Oh dear lonely Lulu, where are your other lampshades?
The Lulu and the Lampshades line up - Luisa, Heloise, Jemma and Dan has a certain The Waltons/Blue Peter ring to it. So with their experience of being a somewhat YouTube sensation - whether masquerading as shop figurines in their ‘Feet to the Sky’ video or showcasing their sensational ability to whack about yoghurt pots in rhythm for ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’, the quartet is no stranger to warming fans with their wholesome energy on screen. In the wake of their debut EP, Cold Water, SUPERSWEET put the leading lady Lampshade, Luisa Gerstein, to the test - if the band is really as genuine as their hearty music. A terribly good (and saintly) sport, Luisa chatted about band’s endearing intrigue in one-liner jokes, biking adventures, educating the kids and how they really couldn’t live without each other.
SS: You’ve envisaged a home-grown, 60’s folk sound in Lulu and the Lampshades, but do you have any strange and futuristic visions of the way the music industry is heading?
Luisa Gerstein (vocals, ukulele, percussion): A futuristic vision of the music industry… maybe a concept album which is like a treasure hunt, you only get the next track when you’ve completed some kind of task.
SS: Are there any directions you hope to tackle?
Luisa: In terms of our own sound? It’s not really something we consciously try to engineer. The music we make is the result of playing together and drawing on lots of different influences, so I can’t really say how it might develop. Even if you do try and construct an ideal, the songs you end up making are what happens in the meantime, which is more organic anyway.
SS: The band was originally called Helouisa, a mix of the founding member names, Luisa and Heloise. What are your favorite word salads at the moment?
Luisa: When someone told me off for cycling on the pavement the other day (more like rolling along slowly), I told him it was ok, because I was a Cyclestrian.
SS: You’re all musically experimental with a variety of instruments, what got you started in the first place with your selected instruments. Are there any that you had to give up on?
Luisa: It’s fun to experiment with sounds that you can’t get with traditional instruments. I think we all like the idea of using an object for a purpose so completely different from what it was designed for, like our type-writer, and of course the cups. I saw a film about Stephin Merritt from The Magnetic Fields [Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields] a while ago and I liked that he had a set of dearly cherished whisks in his home-studio that had never seen light of the kitchen. Above all else, I would just hope to write good song. Plenty [instruments] have been relegated to my shed, mostly because they don’t travel well. Heloise made a T-chest box-base which is beautiful but sadly takes up most of a car, and there are some bicycle wheels we’ve had to leave behind.
SS: ‘Cold Water’ was written through the band’s biking experiences. What’s been your worst biking accident or best biking adventure story?
Luisa: Biking accident? None really, thank goodness and touch wood. One disaster was maybe pitching our tent in a field we later realised was occupied by a herd of bulls. They were drawn across the field to us, I presume by the smell of our fire-cooked garlic escargot. We had a bit of a stare-off and eventually they went away, I think it’s because I shouted: “your mum’s a cow”. Most of my memorable stories are from the kindness of strangers who took us in and housed and fed us along the way on all the trips I’ve done - it’s impossible to pick out one.
SS: We heard you are massive devotees of the one liner jokes, what one-liners can you dish out?
Luisa: Off the top of my head it would have to be this year’s crop of cheese-based one-liners (sorry).
What do you say to a shy bear?
What do you say to a Mexican trying to steal your cheese? - Nacho Cheese!
What cheese is made backwards? - Edam
How did the Welsh man eat his cheese?
What hotel do mice stay in? - The Stilton.
I could go on, oh dear…
SS: You are associated with The Hackney Pirates, a literacy project in London. What can you tell us about it?
Luisa: Hackney Pirates is based on the literacy scheme set up in San Francisco by Dave Eggers, and works on the principle of providing one-on-one attention to kids from volunteers who give whatever time they can. There are a few things that really stand out from the success of the San Francisco model, that children develop basic literacy skills far quicker with the benefit of just a small amount of one-on-one attention (which schools are not resourced to give); the power of giving tangible worth to the work they do (for instance, Isabel Allende commissioned a book compiled with essays the kids wrote about their ideas on human rights which was published and sold in bookshops); and the importance of making it accessible by not associating it with any sort of disability or even with education in general – all the literacy schemes run at street level as shops with workshops in back, the San Francisco one is a pirate supply store, in New York, there’s some kind of superhero shop and there’s a time travel one too. Hackney Pirates is in its early stages and has just been granted a shop front from the council and looks to be up and running by spring.
SS: Finish off this sentence: “We couldn’t live without (insert a band member’s name) because……”
Luisa: We couldn’t live without Dan for his dreamy ethereal sounds. We couldn’t live without Jemma for her rowdy rock influences and incredible technical knowledge. We couldn’t live without Heloise for her mathematical time signatures and her ability to play all instruments.
SS: The recent video for ‘Demons’ is a dark and wonderful animation, how did this pan out? Did you have much input in the direction of the video?
Luisa: Michael Smith is a friend and illustrator who offered to make a video for us after seeing a bit of his stuff I immediately thought of ‘Demons’. We discussed ideas and he’d send me screen-grabs I’d swoon at, but mostly he just got on with it himself. It really is wonderful - I’m in awe of him.
SS: Your "Cups" routine is pretty exhausting to learn. To prevent any accidents, what tips could you give to your fans to recreate this internet sensation?
Luisa: Clap-clap-tap-tap-tap-clap-up-down. Clap-swoop-open-down-switch-and-over.
Words: Gemma Dempster
Photography: Eleanor Harvey