RENDEZVOUS: A Quick Catch Up With Luke Spook
"I actually bought a new one (sitar) while in India earlier this year. I had a few lessons with a one-eyed guru in Varanasi that could only communicate to me by singing the notes. I’ve been trying to practice more and get better, forgive me guru! I can still hear your voice."
Last month, Luke Spook released his excellent debut EP ‘Waking Up/Feeling Bad’. It’s a colourful collection of tracks that effortlessly journeys between psychedelia and garage rock, all the while maintaining a distinct Spook edge. We caught up with him to chat about recording, working solo as opposed to playing in The Pinheads, and how you can pretty much sum up life via one (wonderful) pumpkin analogy.
As always, please press play below to enrich your reading experience.
Your new EP is one groovy collection of tracks. Can you tell us a bit about the recording process?
A lot of the material recorded on the EP was when I was still attending art school, so recording would take place starting around midnight, until the wee hours of the morning. I’d say this had a huge effect on the vibe of it - usually driven by countless granule coffees in a state of tired bliss. I played everything on the E.P except tabla (played by Miles Myjavec) and flute (played by Tanya Avanus), so it came out pretty sloppy but had a nice concentration of single-mindedness.
How does it compare making music solo, as compared to making music in The Pinheads. Do you prefer working solo?
I can’t say I prefer either. When writing for/with The Pinheads I have to keep 6 other people in mind and can’t go too deep into it. Everyone has a touch that just can’t be replicated by one person, you can really get off to that ‘live in the room’ thing. With my own stuff I can just do whatever I want, whenever I want, without ever having to really think about it - for the better or for the worse. I can spend hours trying to lay down an instrument I don’t know how to play or I can put effects on EVERYTHING, I think if I did that with The Pinheads I may get kicked up the ass.
There’s a really authentic 1960’s flair present in your sound. Were you listening to a lot of 60s psych and garage when writing the EP? If so, who were you listening to?
I guess I always listen to music from that era and from the 70s, I don’t really know why but to me it just sounds like we haven’t surpassed that yet. I guess it comes out authentic because it’s what I know best? At that time I had all the big star 60s groups going - The Kinks, 13th Floor Elevators, The Monkees, The Hollies, Pink Floyd (only Piper), Solo Syd Barrett, The Pretty Things, ICB, Fairport Convention. It’s all pretty standard listening for a 60s lover. Of course, there is a huge expanse of other bands and artists I have loved or currently love, but the records are already too hard to find without me blabbering about them and I’d probably sound like a record wiener!
All of the tracks are beautifully layered - with some pretty unique and random sounds making the cut too. What was one of the weirdest recording techniques or instruments you used?
I had a lot of fun running heaps of stuff through a rotary speaker in an organ of mine, I also ran a harmonica through a wah pedal, which I think was pretty cool. I guess if you count my homemade shitar (sitar guitar) and homemade 12 string they’re kind of weird instruments because they don’t sound like anything that you can buy. I think there’s some howling of my dog Peach in bits because she sings along to many instruments, she’s probably the best sound on there.
‘Everyday Raga’ is a great track. How long have you been playing the sitar for?
Thanks! It’s a pretty amateur raga but I’m glad people like it and it might introduce more people to Indian music. I’m a bit embarrassed to say I’ve been playing for about 3-4 years but still don’t know much. I actually bought a new one while in India earlier this year. I had a few lessons with a one-eyed guru in Varanasi that could only communicate to me by singing the notes. I’ve been trying to practice more and get better, forgive me guru! I can still hear your voice.
Your new EP is very ‘feel good’ for a release that has ‘Feeling Bad’ in its title. Would you say you use music as a means of therapy, to help make sense of the world? Or do you have a more light-hearted approach to making music?
Music is definitely therapy, not just because at times you’re writing about what’s going on in your head or whatever, but sometimes songs can just be like mantras that help you reach a calm state, or they cleanse you. Whether it’s a silly little thing you made in an hour or a meticulously crafted song you took a week to write the lyrics to - you’re going to come out the other end with a little bit of your state of mind captured on a tape or computer or just floating in the air. Then you can either listen back or forget it, delete it, burn it and move on. If people like it when they hear it that’s just a bonus. ‘Waking Up/Feeling Bad’ is a result of ‘Recording Late/Feeling Good’ because everything in this world balances out.
Your overall creative aesthetic is very colourful and fun. You’re also a big advocate for people ‘letting their freak flag fly’. Why is that message so important?
I think in our modern world, where all aspects of your life are being shared and scattered around everyone’s brains and phones, a lot of people forget who they are. I mean most people knew who they were when they were young, right? I think I did more than ever because I never used to dwell about it or whatever. Either they’re trying too hard to be something else or they’re trying too hard to be themselves. I think it applies to everyone, including me! But when you embrace your freak flag and let it fly and realise every person is a different pumpkin in a huge patch then you understand that everyone is growing; some pumpkins grow to award-winning sizes and some shrivel up - none of it really matters because they’ll all get eaten or composted in the end. When people look and think too much, they start to believe this pumpkin is better or worse than the one next to it, what they don’t realise is we’re all growing on the same vine.
What do you want people to feel when they walk away from a Luke Spook show?
I want their freak flag to be at full-mast, I want their feelings to be strong. It doesn’t have to be happy or anything because emotions exist on a deep spectrum. It’s great if everyone can either FREAK-OUT or they can grasp what I’m saying or feeling and hold onto it. Even if people absolutely hated it but it gives them a better idea of what they do like, then that’s good too. I guess I kind of want people to do whatever they want to do - as long as they aren’t hurting, discriminating or scaring anyone else.
Finally, you obviously have an ear for music. How do you go on the dance floor?
Honestly, I don’t know because I don’t dance much, I’m probably a D minus or so with the groove factor. I kind of feel like I’ve never reached my full dance potential, just because I’ve never tried hard enough or felt the vibe enough. Maybe everyone feels that way and we’re all just really bad at dancing. Or maybe everyone feels that way and we’re all just really good? Either way, everyone deserves a chance to dance.