I’m sure our readers are more than grateful that J Mascis regularly brings Dinosaur Jr. through the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, and this summer we even got a chance to see his Heavy Blanket open for My Bloody Valentine at The Fillmore, but this Tuesday, 12/4, he’ll be playing his most intimate area show in quite some time, when he brings his solo tour to World Café Live, in support of his latest solo album, Elastic Days, released last month on Sub Pop. However, opening the evening are equally-worth-getting-excited-about labelmates, touring-partners, collaborators, and friends of J’s, Luluc. Luluc are Zoe Randell and Steve Hassett, an Australian indie folk duo, who currently reside in Brooklyn and regularly work with Aaron Dessner of The National. Although their third full-length, Sculptor, dropped just this summer (via Sub Pop), they’ve actually been a band for around a decade now. Last month I got a chance to chat with Steve, who tells me that, despite all of their touring, this will actually be Luluc’s very first Philly show.
Izzy Cihak: You have a bunch of upcoming dates with Blitzen Trapper and then J Mascis. Are there any shows you’re especially excited to play, or just cities you’re especially excited to visit or revisit?
Steve Hassett: Pretty keen on getting back to Zanzabar in Louisville, Kentucky. The owner is a pinball machine collector and I have a date with the Dolly Parton machine. Also, we have never played in Philly before!
Izzy: And I know that you’ve played with J Mascis before and that he also appears on your new album, so I’m curious, how is working with him, or even just being on the road with him?
Steve: J is many things at once. Mostly, he is a supremely gifted artist and his enthusiastic support for our work means a lot. When we played on each other’s records we did so over long distance. We get along really well as people too, he is a very broad-minded person, so touring is easy.
Izzy: What can be expected of your live show when you open up for him at World Café Live?
Steve: We have a bunch of different instruments creating atmospheres around Zoe’s songs. Essentially, we love singing the most, so expect some harmoniousness.
Izzy: Sculptor’s been out for a little while now. Have you had any favorite reactions to the album?
Steve: Yeah, Iggy Pop discussing the lyrics of Sculptor on his BBC6 radio show was pretty mind blowing for us. Zoe especially has been a massive fan her whole life, so for her it was a ridiculous honour hearing him equate the lyrics in Sculptor to his impressions of the Donald Trump presidential candidacy.
Izzy: How do you think Sculptor compares to your previous two LPs? Were you trying anything new on this one? I just realized that it’s been 10 years since your debut, which is a lot longer than I would have guessed.
Steve: Yeah, our debut, Dear Hamlyn, which will be getting a Sub Pop release in 2019, was, for the most part, a dedication to Zoe’s late father. The songs are plaintive and melancholy and, on a production level, we wanted the music to be completely raw and unprocessed. So, there was no trickery at all, we could play the record acoustically and it would sound the same. As we evolved, moved to the USA, and met Aaron Dessner of the National, we have subtly continued expanding the tonal range of the records. Sculptor is the most instrumentally produced record we have done so far. The next record promises to be something further again, we are already underway working with Aaron again and it’s beginning to get pretty experimental. Zoe’s songs will always be at the core though.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the most significant influences behind Sculptor, both musical and otherwise?
Steve: Hard to speak for Zoe on the lyric front, but I hear themes as ranging from the small-town adolescent experience to challenge of making one’s way through the kaleidoscopic cycles of life as well. Those things seemed to influence her. Musically, we laid down mostly first-take impressions on this record and tried to match the organic themes with a collage of raw performances.
Izzy: Finally, what do you have planned for 2019? I know you’re going back to Australia for a few shows in January. Is there anything else you’re especially excited about?
Steve: Yeah, we are gunning this new album we started with Aaron and a bunch of musicians in Berlin at the PEOPLE festival. Zoe has all the songs, so if we can get a move on together, we will hopefully have a new collaboratively focused album out sooner rather than later. Also, a headline Europe tour (Feb) and USA tour (April) are on the cards, as well as the Dear Hamlyn reissue. Pretty big year planned, if we can pull off all that.