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The Quiet Sound Of Luluc, Sparked By Punk Rock


Quiet, introspective with haunting melodies. Those are trademarks of the music of the Australian folk duo Luluc.


LULUC: (Singing) Flying over Chicago. There trees line the white snow.

KEITH: This week, I spoke with band members Zoe Randell and Steve Hassett about their new album called "Passerby" out July 15.


LULUC: (Singing) Across the night in red and gold.

KEITH: Can you tell about the name of your group, Luluc? What does it mean? I tried Googling it, and I couldn't find an answer in any sort of bird book or anything.

STEVE HASSETT: Well, it was sort of the product of just one of those conversations where you throw out a million band names. We actually ate at a cafe in Brooklyn that was called Luluc for a while. And we went back to Australia and that was one word that i threw out there that I felt like we could just use. So we stole it.

ZOE RANDELL: I think the thing we liked about it is the way it looks, and we felt like that was appropriate for our sound.

KEITH: How you two fit together musically? Zoe writes the lyrics. Do you also write the music? How do you work together? What's the collaboration like?

RANDELL: I start by writing the basis of the songs, and then I'll take those ideas to Steve, and Steve's very good. From the very beginning, when I first started showing him ideas, he was able to pinpoint problems or some aspect that, perhaps, wasn't being communicated clearly enough. And it would always be the thing that I would be struggling with.

HASSETT: Well, you're being very nice me there, Zoe. I should say that I'm not always right about my edits, and sometimes, I tell Zoe, oh, look, that one's just not working. And then maybe a few months later, I'll hear Zoe playing it, and I'm like, Zoe, what's that one again? That's the best one. Anyways, so I can get it wrong, totally. But, yeah, and then once Zoe - we've get the songs under way, then we look to record them. And I've got a bit of a technical side so I record it and then mix it. And on this album, we've got a producer onboard as well.

KEITH: That producer is Aaron Dessner of the indie rock band The National. Where do we hear his influence?

RANDELL: I think actually the treatment that Aaron did to "Without a Face" - that's, more distinctly, a National type treatment, you know. It's a lot of percussion and layering.


RANDELL: I remember sort of saying to myself, OK, just keep an open mind 'cause I didn't really know, like, how that type of treatment would work.

KEITH: I imagine that can be almost a little scary. You two have worked together. You self-produced your first album - to then bring in someone from the outside who has their own ideas.

RANDELL: Oh, it's terrifying. And Steve and I are both very pedantic and very particular and, very fortunately, have similar instinctive response to things, but were very nervous about bringing someone else in. And, actually, the fact that we met Aaron and connected with him personally so well was part of the reason that we were sort of more open to the idea of working with him, and yeah, it was seamless. He was fantastic.

KEITH: You guys have covered songs by Nick Drake, and you were part of a tribute tour. And for those who don't know, Drake was a folk musician in the '60s and '70s. Though his career really took off after he died - well after he died - when his song "Pink Moon" showed up in a Volkswagen commercial.


KEITH: What is the relationship between Nick Drake and the music you make now?

RANDELL: "Pink Moon," the album, was given to me by a friend many years ago, and it was one of the records that really made me feel very drawn to the idea of songwriting. And it was something I've been dabbling in but kind of gone to university and been a bit distracted by a few other things. And "Dear Hamlyn," our first album that we put out a few years ago, is very much along the same lines of "Pink Moon." It's a mood piece and kind of a gentle record. So we love that album and that artist.

KEITH: Let's listen to the title track of your album, "Passerby."


LULUC: (Singing) This life - this passerby life in this life - this passerby life.

KEITH: What do you mean by this passerby life?

RANDELL: Well, we all die. So, I mean, I have some understanding of death as we all do. I grew up on a farm where I was exposed to a lot of death with the animals, but also my father passed away some years ago now. So it's sort of born out of the knowledge you get through experiencing people you love's mortality and then, obviously, being combined with your own.

KEITH: This album - it's is full of longing for home when you're far from it - for people who are no longer in your lives - moments in the past. Do you think of your music as - as sad?

HASSETT: No. No, it's fun. I mean, I don't know what writers like throughout the ages have not drawn inspiration from life, love and death. You know, maybe there's a primacy put on joy in music and pop music or something like that, and that's fine - you know, that's great. We don't have to be that band.

KEITH: OK. So what's your jam? Like, what do you guys love when you're not listening to your own - making your music?

HASSETT: Well, Zoe's a huge punk music fan. I grew up sort of on more psychedelic rock. And then we love a lot of the more mellow stuff - Paul Simon and Beatles and Beach boys and all that sort of stuff. You know, Zoe grew up on a country farm so punk music meant a lot to her about getting out of her environment, but you can talk more about that Zoe.

RANDELL: There was very little diversity of music available at that stage. There was no Internet and the radio station - local radio station played the same songs often within the same hour. I've had some very good fortune of a babysitter when I was 12-years-old who gave me a cassette tape that had the Ramones, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Painters and Dockers, who are an Australian rock band. And I heard it, and in a small country town with conservative views and, I don't know, not quite fitting in - it was excellent music. I loved the attitude of it all, and I still love it.

KEITH: I have to say, I grew up in a farm town in California, and I had a friend who gave me a cassette of punk rock that completely changed my life, also.

RANDELL: Guardian angels - those people.

KEITH: Zoe Randell and Steve Hassett of the band Luluc. Their new album "Passerby" is out July 15. Thanks for joining us.

HASSETT: Thanks very much.

RANDELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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