“2020 has shown us that challenges can surface overnight, everything we once knew as a ‘normal’ life has been put on hold. It reminded us that we have no idea what the future holds and that this can feel scary. But we cannot be resistant, we must embrace this ride.”
For Lost Under Heaven, 2020 was set to be a pivotal moment for Ellery Roberts and Ebony Hoorn. After the release of their sophomore album ‘Love Hates What You Become’ in 2019, LUH had left Mute Records and were gearing up for their first year going independent. An undertaking that, even under normal circumstances, brings a whole new set of obstacles for artists to overcome – never mind it coinciding with an industry crushing pandemic. But rather than wallow in hardship, LUH abandoned all preconceived notions of what the year would hold and welcomed the uncertainty.
“To be honest we found the lockdown quite nourishing” begins Ellery. “Those first few weeks with that spring sun were a real blessing, sitting in the strangeness of this unprecedented moment. We set up some recording equipment at home and would sing together most mornings. Strangely, this is the first time we really got into a habit of jamming with no expectation. Usually I am very focused on what a song should be, almost racing to finish it - much to Ebony’s dismay. But during these months, seeing where an idea would lead us, we arrived at some real moments of beauty that may someday become songs.”
During this time, LUH also began to properly process their artistic independence and how they remained focused. “All I can say to that is maintain a level of success consciousness” believes Roberts. “Have the confidence that you are pursuing the path that is true to you, regardless of what others may be doing. Let go of any anxiety that says you are not enough.”
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Unfortunately, whilst lockdown provided a sense of momentary unburdening from the norm, the stark economic reality of being touring musicians who cannot tour eventually came knocking. With very little places to turn to, LUH decided to start their very own Patreon. “We didn’t really know what it was, how it worked or what we would do. We just decided to make the jump and ask for support” Ellery admits. “The response has been really heartening, in a way more fulfilling than any other interaction around our creativity over the past few years. The people who have joined us are deeply passionate for what we do and want to see us thrive.”
From exclusive merch, to future guestlist spots and production credits on the duo’s upcoming releases being just some of the perks available, this direct access between Hoorn and Roberts and their fans has been a monetary lifeline that has helped develop the sense of community that has always been ever-present in LUH’s music. Most significantly, when they shared the work behind their debut ‘Spiritual Songs For Lovers To Sing’ in a series of posts. “The idea came to do a 12-week journey through the creation of our first record, sharing the demo’s and story behind every song,” explains Roberts. “Doing it took us back to the very beginning of our collaboration in LUH. It was a therapeutic process, re-affirming why we do all that we do and how much we have grown over the years.”
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At some point in August, after a few months of growing and dedicating themselves to the platform, Hoorn and Roberts began to make even bigger strides. “It dawned on us that the funds we had raised on Patreon were enough to pay for a week of studio sessions, which I felt would be enough time to finish some songs we had curated into a potential EP” says Roberts. “Though this had not been the game plan when we set up our Patreon, we quickly started to envision how we could form a truly ‘interdependent’ record label that is nurtured by the foundation of support we receive there. To know that the records we make can be financed by the fan base that appreciates them, rather than a third party who essentially want a product to sell, it is deeply satisfying for me and is a model I want to continue to grow over the coming years.”
One of the tracks that has been spawned during this process is the recently released ‘Alpha Omega’. A track that combines the apocalyptic themes LUH have explored in the past, with a psychedelic and almost baggy soundscape, that results in a track unlike anything LUH have so far released. “I made Alpha Omega one hot evening in June. We had just met with friends for the first time in months for a picnic in the park,” recalls Ellery.
“On the way home, I was joking with Ebony that none of our music could be played casually in the background for people to vibe to - it always is too intense, melodramatic. Later that night, I was absent mindedly playing the guitar whilst watching a discussion between Doug Rushkoff and Jamie Wheal at the Rebel Wisdom Festival. At some point, I started playing this riff and I quickly recorded it and layered in a few more ideas.”
“The next day, using Anton Newcome’s timeless work of the Brian Jonestown Massacre as a template, I started to produce a ‘chill summer vibes banger’ - just as a playful experiment. Both Ebony and I were pretty amused by what came out of it and decided we should write some lyrics reflecting on all that we were seeing and feeling during this ‘rapturous’ moment in time. And thus, Alpha Omega came to be.”
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And the work doesn’t stop there. After collaborating with The Haxan Cloak and John Congleton on previous releases, LUH have now also chosen to produce their new work themselves. “I now feel confident I can create the sounds and atmosphere we envision for Lost Under Heaven” states Roberts. “I’d say my production of the new songs has been inspired by Spiritualized’s ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space’, ‘Storm In Heaven’ era Verve, the recent Nick Cave records - particularly ‘Skeleton Key’ - and Nick Drake’s ‘Bryter Layter’. Oh and Matt Ox.”
Whilst it might seem that LUH have managed to salvage some positives from what has been a catastrophic year, the pair also hold no illusions towards the lasting impact of the way in which the UK government has handled COVID-19 and the utter incompetence shown towards the music industry. “My understanding is we are headed into a very transitory period for the foreseeable future, many things will change at many levels of society” believes Roberts. “Humans have always made music together and sung live, so that spirit will always be there. Perhaps the bloated mainstream industry will fall away or evolve online, but the real will prevail – maybe we will see a resurgence of underground culture.”
However ultimately, Lost Under Heaven has always been looking to the future and finding meaning and solace within each other. “The idea is to keep moving forward towards excitement at the possibilities that will eventually surface, instead of getting stuck in the terror of negative possibilities” hopes Hoorn. “To hold a strong vision together of what we want this world to be and keep on building all the dreams we have. May 2021 bring us a feeling of deep kindness and compassion in our hearts for all and may we keep encouraging others with our art. We are capable of much more than we realise, let’s embrace the unknown.”
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Words: Liam Egan
Photo Credit: Saesha Blue Ward
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