How Beautiful Life Can Be
Out 24 September 2021
LP | CD | DL
Wigan’s The Lathums finally get their debut album out there after putting their plans on hold the last year and a half. We take a listen and talk to singer Alex Moore about the album, his influences and their swift rise.
Theirs was a tale that should have taken off to the skies when the world shut down. The Lathums were riding a wave following their signing to Island Records, singled out after being spotted by Tim Burgess on Twitter and heading into the studio with The Coral’s James Skelly. The fruits of those sessions sprang the Wigan boys from their traps with their breakout single All My Life and the following Ghosts EP, featuring one of the album standouts, I See Your Ghost. Its bouncing energy sets the song apart from much of the rest of the album. It was my first introduction to the band, as for many. Singer/chief songwriter Alex Moore knows that it’s one of the songs that seem to resonate more with their fans.
“I think it’s the energy”, he says. “It just sort of happened that way. As we were doing the album, a lot of the songs I was writing tended to be quite deep and melodic rather than a more raw and intense song and we felt like we needed that. I had the verses for the song for a while, even before the album, and never really did anything with them. It popped into my head and I just kind of jammed it out. We put it together and recorded it that day.”
From the rolling bassline intro, the spitfire in-and-out solo, quick-spat verses and crooning choruses, the song is a blast, but it sets a trap. Anyone delving into the band more off the back of it will be surprised at the way many of the other songs drift on a more jangle-indie vibe, drawing a line through the likes of The Housemartins and The Smiths. Hearing the guitar work of guitarist Scott Conception on The Great Escape will leave you with no doubt that he’s definitely from the Marr/Cullimore school, and Moore at times definitely following in the footsteps of Paul Heaton. However, it’s the guitar flourishes that add to Moore’s melodies and compliment them to bring the songs further out of their shells. He knows the importance of having the rest of the band to bounce ideas off.
“I’ll sit on my own with my guitar and ponder things. If there’s anything that comes to me, I’ll just jot it down quickly, structure it and get an arrangement. Then I take it to the lads and they jam it out with me…what they play, in terms of instrumentation throughout the song, sometimes it’s not what I interpret it as, but it’s individual, music. You can’t stifle anybody and you got to let people interpret things their own way.”
Alex recognises the way in which the band, especially Scott, have given him the self-confidence he needed to bring his songs, often seemingly drawing on a personal heartache that he still wishes remains private, to a wider audience. It’s there in the charming Oh My Love and the acoustic lament of I’ll Never Forget The Time I Spent With You. “He’s brilliant, Scott, in terms of weaving with the melody. It was quite easy for us at the beginning. I had so much energy inside me, so much drive, but I wasn’t very comfortable with my guitar playing. Watching Scott, and after a couple of things he showed me, some progressions, I kind of opened up and realised the guitar’s just as important as the words. I think it was good seeing someone expressing themselves differently. I can do it lyrically, but Scott can do it through the guitar, so I picked up on that”.
The video for The Great Escape shows clearly another side of the band that comes through in spades throughout the album. There’s a nostalgic feeling, friends together living through simpler times. The title track doubles down on the concept. Written during lockdown, it yearns over an acoustic melody for a time when children could enjoy the innocence of youth through the experience and simple enjoyment of daily life. It shines with a melancholic optimism, one that speaks directly to the listener.
But there’s certainly room for growth lyrically and Alex doesn’t always need to wear his heart so clearly on his sleeve. Inspired by tales of the anti-Nazi French Resistance during the Second World War, the rousing Fight On takes a different tact altogether. “I’m really interested in the fact that I can write something like that”, says Alex “because usually, I write things off my own experiences, but I can use it to let people relate it back to your own life, as a story. I think it’s good to take yourself out of your own shoes for a little bit and delve into stories [but] at the moment I’ve got quite a lot to say personally. I think as I go through life and we start playing again, I’ll be affected by different stories so I think it’ll naturally start to come [more], these different stories and different perspectives.”
While there’s a clear lineage in The Lathums’ sound that goes back to that jangle indie-pop of the ’80s and a style that comes through in the likes of Arctic Monkeys’ and The Coral’s quieter moments, for Alex, his influences go back further. For him, he delves more into the music of people like Patsy Cline.
“I think I just prefer the innocence of it all.” he says. “I know a lot of the songs are about love and heartache, but the way they wrote back in the day was very expressive but in a really nice way. I relate to it quite a lot and I just think music was better back in the day. I love the sound and how nostalgic it sounds. I think I would’ve done well in that kind of era. The dancing, the singing, everything was just better.”
It’s a vibe that comes through on I Won’t Lie with its almost charleston rhythm. While the band are reaching more and more people, especially now that they can play live again, and they have, throughout the last year or so, filled their YouTube channel with various renditions of their songs, there’s an insularity that also comes across when Alex talks of quite purposefully shutting himself off from other music, especially what’s coming out nowadays.
“For a long while, I’ve not really delved into any music. I’ve tried to keep myself secluded almost. I don’t really listen to music, probably for the last three or four years. Obviously, if one of the lads put something on in the van, I’ll listen, but it’s not something I’d go and do myself. At first, I didn’t want anything influencing me or making me think differently. Everything that came from me, I wanted it to come straight from me and not deviate from anything. I’ve just got into that habit and found that I was writing more songs by not listening to anything, so just stuck with it.”
The Lathums are going from strength to strength now that they can get out there and play live again. Their debut album is a strong statement of the potential that they have to grow, the avenues they have to explore. For now, though, they’re just happy to finally be given the opportunity to fly once again.
Their future is clear. “Just keep playing, keep playing the gigs. We missed out on a year of experiences, places we need to play. We just want to keep going and have a long career in this.” From the reaction they’re getting, they just might.
Words by Nathan Whittle. Find his Louder Than War archive here.