"There's just something about the snottiness, the delivery of a lot of melodies and lyrics that I think doesn't quite connect for us as a part of the Larkin Poe sound" In conversation with Larkin Poe
Kindred Spirits feels like the perfect storm of Larkin Poe (aka sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell), mixing their penchant for cover songs that drives their YouTube channel with the natural point that they've reached musically. From Americana through blues to now, an organic electrified blues-rock style that means they bring a unique sound to their own music and to the music of others.
Following the release of their latest album of original material, Self Made Man, earlier in the year with the Kindred Spirits covers album has never been a long-term plan; as Rebecca says "We initially started the YouTube series and Facebook as a practice tool for ourselves. It was a fairly selfish endeavour just to practice, and we were very surprised whenever it went viral. And we had so many fans that were tuning in and loving the covers, and fans were requesting recorded versions of the covers. So with COVID having wiped out our touring for 2020, we figured it would be a perfect time to just stretch out in the studio and create recorded versions of the song that our fans are requesting.
With "over 100" songs to choose from the final tracklisting is an eclectic mix of popular songs of varying styles, but it "wasn't too challenging" for the duo to choose the songs. "So much of the energy that we have expended with this series has been very instinctual and that same instinctual energy played out with the recording of this album. It became very clear which ones we wanted to do this go around."
But as simple as the song choices might have been, getting the finished sound that Rebecca and Megan wanted wasn't quite as easy. "We actually went into the studio and made Kindred Spirits once, kind of in the same fashion that we made our other records. So a little bit of programming, some separation of recording in the studio. And we came out with 11 songs, opened up a bottle of champagne to toast that that that we had finished the project. And then we listened to it. We were like, "no". This just isn't quite what we're looking for."
If you've seen Larkin Poe live you'll understand why they went back to do it again. "We wanted it to be more raw, more live. There's so much chemistry between the two of us as sisters. And I feel that we did kind of capture that with with the recording. And yeah, maybe maybe not being able to play live on stage had some impact as well, you know, wanting to capture that feeling again."
And part of the sisters aim is to "try to be more transparent with our fans about our creative process" which leads to the thought, maybe the first attempt at the album should see the light of day at some point. "That's a very interesting question. I think it's very tempting as an artist to want to mask a lot of the creative process because it can be fairly unflattering. You're sitting there sweating over a piece of music and, it's way less glamorous than the typical movie presentation of a creative process."
Conversation turns back to the tracklist and the varied selection of artists, for Megan "one of the more interesting songs was '(You're The) Devil In Disguise' [originally recorded by Elvis Presley] because it's so very different from the original and we love the original. It's such an upbeat jam. It's hard not to love, but we kind of heard the creepier side to the lyrics and we wanted to bring that out in the music. So slowing it down and turning it minor, that was a really fun challenge. And I think it did come out as the same song, but almost completely different."
Rebecca agrees "I think some of the creative liberties that we take with a lot of these songs, we bring these songs into different places and sometimes that can rub people the wrong way. People might think we're being a little bit disrespectful to the original version. Like, obviously, '(You're The) Devil In Disguise' is Elvis Presley canon. But I think being willing to go for it, to roll the dice and to try something new that feels a lot more courageous than just slavishly replicating the original version, that doesn't feel interpretive. I think we definitely consider ourselves interpretive artists with the Kindred Spirits album."
Part of the skill of the Lovell sisters is that often the risks they take in interpreting the songs come off, not only in fan feedback but also from the writers of the originals. "A great example of that was when we spoke with Justin Heyward, who is the original writer, and of course performer, of 'Knights In White Satin', and obviously '...Satin' has been covered countless times over the years, but that there are a select few artists who cover his song and it takes his breath away. Because it feels like he's hearing it for the first time. We were obviously very flattered that he considered our cover to be one such rendition that was very new and fresh."
A side product of learning other peoples songs has been "crawling into the engine room of a song and seeing what's giving it energy" which has led Megan and Rebecca to "learn so much in our own pursuit as songwriters; how to create compelling songs". And a good example of learning from the songs on Kindred Spirit is Neil Young's 'Rockin' In The Free World', which, as Rebecca tells us, she "never connected with the lyrics of until we actually sat down and learned it and internalized the true sorrow. We learned a lot more about the song by having internalized it than we ever did by just listening. And that was a really powerful experience to apply to my own songwriting and realizing how to connect."
But not everything works, even though the sisters learn from each experience. "I worked up a version of The Kinks 'You Really Got Me' and I brought it to Megan. And it was very interesting to interpret that song. I think punkier songs are a lot harder to bring into the Larkin Poe feel. There's just something about the snottiness, the delivery of a lot of melodies and lyrics that I think doesn't quite connect for us as a part of the Larkin Poe sound."
And if you're thinking there are some covers you'd like to have heard but didn't make the cut, you might have another chance, as Rebecca says "We just had too much fun doing it, so who's to say we'll probably make a lot more of these in the future."