Wigan four-piece The Lathums have more than good reason to celebrate. Last week they reached the Number 1 spot on the Official Albums Chart with their debut album ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’. They are also in the middle of delivering a sold out UK wide headline tour, with gigs in Leeds, Manchester and Cardiff still to come.
It offers plenty of ambition, and the new album release is a collection of some of the band’s best songs to date with the promise of way more to come.
It has been a remarkable journey right up until this point, and fortunately the journey has only just begun. Susan Hansen spoke with the band about playing live, stepping up, learning and developing as a band.
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‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ brings your material together. It’s like a summary of your journey thus far?
Alex: Yes, there has been loads of different things, a multitude of things. Some of the songs that are coming out now I wrote years ago, and some of them are recent. For example, through lockdown 'How Beautiful Life Can Be' came together, and 'I'll Get By' is a track I wrote a long while ago, it was before we even started doing stuff together. So it’s a real mix of old and new.
Your fanbase is growing rapidly, which must be fulfilling. How do you see the connection between the band and the fans?
Alex: It's just been so natural and organic, and we've grown from it. We do work hard, but we have obviously got very, very lucky in the fact that we can do what we do, and it's about the connection with people, and the songs that connect people. The songs are always very well received.
At which point did you realise the album was exactly how you wanted it to be?
Alex: You don't really know until you get in to record it. People hear things in different ways, and some of that is dependent on what producer you're working with, and what we feel personally about the track, so we didn’t find out we were in the studio. You never really know when it's fully finished, because you can always carry on adding things and changing them, changing the genre a bit, and the structure.
You have been working with James Skelly, what was the relationship like?
Alex: It was really good for us to work with him and get his perspective on things. Because he used to be in the position that we're in now, and it was probably more intense, especially back in that era. So it's good to hear his experiences with things, and from a music standpoint as well. The relationship was good.
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Were you actively involved in producing it as well?
Alex: Maybe not as much as I would have liked to be, but that's because I'm more confident, I've had more experiences now, I know what I want from the songs more now. I’ve grown as a person and as a musician. At the time we didn't have those experiences, we didn't have that knowledge, it was up to James to show us how different people perceive a song.
When a song is recorded it becomes its own new thing, because you can play something in your head over and over again, especially if you’re playing and rehearsing every day, you make it up in your head, but that’s not always how it will end up when it has been recorded.
What sounds or artists have influenced the songs on the debut album?
Scott: We are just drawing from all over, really. I listen to the Smiths a lot, then sometimes it’s Simon & Garfunkel inspired, and there’s a bit of Madness inspiration going on as well. I just draw from anywhere, anything that we’re into. Some people say they can hear the Housemartins, and the Coral too.
Is that because you are all keen to listen to a range of music?
Alex: I don’t really listen to music. When we first started the band I didn’t want to take any influence, I wanted to limit influences as much as I possibly I could. So for the first couple of years everything that I was making came straight from me, and I didn’t change it.
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The lyrics have a personal touch, where is inspiration drawn from?
Alex: It is just personal experiences, because that's the only material I have to write from, there are always different things that I have experienced in the past, and then sometimes a random thing will come to me, a random theme, but that’s few and far between. It's usually just past experiences, and how I perceive the world at the time. It gets things off your chest in a way that suits me.
Do you think you will stay around the Wigan area as things take off and you become more established as a band?
Alex: That’s the thing, we’re just going to have to see where things take us, we might not even spend much time in this country.
Live shows play a key role for you as a band. Can you talk a bit about what it means?
Alex: Well, it’s our bread and butter, it is how we get our name out, and how we give people reasons and evidence as to why they want to come and watch us from our live gigs. Recordings are good, of course, you can always listen to the recordings, but actually being at the gig, and feeling the atmosphere, is just a completely different sensation.
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What areas would you like to develop in the future, do you have a shared vision?
Alex: The production value of actual our shows has gone up, because we have got more opportunities. We also have got a bigger team around us. Before we were just playing straight through amps with no lights or anything, what you see is what you get. So definitely the production side is one area.
But as musicians, I feel that we are growing just because of how much we play. Obviously, there's always room for improvement, I want us to always strive to be the best we possibly can be, and we want to keep improving.
What have you learnt from playing with bigger bands? You’ve played with Blossoms...
Alex: They are very different to us. I think that’s when we first saw the difference between the live show, and the performance they put on. Whereas, I guess we are just giving people a live show, they are taking the performance further, and they do it well. They have got a massive team, with a lot of skill, and they're all experienced.
It was the first time we saw what you could do with lights and little oddities that just made the aesthetic and the vibe better, but we are probably not going to choreograph our shows.
How do you see the Lathums’ overall experience so far? Has it been hard to make the transition?
Alex: Don’t get me wrong, we're still only human. We are going through things, we continue to do that, we still learn about each other, we learn how to deal with the journey that we are part of. If you consider how quickly the band are taking off, how much demand there is for what we do, the way things have been going, it is going pretty well.
We went from playing small spaces with a few people in attendance, and I feel we are doing a good job taking strides. We also have a really strong team, and it helps us to keep going. But there are things we need to work on, and things we’re still figuring out, but we will get there.
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'How Beautiful Life Can Be' is out now.
Words: Susan Hansen