Lark have been creating music for two years now and, although they are still to release a full-length album, their career is blossoming. They have toured Germany, created various shorts for MTV and almost sold out their debut EP Mouth of Me (Independent).
Comprising Paul Ressel aka Humaniser (electronic instrumentation), Inge Beckman (vocals) and Simon “Fuzzy” Ratcliffe (bass), their latest release is a music video created by Greg Rom (winner of a South African Music Award for best music video for Mandoza) and Ontwerp (winners of Loeries for the Metro FM adverts).
The video of Moonlight, off their EP, is slick and futuristic, fitting to their music style, which draws influences from classical to ambient electronica. It is simultaneously introspective and abstract, while still driving a party-rousing beat—probably a result of Beckman’s distinctive vocals skirting between the eerie and sugary.
You’ve been described as glitch opera, classical electronica, New Age trip-hop and alternative electro.
How would you describe your own music?
Paul Ressel: I think we came up with glitch opera. So that’s one of the ways we see ourselves. I know genres are important for people who have never heard you to be able to compare you to something. But it’s so difficult when you don’t sit down and say we want to make a song that fits here.
How about describing your music outside of genres then?
PR: It’s something that I’ve been obsessed with for ages and that was the reason why Inge and I clicked so well, because it’s something we’re really into: blending mechanical and organic. We’re taking something that has always been around and something that is fairly new and trying to get them to mesh together, create something that’s never been heard before.
How do you create it together?
Inge Beckman: It’s pretty divine, we just got together and started writing.
PR: Every single track starts in a different way. Sometimes Inge has melody lines or ideas for tracks and we lay that down and then I build things around that. Or I build a beat and Inge comes up with something over that. Or we hit a chord and see what ideas come out of it.
IB: It’s kind of like a musical exorcism, just getting rid of what’s inside.
How do you keep the music live on stage?
PR: Difficult. When we perform with just the two of us, it’s basically up to me to do all the instrumentation. So unfortunately some of the stuff does have to be backing tracks—basslines and such. But I use keyboards, drum triggers, sound modules, automation boxes and all sorts of things to try and keep the feel of it being live. We have a bassist now—Fuzzy.
Inge, you come from a classical jazz background?
IB: When I was younger I did classical music and some opera. When I finished school I got into jazz and started singing it. Then I got involved with the hip-hop crew and started MCing and singing—more operatic singing. And then I wanted to do my own thing.
Tell me about your MTV deal.
PR: Pure luck. A friend of mine is an art director and came up with an idea for adverts for Carrimore (the backpack). They were print adverts done when he was studying and we decided to shoot them on a very meagre budget. It was about urban warriors and the copy was really poetic and beautiful. I did all the sound for it and Inge was the main character in one of the adverts. Just on a whim we decided to pull out the Carrimore logo and stick in the MTV logo. The producer e-mailed a small version to the CEO of MTV Europe. Two days later he phoned us and said he wanted more. A couple of weeks later they gave us a job to do two Aids public-service announcements for the MTV Staying Alive campaign.
You’ve already been to Berlin; are you setting your sights on Europe?
IB: I would dig to go to England—that would be a cool market to penetrate. Also a country like Japan. But we’ll just have to see—we’re not actively promoting ourselves there but the MTV thing is a pretty good start.
PR: At the moment we don’t have enough material that’s been recorded to start pushing that sort of thing. So we’re working on our first full-length album now.
The South African music scene seems saturated with conventional genres of music. Would the overseas market possibly be easier for non-mainstream music?
IB: It would be easier to slot in. But what is exciting about the local scene is that there is so much potential—it’s like a little flower that, if you water it, it will just explode. People are so hungry for something that is not straightforward middle-of-the-road.
PR: As we are influenced by stuff happening in the European markets and the avant-garde or whatever, when we first played it to South African audiences, who aren’t really aware of that sort of thing, people didn’t know how to react. But the response we’ve had over the past couple of months is amazing.