Monday, July 15, 2024

Guitar-driven and dreamy: Lauds prepare debut LP show Saturday

Lauds will play Waterline in support of their debut LP, ‘imitation Life.’ (Photo by Eric Glidden)

WILMINGTON — It had been a morning mostly spent surfing, but by the afternoon J. Holt Evans III and James McKay Glasgow were on a couch noodling around on guitars and writing lyrics to a song that would eventually become “CeeDee Lamb.”

It’s one of 10 tracks from their band Lauds’ new LP, “Imitation Life,” released at the end of January. Evans and Glasgow’s four-piece, also consisting of Boyce Evans (keyboards, drums) and Gavin Campbell (bass), will perform Saturday night at Waterline as part of its official debut. 

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“CeeDee Lamb” came together seamlessly, Evans said on a video call with Glasgow earlier this week. The chord progression fell into place, with a bassline pulsating under lead guitars that cascade the song like a waterfall of sound.

Lauds’ brand of music blends pop and rock, but also has a heavy new wave vibe, conjuring sounds of The Cure, Sonic Youth or Sousixie and the Banshees — all credited as Lauds’ influences.

The band’s music has been described as “dream pop” and “shoegaze post punk,” labels Glasgow and Evans don’t eschew.

“We’re not trying to be derivative, but everyone’s looking for inspiration,” Glasgow said. 

Instead, Lauds focuses on appealing to music lovers, not just listeners who subscribe their tastes to a streaming box of “jangle pop or shoegaze playlists.” 

“We consider ourselves a guitar band, really,” Evans said, one that leans into noise rock. “I’m obsessed with textures.”

And there are plenty to be heard on “Imitation Life”: raw, elongated and echoed riffs, ethereal chimes, clanking percussive elements, with hypnotic vocals backed by driving rhythms.

The song “CeeDee Lamb” was created in one day. It starts off with a chill mien before escalating into loud reverb guitar riffs like waves crashing on the surf.

“I don’t think we had any kind of preconceived ideas going into writing that song — it just happened quickly and was super fun,” Evans said.

It was a nice change of pace: to be in the same room, playing together. Lauds has been a long-distance endeavor mostly since its founding in 2019. Evans was finishing college at UNC-Chapel, and is now a pre-med student, while Glasgow lived in Wilmington, also working in the health field as a counselor for teens and playing music on weekends.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Evans moved back to the Port City for a longer period of time, helping implement data collections for Eden Village, a neighborhood that provides residences for chronically homeless individuals. It also gave him an opportunity to partake in playing more with Glasgow.

“So we were able to really lock in and work on stuff — you know, the rubber meets the road, so to speak,” Evans said. “I think of McKay as my older brother in a lot of respects.”

The two met when Glasgow was recording 2018’s “Little Yellow House” with the local band Tumbleweed. The Americana three-piece worked with Evans’ father, Holt “Frank” Evans II, in his home studio, Plugpoint. 

An anesthesiologist who used to play in the Wilmington band The Hungry Mind Review in the early aughts, Evans II produced numerous records for local musicians, including Astro Boy and most recently The Paper Stars’ “Far Away.”

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“I’m trying to be like him when I grow up,” Evans said of his dad. “He’s always been really encouraging.”

Evans and Glasgow kept in touch after Tumbleweed’s studio sessions, sharing music notes, building a friendship and an eventual musical partnership.

“I had this backlog of jangly indie and pop songs I’d been working on since college,” Evans said. 

So they started laying down the tracks, along with Evans brother, Boyce, on drums. Having access to Plugpoint at all times often came with endless hours behind a mixing board. The band’s first single, “Don’t Mind,” was a drawn-out process to record compared to new songs on “Imitation Life,” Glasgow said.

“Lots of guitar tags, throwing everything at it — but it was a good learning experience,” he said. 

They would record multiple guitar tracks of mystical sounds and noise rock, to the point it got confusing when it came time to edit a song.

“One thing that we decided was, when we came to the studio [for the new record], we weren’t going to throw out 20 ideas,” Glasgow said.

Lauds’ first two EPs, “Lauds” and “II” each featuring four songs, were recorded in Pugpoint. The first was lo-fi, “a smaller listening experience,” Evans described, while the second showcased the band in a more expansive approach, with the addition of Ross Page on drums.

In 2020, they also released “Don’t Mind,” on Fort Lowell Records’ “GROW: A Compilation in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter.”

Whereas before they would stack the songs with four or five guitar parts, they’ve narrowed it down on “Imitation Life.” There are still plenty of abrasive textures, lots of keyboards and jaunty high-hats. It took roughly six months to record; the band remastered five songs from its former EPs to flesh out the record.

“I feel like we’ve gotten way better at knocking parts out,” Glasgow said. “We spent a third of the time on these five new songs as we did our old ones. There’d be 30 tracks on the early songs. This time, it was much cleaner”

“I think that came from having unfettered access to a really awesome studio,” Evans added. “It’s almost like a double-edged sword.”

Evans II guided the group on what worked during production. Glasgow said he would nudge them to simplify something here or make an octave change there. 

“I think that that’s one of the things he does on purpose: He’s not going to do the work for us, but he’ll let us know, ‘Hey, that vocal melody does not work — there’s no click in that chorus,’” Glasgow described.

They brought in other musicians on the record, too, such as Jeff Corkery on guitars to include a surf rock solo on “Distant Images.”

Evans’ dad played keyboards on “Distant Images,” as well “Wasted Hours” and “Parallel.”

As the nuts and bolts of production were tightened, the camaraderie and songwriting connection between Evans and Glasgow also strengthened. Like “CeeDee Lamb,” other new songs were mostly written in a day, including “Somehow.” 

Evans said it speaks to the musicians’ personal tastes, as folk and pop awash in atmospheric echoes and layered riffs. 

“It has every element of stuff that excites us,” Evans said of “Somehow.” “It’s a pop song with really upfront vocals and noisy guitars, just kind of wailing and howling in the end. But it’s still really melodic.”

Both musicians contribute to songwriting equally and can’t decipher where one part originated and the other edited it. Sonically, they’re entwined to create a sedative vibe and “crystallize” the best working parts of their four-year partnership.

“I do a lot of structuring of songs, Holt always has good leads,” Glasgow said. “But there’s definitely more cowriting going on even more on this record.”

The band’s most popular song, “Weekend,” appears on the EP “II.” It didn’t make it onto “Imitation Life.” 

“I did think if there was one song that we would have switched, it might have been that one,” Glasgow said. 

At the end of the day, they chose tracks that would provide cohesion, while also boosting the listenability of “Imitation Life.”

Some of their favorite bands, including Ride and Slowdrive, have taken a similar approach: putting released singles or tracks from EPs on a finished LP. 

Lauds only perform a few times a year, but getting on stage is the payoff for the hard work in the studio.

“It’s the ultimate,” Evans said. “You want to see the music connect with people.”

“We’re not a touring band,” Glasgow said. “We’ve really tried to market ourselves to be a recording band that doesn’t play a ton of shows. The writing is the principal fun thing for me, but we would like to get some bigger shows and see what doors open up. Right now, we are playing with bands that we really like.”

The Lauds’ performance Saturday night will be a shared bill with Jenny Besetz out of Greensboro — a heavy, mood-rock five-piece. Evans said he’s been listening to them since high school.

“They’re incredible — super inspirational in terms of writing music and playing music, so it’s a crazy honor to be playing with them,” he said.

The concert is free and starts at 7 p.m. “Imitation Life” is available for purchase digitally here through Fort Lowell Records; there will be some vinyl releases of it for sale Saturday night as well.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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