Drinks' Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley Talk Collaboration

Music Features Cate Le Bon
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Combining Cate Le Bon’s wiry pop stuff with the wavering psych of Tim Presley’s White Fence project should offer up an indefatigable update of some Nuggets band.

But the pair’s new collaboration, Drinks, is equal parts keening melodic punches and arcs of guitar improvisation. Hermits on Holiday refuses to be a simple summation of the two musicians’ careers, instead providing each a liminal space for exploration.

It’s still all vaguely twee, but the purposely faulty rhythm on “She Walks So Fast,” void of sense and preciousness, sounds like a melding of concepts expansive enough to be almost overwhelming. Following that piece, “Spilt the Beans” offers the purest vision of what Cate Le Bon has traded on for the last several years. Of course, the pair seemingly sought an avenue beyond what each player’s engaged with their respective ensembles. Adding the jazzbo drumming on “Beans” and its supplemental percussion isn’t just a savage and welcomed self-indulgence, but further proof that both Le Bon and Presley are performers and composers easily capable of bursting through the mesosphere.

Paste : I think you moved to Los Angeles from Wales a few years ago and recorded Mug Museum there. Does it just feel like home now?
Cate Le Bon: It all started when I played a show with White Fence. It kind of told me. And I wanted to make a record in California, so Josiah [Steinbrick, a SoCal musician who has worked with White Fence, Boom Bip and others] helped make it happen. I thought I’d just stay a little bit and enjoy a change in scenery.

Paste : It’d be easy to think that Hermits on Holiday would be a simple combination of the Cate Le Bon and White Fence approaches to rock stuff. But it doesn’t sound like your other projects.
Tim Presley: At first, we thought that we should sound like each other—play each other’s songs. But then we said, “Why don’t we do something different, but natural to us?” Then it just took shape. I would come back in the studio and be like, “That sounds a little too much like White Fence.” It’s almost cosmic how this band, how we worked it, too. We both know without saying.

Paste : If Drinks is the result of being ensconced in a new music environment, is it an enduring project or a one-off recording?
Presley: I feel like there was a lot of unfinished business. We got our feet wet with this, but I can see the potential in the way we approach this band. It’s different than what we do separately. And it’s a good outlet for us.
Le Bon: It’s an early stage that we’ve reached; there’s a next chapter.

Paste : The name of the album could make folks think that you’re both homebodies and work best in solitude. Was figuring out songs together difficult, given that you each work in a solo capacity?
Presley: We both work and are most creative in solitude—in that environment.[Drinks] is what happens when two people like that get together—and I thought it worked. I mean, I’m happy with it and I love doing it, which for someone who makes music alone in their room 24 hours a day, [the prospect of collaborating in this way] could be scary. Or make them feel insecure. Sometimes you compromise and it might not work. But I feel like we clicked on that level. We both were so involved in it and loved it with complete abandon. There was never a sense of negotiating about it; it was just kind of happening.
Le Bon: We just knew that we had to get into a room and make this record that we’d been talking about. So, it was kind of an intense time—just meet up and jam.

Paste : Portions of the album are the two of you improvising. Did that take a bit to work out?
Presley:That’s what was special about it, that we can both be on that plane—we can both be in that improvising state and both like what each other plays, which is kind of special as far as collaborations go.

Paste : Each of you have released a boatload of music over the last few years—maybe White Fence is a bit more prolific. But is Drinks going to slow do either of you from working on solo projects?
Le Bon: What was that?
Presley: Well, he’s right.
Le Bon: Tim has made more records than me, but I don’t know if you’ve heard the saying, “Quality over quantity.”

Paste : That’s a discussion you guys can have, but has it slowed down other projects?
Presley: I thought it would, but it’s kind of the opposite. As soon as we finished this, Cate somehow magically recorded her next full-length—what was it? A month or two after? I don’t know how the fuck she pulled that off. But it’s amazing; I’ve heard it. I write stuff everyday. So, it hasn’t really slowed that process at all.
Le Bon: When we went in to do the Drinks record, I’d been done with my last record for a while and gone on tour and it would have completely exhausted someone musically. Making this record and having somebody to be excited about music with, instead of it being all on yourself, it made me realize—and it happens to everyone in every job. You just go, “God, why am I doing this? Everything is shit.” It made me realize that I choose to do this—and it reunited me with my love of making music.