Velvet-throated folksinger Cate Le Bon first met good friend Tim Presley when his band opened for her's at a gig in L.A. Not long afterwards, a smitten Presley asked her to tour the U.S. with him as the guitarist for his California psych-rock outfit White Fence. Despite a literal ocean of differences between Cate's overtly happy folk-pop and the grimy psych sound of White Fence, Cate said yes and off they went. Over that time, the two formed an unlikely musical partnership founded on obscure Welsh post-punk and a mutual desire to stay hydrated, resulting in an idea for what would later become DRINKS. However, with Cate living abroad in Europe, the project hit a stand still.
Tim Presley has since written and recorded a prolific volume of music in a handful of different bands including several White Fence records and an album with fellow SoCal psych-folk revivalist Ty Segall. But once Cate uprooted from her native Wales and moved to the west coast to record her third LP Mug Museum, DRINKS made it from a tour-van hypothetical to a full-on psychadelic, punk experiment that doesn't particularly sound like something you'd expect from either one of them.
Noisey: Tim, what was it that inititally drew you to Cate's music?
Tim Presley: I hadn't heard of her before getting an email about White Fence supporting her show in L.A., but I googled her and fell in love immediately. We've been friends since. I think maybe I am the male version of Cate. Kindred spirits? Muses maybe. I am constantly in awe of her music, voice and songwriting. Also, she is by far my favorite guitar player. Plus, she knows how to make coffee with a sock. It's true.
And Cate, what made you want to collaborate with Tim? You've always been primarily a solo artist.
Cate Le Bon: I'm not sure how to explain it. It could have been the worst idea imaginable as we're both pretty stubborn and single minded which is why we are solo artists in the first place yet somehow we managed to work as one machine in creating this. I think the approach we took was instrumental. There was no map, neither of us knew where is was going so it was just wholly exciting and enjoyable. We spent a lot of time playing guitar and laughing manically at each other. I think we both are lovers of spontaneity and complete abandon and having a partner in crime to egg you on in this is always a good thing in my book. Tim is quite significantly older than I and we come from different lands, so we had a lot to teach and learn from one another. I think the music we make independently became irrelevant when we embarked on this project. It was about creating something new together and abandoning what we thought we ought to be creating.
"Hermits on Holiday" came out last week and it is such a catchy first single, but it's far more of a pop song than the rest of the LP. DRINKS, to me, feels very psychedelic with those long, free-wheeling guitar solos. Were you intending to make a psych album?
Cate: I don't even know what those words mean anymore.
What was your inspiration for the video for "Hermits on Holiday?" I understand the people in the background are Tim's parents?
Tim: That was my Mom, Nan, and her boyfriend of I don't know…100 years. Basically, “Don” is my step-dad. He loves the Grateful Dead. They were great about doing it.
Yeah! He's even rocking out on guitar at one point in the beginning.
Cate: We bought a video camera with the idea of filming videos much like we recorded the album so that there was no disparity in the spirit of the whole thing.
There's an improvisational quality to some of your material. Can you tell me a little bit about the songwriting process?
Cate: The way we wrote the record was very spontaneous and instinctive which naturally leans towards being improvisational. Chance played a huge part in the process and we often just left things where they lay. When Nick came to play drums on the album he had only heard very scattered recordings of where the songs were being borne from and so his part was hugely improvised which at times I think he found frustrating but there was always a moment when he connected with what we were trying to do and it all fell together or fell apart in the most glorious fashion. There were times when we had to sit and try extract form from the demos but we never labored for too long as we wanted to always be sympathetic to the way the process began. TIM: We left room for improvisation while recording to keep up with the spirit how we were writing the songs. I’m a firm believer in spur of the moment, brain-to-tape recording.
And you recorded the album analog on tape even though it was done in a professional studio? That's interesting.
Tim: Yea, we did it on tape. It was one of those things where me and Cate both decided it would be cool to be completely hands on with it. Cate: It just felt like-- because of the nature of the project-- it just felt like we should do as much as we could, really. Tim: DIY. DIM: Do it myself.
Speaking of D.I.Y., you started Bith Records with the sole purpose of releasing a debut album by Jessica Pratt which seemed like a pretty singular vision. Why release the DRINKS LP via Birth as well?
TP: We got offers from other labels and I was flattered by it, but, I don’t know. It felt right to do it on Birth just cuz. I don’t know. It just did. I knew in the back of my mind I always wanted to build up Birth or do more with it but it had to be the right thing and this happened to be that.
Noisey: Tim, what's your favorite song that Cate has shown you? Cate, what's your favorite song that Tim has shown you?
Tim: My favorite song, or actually, a band Cate showed me was Datblygu (from Wales). Although, my absolute favorite song she ever showed me was one she had just written for her new record called “Aside From Growing Old”. Cate: We spent a lot of time listening to a Soul Jazz comp of British Post-Punk 7's which, having come off a 10 month tour, reignited my love of music and led me down a punk rabbit hole which was gladly facilitated by Tim. My favorite thing Tim played me was Lou Miami "Dancing With Death." He also introduced me to Tronics which I will forever be grateful for. It's true to say we went to the petting zoo more than a few times.
Both of you are career guitarists. Are you each playing on this record? Tim: We try. Cate: It's certainly in the cards.
Tim: Yeah, because we have to learn how to play it live and I don't remember which guitar is mine and which is Cate's.
Now for the most important question. If Drinks were an actual drink, what would it be and why? I'm thinking TAB soda. What do you think? Tim: Vodka, soda, lime, Xanax, Almond milk latte. Cate: Bubbly milk. If Bryn Lovitt were a drink, she would obviously be a can of Diet Coke. Follow her on Twitter.