Interview: Cate Le Bon, Drinks. Raising A Glass To Good Friends

LA-based Welsh singer songwriter Cate Le Bon and American psych-rocker Tim Presley have joined forces to form Drinks. The pair became good friends after Presley’s band White Fence supported Le Bon on a US tour and she has returned the favour by regularly playing guitar in White Fence. After a relationship forged on tour, in the coffee shops and bars of LA and soundtracked by a shared love of the album Faust IV by Faust, they decided it was time to combine their talents and make a record.  Hermits on Holiday by Drinks will be released on 21 August by Heavenly Records. A UK headline tour is lined up for September and they’ll also be appearing at the End of the Road festival. I spoke to Le Bon in LA to find out more about the collaboration.

Cate Le Bon, Interview, about, band, Drinks, Tim Presley,

Cate le Bon (Rachel Lipsitz)

Hi Cate, I have to start with the name, why Drinks? You’ll never be able to find it in Google!

It’s an impossible task trying to find the name of a band, it seems like if you pick anything that’s too ‘cool’ then it’s just going to be shit, you know, so you just go for something really shit.

You want something that can absorb the music that isn’t going to be such a spectacular name that it overshadows everything. And also, I picked this up from hanging out with Tim. He consumes so many beverages in one day it’s unbelievable, you know, it’s a bit shocking. Sometimes I find myself going to the grocery store and I’ll get to the counter and my basket will just be full of beverages and I’ll think, ‘fuck you Tim’.

Mixing all those drinks can’t be good for the hangovers?

It’s not all alcoholic beverages, it’s mostly just an array of different soft drinks, about 10 different coffees, all the sodas that he enjoys, coconut water, sparkling water, just water, you know, it’s a rich tapestry of beverages.

How would you describe Drinks’s music?
It became obvious to us that there was no point going in there with what we do as solo artists, that became irrelevant. It is what it is: two people who are really excited to be making music with each other, kind of allowing the music to take us wherever it went. It’s just music. The most important thing to us was that we were excited by it. This album is full of exciting, playful and fun music … and you know, at times it might sound like a bad drug experience, but you know, why not. It’s like a scattering of mine and Tim’s things.

White Fence play the 100 Club with Tim Presley & Cate le Bon (Rachel Lipsitz)

Tim Presley  (Rachel Lipsitz)

So how did you and Tim get together and form a band? There’s a crowd of musicians over there in LA that all seem to play in each other’s bands, you have enough to pick from, so why Tim?

Anywhere you live for long enough, you fall into a group of like-minded people and whether it’s music or a different vocation, people are going to help you out. In terms of collaboration, it’s always a tricky thing to do; you never know if it’s going to work.

Tim and I have been fans of each other’s music for a long time and we’re good friends. We’ve always spoken about making records, but we never knew what the parameters of that would be. Sometimes it’s just nice to speak about making records without actually making one – so it kind of felt like it could have been one of those things.

Then I went away with White Fence to play guitar on tour and I guess that was a nice introduction to us working together as musicians, as opposed to being friends who hung out and drank coffee together.
It was really easy and immediately on the back of that we said if we’re going to make this record, let’s just not think about it too much and do it when the momentum is still going from the tour.

So we booked a rehearsal room for a week, plugged in some guitars and a bass, we had some drums and microphones knocking about and we just let it go where it wanted to go, and I think the reason it works – or at least why it worked for us two – is because we trust each other implicitly. It’s like having someone you trust egging you on or holding your hand. It’s like going on a lovely hike with a friend and just taking it all in.

You say you hired somewhere for a week to write the songs, but you must see each other quite often being such good friends, do you never just pick up your guitars and play when you meet up socially?

No, our friendship has always existed in bars and coffee shops. I don’t think either of us are jammers, it’s not my idea of fun, really. We wrote everything together and there was just something that worked, I can’t really put my finger on it. It was a very natural process. We were just really excited all the time.

It reignited my love for making music, because I’d been touring an album relentlessly and I was like, ‘why the hell would I want to make a record now’. All of a sudden, I was excited about making music again and not just on my own, I’ve got this friend who is a musician I love. It’s kind of a chemistry where it’s nice to bounce off each other.

So how does it work if Tim starts playing something that’s not working for you or he hates something you’ve come up with, how do you address that?

I think it was kind of really obvious. We’re both really honest with each other. We have been from the offset and I trust him and vice versa, so when he says, ‘Nah’, you kind of go, ‘OK, cool’. But then you’re excited to move on to the next thing. I mean, I can’t really remember a lot of the process, there was just a lot of laughing and playing guitar like lunatics.

Who else plays on the album?

It’s Tim and I, we play all the guitars and bass and any solos, although we’re currently trying to learn them. There’s a bit of arguing going on over who plays what; Tim’s trying to steal all the sick solos!

White Fence play the 100 Club with Tim Presley & Cate le Bon (Rachel Lipsitz)

Cate le Bon (Rachel Lipsitz)

Have you discussed how you’re going to approach the live shows?

We both play guitar on the album and I think it’s just a case of trying to work out who has done which parts, because it’s not clear to us, there are still some solos where we don’t know if it was him or me. We need to work all that stuff out, it’s a bit of a mammoth task that we’ve left until the last minute.

So that’s from the recording session? there are times when you’re listening back to the album and you can’t remember who played what?

Yeh. it’s nice though.

It seems like this is something you’ve done purely for the fun of it. Is Drinks the fun away from the day job?

It’s important to us both and it’s an expression of sorts. I think everything has its place and it gives what I do as a solo artist a new lease of life. It’s not a joke, it’s something that we both love doing and we’ll probably make another record by the end of the year, because it’s just fun and exciting.

After I made the Drinks record with Tim, I had to go and make my next solo record and, you know, you’d think I’d be like ‘fuck this’, but I was even more excited because I’d just reconnected with music again in a way that I hadn’t for a while, so it’s a bit like everything has its place and it’s all interweaved. Different times for different music, I suppose.

Are you writing new songs for the next album or will you take the same approach of hiring out a rehearsal space for a week and coming up with something together there and then?

I think the most important thing is that we keep it playful and fun and we seem to have hit upon a nice run with that. We have a goal where we don’t write anything alone, we write in a room together. We’ll probably do the same again.

Did you record it all in the rehearsal space?

We spent some time writing, then we booked the studio for a week. By that point, we had whittled down the demos into kind-of songs. Then we got Nick Murray, who plays drums in White Fence; he came in and on purpose we hadn’t really played him that much stuff, because we wanted him to be spontaneous. He did the most incredible job, he’s an amazing drummer.

White Fence play the 100 Club with Tim Presley & Cate le Bon (Rachel Lipsitz)

Tim Presley  (Rachel Lipsitz)

You must have trusted him a lot?

Yeh, it really suited him. I think that sort of approach might have worried him, but then he just nailed it, so it was exciting for him, too.

Are you looking forward to the tour? White Fence is still on tour, you’re on tour – you must be set for a hectic few months?

We’ve got a week of White Fence shows, which will be really nice as they’re touring Europe and it’s all festivals in really nice countries. Then we’ve got a week off to readjust into Drinks mode, so that will be exciting as we’ve not toured that yet and we’ve got a lot of stuff to figure out. It’s nice to be busy and to travel and make music with your friends. I wouldn’t dare to complain about it.

What is it that you both listen to when you get together, if you’re going to collaborate there must be a shared love of music.

Again, that was a really nice thing, it was like being teenagers again. We had a couple of nights in my apartment where we just played each other music and we were like, ‘Oh, have you heard this?’ and pulling records out. He played me a band called The Tronics, which I hadn’t heard before, which is one of my favourite things I’ve ever heard. I played him a lot of Young Marble Giants and we’re both massive fans of the album Faust IV [by Faust], I think it’s our favourite album. For both of us it’s kind of a blueprint of what makes an exceptional record. We just went on a listening binge, which was so refreshing.

Is there anything that Tim plays and you hate or vice versa?

I don’t think so. We both love Tom Petty and Tim got me into The Grateful Dead so I think we’re both kind of receptive to most music. I can’t think of anything he’s played me where I’ve been, ‘Argh, Tim!’. But if it hasn’t happened, I’m sure it will happen.

Thanks for chatting Cate, what’s your plans for the rest of the day?

I’m about to get a coffee with Tim and do some White Fence rehearsing.

Interview by Craig Scott, Photography by Rachel Lipsitz

Drinks Live Review here:

White Fence Live Review here:

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