LANNDS: Looking Inward [Interview]

Interview with LANNDS

photos by Jesse Brantman

Most bands find comfort in the overwhelming presence of sound. LANNDS, on the other hand, isn’t afraid of silence.

“I find inspiration in everyday, mundane life,” vocalist, songwriter, and producer Rania Woodard says. “I think the most romantic thing is silence and quietness.” Alongside producer Brian Squillace, the two have taken listeners into an elegantly constructed delirium from 2017’s ‘Wide Awake in a Sleepy World’ to 2018’s ‘Legends’ EP, to more recently singles “2093” and “If Ur Scrollin Thru Tumblr”. Each song shifts and wavers, out of touch with reality yet acknowledging it at the same time – like a slightly out-of-focus picture.

It’s startling how such a dream world can originate from the familiar. Even down to the sounds themselves, the Florida-based duo finds intrigue in the ordinary. “We like to create textures with things like rice and sometimes even crackling paper,” they tell us. “We once used a tupperware filled with pinto beans and used it as a shaker. It’s really interesting just how creative you can get using things like samples or things around you to create this weird, dry texture.”

Part of this sense of imagination stems from the loose structure of their artistic process. “There aren’t really any roles,” Rania explains. “I do write the lyrics, and sometimes Brian gives his input, but for the most part, we just go with the flow of whatever we’re feeling. It allows us to be as creative as possible and have as much control as we want. It’s boundless.” Consequently, their music captures this limitless experience, each chord an expanding point in a larger universe.

Although the band released their first single in 2016, Rania aimed to pursue music since she was quite young, with several pivotal moments defining that aspiration for her. “I grew up around a family that was very musically and artistically inclined,” she recalls. “My uncle’s paintings and drawings were always a point of inspiration growing up, as well as watching and hearing them sing for church functions. I think as I got older and began to write more, I realized just how important art was and how much it helped me get through those tough times. The release I felt after being able to convey a feeling after writing or singing was when I knew just how much music meant to me.”

The name LANNDS is an extension of that significance, that stability that music provides for her. “[It] just means to stay grounded,” she explains. “Making music is grounding for me, and it helps me say what I need to say. When I first started thinking of names for this project, I felt the name was a big representation of who I am. It helps articulate my emotions.”

Draped over the layers of spiraling synths that coat every track is a melody begging for connection. “We like to create a space for the listener to be able to feel like they are connecting with not only us but themselves too,” Rania continues. “I’ve always been drawn to bands and artists such as Beach House, Daughter and James Vincent McMorrow because they create a space for you to really get inside your head and to get as intimate as possible.”

This intimacy is especially apparent in their latest release, “If Ur Scrollin Thru Tumblr”, written after a very serious relationship of Rania’s ended about a year ago. “This song is my take on how our experiences aren’t as black and white as they seem,” she says. “Relationships and emotions are a spectrum, and we are growing from everything we’re facing.” Through intersecting threads of vocals and flecks of muted percussion, the track casts out ripples of longing.

Down to the text-speak spelling of the title, there seems to be a hint of something about the technology-centered world that we live in and how that reality impacts our interactions. However, Rania doesn’t view the affects as entirely negative. “I believe that everything has its balance, and social media is just a reflection of us as humans. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing – in fact, as an artist, it can be a great catalyst for creativity. I do feel that at times we can be just as distracted by it, so that’s why I feel it’s important to have that mindset of listening to yourself and letting yourself know when to take a step back from the noise.”

“If Ur Scrollin Thru Tumblr” is just one slice of the vulnerability that LANNDS has to offer. A larger body of work is imminent moving into 2020, titled 'Self Help', with themes revolving around love, self-reflection, and human ego. Rania mentions one track in particular, titled “New Years”. “I particularly am connected to it just because of how vulnerable the lyrics get and how moody the track is,” she expresses. “The lyrics are about my first relationship with a woman and my perspective on the relationship. At the time, I wasn’t fully comfortable being completely myself, and the lyrics reflect that time of my life. It has helped me a lot since writing.”

Becoming more comfortable is something she’s worked on not only on a personal level, but with Brian throughout their musical venture. “When we first started LANNDS, we were still very much getting to know each other and learning how to work together,” she relates. “I feel that the earlier work of LANNDS was us in that process of learning that and not being as free as we could have been.”

The increased ease of their dynamic together has led to a striking collection of new songs. “The production and style is definitely different from the past work we’ve released,” she reveals. “Brian and I wanted to incorporate as many different and unique sounds and be as free as possible when it came down to the new material. We wanted to dive more deeply into this world of mixing and [think about] how we could grab the listener’s attention.”

What listeners might not realize, though, is the agonizing perfectionism that goes into every note. “I am a very detail-oriented person,” Rania admits. “I can sometimes overanalyze a situation and be very meticulous when creating. There are times where Brian and I could be recording and we will do the same vocal take for over an hour, sometimes because I can get caught up on just a single word. Most times, it can get pretty annoying, and I’m sure Brian agrees, but I like detail and being able to put a lot of work into what I'm creating. Having a cohesive aesthetic is really important to me as well.” She’s grateful for how Brian balances her out, making sure that she doesn’t get too caught up in such a strict approach.

However, what might be painful at times is the most rewarding part for her when it’s all over. “I think [my favorite part of the process] is the phase just after you’ve finished your work or creation. The times after you’re done with the project and start questioning if what you’ve made is actually worth it. The moments you listen and you start to critique every word and synth and in some cases, the silence. This part of the process really helps you dig deeper into yourself and makes you want to become better.”

This idea of looking inward is the ultimate goal not just for herself, but for the project and all of LANNDS’ listeners. “Some of my favorite records have always been because of a certain feeling you get when you’re listening,” she describes. “Records like Black Bear by Andrew Belle or Anima by Thom Yorke specifically take you to a space inside yourself – at least for me it does. I believe that art is a reflection of self, and the more and more we go inward, the better we become as individuals.”

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