THE brother-sister duo The Luck…
have unveiled their incredible new single, Rise and Shine. I ask them about the song and filming its video; working with Paul Broucek in L.A.; how important bands like Fleetwood Mac are to them; why they decided to take up music in the first place – what gigs they have in the pipeline.
Max and Esmay talk about the artists that have inspired their sound; which new artists we should look out for; how the rest of the year will pan out; whether the London-based duo will perform in the U.S. at all next year – and whether there is new music coming anytime soon.
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
Max: Hi! We are a brother/sister duo from London called The Luck - I’m Max and this is my sister, Esmay Luck.
Rise and Shine is your new track. Can you tell me about its origins and what inspired it?
Esmay: Well, we were down in Los Angeles and I had been listening to one of my favourite songs of all time – Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. Our producer had lent us a Nashville tuned acoustic guitar - and I picked it up to play along and learn the song. When it finished, I just started noodling about and this chord progression developed. Within about ten minutes, all the melodies for the verse and chorus flowed out along with the lyric "I don’t want to live a lie". I recorded it on my phone but didn’t work on the lyrics until I got back to London a couple of months later. I wanted to mull over how the song made me feel, sonically...and thought there was something really powerful in the sentiment of that line - it was instinctive and guttural. It made me think of some past relationships I had had…
I found the title ‘Rise and Shine’ in an old lyric notebook and when I sang it with the lyric, “I don’t want to live a lie", it took on a new meaning for me. It seemed to perfectly match the song - I wanted to write about not giving in; about taking yourself out of a negative place in your life and coming back stronger than before. I took it to Max when we got back to the Bay Area in California - and he helped hone some of the lines and built an incredible arrangement for it!
Max: This song really hooked me from the first listen; I didn’t want to blow it out of proportion too much but I felt like it was an undeniably powerful song and a great single. I had been experimenting with a Telecaster and VOX amp our producer had lent us and wanted to make the nod towards Pink Floyd...but also really bring out the harmonies and the blend - which was so easy when Esmay sang me the chorus. We had the use of a piano up in the Bay Area; so I focussed on working a piano part into the acoustic and electric guitar parts…and this arrangement was born. I did a rough mix and sent it to our producer - and he got pretty psyched. So, we went back to Los Angeles, into Capitol Records’ Studio A and I recorded the piano part to Rise and Shine on that Yamaha piano that has been used on so many incredible songs - including Prince’s Purple Rain.
It was one of the highlights of my whole life.
The video mixes drama and a certain cool! Was it quite fun to film? Did you have a lot of input when it came to the final result?
Esmay: It was fun to film - although the song is quite serious.
The Vertex team were great to work with too. We had a couple of conversations with Jeff Thomas, the director, working out different approaches. Max and I had discussed telling the story of a girl who was struggling to leave a bad relationship and we wanted to draw on the complexity of emotions that involves – and, ultimately, the courage and conviction it takes to walk away.
Max: Eme and I also knew we didn’t want to be in the video - we didn’t want to dilute the message with performance-pieces - and we wanted to give Jeff more creative license with the visuals. When looking at locations, we all agreed that a cityscape (L.A., specifically) - felt the most real to us all. The light is also beautiful in that city and the song had been half-written there. Jeff found great locations and, of course, the actors, Jenna Putnam and John Hoyos - both of whom were just right for the parts and had worked together before.
There were so many great moments - and Jeff captured it all perfectly.
Max and Esmay. You are brother-and-sister. I am guessing you have a very tight bond. When did you realise you wanted to go into music together?
Esmay: Yes; we do and actually. Growing up; it was listening to music that bonded us. Mum and Dad used to always put on music in the car and in the kitchen (the latter is where we spent most of our time together as a family). So, we grew up listening to the same stuff and, when Max started going through a Californian Punk-Rock phase in his teens - he would play the songs to me too. Max is four years older than me and would take me to shows when I was only about twelve-years-old…got some pretty funny memories of being in these mosh-pits surrounded by Max and his mates! They all had younger siblings, too - so that was pretty good fun.
I clearly had the issue that anything Max did, I wanted to do too! Hahaha. I feel quite lucky he would have me tag along like that.
Max: Yeah; those were great times. It just felt really natural to get Em along for the show. I guess I wanted her to experience the things that I enjoyed; see what I was getting excited about because then we could laugh about it or get psyched etc. But, we never thought of making music together - or even pursuing music as a career - until we were both in our twenties. We had each grown up learning instruments and singing in choirs separately a bit but ultimately had gone into more different careers (I went into finance and Esmay did marketing). We had never even sung together before! It all kind of happened by accident…we both were really unhappy at our jobs. I had become a solo artist after leaving my job in the city and started sending Esmay songs for feedback...
She’d be at her desk and I’d be emailing her these songs - and she would listen and make lyric or melody suggestions in her lunch hour. Then, we found ourselves both in New York at the same time and sat down to write a song from scratch together called Bricks. We were in the East Village back in May 2011. I was staying in an apartment I had found on Craigslist, and my flat-mate, who was a super-talented creative studying at N.Y.U. came out of his room and said “Woah; I don’t know what you guys are working on but I just got goosebumps through the wall”. I think we knew there and then that this was something worth pursuing for a bit. Esmay had been frustrated in her job up until that point and was seeking something more creative career-wise - having shied away from going to art school when she was eighteen.
Bricks brought a fork in the road for us both - and we didn’t want to live to regret not 'going for it'.
Esmay: Totally…I was really shy about singing solo in front of anyone but I didn’t want to let my lack of confidence hold me back again. Max really helped me with this - he booked us in to a studio on Avenue B to record the song; found a wonderful vocal trainer called Sonia Jones in London to help me get over the fear of singing in front of people - and helped me find the courage to get up on stage at his best friend’s wedding for my first performance.
I think that was our first gig together!
I hear elements of older acts like Fleetwood Mac in your music. Which artists did you bond to at a young age? Do you take influence from a lot of modern acts?
We definitely bonded over Fleetwood Mac when we were growing up - I remember hearing songs like Everywhere in the car as a kid. I remember one year we went to Colorado and we were in a restaurant and they were playing Country music. My mum asked who was playing and they said, “Oh, honey, it's Garth Brooks". So, the No Fences album made its way back over to the U.K. and would come on lots of car journeys when we were young…that and Sgt Pepper’s.
Sort of eclectic, but always great, Pop writing.
Max: Oh man, Garth Brooks. Haha. Legend. It’s funny, I definitely have a lot of time for those big guitars they have in Country-Rock - Dierks Bentley and Blake Shelton - and those influences run through quite a lot of the arrangements we put together. We bonded over Country music, Punk-Rock and quite a few bands of the 1960s and 1970s. Fleetwood's The Chain and Tom Petty’s Runnin' Down a Dream are probably two of my all-time favorite songs and, when we were staying in California, we'd put on these albums; I’d make cocktails, Em would cook her famous chicken pasta and we’d just jump around and be silly - listening to this music that we both loved.
We also really got into The War on Drugs these past few years.
You have been working with Paul Broucek in L.A. What was it like working in the city and with such an important figure?!
Esmay: Paul is such an extraordinary person! He is anything but ordinary; growing up in Chicago and moving to the West Coast to work in music, creating with some of the most incredible musicians of our lifetimes - and playing a huge part in some of the most epic film scores and soundtracks of our day…
Well, we both feel so lucky to be working with him. We met him a few years ago in London and started working together on recordings a couple of years ago when we were in L.A. He has been incredibly encouraging, thoughtful and instinctive. He has helped us find our studio sound! Starting relatively late as songwriters and performers; we have spent our time honing who we are as artists - figuring out what we wanted to say; how we wanted to sound. Paul helped us understand how to build out the sound of our songs to make a full-band record, whilst retaining the essence of what we do when it’s just the two of us. As well as listening to all of our previously-released music and all the demos we had ever made, Paul came to our shows and had us perform a couple of showcases at Warner Brothers to really delve into who we were.
Max: Exactly. He had a vision for the record that totally married up with where we wanted to be - helping us integrate our influences into a sound is as much London as it is California. Perhaps it’s his years of experience spent working in so many studios with so many different composers and musicians...but he knew how to get the best out of us - whether it be lending us instruments to inspire new songs and arrangements or conducting in the vocal booth to get that perfect take for the track. One of the craziest parts of our recording journey was working in some of the same studios with some of the same people that our heroes worked with! Paul took us into the Village; Studio D – where Fleetwood Mac recorded Tusk - for a recording with Ed Cherney (who had worked with many of our favourite artists, including The Rolling Stones). The track recorded there was Holding On - and will be on the album. Ed is actually mixing a few more tracks on the album along with multi Grammy-Award-winner, Paul Hicks. Paul B. also took us in to record at the Igloo Studios in Burbank to work with a young engineer there called Jay Marcovitz. We had such great synergy in the studio.
It’s been amazing to be able to work on this record with every single person on this dream team - we are so excited about it and can’t wait to release the songs!
Working with the President of Music at Warner Brothers Pictures must get your mind working towards T.V. and film! Would you like to see your music on the screen one day?
Absolutely! That would be EPIC! Our music has always been quite cinematic. It wasn’t something we consciously thought about but it’s like a thread that seems to run through the writing (our lyrics are particularly visual) - and now particularly the soundscape having worked with Paul on the record. We hope they can be paired with some visuals one day.
Is there going to be new music arriving next year? What is the diary looking like?
Esmay: Yes! We hope to start releasing the next singles in the early part of 2018 - and the album for spring!
IN THIS PHOTO: The E.P. cover for Hippo Campus' Warm Glow
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
IN THIS PHOTO: Deer Tick/PHOTO CREDIT: Laura E. Partain
If you each had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?
Ahhhh; it’s between Fleetwood Mac’s live album, The Dance, and Joni Mitchell’s Blue for me
Fleetwood Mac are my favourite band of all time and continually influence my writing. The Dance has most of my favourite songs on there - and it’s such a variety that it takes me on a real journey whenever I listen from start to finish. I think, because it’s a live album, it makes me feel so connected to the songs - the performances are so raw and vibrant. Joni’s Blue - well…that just takes me back to my teens when I first discovered her - all the emotions of those years. I find it comforting and it never gets boring. It also makes me think of our mum.
Max: Bryter Later – Nick Drake
For me; it draws the perfect musical arc. Northern Sky might be the most moving song I have ever heard.
Can we see you perform anywhere soon? What gigs do you have lined-up?
Esmay: We are putting gig dates in the diary which will be U.K.-focused for now. Those will start from about February.
Max: We have our own online music streaming channel on a platform called Twitch - if you feel like seeing us live in your own living-room, tune in at www.twitch.tv/theluckmusic. We play live from our studio in Dalston.
Do you think you’ll be touring more in the U.S. or U.K. next year? How much fun has it been performing this year?
We think it will be more U.K. for the next year. We had an amazing time soaking up influences and recording in L.A. and hope to be able to tour there eventually - but we want to do at least the initial release of the album in the U.K. and Europe.
It’s really good to be home for a bit - we missed it!
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Esmay: Play and write as much as possible! Every gig and every song teaches you something and gets you closer to knowing who you are (and what you want to say as an artist).
Max: Yes and, if you can, try street performing! It’s a great way to get performance experience and earn a bit of money whilst you’re playing! We have done it in wherever we have been - London, L.A.; San Francisco and San Diego (some places warmer than others!) - and it’s always been a positive thing for us to do.
Christmas is not too far away. Do you both have plans already - or will you be busy working?
Esmay: Well; we are always writing and demoing new songs – and, as Max mentioned, we stream on Twitch three times a week...so we will probably be doing that up until 23rd December. I am also trying to finish the artwork for the album - so got quite a lot to do!
But; we will almost certainly be taking some time off to spend with family in London!
Max: I definitely want to get that Christmas vibe going so it’ll definitely be a bit of Winter Wonderland; maybe some ice skating at the Natural History Museum, a walk down on of those beautiful streets in London.
Mulled wine and mince pies!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Esmay: Nights in White Satin by The Moody Blues
Max: blink-182 - What’s My Age Again?
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