With their third full-length LP, The Distance Is So Big, Buffalo's Lemuria have finally won me over completely. Given the amount of attention we've given the band here at Rock Star Journalist, and the fact that my Lemuria t-shirt is one of the few band shirts I care enough to wear to my office day job, that might come a surprise. Fact of the matter is -- and this isn't an opinion from which I've shied away in the past -- I've always considered the trio to be a bit of a singles band. "Ozzy," "Chautauqua County," and "Varoom Allure" are just three of their songs which have seen a 7-inch release, and they've always managed to get far more plays than the albums themselves. The songs are tight and catchy, and bear returning to repeatedly. Unfortunately, I've yet to hear a Lemuria full-length that managed to hold my attention for the duration. Their first LP, Get Better, was my introduction to the band, and while I found it pleasant enough to spin once or twice, it wasn't until their split with Off With Their Heads, where they covered the Pixies' "Alec Eiffel," that I really bothered to dig further into their catalog. Pebble was pleasant enough, but the intervening singles -- a split with Cheap Girls and the aforementioned "Varoom Allure" -- brought me more entertainment than the LP itself. It always seemed that Lemuria would have half an album's worth of good songs, then fill it with mostly-disposable dross. That always made the singles so much of a conundrum. How does a band manage to put out one or two fantastic songs twice a year, then absolutely fall flat when it comes time to go the distance? On The Distance Is So Big, however, Lemuria goes from sprinters to marathon runners. The album's first proper song, "Brilliant Dancer," was also the first song previewed from the LP, and it sets the tone for the album with the repeated chorus of "This is the best place on Earth." Really, this album -- coming at the start of summer as it does -- bubbles over with effervescent energy and sunny tones, without spilling into bubbly, bouncy pop. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/bridge9/lemuria-brilliant-dancer-1[/embed] The midpoint to the album, "Oahu, Hawaii," from where the album takes its title, is an build-and-release song, with big drum rolls and just a hint of surf guitar rhythm, mellowed and offset with ever-growing cello backing. It manages to be a rocker, contemplative, and sets the scene for the end of a cookout, where everyone's full and slightly drunk, hiding in the shade and trading stories. At no point does Lemuria lapse during The Distance Is So Big. Sheena Ozzella's voice soars, wonderfully counterpointed by Alex Kern's more declamatory style. The guitar work is jangly but tight, and that's what really appeals most about these three: while being relaxed, calm, and mellow, Lemuria brings energy and focus to their music, bringing you back again and again. You can pre-order the LP from Bridge 9 before it comes out on June 18. The splatter vinyl and package deals sold out in a matter of days, but there are still copies on Coke bottle clear (limited to 700 copies) and black (limited to 1000 copies). There's also the "Brilliant Dancer" single on clear-with-black-smoke vinyl (limited to 700), with an exlcusive b-side, "Helloing," available now. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/bridge9/lemuria-chihuly[/embed]
Buffalo trio Lemuria have been purveying a strain of rocking indie pop for almost a decade now. With a slew of singles behind them, it's surprising that they've only recently finished recording their third full-length. As yet untitled, the LP will be released later this year on Bridge 9 Records, following their second, Pebbles (also on Bridge 9) and their debut, Get Better, on Asian Man. We harrassed the hell out of drummer and vocalist Alex Kerns via Twitter and e-mail, and he was surprisingly willing to answer some questions for us. You've released both a "surprise" package and two holiday bundles in the past year. What's the impetus behind all of these projects? We have always wanted to release the surprise LP, which isn't really a surprise anymore ... it's the first 5 songs we recorded for our 2004 Demo. It was only a CD-R, and we like to always have our music available in a vinyl format. We sort of timed it's release in the middle of a year where we hadn't really put out too much music because we were in the process of writing and recording our new album. For the past few years we have always done a valentine and holiday bundle. It just helps cover expenses when we aren't on tour and I run a record label called Art of the Underground along with a screen printing shop called Argybargy Printing, so I have all the supplies at our disposal to do random fun things with our merch store. I'm assuming it's tied to Argybargy Printing, but how so, exactly? Everything from t-shirts, stickers, buttons, patches, posters and vinyl b-side printed records we through Argybargy which is a small print shop I run out of my garage with my business partner Biff who is also in a slew of bands like Brown Sugar, I Object and Plates. Lemuria's release schedule is rather regular -- an LP every three years or so, with singles and splits in between. Is this an intentional thing, or just happenstance? Sort of both. A part of it is just our natural speed of producing new music. But we have also become aware of our pacing and we make sure to be mindful that we aren't releasing anything too close to one another. We like to leave a good chunk of time in between full length albums so that we have new experiences to write about and also time to get a good dose of touring in on each release. Regarding singles: I know that the tracks for last year's Record Store Day single, "Varoom Allure," were recorded specifically for that purpose, but is it always that way, or are some of the tracks leftovers? With that record we went in and had two brand new songs we wanted to record specific to that release, and that goes the same for all the split 7"s and EP's that we have released. We entered the studios with our purpose in mind. But the Chautauqua County 7" and the first single 7" that comes out for our new album the b-sides are extra tracks that we recorded during that album sessions and liked enough to release, but they did not flow right to actually fit in the midst of the rest of the songs. One of my favorite artists Tom Waits described these tracks perfectly, he calls these type of songs "Orphans". You headed into the studio with J. Robbins for the second time. What led the band to work with him again? We like building relationships with engineers. We recorded our 2004 Demo and Get Better with Doug White at Watchmen Studios in Lockport, NY. If you listen to the quality in the recordings of those two records back to back you can hear how a band/producer relationship can build. The same goes with J Robbins, we now have recorded Pebble, the Varoom Allure 7" and our new album which will be titled very shortly. Each experience has grown sonically. When I've spoken with other bands about recording with Robbins, they've described the process of working with him as "full-on involved and active, trying to make the best record he can." Was that the case for Lemuria? Definitely. He really cares about what he produces and at the same time cares about what the band wants and he makes sure to really understand where we are coming from. Is there a particular sonic direction you set as you began recording? We actually have about twice the amount of time we had to record this album than we did the last, so we are definitely going to really go all out and experiment with mic placements and many other things that we have never had time for in the past. I also set up two different drum kits, one in a big open room and one in a more dead room, and I'm using different snares and cymbals throughout the album so that they compliment the songs nicely and also so when you listen to the album your ears don't really adjust to the tones and lose sensitivity to them and each track sounds fresh to the ears, but of course still mixed and mastered to all be cohesive. As a band, you're relentlessly involved with your fans. Twitter, Facebook -- even your Art of the Underground label can be seen as this connection to directly deliver information, as well as musical entertainment. How has this developed, or is it just another facet of making music these days? It is why we do the band. A lot of the people that I would consider my best friends in this world I met through Lemuria or Art of the Underground. We are continuing to make friends and find out about great new bands by staying involved and running things at somewhat of a grassroots volume. Lemuria has made the transition from a label the band started (AOTU) to a small indie (Asian Man) to a bigger indie (Bridge 9). Do you see yourselves ever making that next step up, or are you content with where you are? We definitely are going to do a couple more releases with Bridge 9 because they are really perfect for us right now. Asian Man is also an incredible label. We have put out 7"s and splits on labels like No Idea, Suburban Home, Hex, Salinas, and many others and that is fun for us because it's cool to be involved with labels that we love and respect and it also helps to expose the band to people who may not have ever heard us otherwise. I'm not sure what the next thing is for Lemuria, but we wouldn't ever work with a label that would jeopardize our control of the music. Lemuria will soon be announcing spring and summer tour dates, along with a title and release date for their third LP. Catch the band online via their website and on Facebook.