L-E Talk Us Through Their Forthcoming Debut Album | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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L-E Talk Us Through Their Forthcoming Debut Album

Listen to new single "Do You Want To Live?"

Jun 15, 2022 Web Exclusive
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L-E released their new single “Do You Want To Live?” earlier this month via Dustbunny Records. Taken from their forthcoming debut album which comes out on Friday 1st July 2022, “Do You Want To Live?” finds the story’s narrator coming to terms with the implications of immortality, asking his audience “Are you with me?...oh, what a relief”. Recorded at Press Play Studios in Bermondsey (Stereolab, Mount Kimbie, King Krule) with Dom Kirtley (Nilufer Yanya), “Do You Want To Live?” follows previous singles “An Exposition” and “The Future Is Waking Up”, both of which came out earlier this year.

L-E · 07 - Do You Want To Live

L-E is the brainchild of Texas-born, London-based musician and author Bryan Serwatka, comprising both a concept album and companion fiction novel. Thematically the novel explores the idea of immortality, and follows the narrative of protagonist Edward Raymond Hall. Bryan wrote the novel and the song sketches simultaneously, with each song effectively coinciding with a chapter of the novel. Matching the first-person storytelling of the book, all of the tracks on the album are performed from the perspective of Edward Hall. During the creative process Bryan enlisted the musical input of highly regarded session drummer Nick Mabey whose musicianship and experience helped further shape the album, resulting in a truly cohesive collection of songs that seamlessly transition from one to the next.

Here’s Bryan on “Do You Want To Live?”: “It’s a short palate cleanser coming in right after a three-song dance suite. Our protagonist has started to believe his own hype at the centre of the new universe of his making. It’s silly, sarcastic, sardonic and full of hubris setting the tone for the second half of the record / book. Recording it, I envisioned four guitarists circled around the bassist with Nick entirely elsewhere just locked into a groove - all of it super DFA / mid-2000s NYC indie-kid. We recorded the drums at Press Play on Andy from Stereolab’s kit, really pushing for that mega-punchy tone to be in tune with that era.”

Having already spoken with Bryan for a Pleased To Meet You piece in January, he’s written an exclusive track-by-track rundown of “L-E” for Under the Radar.

L-E's Bryan Serwatka
L-E’s Bryan Serwatka

“The L-E project has been an experiment in telling a linear story between both novel and music, so going through the LP track by track and detangling it all has actually been rather therapeutic. The book and the record were written simultaneously to keep the tone and emotion of each consistent and representative of itself, thus each song on the record is effectively the musical telling of each chapter of the story.

Throughout the record, there are a few character and narrative motifs expressed musically through instrumentation and style - notably Edward’s mother remembered as sharp post-punk distorted guitars and his father represented as a string quartet through the piece. It’s been difficult, but I’ve done my best to write this without giving away too much detail of the story and spoil the whole damn thing.”

1. Prelude

As far as he can tell, our main character Edward is the last man left on Earth and lives as such. The story starts with him rather ostentatiously dragging an ancient gramophone to the roof of an abandoned building in Kew Gardens to play Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The looped strings underneath are from a demo version of “An Exposition” that got scrapped when I changed the trajectory of the story.

2. Prologue

“I never knew how to speak to you” are the opening lyrics and words of L-E as Edward starts writing to his estranged son Eric. “Prologue” sets the stage for Edward to try and explain himself, leaving the story of his life as some sort of will and testament of the man self-believed to have been the most important to have ever lived.

I wanted the song to feel cavernous with loads of space so we worked with Dom Kirtley at Press Play in Bermondsey to get these massive drums down. I recorded the vocals at Assembly Coffee - a coffee roastery in Brixton. The place is a massive old converted firehouse and was perfect for those big backing vocalisations.

3. An Exposition

This was the first single off the record and is exactly as it says it is - an exposition of the story, but particularly that of Edward’s parents. They meet at an early New Order gig just after the release of “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, so we wrote the music around it using the same key and tempo, and mostly the same instrumentation. As this is set mostly in the early 80s, other nods to bands of the time are in there but I don’t want to give everything away.

4. The Skin

This is the start of a three song suite - the “Club Suite” as I’ve been calling it - marking the period of Edward going to university in Manchester and changing the course of human history. While at university he joins a band called “The Skin”, and this track is an imagining of what that band would have sounded like as three synths plugged into fuzzy guitar amps and a drummer who battled against a drum machine. The band is Edward’s means of finding himself and exorcising the feeling of helplessness.

5. The Future Is Waking Up

Edward’s been making some money on the side as a DJ, so to keep true there aesthetically we made sure this song mixed in perfectly from the last and kept in that pulsing bass synth to feel like an element of technology in “The Future Is Waking Up” - the second single off the LP.

For me this is the most fun song on the album as it’s so emotive and sure of itself - yet totally ridiculous and over-the-top. We wanted to keep the recording as raw as we could, leaving in all the warts, wrinkles and daftness. I even kept the demo drum take with Nick beating the shit out of a cheap drum kit in a grotty rehearsal room to remain true to concept in sounding like our fictional band “The Skin”. The song needed to be both melodramatic and playful as a play on Edward as he’s growing the ego that ultimately consumes him. There are several painfully on-the-nose musical references to Edward’s (and my own) idols as a counter to totally silly but totally serious lyrics.

6. Sweet Nothing

Here’s the final song in the “Club Suite” with some very intentional nods to the DFA school of music in the 2000s. If you’re a guy my age who’s into indie music, you’ll be as indelibly influenced by it as I am and Edward is. Having the scene moved back down to South London though, it felt right to add a little drum dub looping and guitar skanking.

The lyrical tone of the album starts to shift from here being a bit more self-aware and playful to match Edward’s ego. As this character fleshed out, it was so much fun for me to inhabit him in both the writing and delivery. He’s such a prick at this point, but there are so many examples of people with his sense of entitlement from whom I could draw this energy so the recording of it ended up feeling like comedy or satire in a way. And to feed my own ego, it was a joy ending Side A of the LP with a long instrumental fadeout.

7. Do You Want To Live?

This is the third single from the LP and acts as a short palate cleanser to start out Side B. Recording it I envisioned four guitarists circled around the bassist with Nick entirely elsewhere just locked into a groove - all of it still super DFA / mid-2000s NYC indie-kid. As the story moves over to the US, the rest of the album is written with guitars at the centre to keep things feeling a bit more rooted in rock, blues and folk. By now, Edward has started to believe his own hype at the centre of the new universe of his making. It’s silly, sarcastic, sardonic and full of hubris.

8. Lord It Over Me

Keeping him in mind as an inspiration for all things ego, I kept the mantra of “What would Kanye do?” while writing and recording of it. This track took the least amount of time to write and was the first track we finished production on purely because of how uncomplicated it is. Drums, guitar, vocals and synth vocals - that’s it. The drums are even done with just two microphones to keep things even less busy. Blues and gospel elements really helped root this American part of the story and allowed a bit of preachiness in the lyrical diction - though maybe not the general content.

9. The Sorrow

The guitar riffs are actually part of a song I’d worked on for about twelve years in three different musical projects but never turned it into something I liked until now. I started playing it in a rehearsal room in Brixton Hill with Nick while we were demoing “Lord It Over Me” - and suddenly everything made sense. His playing here just kills me every time: That first kick drum back in at 2:57 devastates me almost as much as the switch from ride to hi-hat at 3:30. Just wonderful stuff.

This song is the emotional centrepiece and climax for the whole project in many ways and without any spoilers, something awful happens here. Hell, it’s called “The Sorrow” - things weren’t going to be cheery! It was really important everything fell apart in the middle to convey that tragedy, then build the track way back up to something much much bigger.

10. Everything, Everyone

Every element of “Everything, Everyone” is pure melodrama from start to finish. Even the title is over the top! More than anything, I wanted this song to bring a real sense of closure to the tale and I feel we’ve done that - it actually feels like an album closer.

“Everything, Everyone” leans on the classic quite-LOUD-quiet post-rock trick with loads of tremolo guitars and crashing drums. Hearing the overlapping pianos back now I realise I should probably expand my late-evening listening beyond the Nils Frahm & Olafur Arnalds LP “Trance Frendz”. Or not - it’s amazing.

L-E is out on Friday 1st July via Dustbunny Records.

L-E Bandcamp

L-E Spotify

Bryan Serwatka Bandcamp


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