Interview: The Lathums

A month before the release of The Lathums’ debut album How Beautiful Life Can Be, Gemma Cockrell caught up with the Wigan-based indie-outfit’s drummer Ryan Durrans to find out what the album has in store, what fans should expect from their upcoming UK tour this Autumn, and the chaotic story behind the filming of their recent music video for I’ll Get By.

Funnily enough, this wasn’t the first time I had spoken to Durrans. I interviewed him back in October 2020, on the release day of their Ghosts EP – which also happened to be my first ever interview for The Mic. Almost a year on, I was curious to know just how much life had changed for The Lathums in such a short time. “It’s been quite the year really, hasn’t it?” Durrans laughs. “Obviously, we’ve missed out on a lot of gigging and meeting people. But we used our time well, we managed to get the album done. We’ve developed a lot as a band, I can say that. We’re just ready to get back out now, we’re bored!”

"It wasn’t a long process. It was tough to get it done in a month, but we managed it.”

The album’s release date is just around the corner; How Beautiful Life Can Be will be unveiled on 24th September. Asking Durrans how he’s currently feeling about the album almost being out in the world, he responded, “It’s mental! It’s something that we’ve all been working for since we started the band. It’s what you work for, your debut. The fact that it’s been recorded for so long now but it’s still not out, these tunes are old to us! We’ve been listening to them and playing them for over a year now, so it will be nice for everyone else to know them as well.”

The recording process took place within a month during lockdown. “It was in the deep depths of lockdown. We did two weeks in Parr Street with James [Skelly] and Chris [Taylor], then we had two weeks off to get the rest of the album refined. Then, we went back into the studio and did another two weeks. It wasn’t a long process. It was tough to get it done in a month, but we managed it.” This method worked for The Lathums this time round, but Durrans anticipates taking a different approach on their future releases. “I think for our next album, we’re going to go residential at Rockfield Studios, have a complete month away and get it done. But it just depends – we might not have the time to do a month straight, but we are hoping to have a long stretch where we can really get into it.”

The title, How Beautiful Life Can Be, comes from the song of the same name which will appear on the album, even though “that song is pretty new, so the album wasn’t actually built around the phrase.” Alongside the title track, the album will feature the band’s recent singles Oh, My Love and I’ll Get By. The message behind these tracks is remarkably positive, a theme which has defined the majority of The Lathums’ work so far, and will inevitably continue across the album. “That’s just us really!” Durrans says of the positive tone of their music, “From The Great Escape, one of our first tunes, the lyrics are ‘Can we give peace a try?’ and ‘Love bombs fall from the sky’, so peace has always been a message that we have tried to get across. The lyrics Alex [Moore] writes are from experience, so a few of them can get a little bit sad, but most of them try and pass on a positive message.”

With a month to go until the album’s release date, The Lathums have no current plans to release any further singles until the full album is unveiled. Making a conscious effort not to reveal too much, Durrans teases that “there might be a few things that come out before the album – I’m not going to say too much – but I think we’re done with new tunes now. We’re going to create some suspense and let the tracklist fester in everyone’s minds!” The tracklist will also include re-recorded versions of some of The Lathums most-loved tracks of their career thus far, including a new and updated version of The Great Escape, which the band released on the same day as they announced the album.

The Great Escape was one of the first songs that we ever recorded. It was good to re-record it, because we’ve all grown and progressed as musicians, and we’ve developed our own sound. The song has got us this far, so we wanted to pay homage to the tune. The re-recording made it sound a bit more professional, since we were so young when we first recorded it, like 16 or 17. I mean, we’re not exactly old now!” he laughs, “But we’ve definitely got better. The songs that we re-recorded are so popular with the fans that we’ve got now, so it would be a shame for new fans not to have the same experience with them. But since we’re putting old tunes on the new album, we had to do something with them.”

The re-release of The Great Escape saw it receive an updated music video, replacing the one that was released alongside the song two years ago. However, the band’s most recent music video for the track I’ll Get By did not run as smoothly, as it was met with some unfortunate Covid-19 complications along the way, and the video was seemingly doomed. “We got up very early, on a rainy morning,” Durrans begins. “We were in a little labour club in Wigan, and someone had come on set without a PCR test – who we are NOT working with anymore!” he clarifies, “We have made a pact never to see this man again. But he got his text halfway through the day, saying he was positive, so it all got shut down. Everyone took a step back from him, and lightning and thunder bolted from the sky straight after he said it!” he exclaims, as he turns the disastrous experience into a somewhat comical tale in retrospect.

Luckily, the trusty locals of Wigan came to the rescue. “The people in the video were all Wiganers – the three girls on the skates were from Bolton, everyone in the labour club and the guy on the electric scooter were from Wigan. We aren’t mega proud to be from Wigan or anything – it’s not exactly an amazing place – but it’s done us well, so we always try to give something back and put Wigan on the map.” However, even after the initial crisis was averted and resolved, the music video still continued to cause chaos when the band attempted to premiere it to their fans on YouTube. “There were even technical issues with the premiere on YouTube, so it was a bit of a cursed one! But it did come out really well,” he concludes.

The band didn’t have an easy ride when recording the music video for the album’s title track either. In fact, the initial video ended up being abandoned in favour of a simpler approach. “We did a video for How Beautiful Life Can Be but we haven’t used it – sorry everyone!” he grins sheepishly. “When we were filming the video, we were in London in a massive studio with six sets, all been built in a day, and a big camera crew, but it didn’t come out too well. Then, we did a video for the acapella version of the song instead, with one camera, one shot, walking through Wigan market. And everyone loved it! Acapella is a simpler version of the song, just voices, so the simpler video really made it.”

“There are a few surprises to come; take from that what you will!”

Releasing an acapella version of a guitar song is one of the many things that makes The Lathums stand out as a unique band within the modern indie scene. “I don’t know why we went acapella with it to be honest, but I think it sounds great, and I don’t think I’ve heard an acapella song from a guitar band in years. It’s just something a little different! I don’t want to say too much, but we have done quite a few acoustic versions of the tunes, and this was one of them.” When I tried to dig deeper and ask if this meant that a deluxe version of How Beautiful Life Can Be was on the cards, he again didn’t want to reveal too much, but confessed that “there are a few surprises to come – take from that what you will!”

On a more personal note, Durrans reveals that his favourite track from the album is the opening track, Circles Of Faith. “It’s an absolute belter!” he exclaims. “It’s one of my favourites to play live, and I don’t think we could have opened the album in a better way. As soon as we started recording that tune, we were like ‘That has got to be the opener!’” Much like this natural decision, the rest of the album’s track list followed suit. “We started off with the pre-existing tracks that we knew we wanted on the album. We picked what the album needed, rather than what we wanted to be on there. Then, we worked around the re-recorded songs with other tunes that would fit. So, if we had two heavy ones, then we’d do a soft one, just to make it flow better. It did just kind of fall into place, it was really easy.”

Durrans will have the opportunity to play Circles Of Faith live when The Lathums hit the road this Autumn, embarking on their UK tour. He is most excited for “just seeing everyone, seeing the people. We got into this business to play live to people, that’s why we do it. We don’t do it to record or make music videos or get free clothes and do photoshoots,” he laughs, “We do it to play our instruments in front of people. We’d give up everything else if we could play live in front of people for the rest of our lives. So, just everything about playing live is what we’re excited for.” The tour will include a show at Nottingham’s very own Rock City, which Durrans is eagerly looking forward to. “A few months ago, our manager took Scott [Concepcion] to Rock City, saying that they have a belting PA system in there, so we’re buzzing to play that gig because it’s going to sound so good!”

How Beautiful Life Can Be will be released on 24th September 2021 on Island Records, and you can catch The Lathums live in Nottingham at Rock City on 2nd October 2021.

Written by: Gemma Cockrell

Edited by: Joe Hughes

Feature image and in article image courtesy of The Lathums via Facebook. In article video courtesy of The Lathums via YouTube.