Our Spotlight series in partnership with SYNCR Music continues with the incredibly captivating L-Space.
Glaswegian dream-pop band L-Space are as idiosyncratic as they are captivating. When asked to describe the band in one sentence, instrumentalist Gordon Johnstone came up with “a used-universe Utopian experiment in noise and storytelling” while vocalist Lily Higham went a little further: “Imagine a Bladerunner-like city, but nature is taking over again, and you are watching it out of a window while sipping coffee before your work day of creating technology for a better world”. L-Space aren’t your average indie band. They’re different.
Their latest EP Backup Baby is certainly a compelling listen. The title track is inspired by a trailer for video game ‘Death Stranding’ (directed by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro) featuring a baby in a tank attached to the protagonist. “One theory was that the baby works as another life in the game mechanics, and gives you the chance to live again. The lyrics explore the idea of growing a clone of yourself as a ‘Backup Baby‘, and thinking about whether the backup would really be the same as you, and whether your own life loses meaning if you can be given indefinite amounts of redoes,” Lily explained.
Previous to the release of this EP, L-Space have showcased their love for remixing other artists’ tracks including Sun Rose’s ‘Minima’ and Carla J Easton’s ‘Wanting What I Can’t Have’. Gordon explained, “Usually, when I listen to a song, I can hear in my head little snippets that I think are amazing or could be turned into something new, and both of these songs had those in spades”. The band list a plethora of enjoyable aspects of remixing from the process to the humbling moment they witness the artist’s reaction. “The sounds you can make with other people’s stems really are incredible. I like being able to surprise people with versions of their songs that they may not have considered,” Gordon added. Lily sites Radiohead’s ‘Like Spinning Plates’ and Grimes as dream covers and Tusks as a dream remix, while Gordon dreams of remixing Radiohead and Mogwai: “Mogwai’s song “We’re Not Done”, to my ears, is just crying out to be a 10-15 minute dance floor banger. Mogwai may not agree…”.
Lily’s airy vocal style is a particularly prominent characteristic of L-Space’s sound, though it’s something that seemed to develop naturally. “It’s just kind of what comes out of my mouth when I try to sing, ha!” Lily states humbly. She would like to get singing lessons, however, “at the moment I can only sing in a soft airy way and just don’t have the lungs or projection to put much power behind it! Although this has restrictions, I have embraced it and I think it goes well with the music we make and gives an ethereal tone that fits the subject matter and atmosphere we like to create”. When looking into self-improvement, Lily takes the voices of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, School of Seven Bells’ Dehezas, Thom Yorke and Björk as inspiration – what a list!
Another monumental feature of L-Space is their instrumentation. Beginning with a fairly simple setup of guitar, bass and vocals, it’s the synths they use that creates the signature L-Space sound. “We mostly use virtual synths on a laptop that we run through a MIDI controller live on stage. This allows us to recreate the sounds from the recordings fairly closely, but with some subtle differences that always come out when you’re playing live. Our second synth is a classic microKorg that we borrowed from our friend Andy before our first gig, which was in January 2017. Andy, if you’re reading this, we WILL give you your synth back. We promise.” Lily also divulged that she recently bought an electric cello in a charity shop (what a find!) which we can only hope will end up on a track one day (once she’s learnt how to play using YouTube videos, of course).
In case it wasn’t obvious enough already, L-Space find a lot of their inspiration in science fiction. Lily explains, “Our song ‘Blue Flowers’ is based on ‘A Scanner Darkly’ by Philip K Dick and our song ‘So It Goes’ is based on ‘Slaughterhouse V’ by Kurt Vonnegut. I listen to a lot of science and tech podcasts as well which introduce me to a lot of ideas, like the surgically implanted metal wings in ‘Aloe’. I am also inspired by things I read on the internet about futurology and building technology for better futures, and my studies in Cognitive Science and A.I.. ‘Suneaters’ is an example of a song influenced by my reading about a future of solar power and a tech-justice event I went to at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation”. Moreover, Gordon found Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy as a defining influence: “His unique biological horror/sci-fi style kept niggling away at me when I was writing the synth parts and I think a lot of it came through in the final mix. Also, the NASA retro-futuristic travel posters for all the planets in the solar system are so beautiful and really helped to shape my perception of the album in my head.”
L-Space have a number of Scottish gigs coming up over the next few months which, like the band, are more unusual in nature. “We’re playing in a very old bar in Glasgow as part of a pop-up record shop, in the middle of the street in the Merchant City for a mini-festival, and also a secret gig to launch the album that may or may not be in someone’s house.” Fans can expect to hear all the songs from their album, some fan favourites and some brand new. In September, the four-piece will be heading out on tour with fellow Scots Cloth and Domiciles: “Expect light-up umbrellas, neon flamingos, noise-reactive clothing, and fake houseplants. Imagine a kind of neon cyberpunk tropical club and you’re halfway there.”
L-Space’s highly anticipated debut album Kipple Arcadia will be available on pink vinyl on 28th September via Last Night from Glasgow, accompanied by a behind the scenes video. “We’re playing lots of gigs between now and then (which you can find out more about on our website) and we’ll have some really exciting gig announcements towards the end of the year as well. Watch this space!” Listen to Lily, L-Space are certainly worth keeping an eye on.