Cathy Lucas

Vanishing Twin’s Cathy Lucas steps up for this month’s quick-fire questions

photo: arthur sajas

Hello Cathy, where are you right now and what can you see?

“I’m in Catus, a small village in south-west France, named for its cat population. It’s night, so it’s pitch- black. If the lights were on, I’d see a pitched roof of old oak.”

Always enjoyed the fact that Ben Folds Five were a three-piece. Do people think you’re real twins?

“I think people get that the idea is to think as little as possible about what’s real.”

For those who don’t know the story behind the name, there’s vanishing twin syndrome, which you were affected by when you were in the womb

“Vanishing twin syndrome is where one embryo is resorbed by its surroundings – including the other embryo – in the early stages of pregnancy. It’s more common than we think – millions of us have a vanishing twin. When I was younger, I thought of it as a loss, but now I tend to treat it as a superpower.”

Congratulations on the new record, ‘Afternoon X’. Interesting title – what exactly is ‘Afternoon X’?

“It was a record made across many afternoons. X is a moment, or many moments, when a crucial thing happened. But it’s not identifiable. It’s specificity and anonymity. It marks a secret spot.”

Anything “X” seems a bit Elon these days, doesn’t it? Which is a shame, as it’s a useful letter.

“He already owns too much. Let’s not also give him a letter of the alphabet.”

There are some lovely earthy track titles – ‘Melty’, ‘Lazy Garden’… ‘Brain Weather’ caught my attention – tell me a little bit about that?

“Susumu, our bass player, named the track ‘Brain Weather’. It’s a translation from a Japanese idiom. I’ll need to ask him again. It was a track with many iterations before it came to where it is.”

The whole album has a very summery feel and yet it was recorded in the autumn and winter of 2022-23. How do you explain that?

“I don’t know if I can explain that. Maybe we write about what’s missing.”

The record also saw the three of you working differently. You were more like co-producers than a band. How did that work, practically?

“Previously, we had been somewhat more stable in our roles, with me more or less producing. This time, we just came into the studio solo or in twos or threes and played whatever we felt like playing.”

By the sound of your previous records, there was nothing wrong with the way you were doing things, so why the need to change your working practice?

“Some things did stay the same. We continued our love affair with the private studio. The sound of Vanishing Twin is massively influenced by the fact that we rarely work in commercial studios. But change was also inevitable. We’re a three-piece now instead of four, and evolving as musicians and people.”

You all got a bit multi-instrumentalist too. Did you surprise yourselves with any new-found musical skills?

“I’m constantly amazed by the musicianship around me. It’s not really about technique though, much more about listening and tuning in.”

The album came about through a series of “marathon recording sessions”. Marathon in what sense?

“Making a record is always a bit of a marathon.”

And the tracks were built from “a vast collection of instruments, samples and unclaimed sources”?

“We have a room full of stuff that is constantly evolving – bird whistles, radios and kola nuts are some of the smaller objects. We also have lots of different samplers and a collection of flutes.”

Any unusual instruments in there you’d like to tell me about?

“There’s a Maplin 3800 kit synth that my dad built in 1979, and we used Yamaha sampling keyboards a lot. The built-in microphone is your instrument, so suddenly any snatch of sound becomes musical when it’s pitched across a keyboard. It’s so immediate and playful.”

And “unclaimed sources”? That sounds interesting. Any examples?

“The person next door practising scales, the strains of a choir from outside a church, mouth sounds, traffic sounds, internet sounds… mostly untraceable.”

Is there a particular favourite noise on the record you’d like to mention?

“A friend sent me street sounds from Mexico on her phone for the final section of ‘The Down Below’. We also used Pink Trombone – a virtual anatamo-physiological voice synthesiser – for ‘Marbles’.”

It says here that the album is “crafted from a playful balance of humour and rigour”. Care to expand on that?

“I guess there’s a rigour in putting three pairs of ears on something and not calling it finished until they’re all happy.”

There are some wonderfully cheeky moments – the birds tweeting the melody on ‘Brain Weather’ is brilliant. Anything you’d like to highlight for us?

“Somewhere on the record there’s a mariachi band, chopped and screwed into a kind of cassette mash.”

So who’s the funniest person in the band?

“We’re all extremely serious people.”

Do you know any good jokes? Tell us your favourite?

“Are you a horse in a human costume? Yay or nay?”

‘Afternoon X’ is out on Fire

You May Also Like