Le Tour often traverse between lo-fi psych-rock and hi-fi punk rock on the same record or even song. But what’s even more impressive is how they’re able to make it work for their highly energetic and entertaining live show. The band will soon be completing their new record and will be embarking on a mid-western tour early next month including a send-off at the Empty Bottle on Monday, May 5, with Absolutely Not, Flesh Panthers and MAMA. Before they head out, I stopped by lead singer/guitarist Patrick Campbell’s apartment for warm conversation with the whole band, which not only includes Patrick, but bassist Andrew Radlowski and drummer Colin Campbell as well. We discussed the lo-fi aesthetic, the band’s song writing process and the single they recorded for LoudLoopPress.com, “What’s In Your System,” which as always, was recorded by LLP’s own Damian Wiseman, and is available for free download at the conclusion of this post and/or can be streamed in the Bandcamp sidebar to the right.
LLP: What influenced Le Tour’s psychedelic-meets-punk approach?
Patrick: it’s kind of funny. Colin and I started playing with Kevin from Mannequin Men in this little side project thing called Fake Hotels. I wrote about an EP’s worth of material for that project, but it ended up being just Le Tour songs in the end. Kevin ran out of time because they just released their album, and he had to promote it. So, it ended up being our first cassette tape. Kevin was a huge influence on that, and then a lot of other local bands that I was really into like Heavy Times. And I’ve always been into extreme psychedelic guitar work. Our second cassette had a 16-minute guitar solo on it. It was really out there. Then a 23-minute noise piece on the other side. That was just kind of like my deal where I wanted to show everybody that we could write really cool pop rock songs, but then we could also stretch out and do really intense experimental stuff. I wanted to be as versatile as we possibly could. We ended up writing a whole bunch of songs that sound completely different from one another, but when we get together and play at shows it makes for a really exciting live experience.
LLP: Can you talk about the lo-fi aesthetic and feel on many of the songs you have on your Bandcamp now?
Patrick: It wasn’t on purpose. It just kind of happened because the equipment I used. I was doing the best with the equipment I had. Like this four track I’ve been using since I was 15. The songs – they came out of stream of conscious on to the tape. Then the tape takes them and meshes up in a way that I didn’t really plan for it to sound. Then all of a sudden it’s this weird, psychedelic lo-fi experience. I have a ton of those tapes. I actually have a box right behind you of like 80 tapes.
Colin: We release stuff in different stages of development. Most of the stuff Pat brings in as a riff and plays it, or let’s us listen to the actual four-track recording. Then that’s really the jumping off point, and some of the songs end up in a very different place or a very different mood as a result of the work done within the band. But I like just listening to Pat’s four-track tape compositions, and I think it works in a different way.
Andrew: It’s always pretty exciting to listen to Pat’s tapes. It’s consistently good stuff. The demo stuff, the experiments – it’s always interesting to listen to it cause it’s entertaining.
Colin: There’s going to be releases from the vault for years after [Patrick’s] untimely death. [laughs]
Andrew: Yeah, when I’m like chilling on the Caribbean islands. [laughs]
LLP: So when you all get together to work out these songs, is it collaborative or does Patrick have specific ideas or both?
Patrick: We bring them to the table in varying degrees of completeness.
Colin: Andrew brings in some songs too.
Patrick: Yeah, Andrew brings in a lot of songs too. These guys are really accomplished arrangers too. So, we get together, we throw the initial idea out there, and we’re like “Ok, that would sound really good with this other riff from last week or something.” Then we throw it all together and then all of a sudden we have this big sprawling psychedelic track.
Andrew: It’s pretty fast too. Like playing with other bands, it’s been a lot slower. It’s pretty quick how everything can come together in our space. But I think Pat’s pretty driving in terms of getting the song. And I think Colin and I tend to…
Colin: …rein it in a little bit or give it a little bit of structure to sit on to help focus the sound or the mood.
Andrew: It’s new ears coming to it too in that hadn’t heard it before.
Colin: But it’s not like that well defined of a process. It’s not like Pat brings us this psychedelic tape, and then Andrew and I are like the engineers and we figure out how to make a pop song out of it. It’s not like that at all. It’s more just jamming in the room and all being on the same page. That’s probably how it happens, but I’m not even sure because it just happens.
Patrick: It took me a long time to find like-minded musicians in Chicago. A long time. Seven years.
Colin: [laughs] That’s funny cause I found you almost like instantly.
Patrick: Oh, yeah. I struggled. [laughs]
LLP: So how is Le Tour different from other bands you all have been in previously?
Patrick: This is a way more focused effort in a lot of departments like musicianship, arrangement and the demands of the band. I mean that in terms of time, energy and effort that we all have to put in and sacrifice. The other bands I’ve been in have been a lot more formal, a lot more laissez faire and less single-minded in terms of direction. I’m really happy with the way Le Tour is now. We all decided we couldn’t do this if one of us was gone. It has to be the three of us.
Colin: Yeah, we’ve played in combination with a couple of other people before until we found Andrew. But it was obvious that Le Tour is the three of us. I don’t know if I can define the process that well being on the inside of it because it’s something where we’re on the same page 90% of the time. I mean I’ve been a freelancer for a long time, I play all kinds of percussion, and so I do a lot of musical theatre and play in a lot of gun for hire situations. I feel like less of a hired gun and more invested in what we’re putting out there than I have in other bands before where I’ve felt like I’m just the drummer. A lot more of this speaks for me artistically.
LLP: Back to the lo-fi aesthetic, a few of your newer songs are more hi-fi including the track, “What’s In Your System” that you recorded exclusively for Loud Loop Press. Is this a decided approach or evolution?
Patrick: I think we’re branching. We’ve always wanted to be as versatile as we can possibly be in terms of the songwriting and also the sounds that we’re presenting.
Colin: I don’t think we’re necessarily lo-fi nuts.
Patrick: No, we’re not. We love hi-fi stuff too. And a lot of the lo-fi stuff that we have is a result of me being really interested in sound collage in general. So, I’ll sit down with these tapes and make a bunch of weird tones that interweave with each other. Then all of a sudden I’ll get this weird melodic sequence, and I’m like, “Oh shit, that’s got to be a song!”
Colin: I think part of it comes out of developing as a live band too. We’re using literally the same recording gear to do both of these seemingly different sounds. It’s all multi-track cassette tape. So, it’s the same gear, but it’s just a different approach. One way is you’re trying to create a new sound collage or texture from scratch, and the reverse way that we’ve been doing more of is capturing the sound of the live band. It’s the same equipment and everything, but a really different approach to recording stuff.
Andrew: Our stuff that we’re recording right now is not at all hiding behind this sort of lo-fi aesthetic. It’s extremely exposed. It’s rocking.
Colin: It’s minimal high quality production as we can afford.
LLP: Finally, can you talk a little bit about your Loud Loop Press exclusive single, “What’s In Your System?”
Patrick: That was a really quick one.
Colin: We wrote the lyrics as we were getting the gear set up to record.
Patrick: Yeah, we didn’t have lyrics yet. It was completely a stream of conscious. All I had were the drumbeat, the bass and the intro guitar riff. So, that was it. And it was only about 20 seconds of music. So, we stretched it into a song lightening quick…
Colin: It came in as a four-channel cassette.
Andrew: It had the hardest bass line.
Patrick: [laughs] I walked into the practice space, and I said, “Andrew, you’re going to kill me.”
Andrew: It was a bass line that Pat wrote, and it was going to be the bass line. It’s never taken me so long to “get” a part. It was just a timing that was uniquely Pat’s timing and Colin’s timing too…
Colin: Well, no! Not even mine. I’m just playing what Pat played on a couple of overdubs just as a drum set part almost literally. But the beat is totally like turned-around sounding.
Andrew: By the time we recorded it, I think we played it twice completely all the way through.
Patrick: Yeah, and lyrically, the melody just sort of jumped into my head when we started jamming on it. The lyrics just came right out of the melody organically. They were spontaneous words alluding to people who do too many drugs. And yeah, that’s just about it.
Colin: We hadn’t played that one live yet either when we recorded it. But subsequently, for the past couple of shows, it’s become really fun to play.
Patrick: Yeah, we’ve been opening sets with it, and people seem to like it.