At the start of 2020, when Laura Marling was working on her Mercury-nominated seventh solo album ‘Song For Our Daughter’, she developed a psychosomatic throat problem. “I had a real tightness in my throat, which in the world of psychosomatic illnesses is a pretty obvious one,” she says with a wry smile. “There was something in me that just really didn’t want to carry on doing Laura Marling stuff. I was just really fatigued with it.”
Alongside work on her solo album, Marling was also in the process of reconvening with Mike Lindsay to make a second album as LUMP. Escaping the stifling world of the creation of ‘Song For Our Daughter’ to travel to Lindsay’s home studio in Margate and work on their next collaboration, Marling’s restrictive mental feelings melted away. “Miraculously, the muscles around my vocal chords unclenched and it was a case of week on, week off,” she remembers. “I’d come to Margate with no problem and then I’d go back to the studio in Wales and the problem would come back.”
It served as a physical manifestation of the difference in mood and atmosphere between LUMP and what she’s previously described as the “weird prison” of making music under her own name. “There was some conflict in me which was relieved by LUMP,” she reflects.
This freeing nature is splashed all over ‘Animal’, the duo’s funky, feral second album. LUMP was introduced to the world in 2018 with a self-titled album defined by its lyrical weirdness, psychedelic drones and a firm lack of a traditional formula. It was a clear break from the norm for Marling, who seemed to thrive in subverting expectations with the project and confounding those who felt they had her pinned down after a decade and a half operating as one of the most lauded folk songwriters around.
LUMP’s second album takes this subversion even further. With Lindsay laying down the music alone first, Marling then came down to Margate to set her lyrics on top in fruitful, quick bursts. Across ‘Animal’, she sings of primal instincts and crazy dreams, thriving on instinct and energy. “Came here to swing dicks,” she sings on its danceable but dark title track, presenting a wild, untamed Laura Marling that we’ve never seen before.
“It’s thrilling for me personally, for my creative brain,” she says of the side-project. “It’s been like bloodletting, and really good for me. LUMP’s not just opened up musical and lyrical channels for me, but I’ve been making the LUMP puppet and have started learning animation because I love it so much – I really care about LUMP.”
For Lindsay, the untethered nature of the project dates back to the very beginning of the pair’s creative relationship. “I was quite taken aback when you said that you’d be up for working with me,” Lindsay recalls to Marling about meeting his then-loose music industry acquaintance at London’s The O2 when the latter was supporting Neil Young. “I was then even more taken aback when you said, ‘How about Tuesday?’, which was about two days later. I didn’t know you’d be so up for it.”
Straight off the back of that first meeting, LUMP brewed in secret, away from the worlds of Laura Marling and Lindsay’s primary project Tunng. “We had no idea what we were doing, and it was an organic process,” Lindsay says. “We didn’t even really know each other – the music was speaking for us. It was a unique experience, and it felt like getting the feeling back of making the first album you’ve ever made. Just making music because you want to make it, and no-one’s asked you to.
“I felt the same with this record,” he adds. “No-one knew that there would be a second LUMP record, and neither did we. It gave us an opportunity to be anonymous again, and it’s rare to get that feeling when you’ve been putting albums out under other names for years. It was very liberating that, with the second record, we could do whatever we wanted and there were no rules. We make the rules.”
Marling describes LUMP as an escape. During the first coronavirus lockdown last year, when she released ‘Song For Our Daughter’ earlier than planned as a balm for our frazzled brains, Marling was taking refuge in listening to her completed secret album with Lindsay over and over. “I listened to it to death in the first lockdown. Just that and the Fiona Apple album on repeat, basically,” she says. “It’s nice because although I am still listening to my own music, it’s not all me.”
From both being in conversation with Marling and Lindsay and listening to ‘Animal’, it’s clear that LUMP as a project serves as a vital escape from the people the pair are expected to be in their day jobs, and the musical tones they’re identified by. The sense of escape splashed all over the new album is palpable.
On the single ‘We Cannot Resist’, Marling playfully whispers the track’s title before going on to sing about the trials and tribulations of “kids on the run,” gleefully disappearing into other people’s stories. By the track’s big and bright chorus, she’s singing of “the oil that forms on a well-strung voice,” weaving psychedelic tales over Lindsay’s music that tread a gorgeous line between pop melody and avant-garde flourishes. Maybe referring to herself and Lindsay in the throes of creating the new album, later on she sings of “thick-blooded hedonists seduced by what we cannot resist.”
“I was surprised by the amount of people who knew me from LUMP and didn’t know me from being Laura Marling”
“We had no idea we were going to make another record,” Lindsay says of ‘Animal’. “There’s a luxury of, when coming into the second album, LUMP being a real thing with a real character, and a possible palate of exploration that we weren’t aware of the first time around. LUMP has the ability to go out and perform and make it more bombastic and more twisted.”
“It turned out so well that I wanted to get back in there,” Marling adds. “After ‘LUMP’ came out and we did the tour and it was all put to bed, I was surprised by the amount of people who knew me from LUMP and didn’t know me from Laura Marling.
“People would come up to me and say how much they loved the LUMP record. I guess that’s the new algorithmic world that we live in now! People who wouldn’t necessarily be attracted to Laura Marling music – totally understandably! – are getting recommended LUMP.”
With the release of ‘Animal’ and a subsequent tour that Lindsay teases will dial up the feral, crazed moments of the album even further, LUMP has turned from a one-off collaboration into a deeply immersive world for the pair to dive into whenever the mood takes them. More importantly, it’s also a project that’s given both Marling and Lindsay back their sense of wonder.
– LUMP’s new album ‘Animal’ is out on July 30