Features Interviews

Laura Loriga Interview: “The work of others can only enrich what we do”

We talk to the London-based Italian artist about her latest LP, ‘Vever’.

For the last two decades, Bolonga has been one the focal points for underground creativity, and Laura Loriga is yet another to emerge from this innovative milieu.

Whilst Mimes of Wine, Loriga’s band which has spawned three long-players (Apocalypse Sets In – 2009; Memories for the Unseen – 2012; and La Maison Verte – 2016), was her primary focus, the Italian songwriter has devoted more time to her solo endeavours, and written between 2018 and 2020, the end result is Vever.

Having divided her time between Bologna, Los Angles, New York and most recently London, Lorgia’s drifter-like qualities are etched into the grooves of Vever. Released last year digitally via Ears&Eyes Records, Vever now gets a timely release on vinyl via God Unknown Records.

With a swathe of guests, including Josh Werner (Marc Ribot, Coco Rosie), Otto Hauser (Espers, Vashti Bunyan), Anni Rossi and Janis Brenner (Meredith Monk, Vocal Ensemble), Vever is a celebration of community. It also contains some of Loriga‘s finest moments captured on tape so far.

There’s an effortless quality to Loriga’s songcraft. The nine tracks which comprise of Vever, drifting from room to room with an eternal grace. No sooner do you think you’re in the same headspace as these songs when, suddenly, it’s all over; the only logical thing to do is play the album from front to back again.

There are highlights aplenty, of course. The organ-led Balmaha is like a lost spirit from the deep that drifts around the subconscious. The medieval specter-like swoon of August Bells to the gorgeous piano balladry that draws the curtain on the album, The Sun Rises Where it Rises.

On Vever, Loriga produces the kind of ballads that haunt dreams. A bewitching form of outhouse blues that few in this space dare to follow. Last week in the lead up to its vinyl release, Lorgia answered our questions about the album and her creative process.

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S13: Do you remember your first experience with music?

Laura Loriga: “My dad played records all the time when I was little. I remember in particular listening with him to The Concert in Central Park by Simon and Garfunkel when I had no idea what language English was, loving those harmonies and trying to imagine what Central Park might look like. His studio in our house (where he used to draw) was a sacred place I tried to recreate for myself later on.”

S13: Regarding your influences, do they change over time, or do you have key reference points that have been set in stone since you starting writing music?

LL: “Some of them have been with me for a long time (like Townes Van Zandt, and his lyrics, like a beam in the dark always, or Low), some of them have become references as taste and an understanding of different worlds changed in time (I fell in love with Ghédalia Tazartés’ music several years ago, more recently with John Hassell, Loren Connors, Laurie Anderson… and many more).

“Usually, if I really like something I don’t abandon it really, maybe only temporarily, things overlap. Overall in the last few years I started appreciating more abstract music more, but then I always get hooked on great songs.”

S13: How did the collaboration between yourself and God Unknown Records come about?

LL: “It happened through my friend Andrea Giommi last June. He saw online that Jason Stoll was looking for new music to listen to and he sent him Vever before even telling me. Jason and I connected the day after and here we are now. I did not know about God Unknown Records before, but I am a big fan of several artists Jason has collaborated with in the years. I feel very fortunate for both him and Andrea.”

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S13: Speaking of collaboration, there’s a lot on Vever which gives the record a lovely, multi-layered feel – especially with a song like Black Rose. It almost feels like a celebration of a musical community. Is that something you thought about with the record?

LL: “Yes, absolutely. I did not know when I was writing Vever that I would have been unable to return to New York for over two years, but this record has been since the beginning  also a mean to say thank you to its artistic community, which has changed my way of relating to music, as well as to some collaborators in Italy who have been near me for a long time.

“Everyone who played and worked on Vever with me has influenced the way it sounds (namely, Aaron Rourk’s wind arrangement in Passes the Flame). It would be very different without them and I can’t imagine it really. On Black Rose in particular, there are Otto Hauser, who understood the record just listening to the demos, Ran Livneh, whose elegance shines through in every song for me, Anni Rossi, a musician I keep learning from since I met her and Luca Guglielmino, who has been part of my band in Italy since 2010.”

S13: The organ on Balmaha really encapsulates the feel of the whole record, I think. Can you tell us about that song?

LL: “I wanted to create an idea of movement and stillness at the same time, which, as you mentioned, is quite true of the whole record. I tried layering three organs with different timbres and paces, and the other musicians developed great ideas around them (Ofir Ganon, Josh Werner and Otto Hauser).

“I went Balmaha in 2018 on a special occasion, and its peace and serenity had struck me, in great contrast with my Brooklyn life at the time. I thought of Balmaha from time to time, wondering if I would ever be ready for a place like that. I knew I was not, just like I am not now. It was a good start for a song.”

S13: The Sun Rises Where It Rises is a lovely ending, too. As soon as you’d written that song, did it stand out as the clear closing track?

LL: “It is the last song I wrote for Vever, and I knew then it was going to be the final track. A small message of optimism that I wrote quickly in comparison to most of the other songs, letting the piano rule over it. I realised I had started playing a bit differently after working only on organs for a while, and I tried to create a part based on colour just as much as on notes.”

Laura Loriga - Vivia

S13: The artwork also feels like it’s an important part of the story. Can you tell us the inspiration behind it?

LL: “The cover is a watercolor by my dear friend, Ripley Whiteside. It is part of a series called ‘Rosebank’ that he realised during the first wave of the pandemic in Nashville, portraying  some of the homes he saw in his neighborhood, with the lights on every night. It was perfect for a cover, a bit because he had painted it, a bit because I loved the shapes, the colors, the idea of a home, and also because at the time Vever represented a bridge between my two communities in Italy and New York.”

S13: Having lived in various cities and countries, does moving around and experiencing different place heavily influence your work?

LL: “It does to different degrees. I’d say that most of my moving has been part of my growing up process as an adult, while my real homes for now remain Italy and New York.

“In terms of work, Italy is where I learnt to pursue what I was looking for, Los Angeles taught me the ropes of how to be a musician, and New York has given me the chance to do it in the way that made the most sense to me, being part of something much bigger than myself that I felt I belonged to. It humbled me and freed me at the same time, it taught me lightness.

“Yet, I have been in the UK for two and half years now, and this has been a beautiful chapter too, which I am willing to explore with an open mind. London has given me a lot of stability and also inspiration to rebuild my career, and I am very grateful for this.”

Laura Loriga (photo: Quetzal Maucci)

S13: When you’re working on an album, do you need concrete ideas before starting the process or do you like to let things play out?

LL: “Writing is a dual process for me, it’s both digging in my own well, preferably where I have not dug before, and taking from the outside. My environment influences very much, possibly to a fault. Ideas can take different shapes at the beginning, more and less concrete depending on the song. For sure, I have been trying to pay attention to the words I use more and more, to use them in a the right way, not too comfortably. That helps the music to move along in the same direction, they often lead the way.”

S13: Do you keep in touch with new music, or do you find that it’s a potential hindrance to your own creativity?

LL: “I think keeping in touch with new music is a very good idea, there’s always something out there I wish I had heard before. I think as long as we know what our direction is, the work of others can only enrich what we do, and put it into perspective.”

S13: Over the last couple of decades it seems that Bologna has developed a really strong underground community. Can you tell us a bit about it?

LL: “I have been in an out of Bologna in the past fifteen years, so I don’t know as much as I should, but I agree it is a special place in this regard. I am very aware that without places like Link or Covo my musical education would have been very different. There are and there have always been circles with powerful ideas, free thinkers and experimenters. Among the ones I can think of that are active there now I could mention Iosonouncane, Stefano Pilia, Francesco Serra (Trees of Mint), Francesca Baccolini, Jonathan Clancy and his Death Maple Records, Bruno Germano and his Vacuum Studio, A Toys Orchestra.”

S13: What does the remainder of 2023 have in-store for you?

LL: “We are about to play a few shows in the UK and Germany to present Vever (with Andrea Giommi and Jem Doulton right now), and I hope we will continue to do so for the rest of the year. At the same time, I am gathering ideas for a new album and working on an EP of short pieces for contemporary dance, which I am looking forward to complete in the months to come.”

Vever is out via God Unknown Records/ Ears&Eyes Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.

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