Many artists shoot to make each project bigger than the last: bigger crowds, bigger albums, bigger sales. For US blues-rock group Larkin Poe, however, that’s not necessarily true. Larkin Poe’s new album, Venom & Faith, was recorded by sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell with an engineering crew of one. Venom & Faith follows 2017’s Peach as the group’s second self-produced full-length album.
“It was such a liberating experience to be in the studio, just the two of us, with our trusty engineer,” says Rebecca Lovell of engineer Roger Alan Nichols, whose previous credits include albums by The Veronicas, Paramore and Steven Tyler. The Lovells say that Nichols was instrumental in keeping the production process on track and the album aesthetically unified.
“He offers extreme support that can sometimes border on tough love,” says Rebecca. “When we decided we did indeed want to self-produce – you know, it’s a very big job. There were times when we definitely wanted to chicken out and have somebody else make those choices. Like, ‘What do you think? Is this the right move?’ Most of the time, [Nichols] would say, ‘Nope, you’re producing it. It’s your record. I’m out of the way – you guys have to make this call.’ Ultimately, that was the kind of support we needed.”
“You can produce anything to sound great, but if the songs aren’t there, it doesn’t really matter,” says Megan. “The songwriting is always the biggest and hardest part of putting the record together.”
“One of the big pitfalls of creative endeavour is the temptation to second-guess yourself,” adds Rebecca. “Normally, if you can listen to the little voice inside your head, it won’t steer you wrong.”
Venom & Faith emerged in November 2018 as a quintessentially Larkin Poe record, combining a warm nostalgia for the golden days of Nashville blues with flavours of rock, soul and contemporary percussion techniques.
“We like to bring elements of the 21st century into what we do,” says Rebecca. “Artists that aspire to be a time capsule – we find that limiting. That’s certainly something we want to steer clear of. We want to be authentic with people, and being authentic requires digging deep into yourself and figuring out how you’re going to bring your small piece of innovation into the picture.”
When traveling abroad, Larkin Poe are proud to become representatives of some of America’s most unique and distinctive genres.
“We want to be ambassadors for this musical heritage that has sprung up in the southern United States, and we’re very proud to have people come out, listen and, hopefully enjoy,” says Rebecca. “Our main goal with our live performances is to energetically display what it is that we do. We really love performing, so we really lay it all out on the table.”
Larkin Poe will play 2019’s Byron Bay Bluesfest, along with artists like Iggy Pop, Norah Jones and Ben Harper. The Lovells are no strangers to sharing the stage with iconic presences like Elvis Costello and Keith Urban, but they say they’re equally looking forward to playing two intimate headline shows at the Howler in Melbourne and Sydney's Oxford Arts Factory.
“The most enjoyable shows depend a lot on the audience, and the audiences that come wanting to have a good time and wanting to participate,” says Rebecca. “That back-and-forth between us and the audience is what really gets us going. There’s audiences that come out, singing the lyrics back to us, and everybody’s having a good time – it’s energetic and joyful. Those are performances that we tend to remember, and that can come from 20 people or 2,000.”
While the band look forward to touring alongside other blues artists in the future, they’ll first have to survive a grueling interntational tour supporting Venom & Faith.
“I hope listeners take away a king-sized portion of joy,” Rebecca says of the record. “Megan and I had so much fun making the record, and I think you can hear how happy we were. It was difficult, of course, and there were tears shed, but we really had a great time as well. Isn’t that the main goal of music: to elevate the spirit? To give you a mirror - to see a different part of your own story?”
Larkin Poe will play Oxford Art Factory and Howler on Monday April 22 and Wednesday April 24 as well as Bluesfest on Saturday April 20 and Sunday April 21.