Track By Track: SPELLES discuss their new album, Diving Into the Arms of the Divine, one track at a time
SPELLES, the soul-drenched dream pop duo of Luc Laurent and Kathryn Baar, have unveiled their much-anticipated debut album, Diving Into the Arms of the Divine. Released via Sierra Bonita Records, this 11-track collection (Best New Album and 3 New Albums Out This Week You Should Listen to Now) delves into the mystical, cinematic, and imaginative and draws inspiration from musical titans like Portishead, Radiohead, and Nina Simone. Join us as Luc and Kathryn dive into each track, offering intimate insights into the narratives woven throughout the album.
Accompanying the exclusive track-by-track, SPELLES has assembled a collection of images (below) from their time in the studio. These images provide an additional glimpse into the creation of the album.
1. ‘Intro (The Abyss)’
Luc Laurent and I wanted to evolve our sound and share more of our capabilities as musicians with this record. I love scores for film and I wanted to start the album with a moody instrumental that would immediately set a cinematic and mysterious tone to lure in the listener. ‘The Abyss’ gives the feeling of being slowly lowered into the depths of our inner worlds. Matthew Cooker played cello on this track (and Paradise) at the Lair Studios in Los Angeles with the help of our engineer friend Sonny DiPerri. We then took that session and fleshed out the production at our home studio.
2. ‘Night Terrors’
‘Night Terrors,’ the haunting and anthemic new track is a mixture of Amy Winehouse meets Suicide. The menacing song begins with a blues-inspired bass synth riff and Laurent’s pulsating drums that allow Baar’s soulful and biting vocals to sink in. The choruses explode with textures of organs and string machines. There is a moment in the song where the listener feels like they’re floating underwater and then are pulled out from the depths as the song concludes with a heroic ending. With lyrics such as “What haunts you the most? My unlived life” and “Built a pyramid of dreams, to honor what’s dead” Baar touches upon the dichotomy of feelings of hope and hopelessness that one inevitably experiences when chasing an elusive dream.
3. ‘Holy Hells’
Is a powerful and soul-drenched anthem that echoes the band’s love of stoic philosophy and the art of perseverance. With lyrics such as, “In the kingdom of my ruin I made peace. From a dead land grew an Eden for all to see,” and “It was the highs that saved me, lows they made me,” ‘Holy Hells’ celebrates personal transformation and transcending dissonant forces that consume us. Mixed by Andy D. Park (Deftones) and mastered by Greg Calbi/Steve Fallone (David Bowie), ‘Holy Hells’ is a sophisticated blend of indie pop and blues/gospel influences that combine to create a deeply affecting and spiritual composition.
4. ‘Beginnings and Endings’
‘Beginnings and Endings’ is an atmospheric & otherworldly sonic odyssey that will leave the listener with a feeling like they’re floating in outer space. Starting with a delicate piano arpeggio & intimate lead vocal, the song blooms with layers of ethereal synths, tribal percussion, and haunting background vocals that explode into a transportive finale. With lyrics such as, “Scenes play in my mind they’re rewinding, all of my life looking behind me” and “The blind leading the blind, what lies beyond?” Baar searches for greater truth and a deeper meaning in our life experiences and questions what is possible. She says, “I started writing this song with the piano arpeggio. Luc heard me playing it and suggested changing the rhythm. Once I did, the song quickly came to fruition.”
5. ‘Flesh and Bone’
I’m really fascinated by life when you zoom out and think about it all. The lyrics touch upon human history as we evolved from ancient “fish” that crawled out of the sea to then living in caves and creating art and cave drawings. It’s all quite miraculous if you think about time and where we come from and where we’re going. At times I feel trapped and this was my reminder that a lot is possible. I love Einstein’s quote, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.”
6. ‘Double Life’
‘Double Life’ is a soulful and moody blues-inspired ballad that evokes the feeling of driving on the Pacific Coast Highway at night. The sultry and expressive vocals sweep over the listener as the organ and drums pulse with a nostalgic and contemplative feel. With lyrics such as, “Fake it till you feel it, but don’t lose your spirit” and “Living this double life, I’m getting so tired” this song encapsulates the internal torment and spiritual cost that comes with having to live two different lives at once.
7. ‘Diaspora, the Horses’
This song was one of the more challenging ones to finish. We recorded it in multiple different keys and tempos until it finally clicked in the current arrangement. The meaning and feelings behind this song were so big that it took a long time to focus it and articulate everything I wanted to say. It touches upon my childhood experiences and also feelings I’ve had while pursuing a creative path. I love the ethereal sweeping background synths that create an eerie feeling.
8. ‘Chosen One’
I took piano lessons for a short time with my friend Jason Hirth a few years back and I came up with this song while practicing one day. Jason recorded the piano part on our upright Yamaha in our home studio (he also recorded the piano for ‘Beginnings and Endings’ there as well). We then ran those tracks through our Tascam to get an analogue tape machine sound. I wanted something delicate and dream-like on the album to add a different dimension and dynamic as there are a lot of synth bass dominant songs on the record. Lyrically, it’s very reflective and personal and touches upon comparisons. If you listen closely at the very beginning of the song you can hear birds chirping.
The final version of this song sounds very different from how it started when we recorded it at 64 Sound Studios in 2021 with Sonny DiPerri. I believe it initially had a pre-chorus and chorus and a full drum kit performed by Luc Laurent throughout the whole song. When we brought it back to our home studio to arrange it more, it just didn’t feel right with the typical ABAB song structure. We explored our options and ended up with this strange trance-like composition that feels very haunting and cinematic.
10. ‘Lift the Veil’
This song has a bit of a world music influence to it. It’s really textural and pulsing with Portishead-inspired drumming. Lyrically, this song discusses looking deeper to find the true meaning of who we are and how we want to live our lives. I think there are a lot of illusions in life that we believe are true regarding how we think of ourselves and others and how we should live our lives. That can create feelings of shame or anxiety and I wanted to dispel those feelings and shed light on my own inner truth.
‘Paradise’ is the song we were most excited to share as I believe it is our most ambitious composition on the record. Matthew Cooker played cello, Paul Cartwright played violin and Jason Hirth played Wurlitzer. They all really added to the vibe of this song. Originally, we recorded it in the studio 6 keys higher than where it sits now. I was trying to solidify the chorus melody when it was in the higher key and it just sounded too happy or too Disney. I bounced the session one day and dropped the WAV file into Ableton and dropped the key significantly. It immediately emoted an ominous and moody feeling that I wanted to hear. As soon as the chorus hit I sang what is the current chorus melody out of nowhere as if it was always meant to be and it was perfect. The song touches upon the feeling of running out of time and comparisons and ends with the cryptic line “This is not the end.”
Clockwise from the top left: SPELLES in the studio. Kathryn Baar on piano, Jason Hirth on piano, Luc Laurent on drums, and engineer, Sonny DiPerri.
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