Some bands have an uncanny ability to fiercely provoke the senses. From that first note, you become hypnotised, suffering from some sort of cerebral bewilderment where you can do nothing but submit.
With the music that LONESAW produce, one would think there’s a kind of high-brow music school aesthetic attached to it. Institutions that seemingly produce a mass scale of artists that operate with an inherit shallowness, possessing little to suggest any artistic longevity.
Basically everything that LONESAW is not.
It’s not difficult to decipher what is produced from an ivory tower and what isn’t and in LONESAW‘s case, like their collective persona, it’s on the level with a modest, genuine hyper-realness. Their music, whilst wildly uncompromising and challenging, is not only good, it’s produced by good people.
Led by Ben Bones (vocals, electronics), co-founder, Chris Connor (electronics, saxophone), Lisa Fawcett (drums), Jezebel Halewood-Legas (saxophone), and Brad Maldon (bass), LONESAW come together like malignant spirits to present a belching fire of white-hot hell.
Live, LONESAW are like a delirious out-of-body experience. One is tormented, seemingly ensnared by these debauched minstrels dispensing a vulgar racket.
With the band’s live performance brimming with such unbridled menace, it was hard to imagine them replicating that searing energy within the confines of the studio walls. However, with Lay in the Salt of the Soil, the band’s debut EP, they do so emphatically.
It’s an aural bludgeoning in every sense, starting with the paranoid freak-out of Yet I Am – a song that sounds as if it were conceived from the depths of a mental asylum.
The innocuous proficiency of The Leash follows and is a straight up bone-shaker, bursting with militant percussion and piercing saxophone. It’s the kind of maelstrom the likes of Swans and Einstürzende Neubauten haunted souls with in the ’80s.
Then there’s the flashing blade that ends the EP in Barbed Wire Church. Its anxious gale-force power remaining as unwavering as the day it was released back in September last year.
Lay in the Salt of the Soil is 22 minutes of belligerent extremism. An original snarling mess, with very few artists in the U.K. dispensing music as arcane and vibrant as this.
The EP marks the first release for the band’s own label, SPINE. Spearheaded by Connor, the band anticipates more new releases from other local artists on SPINE in the coming months.
“What we would be doing is putting on shows and the money from that would go into putting out small runs of releases – tapes, prints and stuff, to make sure someone’s putting music out,” says Bones, in reference to both SPINE and QUARRY studios – the venue which LONESAW had started up before the pandemic last March.
Thankfully, the band still maintain the running of QUARRY where it will be in waiting on the other side of the lockdown.
“It did feel like before lockdown, we were on the cusp getting a moving scene with more dark and left-field stuff with QUARRY, Moonfrog, and the [Kazimier] Stock Room,” says Bones.
On the Sunday before the release of Lay in the Salt of the Soil, along with Bones, via Zoom I managed to speak with the rest of the members of LONESAW.
Sun 13: How did LONESAW begin?
Chris Connor: “That was me and Ben first. When we were just making straight noise with synthesises. It was a lot more free-form than it is now. Then gradually we sort of… Brad joined the band on guitar then switched to bass and then we started developing the band side of things. Then Lisa joined on drums and then Jez…”
Lisa Fawcett: “Excuse me! I joined the band before Brad did, thank you very much.”
Ben Bones: “Me and Chrissy were living together and we were just doing it in our bedrooms, basically.”
S13: Was that, like… 2018?
LF: “I remember it was Halloween.”
Jezebel Halewood-Legas: “I don’t know what year that was…”
BB: “It was a year before it had a name and then we just started releasing random stuff, like lo-fi recordings. Then Lisa joined and still we were pretty fucking free-form. I was still playing a one string bass and a chain (laughs). So… we played a gig with the Wild Fruit Art Collective, maybe?”
S13: I remember seeing you guys at the Deep Cuts second birthday party in January, maybe 2018? Shit… it must have been before that when you formed. 2017?
BB: “I don’t even know.” (laughs)
S13: Fuck… that gig might have been 2019!
Brad Malbon: “It’s been so long…”
S13: Totally. Yeah, it was definitely the January 2019 when I first came across you guys. Many lifetimes ago it seems…
BB: “Officially, the sound we have now is probably about two years old. Playing around with sounds. With just Lisa and Chrissy it was way more… like Chrissy said, free-form, but also very basic song structures and DIY… mainly wanting to do something nuts, do you know what I mean?
BB: “Then Brad joined. I think he came to our first show then joined on the second one. Then Jez later.”
BM: “I think when we had the sort of traditional band structure, as a four piece, that influenced the writing process.”
BB: “Definitely. It formed more of a band sound as in a group of musicians playing together. It’s not necessarily always [like that]… although having said, and we’ve said this before, we love like Madonna, ABBA and the traditional pop star, so there’s always been a sort of… we are musicians that are capable of doing that but have chosen not to.”
S13: The track that jumped out at me in terms of conventional song structures would be The Leash. With a band like this, I’d assume your individual tastes are eclectic, right?
BB: “Yeah, absolutely. You can definitely hear our influences. I think those influences channel through us as LONESAW because in a way it’s been orchestrated to be a kind of techno-y, EDM sort of vibe and more free, electro-acoustic. You can hear all the influences, but it’s still our sound.”
S13: You talk about the techno-y influences and I think of What Does Is Mean, To Be A Man In A Burning World. It lends itself to that ravey New York street vibe. It’s probably the most different track on the EP. On that song, is there a Swans reference in that title?
BB: “Actually, no, but maybe subliminally. Have they got a song?”
S13: Their album, The Burning World. Like late ’80s…
BB: “Oh of course!”
S13: I imagine you listen to Swans. Cop-era maybe?
S13: Anyway… that track was written in lockdown, right?
BB: “Yes. We were still living together and we were able to do stuff. Was it… I fucking don’t know anymore…”
CC: “It was lockdown one. I was only thinking about this recently. Each of tracks followed a different writing structure. Not intentionally, but, like you were saying about The Leash, that one was written in a practice room as a band.
“Then something like What Does Is Mean, A Man In A Burning World was done on a laptop with drum machines. Yet I Am was sort of somewhere in between when we were…”
BM: “Kind of improvising, really.”
CC: “Yeah, making it up as we were going along, recording it in parts. Barbed Wire Church was done as a band as well.”
S13: With Yet I Am it’s the most challenging song on the EP. Was it a conscious decision to open with that?
BB: “Since making the video for Barbed Wire Church and working with Jon Stonehouse who shot the album cover with me and did all the other footage that we’ve released with it, we’ve got more into a kind of ritual. I suppose we want to end up with the live performance becoming a live ritual, getting interested in magic and esotericism and stuff like that.
“So yeah, at the same time it has influenced that song because it’s meant to be an opening ritual to clear your ears and you’re totally focusing. That sort of echoes that, I suppose. The idea of a ritual performance and a live thing where you’re very much in the wrung.”
S13: You worked with Stephen Cole on these songs but I know you also did a bit of the EP at QUARRY, as well…
BB: “We recorded Barbed Wire Church and The Leash with Ste at What Studio and the other three with Jack Wait at QUARRY Studios. As well as a venue, he’s got a recording studio in there.
“It wasn’t a challenge, but Ste is a top range producer. He’s really amazing and has loads of great acts in his studio. Jack‘s extremely talented and has good stuff but it’s a different sort of set-up, so we were working as well on matching those sounds to create the universe, and we recorded those two tracks first and then each of the three after, with time in between, with lockdowns and getting stuff done.
“So yeah, Ste was amazing but Jack did a great job of getting to that level, as well.”
S13: Ste has really been knocking it out of the park with new music. He’s done an excellent job on Claire Welles’ new LP. Stylistically, he works with a lot of artists but he seems to have that signature sound. Like Steve Albini, John Congleton, those kind of guys…
BB: “Yeah, given his background with a.P.A.t.T. and experimental music he got it straight off the bat. He knew what we wanted and it was a super efficient session. We were kind of limited with time, just two days and a mix day.”
S13: The Salt sounds like you’re bastardsing Ex-Easter Island Head…
BB: “Really? Wow.”
S13: Yeah, it’s great, but it got me thinking. I guess that’s one of the major aspects sonically with LONESAW. All of these ideas that you’ve presented in 22 minutes. It’s almost like you’re trying to take things to such an extreme that those vast range of ideas reaches a logical conclusion. What are your thoughts on that?
BB: “I agree with a lot of that, absolutely. With The Salt, it’s a track that marries it altogether for me. In terms of a sound world and the kind of universe we’ve created with the visual element of the band, as well with the video and the album cover.
“But I think you’re right. Writing it was like… I wanted to use a different sound element as in using the bells which would be replaced with a fucking… loud synth or drum machine. So, trying to create an extreme sound but through an acoustic channel, through bells and shakers. Pretty simple stuff for those granular textures underneath to make it extreme and not…”
JHL: “You can’t go wrong with polyrhythm, can you?”
BB: “Yeah. Also, Ben Duvall is a good mate. He’s solo project is a major influence on that. With his autoharp… it’s mechanical, he has these things hanging. It’s amazing and I think there’s obviously the element of gamelan. I think that’s quite noisy as well, it can really be quite intense.”
S13: Barbed Wire Church closes the EP. I think it’s the song that encapsulates the LONESAW experience. It almost feels like Yet I Am and Barbed Wire Church are bookends of sorts…
BB: “It’s a full stop, definitely. I totally agree.”
CC: “When we first started playing Barbed Wire Church, it was our set opener for a very long period. I don’t know when we swapped over, but I remember when we started with it, people would think that we were still sound checking.”
CC: “People wouldn’t realise until the first part, what we call a slam, that we were playing and it would give people a jolt that we were actually not just fucking about.”
S13: The rhythms to the song are unique. Lisa and Brad obviously play a big part of that… Lisa, you drum for Uncle Jane as well. What’s it like shapeshifting from a conventional type of project to something more experimental like this?
LF: “With drums it’s different. If you look on PRS and Sentric, drummers never usually make most of the cut. They only get given like 10 per cent or whatever it is, so it’s always a good idea that drummers can be in several bands to keep themselves afloat.
“It’s really nice to have different bands with different energy, as well. At the end of the day you’re just vibing out. If you’ve got chemistry with different people it’s great.”
S13: Do you remember the moment when you’d written and played Barbed Wire Church for the very first time?
CC: “I remember writing it in rehearsal, but can’t remember the first time playing it.”
BB: “I had the lyrics just sitting in a notebook. It’s short song, you know, lyrically. It’s just a stanza, really. But I remember writing the lyrics then going to everyone in our old practise room. It’s a powerful one. Also, it’s one you need to get right. People need to be with it. That sounds super wanky…”
S13: Not at all.
BB: “What I mean is, if not everyone is tuned into it, which it has the power to do, I find it difficult to fully perform it if I’m over-thinking it. It’s so trance-y, you need to get into the base of it.”
S13: How did the EP’s title come about?
BB: “Again, it was something I’d jotted down. I tend to write stuff… it’s difficult because sometimes it just channels through me and I write something and I don’t really fully understand it or know what it’s about but I kind of learnt that that is what I prefer to bring forward, you know?
“I don’t know whether it’s important for people to take their own meaning from it because I don’t fully understand where it’s come from. Especially with Barbed Wire Church‘s lyrics. Lay in the Salt of the Soil, again it’s just something that will disappear in my head, so I have to jot it down. I think it echoes the ritual thing, the ritual performance and the magical element of it, you know? It sits in the universe that we’ve created.”
S13: So, in many respects, you would say that LONESAW is a world building exercise to a degree?
BB: “Yeah. 100 per cent. It’s similar to what we were talking about earlier with influences.”
S13: How have you been coping with lockdown?
BB: “It’s shit, isn’t it. We just want to play. Like you said earlier, putting a stamp or a final thing for the sound that we’ve created. This release is a perfect representation of what we’ve been working towards. Now we want to start a new performance. A new set of songs and a new sound.”
S13: There’s QUARRY as well, that must have been disheartening, having your own space before lockdown to create and do things outside of this project…
BB: “Luckily we’ve still got the place. Jack has been building his studio in there and a control room. We mentioned in another interview before we opened that we were keen to get going and put shows on to get funds so in lockdown we’ve managed to get in there and do work so that is one of the benefits. We’ve got a stage in, a control room, so it’s now looking much more like a venue.”
S13: I don’t see LONESAW holistically as a band, per se, I see it as the end point to a community, of sorts. Jez has her own projects, I know Chrissy has worked on some stuff with Prison Behaviour and done some things on Melodic Distraction…
CC: “I guess we would put that under SPINE rather than LONESAW. At least the greater collective of people in Liverpool and stuff that edges on experimental. It’s a really nice thing.
“Before we struggled with LONESAW to get gigs. We’d constantly get booked with like, loads of pop bands and we’d never get booked again by the promoter, so we started SPINE as a necessity so we could play.
“Since then it’s snowballed a bit but we’ve managed to help other people as well, which is great.”
S13: There aren’t too many bands doing what you’re doing. Do you see that as a detriment to not getting on line-ups?
JHL: “I think there used to be a lot more of this stuff. Maybe as those bands have got a little bit older and have other responsibilities, they’ve kind of passed the baton to us to carry on doing the weird shit. In terms of Liverpool, anyway. I don’t know…”
BB: “I’m not really conscious of that. We just make the art we make. We can’t really help it. It doesn’t really feel hugely deliberate. That’s just what it sounds like from us as a group of musicians. In a way, because of that it’s quite niche, but I suppose we have to seek out and make friends with the right people to get that platform. Because people want to listen to left-field stuff.”
Lay in the Salt of the Soil is out now via SPINE. Purchase from Bandcamp.