LAKE might just be the hardest-working band in indie rock. Over the past year the band has recorded two full-length records and dabbled in a variety of side projects, while vocalist Ashley Ericksson also managed to release a solo album (the excellent Colours, out earlier this summer on K). After putting the finishing touches on new album The World Is Real — which was recorded at the K Records Dub Narcotic studio — the band opted to decamp to Washington and do a whirlwind writing/recording session at Phil Elverum’s Unknown studio with the help of longtime friend and production guru Karl Blau. The resulting album, Circular Doorway, is among the loveliest and loosest things the band has ever created (which is saying something considering the band has a history of making lovely, winsome pop music). You can buy Circular Doorway now via the band’s own Bandcamp page, though The World Is Real won’t arrive until September. I called up band members Eli Moore and Ashley Eriksson to find out how the two new records came to be.
STEREOGUM: Tell me, what have you guys been doing for the past year? It sounds like everyone has been incredibly busy.
ELI: Our last album came out in spring 2011, so we toured for that. Ashley and I were living on a small island near Seattle, and we decided to move to Olympia last winter, 2011-12, and try working on new material with the band when we were all actually living in the same place, which was a new thing for us. Oh, we did a tour with R Stevie Moore, we went to Japan, and Ashley and I did a tour for LAKE … well, on behalf of LAKE since it was just the two of us and not the full band. Oh, and Ashley has a solo album coming out on K, is it this month? Or next month? And she has done some touring on her own for that.
STEREOGUM: That’s cool. Ashley, how was it to step out and do your own thing for a while?
ASHLEY: It’s nice. I like having more control and just being more focused on my own thing sometimes. I’ve been in a band with lots of people for eight years now, so there are so many dynamics always happening in the band to negotiate. I just thought it was nice to be able to play with less dynamics, less people. So sometimes Eli plays with me and we kind of do this lounge-style set. It also allows us not to have to always play in rock-style venues.
STEREOGUM: How are the two new LAKE albums different? They have totally different vibes?
ASHLEY: Well, the one we did at K we spent a lot more time on and we did a lot more editing on a computer while putting it together, so there’s way more tracks, more ambient sound and space, and it’s just more complex. But then that’s what’s nice too about the one we did at Unknown, mostly because it’s shorter and it’s more live and spontaneous. I don’t know how they will actually sound to other people. That’s just how I look at the two experiences. But musically it’s hard to say.
ELI: The one we did in Olympia — The World Is Real — for that one we really thought ahead, we practiced the songs for months before we recorded them. For the one we did at Unknown we went into the studio without a plan and just kind of wrote on the spot. We just had six days to do it, so it was more spontaneous. It was like a condensed process — everything you’d do to normally make a record but done in the course of a little bit of time.
ASHLEY: Yeah, it’s really about the process. The spaces we were working in both sound really different. Circular Doorway has really natural reverb on all of it, and then the one we did at K has so much processing on it. We perfected all the sounds and manipulated them to all fit together really well.
ELI: One record was on purpose and one was on accident. For Circular Doorway we wrote a lot of lyrics as a band, like, for the first time ever. So it was quick, and it was like a therapy session or something. For The World Is Real we tried really hard to make it perfect. I they both turned out good in their own special way.
STEREOGUM: I’m always really fascinated by the dynamics in bands, which are often very prescribed — there’s one person who is the bass player, one person who is the singer, one person who drums. In most bands people have a very specific role, but one thing that’s interesting about you guys is that pretty much everyone in the band can do a variety of different things. Has the dynamic of how you guys write songs changed radically from the early records to these two? How does that usually work?
ELI: I think that for years now, there’s been an openness for ideas from other people. You know, obviously Ashley and I write the bulk of the song material but we’re always hoping for it to be more of a collaborative thing. So I feel like we’re always going toward that process of coming up with material as a group, and then maybe Ashley or I will write lyrics for it but in general the process — even with new stuff — is that Ashley and I will write and have an idea and bring it to the band …
ASHLEY: Yeah, we usually have the lyrics and the song idea before we bring it to the band … except for this wild, accidental album that we made.
STEREOGUM: Were you surprised by the results? It sounds like it was fun to make.
ASHLEY: Yeah, I think it’s something that we always talked about doing, but it’s a hard thing to make happen. It is intense for everyone to take off work and move to a town for a couple weeks, but we were always talking about going, like, “Let’s get a cabin somewhere! Let’s go to Ohio!” But this was the first time it actually happened.
STEREOGUM: How long did the whole thing take?
ELI: I think it was five days of recording, and then I had to go back a few times to mix. Then we took it home and we’ve kind of been experimenting with the track order. It’s kind of short, so we’ve done a few things to jazz it up. Like there’s an instrumental song that we flipped backwards and made into a track, so it’s just this instrumental of a song in reverse, just to kind of stretch it out a little and make the whole thing more than thirty minutes long.
STEREOGUM: I was looking back at your discography earlier today and I was surprised by how long you guys have actually been a band. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I didn’t realize how long you’ve been doing this. Are you surprised by the fact that this band is still going on? Did you imagine this kind of career for yourselves?
ASHLEY: I think within the very first few months, I knew — we all knew — that we’d be playing music together. But, like, when you choose your band name, it’s hard to picture that … you know, I wasn’t picturing us eight years down the line. But, yeah, I think probably after we’d been together for a few months we started to feel like it was working. It’s like you get this momentum and you get this feeling like, “Wow, we’re still together, whoa, we’re still together!” Especially when other bands deteriorate or change their band name. It was really exciting to just still keep going.
ELI: I think I had a lot of fear that it would fall apart in the first few months because it was kind of a volatile time. One of the members of the band was Ashley’s boyfriend, and then he moved back to California. And there was even a period where we broke up for a while and there was a period of time where people didn’t really want to play shows anymore. And the membership has changed occasionally, but still I’ve always imagined us, like, playing shows when we’re fifty … and maybe we’ll finally be up the big stage. We’re on the slow burn so I think in another twenty years we might be able to get to the big stage. But I’ve always been the idealist in the band.
STEREOGUM: What will the rest of this year be like for you? Will you be touring a lot?
ELI: That’s a good question. Ashley will be touring a lot because she has the solo album, and know I can help her out with that. But we’re touring in the fall and we’re doing US tours in the winter and hopefully we can go to Japan again and hopefully go to Europe. It’s an exciting time for us.