Lewis Coleman's debut album Method Of Places is out now! We chat to the musician about the release and so much more.
Image: Izzie Austin
Melbourne based artist Lewis Coleman has today shared his debut album, Method of Places.
Written and self-produced across five years, in five bedrooms, Method of Places is a documentation of young adulthood and adolescence. Documenting a number of moments from Coleman's own personal life from the ages of 21-26, each song serves as its own time capsule. "It’s really just a scrapbook of time spent alone in my bedrooms, absorbing and processing the events of the time spent outside of my bedrooms. There’s a lot of lyrical content that’s simply processing or describing moments..." Coleman shares with MILKY.
The body of work began when Coleman was submitting a folio of music for his final semester at the Victorian College of the Arts, where he studied Interactive Composition. Over time, the musician would revisit songs and mixes, re-recording parts, and continue to experiment with each track until he arrived at a resolved sound.
Showcasing his musicianship across nine tracks, the record is a brilliant display of the musician introspective songwriting and understanding of musical genres in order to infuse them within the same soundscape. Set within an over arching indie rock soundscape, Coleman expertly weaves electronica, jazz and soul within the collection of songs, bristling with big ideas and artfully arranged songs that are both abstract and melodic.
Method Of Places is out now! Read our interview with Lewis Coleman below.
Tell us a bit about how your musical journey began…
I spent a lot of time in my nappy, precariously standing in front of my Nan and Pop’s TV in a lounge room in Mentone, bobbing my knees to The Beatles Anthology, Play School, The Wiggles, Crowded House’s ‘Farewell To The World’ Concert, and Ken Burns ‘The Civil War’ documentary because I liked the intro with ‘The Ants Go Marching’. All of this was on rotation for the first few years of my life, I started trying to mimic Paul McCartney, Nan would build me a makeshift mic stand and I would attempt to act and sing Get Back’ like he did in their concert on the rooftop. My uncle Jack played bass in a few country bands, I used to go along with my family, sit on someone’s lap at a table and drum along. My other uncle Greg and my folks also played things and sang, more casually but with a great love and enthusiasm, every family Christmas they would stay up playing through songs, I pretended to be able to strum along, probably putting the whole thing out just by strumming all the open strings on a small guitar, but eventually I was properly strumming along.
Congratulations on the release of your new record!
Method of Places is a documentation of young adulthood and adolescence. Could you tell us about the album as a whole and the importance of exploring the themes present?
It’s really just a scrapbook of time spent alone in my bedrooms, absorbing and processing the events of the time spent outside of my bedrooms. There’s a lot of lyrical content that’s simply processing or describing moments, I generally don’t provide many answers, I think the answers arrive in the form of the feeling of calm you get from simply describing the events and emotions surrounding. This year I started looking back on the collection of nine songs and seeing them as the little time capsules they were, some containing information spanning many years in the form of different recorded sounds, upon selecting the cover image for ‘Going Your Way’, an image I found my folks house, which I noticed contained the image of the cover of ‘Animal’ inside of it, sitting on a mantlepiece. I had the idea that each song was its own little room that was scattered with memories and connections to other rooms. And that they all sat in this house, a house of memory, a memory palace. I looked up what the term was for memorising things as objects in a virtual space and learned it was ‘Method of Loci’, Loci being latin for ‘Places’, I thought that latin had a bit of a pretentious energy behind it to be honest haha so I opted for the more casual ‘Places’. Really there would be countless albums where the artist/s would feel like this towards their body of work. Because this was chipped away at over so many years, there are just so many memories attached to it that it’s hard for me to think of it as anything other than a big house that I cluttered and now can walk around in.
You began working on the record quite some time ago. How did the release evolve and change over that five year time period?
Initially this all started six years ago when I was submitting a folio of music for my final semester at the Victorian College of the Arts studying Interactive Composition (I know, write and release songs quicker from now on please, Lew). I decided after making multiple folios of confused instrumental collages, I was going to try and piece together some songs. I wrote Can’t Face It, Animal, Is This Me Now and Cut It Out in that period, and had a great time and found a bit of a new confidence for writing my own song/band based music, something that I had been chipping away at slowly in other bands but which had never fully kicked it into action. After finishing that course I moved out of home, everything was exciting and I was keen to properly release that music before I got busy with other bands again, this was particularly real because at that time I was playing with The Cactus Channel, Frida, Plastic, Mojo Juju, Tanzer, Eilish Gilligan and Ben Mason from memory! I wrote Good Side during this period and a few other bits and pieces, and started to think I could turn it into an album. This was probably a mistake in some ways because it sent me down a path of multiple year cycle of writing a new thing and never fully finishing it, combined with constant mixing anxiety that the songs didn’t sound like ‘released music’. I would revisit songs/mixes over and over again, re-recording parts, saving over old mixes then kicking myself that I’d saved over them because now it sounded worse than it did. Simply, I just couldn't finish things. Eventually I decided to revert back to the original EP idea, at least get the finished, cohesive songs out into the world and then focus on the other stuff. I got an EP mastered and played my first show with my assembled band, giving a download link to people and saying that I was going to properly release it very soon! That didn’t happen though, because I had a fairly serendipitous encounter with Marihuzka Cornelius from Ivy League Records at a music conference who listened to ‘Animal’, and became very interested in inviting me into their family, which was one of the more exciting days of my life. I showed her some more stuff beyond the EP and got the confidence that I could in fact, flesh it back out into an album again, with a new found confidence and external support I threw Involved, Sing It Over, Going Your Way and Face Transplant in to the bowl, baked the cake, and am finally about to serve it to people, some of which have probably left the restaurant by now!
The album documents a number of moments from your own personal life from the ages of 21-26, with each song serving as its own time capsule. Listening to these songs now, what are your thoughts on the tracks retrospectively? And what emotions do the songs conjure for you now?
They’re all just filled with these little switches that instantly turn on a particular setting or context in my mind. I think I would be able to recall 9 out of every 10 sounds I recorded. Where I was, what time of day it was, what specific guitar it was, what period in the year it was and what other stuff was going on in that period. Just constant prompts! I think I love living in the past, I love remembering things and reminding people of things, it’s not necessarily a good thing, it can make you feel lonely too or like your memories before are more fun than your memories now, so I think it’s good that I’m letting this nostalgic bubble float away.
Method of Places fuses indie rock, electronica, jazz and soul. How did you arrive at this genre-bending soundscape?
I would say It’s just a combination of the alternative/pop/indie band oriented music I’ve listened to consistently in my life, in combination with instrumental soul/funk schoolings and sensibilities I have picked up over the last decade, playing in and around The Cactus Channel and associated Melbourne instrumental projects, in combination with a deep admiration in the process of recorded music which I share with my friends. Analysing and picking out elements in songs that we love and then being inspired to re-imagine those textures/chords in our own music.
You wrote and produced the record yourself. What was it like stepping into the producer role and having that full creative control over your own music?
Ultimately, I think I like it, I think it’s how I craft extended ideas the best, I generally have a clear blueprint of how I want everything to feel so it’s probably best I do it, but I would really like to hone the things that provide to hurdles on that path from inspiration to execution. And also I love making things with other people also, and that brings a part out of me that is sometimes lost when I’m just layering one part over the next.
You’ve released some stunning visuals throughout the albums rollout! How important are the visuals to you when it comes to conveying the story and meaning present on the track?
Thanks! That’s due mostly to the wonderful work of my dear friends Jack Ralph (director/editor), Izzie Austin (Photography) and Kelsey Pettifer (Animation). I think for me it’s great working with friends because I feel really comfortable making suggestions, letting them know what I’m thinking, and also I think there’s a level of understanding that I don’t necessarily need to spell out, they’ve existed in my life and know how I act, what I do, what I like to some degree and I think that all benefits the process greatly. I think the visual aspect is something I’m really interested in with this music, textually/rhythmically providing a good visual compliment to the sonic landscape. I guess these videos have been conveying one consistent theme to me of diving into or walking through memories, I’ve not wanted to ram home any other point too much though, because really a lot of the music is just observation with no answers to anything. I do think it’s often important to have your own personal connections to things when creating, as it makes the ideas coherent and gives a discernable shape and purpose, but you don’t have to convey what that purpose is specifically to the viewer.
If you had to pick three songs off the album to play to someone who had never heard your music to make them an instant fan, which three would they be and why?
Hmm so ‘Going Your Way’ feels like a tune that has a good balance of ya know, pop sensibility, a darkness but not lethargic, feels like a good all rounder. I feel like I’d play that first, but I feel like I’d base the next two off the persons reaction/who they are. I find myself playing different songs to different people because I want to impress them specifically hahaha. That’s not really the question though is it, it’s (x) person, so I’d probably pick two more varied ones to cover the bases and hopefully strike (x) persons heart. Let’s go with the more exaggerated and lighter ‘Good Side’ and old faithful ‘Animal’ to show all the music nerds my irregular bars of 7/4 and 9/4.
What messages do you hope listeners take away from the release?
None in particular, just whatever messages they feel like they can take for their own benefit.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process when writing and recording songs?
For the most part the writing and recording has happened at the same time for me, I’ll sit down with a guitar generally for a bit and work out a couple of sections for an idea, maybe it’s just two/three different progressions that compliment each other along with any vocal melodies that come along with that. I’ll then immediately record a rough form stitching those bits together but it generally changes. I focus on adding in other parts in to each section, programming drum patterns, bass lines, and sing essentially gibberish over it so it feels somewhat like a song even though I don’t have lyrics yet. It’s important to me that the sections start feeling like fragments of a finished song quickly so I can continue to be inspired by it and so my future self can pick it up and see where I was going with it. Eventually after a few hours I’ll have generally ~three minutes of music with three to five sonic elements in there and I will listen to that version quite a lot, in between listening to other music, when I’m going somewhere, when I’m in bed which just makes the idea very familiar to me and lets me imagine it often and do thought processing/problem solving just in my head as to where else the song needs to go, what else it needs. I’ll swap out/re-record parts from the original brain vomit but also often parts stay in the released track. The keyboard part to ‘Going Your Way’ is the original phone memo of the idea and I ended up keeping it, essential unedited with the same form and wrapped all the other parts around it.
Did you encounter any challenges whilst creating music during the COVID-19 pandemic, or did it allow you the time and space to immerse yourself within this musical project?
I would say the latter for the most part, which is very lucky, so many people have been having a crap time with that. I think because the environment/way in which I make music didnt really change other than an increase in the allocation of time which I welcomed because I procrastinate and really spend a lot of time trying to stitch something together. I have missed the external inspiration and playing with other people but I’m honestly so privileged to be able to not be stressing about many of the conditions people have had to face through this.
Australia has a diverse and vibrant music scene, who are some of your favourite Aussie acts and why?
We really really do, oh boy, don’t make me pick between my friends! More recently, to semi avoid the question here, I’ve been listening to Obscura Hail, Grand Salvo, Snowy Band, Ball Park Music, Stella Donnelly, Methyl Ethyl. They’re all great songwriters. Emma Donovan and The Putbacks, Surprise Chef, and Karate Boogaloo have all created some great things recently for the incredible funk and soul community in Melbourne. If I left any friends out here it must be because I hate your music.
The current pandemic has obviously put a halt to touring and performing live, what are your touring plans post pandemic? If any, what can people expect from your live show?
I’m really looking forward to finding some avenues to play soon, I haven’t played a show with the band at a venue all year. It’s all still unclear to me to be mapping out a touring schedule but as soon as I can see a viable path I’ll give it a red hot go! Expect me and four happy friends glad to be out and about, playing my songs because I told them to. I have a great band, they interpret the music really well and I think it takes on a cool new energy that is different from the record. I’ll be doing a live performance of Method of Places in it’s entirety for Small Time TV at some point during the week of the 30th of November so you can look around for that if you like :)
The Beatles, Grizzly Bear, Joni Mitchell, Andy Shauf, Weyes Blood, Mac Demarco, Radiohead, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Brain Wilson, The Velvet Underground, Menahan Street Band, Beach House, New Gods, my dear friends.
I always say something silly here and I’m not going to stop now.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
New Gods - Beloved is pretty great.
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Groovy Swimming Shorts.
Best song of 2020?
Obscura Hail - Doomer.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
School of Rock.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
The best/most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
I’m going to pick a rogue one and say playing as part of ‘Frida’ when we launched ‘I Want In Your Head’ at The John Curtin in 2016. I just think it was just peak representation of that band and remember it as a very well executed show. The same could be said for The Cactus Channel and Sam Cromack when we launched ‘Do It For Nothing’. The same could be said for a lot of shows really...
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Al Green - Unchained Melody.
Best concert you have been to?
Tame Impala - Myer Music Bowl 2016.
Last concert you went to?
Weyes Blood - The Corner Hotel.
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Guilty music pleasure?
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
Paul McCartney, I’d do my impression of him singing “Joe Joe” which I think is what I called “Get Back” when I was three.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
Eduard Anatolyevich Khil.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Finish these new songs of yours so I can release them already!
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
I believe when I came out of the womb, the midwife held me up and said, “It’s a Musician!” Someone threw me a guitar and I did one of those knee slides across the floor and out the door to a standing ovation. That’s when I knew the people wanted me to do this.