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Interview: Landshapes is your new best friend

by Michael Glader

I have a new favorite band and they’re called Landshapes. Composed of Jemma Freeman, Heloise Tunstall-Behrens, Luisa Gerstein, and Dan Blackett, Landshapes creates indie rock songs that are energetic, melodic, and hypnotic. Having released their second album, Heyoon, via UK label Bella Union in May of 2015, Landshapes recently embarked on a 3-week North American tour.

This London-based four-piece has been stuck in my head, making me dig deeper into their impeccable guitar tones and inspiring me by their overall aesthetic. I’m wowed, to say the least, and feel even luckier to have seen them play their first-ever Chicago performance. I also got to interview Landshapes in the women’s restroom, but I’ll get to that in a second.

Landshapes brings you to the scene of the crime: they’re intense, they’re gritty, they’re raw. It’s a big-city band that captures the beauty in the drab. They harness a sense of eeriness, a sense of power and corruptness, while making you feel satisfied.

What truly captures me most about Landshapes and Heyoon is the guitar work and rhythm section. Effected rhythm and lead guitar tones add intensity and dynamics to the sound. Guitar melodies weave in and out of psychosis, soothing you when they need to and straining you in a haunting, chilling way. It’s every bit raw, and every bit intelligent and poised. When paired with its perfectly constructed bass lines and tasteful-yet-punishing drums, the sound is nothing less than total, complete wholeness.

I’m officially a fan-boy now and wanted to get to know these musicians, so on October 8 at Chicago’s Subterranean, we sought out a quiet place in the women’s restroom to get to know each other, talk about their music, and ask these Londoners what they know about Chicago.

Michael Glader: How did you all meet each other?

Landshapes: We came from outer space! We came from different places, through the scene together and through school. Louisa and I [Heloise] started to sing together and then began looking for a bass player, so we asked Jemma, who is the sister of my boyfriend, then we saw Dan playing in a band and just stole him! He played a gig with us and never went back to his other band.

MG: It sounds like you guys have so many different influences. Shoot off some bands you individually like.

LS: Brian Eno, Deep Purple, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, Patti Smith, Le Tigre, Lower Dens, Ethiopian Jazz, ESG, old calypso music, soul music, Girl Band, Father John Misty, Micachu and The Shapes.

MG: What’s the songwriting process like?

LS: We tend to sort of jam together. We each come up with little riffs and just casually start playing. It tends to work better that way because it’s a more open process. We also record a lot of stuff, go back and find stuff we like and don’t like. Sometimes it’ll be really fast and we’ll play a song in seven minutes, and other times we’ll work on a song for several months. For example, “Ader” took forever, it was a lot of hard work. We tried a bunch of different styles and then one day, Dan just kind of got frustrated and counted us in really fast and it totally worked!

MG: What do you think of when you think of Chicago?

LS: The Bulls, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Pizza.

After watching Landshapes play that night, I couldn’t help but like them more and more — I had no choice. They truly play with an impressive amount of energy. Guitarist Jemma Freeman works the stage in a way that reminded me of a more controlled Angus Young of AC/DC. It’s truly awesome. They’re so powerful, so measured and deliberate. Whatever you do, go see Landshapes and let them become your new best friends.