Followers of Laurie Vincent from Slaves have probably noticed the prevalence of a rather worried looking balloon floating around his social media recently. Well, turns out he isn't starting a new career as a balloon artist / children's entertainer – it's actually tied to his new project with producer Jolyon Thomas, titled Larry Pink The Human. Obvious, right?
"When Slaves finished our last record, I felt quite restless," explains Laurie. "I felt like I was ready to carry on being creative, but also like it was time to have a little breather from the band – we'd just finished a quite intense run, and I've been in the band since I was 18 or 19. That's my whole adult life I've been focussing on just one project, and it's had more success than I could ever imagine, but I also feel like it's an appropriate time to take stock and try something new. I don't want to go back and do anything with the band until I feel like we're doing it for the right reasons again, not just out of habit. It's a completely open book, I'm just focussing on this at the moment is all.
"The contrast is that I grew up wanting to make people beat each other up, essentially, because I wanted to see the raw power of music," he says, when asked about the difference between Slaves and Larry Pink The Human. "But now I'm desperate to make music that people are going to cook their eggs to. I know that sounds simple, but it's that kind of music that permeates people's homes and their lives, the kind of thing you choose to listen to when you're cooking is such a deep connection.
"That was my initial plan, but being a part of Slaves for so long, I'd convinced myself I couldn't write a whole song on my own – and then I did. So I got a handful of them together, and then I had no idea how to make it sound how I wanted it to sound!"
"That's where I came in," Jolyon interjects with a smile. "Laurie asked if I could help demo the music and get it sounded how he wanted, and we got into the studio together around a year ago and just made this huge playlist of music and inspirations."
"I went in with this concept and Jolyon helped me take it where I wanted it to go," says Laurie. "I wanted to make music that feels like it could be on the Juno soundtrack and when I went in, and we started recording it was just instant, Jolyon was just like 'I'm in this too'."
It's a closer partnership than most people have with their producer, and it's not something Jolyon has done before. "It's definitely different," He says about how it feels to be front and centre rather than behind the scenes. "I get quite involved in projects anyway as a musician, so that element isn't necessarily new, but being a forward-facing 'artist' definitely is. It's cool, but the stuff I'm enjoying is everything around the music too, the artwork, the videos...everything. There's an awful amount that goes into it all which we're both super invested in and we're both pretty creative people, so it's exciting to be able to bring that into the whole thing in a way I haven't been able to before."
It's not just Jolyon that's working in a different way to usual, though. "I think for me it's just so empowering working with someone that helps you bring the best out of yourself," Laurie says. "I went from doubting whether I could even make music to a point now where I feel super creative, and weirdly the better the song sounds, the less protective I get about it, too. Every song is evolving in a different way, and I've learnt to allow things to be completely stripped back, remixed and put back together in a completely different way."
"I think a good analogy is that Laurie will bring in a photograph of a song, and we just rip it up," laughs Jolyon. "We're not precious about it because we've both been around the block a few times and we're happy to experiment. You can turn a painting upside down if you want and a lot of musicians don't seem to realise they can turn a song upside down too, sometimes it even sounds better back to front."
This visual metaphor is apt because both Jolyon and Laurie are clearly as passionate about the imagery and world they're creating as they are about the music. "I'm really attracted to strong branding, whether it's in music, film, sports, whatever," says Laurie. "I love things that suck me in and have a whole picture far more than when it's just a case of 'oh, they have good music'. Even with punk, it was the image and the aesthetic that drew me in just as much as the music and the message. That's why as soon as the band started forming I showed Jolyon the balloon drawing, which is something I've drawn for ages now and I wanted to do something bigger with it.
"I think that blending of all the different aspects was important to us. So many bands focus on one thing at a time and then get to a point where they're about to release, and they're struggling for artwork ideas, it's definitely something that's really stressed me out in the past. This time around was so much easier because we had this fresh slate and got to dream up this whole world – we just got super invested in every aspect of it."
"It went hand in hand," Jolyon adds. "The artwork and the music, and then into the video for [the duo's first single] 'Love You Bye', we just took the balloon and didn't really know what he could do, or think, or mean. So we thought the best thing to do would be to let people interpret him how they wanted, and that's how we ended up giving a balloon the license to do therapy."
"It's a developing theme," Laurie says, when asked if we'll be seeing more of the helium-filled mascot. "I think it'll stick around, but we'll be introducing new themes and new characters as well. I wanna offer people a world they can dive into and become a part of."
And will that world extend into the world of live music, once touring is back on the table?
"100%," says Laurie without hesitation. "I think seeing the response that 'Love You Bye' has had and the connection it's already made really gave me that urge to go and play it live and see people's reactions in the flesh. Isolation has made me miss a lot of things, but seeing the world is a massive part of what I used to do, and I'm craving to go and do it again."
"One thing I will say is that I'm not taking the balloon on tour with us," interjects Jolyon. "I don't like balloons, they scare me. They're unpredictable." Larry Pink The Human, coming to a city near you as soon as they can, sans balloon.
Taken from the June issue of Dork, out now.
Featuring The 1975, Rina Sawayama, The Aces, Orlando Weeks, Creeper and more.