Interview with LANKS
photos by WILK
“Alt pop - ish”: that’s how Australian songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Will Cuming would describe his music. It sums up perfectly the realm of genre-defying sounds that his songs live in, incorporating both electronic and acoustic elements that are inventively offbeat. Under the name of LANKS, Will has released three EPs; 'Thousand Piece Puzzle' (2014), 'Banquet' (2015), and 'Viet Rose' (2016) leading up to the release of LP 'twentyseven'. We had a chance to ask him about the meaning that his full-length debut has to him as he delves more deeply than ever before into this creative territory.
Although insisting that “naming a favourite would be like someone naming their favourite child,” LANKS highlights a few tracks that he’s particularly fond of. “Production-wise I am very proud of ‘Reticent’. Andrei Eremin (who co-produced the album with me) and I really dived deep on that one and took it down some deep rabbit holes.” The complexity of this song is apparent right from the start, with its eccentric beats and persistent vocals laid out across a haunting soundscape of arpeggiated synths.
Lyrically, “Reticent” is also quite significant to him, but two other songs stand out as well for different reasons. “I am quite proud of ‘My Artistic Idol’ and ‘Icarus’. ‘My Artistic Idol’ is about my 88-year-old visual artist grandma and ‘Icarus’ is the bearing of my heart and soul to my partner Tacey.” “My Artistic Idol” illustrates a distinct image for him, putting him in a state of mind in tune with the natural world. “My grandma loves birds and draws/paints them all the time and when I was recording the song the birds outside started singing along and the moment where you start hearing that always makes it feel so special and emotional. It feels like being back at their house and hanging out with her rainbow lorikeets and magpies that she hangs with,” he tells us. Serving to create a stripped-back atmosphere at the end of the album, these two tracks express beautifully sincere sentiments. “Icarus” leaves the listener at peace, embracing the idea of “letting go of your ego and letting yourself truly and honestly connect with another person” through reflective chords and a soft choir at the end.
It is clear that connecting with those close to him was very important throughout every aspect of the album process, with the visual art designed solely by friends and family. Picturing an eclectic array of black and white images, LANKS explains that the artwork ended up being a collaboration between his grandma Valda Cuming and his friends Will Devereux and Hayden Daniel. The intricate designs blend seamlessly together while still existing as separate entities, emphasizing the diverse and stimulating quality of the music. “They had all heard the album quite a bit and I think Will kind of leads it a little bit because he’s very involved in all of my process. So they just kept throwing ideas around and would send stuff to my grandma and she’d try a few different ideas also and it gradually became what it is now. I love it,” he shares.
LANKS, now an accomplished musician in many dimensions of the process, knew right away that music would be his passion. When asked if there was a moment particular moment that he realized this, he says, “Probably when I first started playing guitar when I was 12. It was immediate, I was in love and spent hours every day from that moment chasing my dream.”
As he grew up, he had certain goals in mind for himself as he was inspired by artists of the past. His album title, 'twentyseven', arises from the idea of these musicians being so influential as they made waves in their career by a fairly young age, but also sacrificing a lot in return. “The whole ‘27 club’ thing always loomed ahead as this big moment where you had to achieve something by. I loved Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley and Nirvana when I was first learning guitar (all musicians who died at 27) and I always put pressure on myself to achieve like they did.” Throughout his own musical journey, LANKS came to the understanding that success shouldn’t be so idealized. “Ultimately as I reached that age I realised there is no glory in dying early and leaving that kind of legacy. It’s complete tragedy, and it’s odd how the media and us as humans build it up this way.”
When it comes to modern influences for the album, there was one artist that he listened to quite often. “You’d probably never guess it, but Kendrick [Lamar] is probably the biggest influence. If you don’t take inspiration too literally you’ll hear what I mean. I’m a huge fan.” LANKS is never short of surprises, and that translates to the slightly off-kilter sounds he produces. At the same time, each one is very polished as it holds its place in the mix.
There’s always an element of the unexpected in a LANKS song, and his full-length album is no different. These quirky features are practically his trademark, such as “at 53 [seconds] in on ‘Man’, the opening track. I sampled myself making noise with a coke can and it made this really cool pitched sound that people seem to like,” he reveals. “There are lots of weird sounds like that across the album. The marching drum sounds on that track are layers and layers of me playing hand percussion on my IKEA desk.”
Throughout his three EPs and now 'twentyseven', LANKS fans have heard many different flavors of his music as it has evolved. However, for him, it was a natural development. “I just kept doing it and kept improving bit by bit. It wasn’t very planned, it was very process-driven. Write lots and don’t be a dick, that’s the aim. Then other people want to make music together or tour together and that’s mostly how opportunities have come about really,” he says. That’s his advice for aspiring producers as well - just keep going and put yourself out there. “Do it lots. Read lots and watch tutorials. Make stuff and put it online. Make friends with other people who make music and make music together. Don’t take yourself too seriously and most importantly, have fun.”
As far as his later plans, there’s a lot to look forward to. “After the album there will be a tour. I’m really excited for it, can’t wait! Music/release-wise, the album gets some time now but I have heaps and heaps of new music I’m working on so don’t worry, there is always new stuff just around the corner.” With the lyrical merit and innovative artistry of 'twentyseven', LANKS establishes himself as a musician more than worthy of recognition - and shows that he has so much more to bring to the world of alternative music in the future.
"twentyseven" music video:
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