About an hour ahead of ION's phone call with Cate Le Bon, the artist unveiled a video for "Rock Pool," the title track from her soon-to-be-released new EP for Drag City. Saturated in reality-distorting washes of Technicolor aquamarine and magenta, the short film finds Le Bon exploring the sand and pebble beachscape of Wales' Southerndown beach while wearing a towering, construction paper top hat. Other times, it finds her cruising through what appears to be a movie lot's prop warehouse, brandishing the kind of giant-sized scissors Flea snapped shut in The Big Lebowski's infamous dream sequence.
With all of these feverish scenes in mind, it could be fitting that Welsh-born Le Bon is recouping from jetlag and a lingering Christmas flu while laying on musical collaborator Josiah Steinbrick's son's bed in Los Angeles when she answers the phone. There'll be plenty of time to offer up energized, angular art rock for the masses when she starts another leg of North American dates later this week, but for now she's savouring "a nice lazy day."
"My band get in tomorrow, so we're going to go on lots of lovely hikes and trips to the ocean, and eat some good food," she adds of the planned, pre-tour R&R. "Try not to party; try to have a good, nourishing couple of days before we hit the road."
In addition to giving best friend Delmi Thomas a well-deserved hat credit at the end of the "Rock Pool" clip ("It's probably the best thing about the video," Le Bon jokes), it's also high time that the songs on the upcoming EP got their due. All four tracks were recorded during the same sessions as Le Bon's fantastic Crab Day full-length from 2016, but obviously didn't make the final cut. That's not to say they weren't worthy of inclusion.
Le Bon explains: "You know, they were all viable songs for the record, but tracklisting is always tricky. Sometimes you've got to extract some songs to make room for the others; this is how the chips fell."
As stunning as it is brief, the 14-minute cycle offers up a mix of low-key shimmying and Phrygian mode vocal harmonies on the title track, while "Perfume Days" splatters gunfire guitar trilling above melatonin-triggering marimba melodies.
Closing ballad "I Just Wanna Be Good" likewise traffics in juxtaposition, with the dry-delivery dejection of lines like "I don't want to be the cold cuts lying on your floor" being followed up quickly with an angelic round of oohs. Previously, on Crab Day's "Love is Not Love," she jarringly likened affection to a coathanger. "That's kind of life, isn't it, the heartbreaking aligned with the absurd? They're inextricable, at times," Le Bon explains of the balance.
While she strays from detailing the meaning of her lyrics in full ("I don't want to ruin if anyone has another idea of what that might mean"), Le Bon will say that her songs are inspired by experience, and that she's only getting more comfortable tapping into her creative side as the years go on.
"I guess the one thing that we're sure about is that we're growing older, and within that there's huge liberation," Le Bon theorizes, further elaborating, "It's just caring less, and I don't mean not caring about what you're doing, but not caring about how it's received or perceived. You should exist wholly in the moment of creation. I think as you grow older, it's easier to resume that presence."
Beyond promoting Rock Pool, 2017 is looking like it's going to be a busy year for Le Bon. Also coming out this month is an improvisational LP from her BANANA project with her regular backup band and composer Steinbrick, with whom she's also assisted on a forthcoming solo LP. She and current tourmate Tim Presley are also sitting on a sophomore LP from their DRINKS, which was recorded last year at an old mill in the south of France and apparently offers up an "intimate kind of strangeness".
God-willing, Le Bon could also be premiering some even more thrilling headgear.
Cate Le Bon's Rock Pool EP is out January 27 through Drag City, while BANANA's Live arrives the same day through Leaving Records. She plays the Fox Cabaret in Vancouver, BC on Monday, January 16th; Bar le Ritz PDB in Montreal on Wednesday, February 1st; and at Velvet Underground in Toronto on Thursday, February 2nd.
Photo by Ivana Kličković.