It's been just twelve months since the release of their début song 'Two Prongs,' and in that short time Brighton's Lion Bark, true to their namesake, have been making a lot of noise. There's been gushing write-ups in blogs like When The Gramophone Rings and Indie Shuffle, features in the NME Radar, Clash Magazine and The 405, not to mention sessions for BBC Introducing and even Burburry. As the band get ready for the release of their next single 'Come Into My Arms', Barney caught up with Ozzy and the guys to give us the skinny on the recording of their hotly-anticipated debut album, frontman Guy's distinctive voice and what it's like to play a session on a boat.
B. Sorry about the predictability of this question but let’s get it out of the way like pulling off a plaster! You guys are a new band so please give us a brief history of Lion Bark; where you met, who are your influences, what you’ve done until now…
LB. We all have quite different musical histories. Each interesting individually, but they're long tales for other times. These stories merged 3 years ago when we all moved to Brighton and began writing together. We were at music school, being taught how to murder our imaginations when we birthed the band. Shortly after, we left the institute, for obvious reasons. Our career history consists of a lot of writing, a handful of gigs, and half a tea spoon of song releases. As i write this, we're about to release our next song, Come Into My Arms, which we had a great time recording. And, in terms of influences, it's a never ending list, which i shan't bore you with.
B. You don't need me to tell you that you guys have been getting an amazing response to the small amount of material you have out there. There's been a huge amount of plays and views of your 'Longhorn' video and blogs are really building you up. Has the weight of the hype added any pressure or are you taking it all in your stride?
LB. Thank you. It's certainly been enjoyable to watch the materials reception. We've received a few emails from people that the music has really touched and lifted. That's such a joy. I see uploading and sharing a song as akin to smiling at someone in the street. It's a little thing, what with all the music out there, but it can brighten someone's day. If they smile back it just makes us smile more. I'm sure that individually, we feel different levels of "pressure" though. We've said things like, "sounds Two Prongsy. That's good." or "let's just write a happy one.", when we're wondering about how a song will be received. But we've learned so much over these few years that it's hard not to apply it to our music, and so that natural progression or deviation from the old happens by accident. The thought that occurred a few seconds after Two Prongs release, "Oh man, now all our songs have to sound like this or people will hate us." has been well and truly shattered. Our new singles, to us, feel like a whole different ball park and we're excited to share them. So, to answer your question, we're taking it in our stride now. Pressure becomes excitement when you're proud of your work.
B. The most immediate thing about 'Lion Bark' is Guy's vocal style. The way I described it to a mate was ‘grown man’ vocals. Has the croon quality of it been something you’ve attempted to feature in the songwriting or has it just come through naturally? It's distinctive and unique and that takes a real maturity and confidence to put out there. Has there been any vocalist that has particularly influenced the Guy style?
LB. Haha, yeah. I remember when i first heard Guy sing, i thought it was strange but had a lovely tone. It's just one of those "that's how it is" things. It's how he's always sung, and he wasn't going to change that to be in this band. It's probably been the easiest part of our songwriting, it's the constant. We can throw whatever sounds we want underneath it, but that's how Guy sounds so ... that'll be there no matter what.
B. The video for ‘Longhorns’ is remarkable, almost a horror. Ben Pender, the director had a very in-depth explanation for the way it interprets the lyrics. Was this something you collaborated on or was it a case of leaving him to interpret the lyrics as he saw fit and present the resulting idea to you?
LB. Yes, Ben is a friend of ours and he had offered to make the video for us. I was readying ideas for collaboration, we had some storyboards flying around, when all of a sudden this finished idea of his was on the table. He had the know-how, the equipment and the passion - so it sort of steam-rolled from then on. And from "then on", to it being finished, was a very short space of time. The idea accurately represents the lyrics for the most part, as he did converse with Guy on the subject matter. But yeah, we were all proud of the result. Ben and his team did a great job.
B. You played on BBC Introducing live session in the library with a stunning arrangement of 'Longhorns'. The live vocal harmonies really jump out. Did you have to think a lot about the stripped-down arrangement or did you essentially just play the live version without drums? What was the experience of the BBC Introducing session like?
LB. We just played the song in a really simple format! That was it really. Same song, just with less going on. The experience of being in the studio was a fun one, and hopefully not the last.
B. There's a wonderful video of you guys playing 'Two Prong' in a boat on YouTube. You're all very professional and earnest looking in the vid but that must have been an absolute hoot to do right? Was it a memorable experience and is it any harder to play intricate folk guitar on a rocking boat than it is on dry land?
Ha ha. The thing that made playing guitar hard in that boat, was trying to hold the one mic we were recording the sound with, between my knees as i played. Other than that, I'd say it's similar to playing on dry land. I suppose our next challenge would be to do an acoustic session, but just be swimming as we play. That might prove harder. But yeah it was great fun.
B, Brighton is a city known for its music scene, especially the more arty and (does inverted commas sign in the air) hipster indie bands. Have you found being in Brighton a help to your progress or is it harder to stand out with so many other bands vying for attention?
LB. Brighton has a strange and wonderful music scene. The list of inspiring musicians and creative persons here just goes on and on. I would say that being here has helped us, partly because - we wouldn't have met otherwise, and because all the other bands here already sound so good. If it doesn't inspire you and make you up your game then you're at the wrong gigs. The thing that makes a band stand out the most in Brighton, for me, is the level of maturity they have. With so many musicians around, you can tell when a band don't really know what they're doing. I mean that creatively, and technically. It's natural to be at the starting line at some point, we've all been there, but a lot of the acts in Brighton have been going for a long time. And they sound great because of it. As for ourselves, we're one leaf on the musical tree that is Brighton, we're not trying to stand out per se, but we're involved and we're having fun.
B. I've seen the studio photos on your sites and can't wait to hear the result. Let us know where you are with new material. Are you working with the same producer as last time? What can we expect in terms of new material?
LB. The line up of people we're working with has changed around a bit. We had the pleasure of working with Tarek Musa, musician/producer extraordinaire for the first two singles, and since then we've been invited up to work with Barny Barnicott. Last time we were in the studio, taking those pictures you've seen, we were on a confidence high and were just experimenting as much as we could. So, don't expect these next few releases to be tame.
B. Your new year’s resolutions were posted on your Facebook. Nearly halfway through 2014 it’s time to take a look back. Did you…
Learn a new chord? If so, which one?
(Tasteful) Fill a song with cowbell?
Release and sell your own brand of cereal?
LB. Ha ha. I haven't learnt any chords actually, but i've invented a few. "The Glory Chord" has made it's way into our live set. ( But no, we have learnt some chords, some named ones. We're just not sure on their names )
The cowbell waits in the shadows.
The cereal is ready, but we're not sure the public are.
B. What’s the rest of the year got in store for Lion Bark? Throw us your social networks and site and any final info so we can keep up with your ascendancy.
LB. The year has excitement in store. We've got our happy faces on and we're eager to share our creations with you. Best place to check for these, and other updates, would be at www.lionbark.co.uk. From there you can reach our Facebook and other social media where it all goes on.