We were lucky enough to get the chance to speak with the ultra talented Melbourne producer, LANKS in the lead up to the release of his second EP, Banquet, which will be released this Friday, July 3rd.
The man behind LANKS, Will Cuming, has been making tidal waves over the past year or so; but has been a master of many instruments since he was a young kid. Will writes, records and produces all of his own music and if that doesn't impress you... we don't know what will.
LANKS told us all about his ambitions, favourite Aussie artists and his love for moon jellyfish - among other things.
At what point did you decide to pursue a career in music?
Pretty young actually. I think I started studying flute when I was 10 and I got pretty into that and then I started playing guitar when I was about 12. By the time I was about 14 or 15 I was getting pretty heavy into jazz guitar and studying that. I was 14 years old and I was like 'I am going to study at the VCA (Victorian College of the Arts)' and I ended up doing that but yeah I was pretty deadest from that age.
How many instruments can you play?
Um, hmm which ones can I play well… I play guitar the best, I play a bit of flute and I sing and I play a fair bit of synth and keyboards. I’ve got a piano in my room which is pretty nice. I make stuff on laptops, I don’t know if that’s really an instrument…
And you do all your own writing?
Yeah, I write everything.
You’re a real one man band then?
Yeah I suppose so. I mean, when I play live I have a few people generally join me but sometimes I play live as well. So the recordings are just pretty much everything on there I’ve recorded or made myself. I get Jess, a friend of mine, to sometimes help with backing vocals but besides that every layer is just me.
So when you play live do you just do vocals and guitar?
I play guitar and do vocals and do some laptop electronic stuff as well, but that’s kind of my main role. I handball some of those other parts out to a drummer, synths and some backing vocals as well.
I saw that you were in China recently. What took you there?
I just wanted to go for a holiday somewhere with my girlfriend and we were looking at places to go to. I’ve been to China before, I went when I was 15 for high school and it’s a pretty wild place, it’s like nothing else. There was a list we were looking at that said, ‘good travelling places to go in June’ and China was on it. My girlfriend was like ‘oh there’s nothing I would want to see in China’ and I was like 'well that’s it we have to go to China then'. Because it’s enormous and there's so much stuff there and it's just so wild. It was very cool. We went to all these places where we didn’t see any western tourists and it was a bit off the beaten track. It was good fun.
Did you go to the wall?
Yeah we went to the wall, that was pretty amazing obviously. There were other places like western Szechuan where we went hiking around it was just incredible.
Awesome. So Banquet EP is coming out early July!
Yeah on the 3rd. Next Friday!
As a follow up to your first EP, Thousand Piece Puzzle, how do you think your recording and producing process has evolved over the two EPs?
I think that the first EP wasn’t really written to be anything. Like I was just playing in a band and stuff and had a bit of spare time and it was just a bunch of rough ideas. It was kind of like showing someone my sketch book, rather than completely finishing my work. I liked that quality of it. It wasn’t exactly like that, I mean I still put a bit of polish on it but some of the songs and ideas on that first EP were almost exactly the same as they were at first inception. I didn’t really change things. But with the new EP I think I really wanted to challenge myself to develop new ideas further. It’s a natural thing for me, I churn out a lot of ideas and then leave them like that. I don’t like the polishing stage. So that was probably the main growing up part about the new EP. Just adding more detail and questioning whether every idea was a good idea or if it was just that I was used to it.
So you were kind of pushing the comfort zone, I guess?
Yeah just challenging myself to do better. I had a friend Ross Beaton (of Dorsal Fins), he jumped in pretty late in the process and helped me to just re-open the project and say ‘do you need that part and that part?’ Just like an editor pretty much. He was really important for making the EP sound the way that it does.
Your songs all have a real storytelling vibe and your latest track, ‘Aurelia’ is so beautiful and dreamy, I was wondering what’s the message behind it?
It’s a story of unrequited love I suppose. There were a few different stories melted into one and in the end I kind of went with what was almost a fantastical idea…the title, ‘Aurelia’ is actually the name of a jellyfish, it’s like this special moon jellyfish. I know it sounds really weird. But it’s kind of a love story between this jellyfish and the moon. I know it’s weird.
No, it’s cool! Jellyfish kind of move with the tide, right? So they definitely have a relationship with the moon…
Yeah! Absolutely. I guess the whole thing is that these beautiful jellyfish sort of come alive when the moon comes out each night and they glow and look incredible but they can never really be together, but they play a part in each other’s lives. I think it’s one of those things where, you know, people can take a lot of messages out of these lyrics themselves, for their own situations. And you can interpret things in your own way. There’s just a lot of feeling in that song. It really means a lot to me.
What direction do you hope to take you music in?
I’ve definitely got ideas of where I want to go. The main thing is that I want to create good music. I’m not entirely sure what direction that ends up being. As for some of the influences on this record, I mean, I’m a big Radiohead fan, which is probably quite evident. But then there’s a bit of RnB like FKA Twigs influences in there. As well as artists like James Blake. For me personally, I come from a world where I play guitar and I like a lot of that indie guitar stuff. I went for the RnB thing because it was a challenge for me and I found it really hard to do. So I did it.
I really love the RnB scene and a lot of the feeling and emotion behind it. I was trying to do something that challenges me and I think that will be a pattern in my work in the future. Just pushing myself to do things that I find hard because my brain finds that most rewarding. I also write really fast. I know it’s been a year since I put out an EP, but I churned out countless songs in the meantime. I took a list of about 50 songs down to 6, so I think I’ll put a lot of work out over the next few years. Maybe some different side projects as well but yeah, I just want to write lots of music and hopefully get better and better. That’s my aim.
Any favourite Aussie artists right now?
Ah, there are lot’s of great Aussie artists. I really love Dorsal Fins, I think they’re pretty amazing. Ainslie Wills is a pretty incredible artist. I really like Remi, his stuff with Sensible J is really cool. I’m going to forget someone really great… Oh, I’lls are really cool. I’m going to forget too many artists. Life Is Better Blonde is emerging as well and he’s amazing. He’s only got one tune out but he’s pretty phenomenal. So I think there’ll be a lot of buzz around him coming up.
It's hard to narrow down your favourite Aussie artists...
There are lot’s of incredible artists and I think we’re very lucky to be in a country that has such a strong scene and so many people that are continually pushing the boundaries of where we can go. It’s nice, it’s really inspiring.
Yeah, there are a lot of opportunities.
Yeah exactly, there are great venues to actually play at and there’s radio stations and magazines that are willing to talk about what we’re doing. It’s great. It’s a nice scene.
So you’ll be in Adelaide soon to play with Boo Seeka at Jive, do you have any plans for while you’re here?
I’m not sure. Last time I was in Adelaide I didn’t have a lot of free time. I hadn’t even been to Adelaide until three months ago. I’ve been there twice now but hopefully we’ll have some more time there. I don’t know though, I guess you guys have got wineries and football... and food? I love food so maybe I’ll be checking out some good food as well.
Despite what you may have been told, there’s plenty to do in Adelaide!
Oh yeah, I really love Adelaide! I also think it’s really cool that it’s a CBD surrounded by greenery. That’s so cool. Beautiful city. I’m not just saying that.
Other than creating wonderful music, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to do puzzles and watch movies and things. I like learning languages, that's pretty fun. I've been working really hard on learning Chinese. I'm not fluent but I can speak German pretty fluently. I'd love to go back to Germany and work on that at some point. I just really like learning things I suppose. You know that fun experience when you learn something new? The first 80% of learning an instrument is always the best and then the last 20% will take you the rest of your life. But yeah the first 80% is a good wild ride.
That's really awesome. Well, we can't wait to hear the new EP and see you play at Jive. What are you doing right now?
I'm just doing some writing. Getting new stuff for an album or something.
Alright, well don't stop writing because we love your work!
Unfortunately, LANKS has just announced that the Boo Seeka show at Jive will be postponed. More details will be provided as soon as possible:
Images taken from official LANKS facebook page