Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler: Beauty, Unease, Liberation, Illumination & Dread.
Longtime collaborators Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler have a new project dropping on July 22 – Music Inspired by Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur, which is a soundtrack to the 1968 experimental, French film Le Révélateur.
We spoke with Lattimore, the harpist, and Zeigler, who has recorded with The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile and many others, about the project and the show.
How did the Le Révélateur project come about?
ML: The music director from Ballroom Marfa, an arts organization in Marfa, Texas, heard a song from my first record and thought to ask me to score a silent film of my choice for their annual live-scored presentation. I thought to include Jeff because we have the duo, he plays so many instruments well and can add a lot of diverse textures. And he’s fun to hang out and travel with.
I consulted our friend Herb Shellenberger, who worked at the International House for a long time and knows a lot about film in general. He said he’d always wanted to see Le Revelateur with music added, so Jeff and I checked it out and felt immediately connected to it. The film really matches our musical aesthetic and I think it works well.
Why this film? Do you see connections between now and when Phillippe Garrel created the film?
ML: This film leaves an impression of beauty, unease, liberation, illumination, dread, has elegant and timeless silvery landscapes and strange comedy. I like to think that the way that Jeff and I compose our music conjures similar impressions, images and feelings.
There is certainly political terror right now, as there was when the film was made, and a fear of what’s to come – an unseen, faceless predator, as the one that’s chasing the young family. Garrel’s film addresses political fear in an original way and hopefully our music is a companion to his statement.
So, is this new album a statement then?
ML: Not really – we mainly tried to complement Garrel’s intent and write music with feeling and melodic color.
This project seems to have been gestating for a while now. Has it evolved since you first performed it?
ML: It feels a lot more solid, of course. We’ve watched the film millions of times by now. We have more of a dynamic range and know exactly what will happen. The boy has become so much more of a hero. It’s gotten deeper. The musical themes have morphed the way songs do and feel richer.
You guys have worked on many other projects together. What makes the team work?
ML: We’re great friends. We like to hang out. We like each other as people and respect each others’ ears. We can give and take, push and pull, because it’s easy to hang out and voice opinions. It’s a top friendship of my life!
JZ: Yeah, I think our general ease as friends, and a shared appreciation of both the beautiful and the dark, and the musical balance that is created by that, keep things interesting and make it fluid and natural to play music together.
It’s great to be able to create our own specific language in a pretty effortless manner, and I think the fact that our primary instruments are very different and tend to take up their own space and be really complementary helps keep it seamless. But still, I don’t think we’d be able to do half of the things we end up doing if we weren’t great friends already….
How is it different from doing your solo stuff, or even Arc in Round?
JZ: Every band I’ve been in has been a real struggle for me to find a balance between writing “conventional” songs and then also really just wanting to stretch out and improvise without things sounding gratuitous or wanky and solo-heavy, especially in Arc in Round, as at that point I was way more interested in experimenting and improvisation than playing pop songs.
I think with a band, it was always a struggle to take things from poppy and conventional to a bit more zoned-out and minimal, where details or sound mass matter more.
With Mary and I, it’s sort of the complete opposite. We’re always starting from scratch or close to scratch, and tying things together by just fluidly doing what we want, with very few, if any, parameters. It’s very freeing to start with a completely clean slate and just see where you arrive at by the end of a performance.
ML: It’s fun and challenging to have somebody playing things you don’t know how to operate – it’s enjoyable to listen and to play off of those unusual sounds. It’s almost like magic to just not know how the other person does it. To entwine your familiar instrument into a sound with something that feels mysterious is cool.
Solo is fun too. Ideally, there’s a lot of everything – solo, duo, improvisation, song-writing, playing with friends, playing with strangers – and it just creates a healthy, enriched music-life.
Are you performing the Le Révélateur music on Friday? That atmospheric stuff is about as far away on the spectrum as Nothing’s music as you could get. How did this pairing come about?
ML: We might. I think we’re gonna see how it goes, see what it’s like up there and that’ll dictate what we do. Nothing’s pretty atmospheric, has warped beauty – Jeff and I like that kind of music, so it’s not that far off. Our friends in Nothing were open in asking us and I think it’s cool and brave and interesting. It’s gonna be real fun.
JZ: I actually see them as working with a pretty similar appreciation of both beautiful and heavy/ugly sounds, and while I could see how on a basic level our music would seem pretty different, I think there’s a common thread there.
I can’t imagine we’ll be play much Le Rev music at these shows. I’m sort of looking at it as an opportunity to stretch out a bit and play a bit more intensely for a different audience on some pretty great PA’s.
They’re also great people who I became buddies with while working on Guilty of Everything, and I’m looking forward to hanging out every night. Tours are as much about having people you like around and injecting some new energy into a pretty mundane sit-in-a-van-for-8-hours-with-the-same-6-people every day situation as it is anything else, and I’m psyched to help provide a musical and personal contrast for a few days. And if we’re able to expose Nothing’s audience to the extreme other end of the “shoegaze” spectrum, of which Mary and I are both fans, all the better.