Edith Lane’s Labour of Love Revokes the Tale of the Tortured Artist
The cliché of the tortured artist is one that’s not only tired but dangerously assumptive. The image implied of a strewn-out musician up all hours of the night seeking inner peace through the apparition of a perfect lyric or snare sample flies in the face of the unattended underlying issues. Having laboured over 8 years composing and re-working atmospheric odes to 90s shoegaze and no-wave alt-rock, Edith Lane's progenitor Victor Campano felt the release of the record might ameliorate his battles with mental health issues. However, using music as a crutch meant the support it offered ceased as soon as work on the album had to. We sat down with Campano at the group’s spiritual home of Mamma Chen’s to understand the effort that went into their debut record, what helped him after its release and to learn about the new single, ‘Information Age’.
From an early age, Campano was intrigued and afraid of his Mother and Auntie’s alternative collection of CDs; “When I was 3 or 4 years old, the music she was listening to at the time was The Prodigy, Smashing Pumpkins. My mum was a teenager when I was a kid so she was listening to all the cool 90’s shit but because I was young I found that shit pretty terrifying”. Appreciating his apprehension, Campano’s mum bought him a copy of the Backstreet Boys’ Millennium which would find itself on high rotation and serve as her son’s gateway to Weird Al, Nirvana and Radiohead. However, it would be the eccentric experimentality of minimalism that resonated the most with Campano; “ADHD causes me to gravitate to shit that’s explorative and challenges normal pop conventions. When you don’t expect something that’s when I get a little tickle from it”.
Being entertained by sonic surprises underpinned the outlook for the original 2012 era of Edith Lane. Formed with friend Edwin out of a shared frustration of derivative high school cover bands, the pair engaged in creativity for the sake and soul of it; “Edwin rented this room from their friends’ parents’ house and it was wall-to-wall random instruments, like toy pianos and stylophones. We’d get our friends to come round and read bits from a book and run their voice through pedals whilst teaching ourselves how to mix and record. When you get some teenagers who are smoking weed and bored you end up having a lot of fun”. For this iteration of the band, minimalism was the only means by which musicians wet behind the ears could manage; “When I was writing the old stuff the minimalism aspect was a necessity because I wasn’t that skilled as a guitarist so you’d have to force yourself to work with power chords and basic stuff like that”.
Performing live proved an obstacle for the pair, however, as translating the playfulness of sessions onto the stage resulted in “an absolute cacophony of sound”. Intermittently infrequent rehearsals and being stuck in a state of “constant creation and not much work” yielding “65-70 demos that never saw the light of day” meant the catalyst for the band would also be its killer. Continuing to perform solo in light of these issues, Campano would receive the kick he required from a friend and future collaborator; “The big turning point was one gig where I’d been conceptualising a record for a few years and decided I’d try to perform solo what I’d imagine the album would be. Afterwards Em Chen came up to me and said they wanted to join and thought we could do a lot more with this. That’s when I started to think that there might be more to this than just fuckin’ around all the time”.
Following the reformation of the project in 2017 with new blooded-bandmates and a fresh aim, Campano and Chen set about applying the work that had long been missing from the band; “For about a year it was just once or twice a week going to Em’s house and taking these small collection of songs with all these instruments and getting real detailed with it and running these songs over and over and over again”. While tracks like the highly-produced, shoegazey ‘ER’ were strong from the offing, the duo’s process underpinned what a labour love really is; “Usually there was an initial conception, which was a not great sounding demo and then that was followed by 1 month-3 years of exploring some kind of music, coming back to the demo and applying it. 2 songs on the record went through so many iterations of weird synth-pop to acoustic and then hard grunge and shoegaze and even jazz and dark minimalism. We just had to try them out In different suits”.
Totalling 5 years of prep and 3 years of revisions while in the studio, Campano reinforces the experience was one he wouldn’t change; “It was a really nice time being intimate with those songs. That was one of my favourite periods being in the studio every week. It cost way too much but the labour intensive stuff I really enjoyed”. Finding new music to inform the process appears the only source of fatigue for the group; “90% of what we do is trial and error. It didn’t use to be fatiguing because a lot of what we were exploring felt new. Getting into punk rock in 2014 felt new so applying elements of that into our music was really exciting. It’s been hard the last few years to get that same sense of newness and excitement. It’s only now that it’s fatiguing”.
With their first song in nearly 3 years, ‘Information Age’ aims to pave a new path by returning to the spontaneous craftsmanship Campano first honed; “Over New Years I started sparking up these friendships that I’d not really explored with 3 musicians I deeply admire from the punk community who are always coming up with cool ideas. They all have the same mentality around music in that it’s meant to be fun, just have fun with it, don’t worry about whether or not it’s perfect. It’s music, it’s a toy. So we just smashed out a song and DIY’d the whole thing. It sounds dirty and incomplete and it’s perfect”. Thematically, it aims to convey the internalised angst coming out of lockdown which everyone experienced but few could articulate; “Post-lockdown there was a weird mood where everyone was in their own little bubble with this immense pressure building up and I was getting really frustrated because I was at the bar with my mates and everyone is internally screaming and we’re not talking about this. The whole song is taking that weird panic attack everyone was having and trying to sonic-efy it”.
Hearing Lane live, the layered guitars and sweeping falsettos make the likeness many draw to Radiohead hard to ignore. For Campano, it’s a reductive one that ignores the vast array of inspirations; “I hate it. It’s a good motivator to try something different and explore other shit. In my head when I look at our songs, I can see this huge myriad of influences. Nobody thus far has pointed out Neil Young. When we did ‘Convo’ I was listening to so much of Neil Young’s grunge period and trying to copy those tones”. Brutally baring moments where Campano’s raw self is let loose on stage was something the front man needed to come to terms with early to give the music the performance it deserved; “Something about shedding your skin on stage is really scary the first time you do it. You slowly get used to it. When I was younger I had a much more jolly, happy-go-lucky, performative personality. Getting up onstage and having to take that veil off was a bit like, woah”.
Beneath the toil, Campano’s inherit motive for the record came from a need to be heard. He had things to say about himself and felt the only way to overcome the turmoil was finishing the record; “I think I learnt some hard lessons from it. You can’t do personal growth by making a record over 8 years. I think I was very scared of the world around me and desperate to get this thing out because it was gonna be me communicating with the world about who I am but at the end it’s like, oh, it’s just a record”. An important lesson for others, Campano realised the resolution he sought was something music couldn’t solve; “I actually just needed to book a psych and learn to open up. That whole tortured artist thing bastardises music a bit. I’ve always tried to avoid that but you inevitably fall into it when you’re not going to therapy and putting all this immense trauma into your music and not dealing with it”.
SEE EDITH LANE TODAY AT MAMA CHENS HERE
Follow Edith Lane on Instagram HERE