Interview: Lanu talks creating new album ‘The Double Sunrise’

Lance Ferguson, who goes simply by LANU, is an artist that needs no introduction. A musician for 25 years and the founding member of The Bamboos, Lance Ferguson is a well respected musician who has be likened to producing extraordinaire Mark Ronson. Now, Ferguson is back on his solo project LANU to deliver new album ‘The Double Sunrise’, expected to be released February 5 on Pacific Theatre through Interia.

Spotlight Report were lucky enough to chat to the man himself about the history behind the album, how his creative process might have changed and some of the interesting things he has learnt with collaborating with so many great musicians.

So let’s talk about your upcoming album – is there an overall concept or idea?

We’ll in some ways it is a concept album, in the sense of the word, I mean I’m drawing on a whole of tropical elements on this record and my grandfather from Hawaii was a famous musician through the 50s and 60s and made a lot of records and I feel like I am kind of dealing with his musical legacy in quite a Hawaiian style music and then the genre exotica, which I’m a big fan of and have been for years. But there is also this art deco soul and aviation theme running through it as well so all of this ties into a thread of history and romanticism of the South Pacific in a way.

Obviously, other than your family history, what other things draw you to the South Pacific influences that we hear in your music?

lanuWell I’m a quarter Tongan myself so I think there is also a genetic influences in my attraction to this but you know what I have never been to Tonga and I didn’t really look into my grandfather’s music until several years ago when I started collecting records and doing all that stuff. I mean the essence of exotica, its truest sense, is like a re-imaging of what the idyllic exotic, far away places are like. In a sense the kind of exotica I’m making is 2016 is almost an imagining of what I think or almost a response in a way to my grandfather’s music in a way that I could put it together and which makes sense to me. I don’t know I guess I do have a fascination and attraction to those kinds of music and the South Seas and that whole romance of it, I guess.

You mentioned aviation being one of the themes of the album, I take it that is part of the reason for the album title ‘The Double Sunrise’, is that right?

Yes, well where that title comes from is the shortening of this thing called the Secret Order of The Double Sunrise and that’s the first song on the album. That came about because back in the mid forties, half way through World War 2, Qantas were running this flight that went from Western Australia and it was this 24 hour-long flight on this gold airplane and everyone that flew on that leg of that flight saw a double sunrise on one flight so they would give all the passengers a little certificate and they would kind of be inducted into the Secret Order of The Double Sunrise and I just really loved the story and sound of that and the certificate itself has this really cool picture on it and I thought that was just a really cool thing to name the album.

Also with this record, you worked alongside Megan Washington, whom you have worked with before, what was it like to work with her again?

It’s always great to get into the studio with Megan, I don’t see her all the time so she is always traveling around the globe, she was just in Berlin. So even though I don’t see her all the time, when I do see her, it’s really intense and intimate in the sense that it’s one of those friendships that is like that and I’m sure it will continue to be like that even if we spent years not seeing each other or something and I really enjoy those kinds of friendships as well as someone you do see all the time because when we get in the studio we just kind of click and stuff just happens pretty naturally and without too much coercion or pain. So it’s always fun to get into the studio with her. I love the lyrics she writes, and the melody she comes up with and she does things like a dream, so it’s always great fun.

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Speaking of working with other artists – You’ve performed with so many great musicians and produced so much music with them – having collaborated with such a variety of artists, what is the greatest thing you have learnt from another artist that you included on this record?

Well a great artist that I have worked with many, many years ago was a saxophonist, his name was Ian Chaplin and I was playing a lot of jazz at the time. I was lucky enough to play with him and play in his band and a long time ago he told me ‘no matter what you play, even if you make a mistake, play it like you really mean it’. So I think that is one of the really profound things I have learnt from another musician that I have collaborated with. No matter what you do, do it with conviction even if it is a mistake, play it like you really meant it to happen.

Being in the music industry for a while, how do you keep motivated and inspired to keep developing your music in new directions?

Well I have been making records, and playing my guitar for about 25 years. I make music because I love it and sort of have to do it or I will go crazy and I sort of do go crazy when I make it anyway so it is just what I do. Even though it is my job, it is not like I’m doing it for the money or for awards or anything like that. It’s just something I do because I absolutely love to do it and am compelled to do it. I guess with any new record I’m going to make, I really feel like I want it to be better than the last in some sort of improvement in any sort of way – whether it is songwriting, or production or any of the many aspects of making a record and I try to make each one a little bit better every time and that kind of keeps me inspired to keep making them and I think I will probably keep making music.

In what ways has your creative processes changed on this record as opposed to the last few records?

I don’t know if the creative process has changed, it’s probably the same creative process in that I start off the record by sitting down by myself and throwing some ideas out there and seeing what sticks but I think the inspiration behind the album was quite different on this album in that it was very very personal.

I mean all my music is personal in a sense but the themes on this record tie into some deeper family history and really more directly emotional things in my life.

So I think the sitting down and execution of it is pretty much the same but it’s probably just coming from a deeper place or things I hadn’t really drawn on so much before emotionally.

Do you think the fact that the music is a lot deeper and more personal to you makes it harder to put out there?

Well I have to come out and talk about it like I do with every record and have to explain it I guess and the music on this record takes a bit of explaining I guess because it is really influenced by music that is 60s, which I think takes some explaining to a degree but I don’t know. When something is really personal, it is easy to say to yourself that ‘it is just for me and I don’t care what anyone else thinks’ but the fact is I make music for people to listen to, I don’t really just make it for myself so even though from my perspective the lyrics and music have specific meanings and things, I don’t want anyone to take that on. If they are interested in hearing that, than that is kind of a bonus but if they actually listen to it and take it on it’s on merit so that it is a piece of whatever and enjoy it than that there is my worth. It doesn’t have to have that back story. At least from my point of view, it doesn’t have to have that back story for someone to enjoy it.

So would that mean that you prefer your lyrics to be open to interpretation as opposed to being taken on at a literal standpoint?

Well I think that maybe it can be both. The best experiences I have with music is when it’s a universal thing and you can listen to a great song and take it on to your own life, experience or heart-break that you have had and that song becomes your own song which relates to what you do. So I think the best songs for me are songs that can do that, and still hold a deep meaning to the artist who made it. I’m not saying that I have achieved that necessarily but the lyrics that I worked on, and the lyrics that Megan did and Melanie are universal in a way and are not totally tied to a specific story that is set in stone.

So to wrap up, we came up with a couple of light-hearted and fun questions for you.

The first is that seen as though your music has featured on Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty and a bunch of other shows – if you could write a song for any TV show or movie – which would it be and why?

Well this is the thing, luckily, because records don’t really sell unless you are Adele or something so luckily, this is one area where musicians can actually make money, you know getting your songs played on these TV shows or movies or whatever. So it is kind of nice when it happens but I just never ever want to let myself write a song thinking this will be great on whatever TV show. So it’s kind of hard for me to put my head in that head space because I will never ever be some kind of jingle writing kind of guy. But I can say that I would love something I have done to be in ‘Mad Men’ but I can’t now because that is finished and that was a real favourite TV show of mine. Having something played in ‘Mad Men’ would have been pretty damn cool I reckon but also I love the music that is happening in ‘Six Feet Under’, which is another TV show that has ended now. There is definitely favourite TV shows that I have that I would love to contribute too and have become the soundtrack too. An actual soundtrack is something that I have never had the luck to be involved with so I would definitely love to do something like that in the future.

Lastly, where has been the strangest place you ever heard one of your song beings played and what was your reaction to it?

homebake lanuI don’t know if I can think of anything. I mean I walk into grocery stores and sometimes I hear my music get played but it is not really all that exciting. I mean I haven’t heard my song ever get played in a strange place so I’m going to change this question around because I don’t have a really good answer for you but I’m going to say I heard someone actually say my name in a strange place and it made my absolute year and that is Blondie said the words of my name and mentioned my name on stage during her performance at Homebake because I had done this photo shoot with Kimbra, Seth Sentry and Sam Sparrow and a few other guys and girls. We did a recreation of her album cover and then she said my name on stage and that was a strange and surreal feeling that I will always remember that Blondie said my name.

LANU’s ‘The Double Sunrise’ is set for release Feb 5 on Pacific Theatre / Inertia

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