Since arriving on the scene with In A Safe Place in 2004, Jimmy LaValle – the Los Angeles-based musician and composer who operates under the moniker The Album Leaf – has been unfurling a series of distinctive, lushly atmospheric albums and EPs ever since. Ahead of a full-band live date at Dublin’s Workman’s Club tomorrow, we catch up with LaValle to discuss lazy pigeonholing, the new album and working with Mark Kozelek…
Your music is largely instrumental but describing it as ‘post-rock’ can be a somewhat lazy way to pigeonhole the music . How would you best describe the music you make and why did you mostly forego lyrics and vocals?
Thank you. I am really not a fan of the term ‘post rock’. I normally say it’s ambient electronic, which I realise can also be a broad term. But I feel closer to the electronic world of music more than rock. It’s a shame that most people often connect electronic music to dance music nowadays whereas electronic music has been around long before the current movement of EDM, etc… I never really focused on singing/lyrics from the beginning so the choice is really about when to sing. And there’s nothing really too deep about when I choose to sing. Sometimes I hear it from the beginning of writing the song or it comes out later.
Instrumental music allows the listener to become more emotionally invested in the music. Would you agree that the absence of lyrics or vocals liberates the music in a certain way?
Absolutely. I hear so many different interpretations of what a particular song means to someone. It’s great.
Although you operate under the Album Leaf moniker, you are – to all intents and purposes – a solo act. Would you like to be part of a band full-time or would you find the collaborative process restricting?
I would now consider myself the captain or ‘frontman’ of the Album Leaf. On these last couple of records I’ve collaborated with the players in my band. I do write the songs, but everyone contributed to the end result. I’ve also been doing a lot more collaborating in general. It’s a lot of fun for me.
Speaking of collaborations, how did 2013’s Perils From The Sea come about, your full-length album with Mark Kozelek? It must have been quite a creative shift to hear Kozelek’s idiosyncratic lyrics over your music.
Mark texted me and asked if I wanted to make a song together (and) have me write and create the music for him to sing on. The first song on that record happened and we decided to make another, then it turned into an album. I was a huge Red House Painters fan but hadn’t followed Sun Kil Moon, but hearing his voice over my music was really great. Listening closely to his lyrics was always a nice surprise, too.
I read an interview with you recently whereby you stated you have always been a ‘vinyl guy’ and make a point of ensuring all your albums are released on vinyl. What are your thoughts on Spotify and Apple Music and the way music is consumed today?
To me, it only helps. I prefer vinyl, that’s me (but) that’s not everyone’s deal. A lot of people still listen to CDs, most people listen digitally – it all helps. I would rather my music be readily available for anyone interested to listen to at anytime.
Apart from an EP in 2012, it’s been five years since the last full-length album A Chorus Of Storytellers. The new one – Between Waves – is imminent. What can we expect from it?
I worked really hard on this record trying to create something different. I’m very proud of it and very anxious to release it. Both the Rhodes piano and the guitar have taken a back-seat on this record. It’s a darker record, but still feels like the Album Leaf to me. That’s really all I can say about it.
The Album Leaf play The Workman’s, Dublin tomorrow evening and tickets can be found here.