Duncan Lloyd (Maxïmo Park, Nano Kino) released his third solo album, Outside Notion in May, and The 405 can’t get enough of it. Channelling windswept melodies and utilizing lush compositions, Duncan stated he wanted to take his time with this album and flesh it out to its full potential.

We caught up with Duncan via email to get to know the man behind the music a little better, his influences, and his take on crafting a solid album.

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What records and artists influenced you in those early years of making music? What’s it like to reflect when you look at what you are creating now?

If there is something special to me about a song, then I am into it and I think it’s always been like that - I don’t really think about genres so much. I remember hearing the song ‘Mouneïssa’ by Rokia Traoré and felt like I knew it, there was a connection with it that seemed to go back a lot further, it was similar with certain Bob Dylan or Public Enemy songs that hit me as a kid, songs that have an ability to take you far off or make you think differently. I wanted to create that feeling in my own songs when I began to write.

When Maxïmo Park got started I shared a flat with Tom English our drummer. We had music on at any given opportunity, listening to the likes of, Captain Beefheart (Clear Spot, Doc at the Rader Station) Wire (Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154) The Fall (Bend Sinister, The Unutterable) , Life Without Buildings (Any Other City), Roots Manuva (Brand New Second Hand, Run Come Save Me) PJ Harvey (Rid Of Me, Stories From The City, Stories from the Sea), Miho Hatori (Cibo Matto and Smokey & Miho records) and of course The Buzzcocks. There was a big pile of Felt CD’s Tom’s friend had left so we dabbled in that too. We regularly went to a club called World HQ to get our fix of funk & soul on weekends.

I still don’t feel too attached to one genre, but I feel I’m in a different place than I was. Life hits you with many things and that has an impact on how or what you write, but music is still the main outlet for me. I guess the difference now is I can focus more and experiment more freely whereas before I ran purely on instinct or impulse.

Do you find recording solo records and as part of bands have equally contributed to your growth as a recording artist? 

Definitely. Being in a group can be both fun and hard work. Collaborations are exciting and that sense of communication and building something with other people can be really rewarding. You learn a lot through working with others. Making records myself are a chance to explore ideas in greater depth as I’m solely writing the lyrics and arrangements for example. I guess I’m a loner at heart, but it always feels like a new beginning when I start a record by myself or with a band.

About Outside Notion, you’ve stated that you really wanted it to “work as one piece, each song being a window into something deeper.” Do you feel in an era dominated by streaming, there’s outside pressure to focus less on threading in an album and to think of it as just a carrier of singles?

I think a lot of artists still feel the relevance in the album as a concept. In some way it’s like an artist might show a series of thematically linked pieces for an exhibition. Albums are like a book of short stories that reveal more the more you live with them.

There is outside pressure to write single after single in order to be noticed or played. That can be hard to deal with when you are not in the right frame of mind or feeling disconnected from making something immediate or instant. Striking that balance and keeping your head above water can be challenging at times.

What do you find most rewarding, not just as an artist, but lover of music, when listening to an album front to back in one sitting?

If I’ve felt that I’ve been somewhere either completely new or somewhere familiar, if it’s engaging or moved me or even stunned me. The other thing is if it gets me inspired to write and approach things in a new light. Rewarding albums are journeys to me, trains of thoughts and soundscapes. I recently listened to Bill Callahan’s new album and I got that, thrilling and life affirming.

 

You collaborated with string arranger Amy May who’s worked with legends like John Cale and The xx. What was it like getting to work with Amy and how did the vision for these arrangements come about?

Amy is amazing to work with, she got what I was hearing through my attempt at explaining what I was hearing so her experience and ideas were invaluable in making it a fully realised album. 

We talked about the pastoral and orchestral music on some of Nick Drake’s and Sandy Denny’s albums too, and albums like One Year by Colin Blunstone. She asked for a playlist of further references and I also gave her a few very crude violin ideas on a couple of the demos I sent. She took the songs away and scored up arrangements for three of the songs before coming to Newcastle for a day. I set some mics up and from the word go we had the tracks feeling good. We worked very quickly together and ended up recording more than there is on the record which will hopefully come out at some point too.

For those young artists out there, what did you find was your biggest obstacle when first writing music? How have you overcome/ managed it over the years?

Confidence was a big factor and not fitting in with what I thought was expected. My songs felt weird compared to what was around and playing them to people was excruciating. Sometimes still is! But the drive was there, and I stuck with it.

I’d say you have to make it your own and if it helps you and it’s what you want to do then it’s good. Experimenting and listening to stuff you wouldn’t normally listen to is good too. It doesn’t always have to make sense in the beginning, have confidence in building your own sound and remember it’s your music so you decide how you want it done, advice can be good but try not to be manipulated into being something you’re not happy with. Also don’t be afraid to put your foot down if you need to.

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Duncan Lloyd’s new album Outside Notion is out now. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.