were just waiting for the right idea that would click for both of us.
For the Round Trips tape, the song Earth Moon Earth became the first chapter in a story about escaping to the moon, enjoying a newfound freedom, but then eventually getting home sick and returning to Earth. Tom interpreted ‘Round Trips’ differently, creating slowly evolving loop-based music on his modular.

You've just done a July tour of Italy-how did it go? Do you find playing live brings an extra dimension to the music?
The last 3 months have been a transition from Orlando being my own solo project into becoming a band. By playing live, it has gradually become the sum, or maybe more than the sum, of it’s members, sprouting heads and spreading out beyond the songs. Although the home studio stuff will always be there in parallel, for our most recent recordings (still unreleased), we went into the studio to record as a band. The tour of Sardinia was our first and really helped to solidify the group. A bit like bootcamp, but with sunshine, beaches and high quality cheeses.
What sort of response have you been getting to the album?
The most common response is “I don’t have a cassette player.”

For people who are unaware of your musical past can you run us through it, you were part of Fanfarlo weren't you...?
I played a lot of music as a kid without hearing much recorded music beyond a few tired Beach Boys cassettes. My family was musical but not that into the culture of music. I got into records as a teen – mostly 60s and 70s rock and pop – and wore flares and flowery shirts, but growing up in Brussels suburbs that turned out to be quite a solitary pursuit. I got my first real education as a member of a psych-folk band called Tanakh in 2004. The guy Jesse Poe had moved over from Richmond Virginia to Italy where I was living. He showed me so much stuff – introduced me for the first time to the idea of violin in a band with stuff like Dirty Three and Ghost, but played me all kinds of music for the first time, experimental, jazz, soul, folk…
When I moved to London I played in various different bands, picking up a bit of this and that, mandolin, keyboards, singing, musical saw. My main squeeze Fanfarlo took off a bit in the states so we toured a lot, and I had so many incredible experiences with those guys. But by the time I was getting serious about recording and production, that was winding down and Orlando was taking shape. I wanted an antidote to the world of serious pop and industry pressure, to indulge myself with something far out and fantastic. And I also wanted to learn the craft of recording, reconnect with music making in a new way and follow something through from sound wave to cassette deck. I started the Association for the Re-Alignment of Magnetic Dust (RAM), a small tape label, as an outlet for that. Each one split with another artist because...why not?

Is there a sense of continuity between Orlando and what you have done before or does it feel like a fresh start?
Orlando feels like a definite break from the past. I’ve always been involved in other people’s visions, and continue to play with various groups, and produce other artists, which I love, but Orlando feels very personal, separate from all of that.
What are your plans? How do you see Orlando developing?
We’ve just been in the studio with Malcolm Catto recording some tracks. The aim is to get an EP out before the end of the year and work on an album for next. RAM will continue to put out quality collaborations with like-minded artists on limited cassette.
At a gig in February you were playing keyboards with The Oscillation, is that a permanent arrangement?
Yes, although The Oscillation has finished touring until the next album is released in 2016 while Demian works on his solo release.
What musicians have you been influenced by?
Too many to count. But Gary Wilson, R Stevie Moore, Bruce Haack and Todd Rundgren are all home recording heroes of mine. Nothing beats a party for one down the rabbit hole with all your gear. That is freedom! Then I’ve got very much into the sound of 60s and early 70s library records (Umiliani/Zalla, Roger Roger, Ruscigan, Nardini, Libaek, Subotnik, Marletta, Perrey, Casa, and many more…). These are so mysterious and inviting to me, and also so free because of the way were made – fast and furious. It gets me into the mindset of recording as a daily practice and process, rather than just a means to an end. But to be honest the biggest inspiration comes from the people that I work with directly. The members of Orlando: Valentina (To)Magaletti, Phil MFU a.k.a. Man From Uranus, Susumu Mukai a.k.a. Zongamin and Elliott Ardnt are a constant source of wonder in how they interact with their instruments. Tom Furse is an insatiable workaholic, font of technical knowledge and voice of reason. Malcolm Catto, who is producing our current set of recordings, keeps it very fucking real. And they all have excellent record collections. What more could I possibly ask for?

 For some magical library sounds check out the 5th Wave Radio Show by Phil MFU
And also Tom Furse’s forthcoming Southern Library compilation on Lo Recordings

1 comment:

  1. Great read. I agree. Orlando is a music mecca for this part of the state! It is especially awesome to learn the history behind the artist. do me a favor come over to my age as well @