LANKS doesn’t need a label to help make rules. Neither did he need lots of money to create art. He collaborates with friends and family. He believes in people who believe in music. His third EP Viet Rose, which he co-produced with Andrei Eremin, is the absolute proof. The lead singles, “Golden Age” and “Holla” are emotional and experimental take on pop music, while hypnotic “Sometimes” takes hints from the likes of Vaporwave. The final song “Kyneton” may remind listeners of Radiohead ballads; bleak, ghostly, and poignant. Viet Rose, which is named after his favourite Laksa restaurant in Melbourne, is a wonderful representation of who LANKS is, and arguably the best.
Lights + Music sent this Melbourne-based artist a bunch of questions to find out who he is, how he challenges himself on creativity, the making of his new EP, and what he would do to a penguin in a fridge.
By Satoru ‘Teshi’ Teshima, October 16, 2016
So, who is Lanks?
LANKS is me. It is my current artistic journey and persona. Some people don’t even know my real name anymore, and this really does feel more like me now. In real life I try to be balanced and level-headed but with LANKS I try to dive deep into my thoughts and emotions.
What songs best describe your personality?
Of my own songs I think Holla is probably the best showcase of me. Emotional and uplifting and there are lots of layers and sections and ideas that all converge to make one big interesting mess. I think that’s me. If I’m looking at other people’s work, I’m not sure, maybe ‘You And Whose Army?’ off Radiohead’s Amnesiac. I like questioning accepted norms and trying to break them, and I think that carries that message a bit.
Have you always been a musical kid since you were growing up?
My older sister and I learned music together from a pretty young age (she played Trombone/keys and I played flute/guitar) and were always playing music together, and even went on to study jazz at the Victorian College of the Arts. So music has always been in the family, jamming out all together and being introduced to the fun and creative side of music first and foremost. My cousin is also a musician, making music under the name Ry X (also in The Acid and Howling).
How old were you when you put your own song online for the first time? Do you remember what it sounded like?
I was always making things, as soon as I picked up an instrument I like creating. I still remember how to play the first full song I wrote when I was 12. I’m not sure if that was the first song I uploaded or not, but I had a bunch of songs I uploaded to myspace as a teenager, and across a few different random soundcloud accounts I probably have a hundred or so random songs and ideas still live on the internet.
Living in Tokyo, it is difficult to see what is actually happening in Melbourne! What is the music scene/community like in Melbourne?
The music scene here is amazing! It feels like there are lots of supportive people and talented creative people all working hard and growing together. Seriously, check out Kllo, Hayden Calnin, Woodes, Big Scary, Andrei Eremin just to name a few. There are lots of people pushing interesting and creative music here, and they are all starting to really impress on the world stage so it’s an exciting time coming up I feel.
I read that you have a home studio. What is your setup like?
It’s pretty minimal and I would like to invest in a few more pieces soon, but I am also a fan of working with restrictions. I have a piano, a guitar, a flute, a mic and a laptop. I only have one plugin right now. It’s been fun making 3 EPs with this same setup, it forces you to be creative when you don’t have a lot. Working with Andrei Eremin on co-production and mixing/mastering helped me bring the songs out and develop them the extra bit they needed though.
How often do you write songs?
I try to write as close to everyday as I can. While on tour I have been writing a little bit less but still making things. I hit road blocks all the time but laziness doesn’t solve problems. A thoughtful, open-eyed, and self-questioning approach is best I find.
When there are too many or too little ideas and you are hitting a creative wall, what do you do to break it?
Creativity and songwriting is all about problem solving, and the longer you stand still for the more you get attached to what was there also. I think my creations have become a lot better the more I have learned to open up a song again and continue developing it. If you sit down and are prepared to spend hours on it and it’s not waste if you don’t use any of those ideas you just came up with, then you’ll be ok. It takes a long time to make something that you are really excited about I think, so devote lots of time to exploring.
More specifically, if you do get stuck, you can also try going for a walk, writing with a different instrument, introducing chance (write notes on pieces of paper and draw them out of a hat or roll a dice), forcing yourself to play on only one string on the guitar or only 2 fingers on the piano, etc etc. Essentially what you’re trying to do is break your natural patterns that your brain wants to walk down. Get out of your comfort zone, the possibilities are endless.
Acoustic and electronic instruments are mixed really nicely in your music. Instrumentation wise, how do you approach songwriting?
I just make sounds with whatever I have around me and that shapes the songs and sonic palette. I love playing piano and I have been playing guitar most of my life, as well as flute, so I experiment a lot with those. I like making sounds that sound unusual to me. That’s what I am always hunting for, something that excites my ear. And the process of creating songs with computers is like weaving a tapestry and takes a lot of time. I really enjoy the process of making things.
Your grandmother is providing you some of the artworks for your recent releases. How did this collaboration happen?
My grandma is a fantastic visual artist and after she designed a tattoo for my sister’s 21st I think there was always an idea in the back of my mind to collaborate with her at some point. My best friend and housemate Will Devereux had done all my cover art up until this year and all my design work, so it was nice to get him to work with my grandma and with her illustrations Will manipulated them a bit and brought a little extra to them also, a bit like a mixing engineer actually. I’ve always been a big fan of my grandma’s work and it has been a real joy to share in this experience with her. No matter what happens with my artistic journey, collaboration with my friends and family will always be a huge part of it, and I’m having so much fun making things with such amazing people.
What’s the meaning behind the EP title, Viet Rose? What does the title entail?
Viet Rose is the name of my favourite laksa restaurant in Melbourne. I live very close to it (too close) and it summed up the past year of my life. Their $10 vegetarian laksa kept me alive. I am a 100% independent artist, which has been a challenge with doing lots of support tours and making 3 EPs in 2 years, but ultimately it means I can release the sort of music I want to and I’ve learned so much doing that. If I release music through a label soon I know why and I know the reasons I would be doing that now, and that is a great thing to learn.
What is it like working with Andre Eremin?
It’s incredible. We both love food, which is the first and most important requirement. And he just has such incredible maturity and skill that he brings to music. It took me a while to find someone who really got what I was trying to do, and isn’t afraid to challenge me on ideas. But importantly, someone that I trust when he does that. This latest EP in particular would not have reached the level it got to without him, and the world will know soon how amazing Andrei is. I’m excited to continue exploring with him.
I noticed that you are an active SNS user (on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter). Do they help you interact more with your fans?
Yes. So much! I make friends with my fans. And through social media we can hang and stay in touch and live our lives together. Social media has downsides, I know, but the upsides are incredible. They take away some of those middle-men that used to control your channels to your fans also. Now it just comes down to you and the challenge is can you engage these people and build some connection with them, just like you would with a song. I think that’s really cool, and the internet has empowered us in that way.
Living in the golden age of advanced technology, everything seems so within reach. Do you feel that how people approach music has changed in a good or a bad way?
I am cynical about technology really changing things. I think humans are pretty much the same, emotional beings that they were before all the advanced technology. What that has brought though is that people can make complete songs in their bedroom, and they have a chance to develop those skills in a quiet, non-confronting environment, especially if they are a bit insecure and want to experiment before they are thrust into a spotlight. But ultimately, there were making people music at home before computers made music, but the biggest change is the channels (social media/soundcloud/the internet) giving these people a way to reach music lovers/listeners with their creations. And you can do it from anywhere in the world.
If you compare your life to a movie title what would it be?
Good Will Hunting – My real name is Will and I am always hunting for more information and knowledge. I really love new experiences and new things are what excite me the most. I don’t see myself as a genius or anything (in case anyone reads into this one too much), I believe in hard work, exploration and patience.
Lastly, if you found a penguin in a fridge, what would you do?
Cuddle it forever.