In December of last year Laki Mera created a minor sensation in their native Scotland by making their album, ‘Clutter’, which they had worked on for over a year, available as a pay-if-you-want digital download from a web link published in the daily Glasgow-published newspaper, ‘The Herald’.

While Radiohead had done something similar two months before that in October, encouraging fans to pay their own price for their latest album ‘In Rainbows’, before making it available on CD and vinyl as from New Year’s Eve, Laki Mera were in many ways taking more of a risk. In contrast to the Oxfordians who had already released six bestselling albums, they were little known outside Scotland and ‘Clutter’ was their debut album.

“None of us were too precious about the album”, explains vocalist, guitarist and synthesiser player Laura Donnelly. “It was a way for us to get us heard by as many people as possible. ‘Clutter’ means a lot to us, and that pushed us to want as many people as possible to know about it. We didn’t care about getting any money back for it.”

“‘The Herald’ were quite interested in what we were doing anyway and it came about just after the Radiohead pay-as-you-like download. They were keen to back us and happy to give us a wee bit of promotion and to put us out with their newspaper. We were really lucky to get their help.”

Laki Mera formed in 2004 when Donnelly met multi-instrumentalist Andrea Gobbi (bass, synths, guitar, programming) in a bar in which they were both working in Glasgow’s West End. Donnelly was at the time finishing off a degree in Art and Gobbi, who was born and raised in Rome, was concluding a course at Glasgow’s SAE (Sound and Audio Engineering) Institute. Gobbi had played in various punk and reggae bands in his native Italy, while Donnelly had spent her teens fronting an angst-ridden nearly all female rock group, God’s Boyfriend, who had released a single on Rough Trade.

“Andrea needed to record people to pass a part of his course” laughs Donnelly. “And I said, “Oh, I’m a singer-songwriter. I have not recorded for a while, but I would love to do something”, so we really started off writing together that way. The tunes we had were really interesting and we wanted to work out a way of playing them live and that was when we recruited the others.”

The other members of the band are Tim Harbinson (drums, percussion) ; Trevor Helliwell (cello, synths) and Keir Long (electric pianos, synths). Both Helliwell and Long are classically trained, while Harbinson had learnt his craft playing drums in various bands in his native Belfast before moving to Scotland. Donnelly knew Harbinson and Helliwell from their days with Cannon, a Glasgow-based instrumental post-rock band, which had broken up the year before in 2003, and for which Harbinson had played drums and Helliwell had been the sound engineer. Gobbi recruited Long in somewhat less conventional circumstances when he met him through his mother, who was teaching Long Italian at the time.

The music on ‘Clutter’ is a gorgeous collection of ambient panoramas and cinematic soundscapes, over the top of which Donnelly’s ethereal, enigmatic vocals soar and swoon. It merges together sweeping synths, and hazy strings and drum beats into a pristine, glistening sound , which at one level lushly neo-classical and at another maintaining a strong pop edge, has drawn the band critical comparisons with a diverse range of acts including the Cocteau Twins, Massive Attack and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

“We’ve all got an interest in classical music and folk music”, reflects Donnelly. “We’ve all also got a big interest in electronica, and I think that it is with those that we come together. We do have quite varied tastes between the five of us, and I am sure that just about every bit of our tastes are reflected in our music somewhere."

The album was recorded at Carrier Waves, the band's own warehouse studio, in central Glasgow.

"Andrea and Keir now have their own company Carrier Waves Music Productions", says Donnelly. "That is their day job. They do music production for films and voiceover recordings. They also do live sound engineering for other bands and a lot of work in clubs. It is because they have set up this business and also have a studio with it that we are able to go in and have that as our base. It has worked out really well."

'Clutter' has a very polished sound and comes across as airy and spacious in tone.

"No, not all", replies Donnelly, when questioned about the title of the album and if it is ironic. "A lot of people have asked us about that, but we really thought that there was maybe too much on it. There are all these funny drum loops and drum beats and then live drums and loads of instruments and loud electronic sounds. We just personally thought it sounded that way, but it is difficult for us to step back from it and so maybe it doesn't."

"Andrea was in charge with Keir of the production side of the album. He also had a go at mastering it as well. Since we couldn't scrape the money to pay for it he quickly read up a book on how to to that. If it sounds spacious, then that must be credited to him. There are a lot of instruments on it."

'Clutter' was released on CD at the beginning of April, the 'Herald' download having been expired after two months at the end of January. It has been released on Rhythm of Life, which is owned by former Josef K frontman Paul Haig and who co-runs it with Evan Henderson, Laki Mera's manager. Its cover was designed by Donnelly, while other paintings inside were created by Donnelly's sister, Emma, and Luca Dezotti, a friend of Andrea Gobbi's in Rome.

Laki Mera have also recently played support to Haig on his first tour in nineteen years, playing shows In Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dunfermline, Nottingham and London.

"We'll see where the tour takes us", says Donnelly about the future. "Hopefully we'll get more people enjoying the music and buying the album and then some more shows on the back of that. There is also the possibility of doing maybe a couple of small festivals this summer. We've also already started writing new songs for the next album. It was quite a relief to get the first album out of the way, but as soon as we had done we felt inspired and started writing again. We hope to start recording the second album soon."

One gets the impression that that second album will be recorded with the same sense of individuality and fierce independent spirit as the first one.

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