Larkin Poe: “Songwriting Can Be Torturous or Lighthearted”
Larkin Poe, an American Roots rock band from Atlanta, GA, is made up of self-taught rock musician sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell. The sisters strong southern harmonies, serious guitar shredding skills, and overall talent led them to be discovered by rock icon and mentor Elvis Costello in their early teens, eventually touring with Costello several times.
Rebecca and Megan credit listening to their fathers classic rock records that consisted of legendary bands and musicians Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Band and playing various musical instruments, including the piano and violin, for helping inspire and mold their unique sound infusion. The sister duo manages to surround their lyrics in girlpower-esque anthems, evident in past album “KIN,” while appealing to all audiences in an emotional but powerful way.
We caught up with Rebecca and Megan while on tour with Elvis Costello and spoke to them about their songwriting process, new album “Reskinned,” and their personal inspirations.
You pulled your band name from Edgar Allen Poe. Can you tell us a little about your relation to Edgar?
As sisters, we wanted to pick a band name that had familial significance. “Larkin Poe” was the name of our great-great-great-great grandfather — he was a distant cousin of Edgar Allan Poe!
You’ve said you write about family history and mental illness. What’s the songwriting process like — does it get heavy at times?
Songwriting can be as torturous or as lighthearted as the subject you’re writing about. As with any creative process, if you’re digging deep into a dark vein, it can be a profoundly heavy experience. Over the years, we’ve written a number of songs about mental illness and how mental illness has effected members of our family. Addressing such a personal subject can be painful, but it’s also cathartic — it was something we felt like we needed to do.
What is the hardest part of being young females in the music industry? Have you experienced something particular that affected you in a profound way?
The hardest of part of being young females in the music industry is just being in the music industry! Trying to make a living making art can be one of the most rewarding and emotionally devastating things an artist can try to do. Being young and female is secondary to the struggle of simply being an artist. On some days, it’s hard to believe in yourself and to continue to push forward, regardless of whether people pay attention or not. But it’s what you have to do.
You were voted “Best Discovery of Glastonbury,” which is a huge honor because that festival puts together a great lineup of bands. What did it feel like to be voted as the best discovery?
We felt hugely honored to have been voted “Best Discovery” at Glastonbury 2014. In the England Observer’s announcement, we were wedged between Jack White and Dolly Parton. And that’s precisely where we want to be in the world. We’re also stoked to be returning to perform once again at Glastonbury this year!
In your opinion, how does “Reskinned” differ from your first album “KIN”?
Since the release of “KIN,” almost two years ago, we’ve been touring nonstop. When you’re playing shows night after night after night — you’re given an opportunity to experiment and learn a lot about yourself as an artist. We quickly discovered that we had inner rock chicks kicking around in our souls. Big, loud, crazy inner rock chicks. We feel that the new songs on “Reskinned” embody that discovery and our embrace of that discovery. We’ve dirtied up our guitar tones, written some punchy riffs, and charging into the future.
What song do you each connect with most on “Reskinned” and why? What inspired your selected song?
Megan: “P-R-O-B-L-E-M” is definitely my favorite song on “Reskinned.” We only had a few hours in the studio to get the song recorded, so it was a frenetic, supercharged experience. There was this aggressive tension we all felt to “hurry up, hurry up” and I think that tension suited the lyric and energy of the song perfectly.
Rebecca: “Blunt” is a song I hold close to my heart. I wrote it just a few weeks before we went into the studio to record. As soon as I wrote it, I really wanted the song to be released immediately as a sort of “time capsule” and feel very grateful that “Blunt” made it onto “Reskinned.” Opening the newspaper on some days, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the state of affairs in the world. How does one affect positive change in their lifetime? It’s a big question. We don’t know how to answer it, but we feel it’s a question we should all be asking ourselves.
Megan, what drew you to play lap steel guitar? It’s not a common for a female to be drawn to play it.
Frankly, it’s not common for any musician, male or female, to be drawn to the lap steel! It’s an underused instrument. You’ll hear it a lot in country or Hawaiian music, but it seems to fall by the wayside in pretty much every other genre. For me, it’s the emotional quality of the slide guitar that drew me to it. I heard David Lindley play the lap steel solo on Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty” and fell head over heels.
Rebecca, how does the songwriting process differ for the both of you?
Megan and I are sisters, but radically different people, therefore, we write songs in radically different ways. The songwriting process seems to thrive on individuality, and by extension, the mystery of that individuality. So we don’t ask too many questions. We like the idea of preserving our respective “Wizards of Oz.”
You’re currently on tour with Elvis Costello. How has that been?
It’s been an amazing tour. Making music with Elvis Costello is exhilarating. He’s one of the classiest artists imaginable and we feel grateful to stand onstage and create with him every night.
You’ve both worked with some very influential people in music, have they give you any advice that you’ve taken into the studio with you?
We’ve been in the studio a couple of times with T-Bone Burnett and listening to him coax performances out of artists is an amazing sound to hear. He’s said in passing: “Most of the time, it’s not what an artist does — it’s what they don’t do. Know when to stop.”
If you could collaborate with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Chris Whitley. He was an effortless singer, a vivid songwriter, and an innovative guitar player. His lyrics are heartbreakers.
Who inspires you in your day to day life?
The cashier who smiles at us as we’re checking out. The driver who kindly lets us merge when we’ve got our blinker on in traffic. The gate agent who goes easy and lets us board an aircraft without hassling us about our guitars!
Larkin Poe recently released their new album “Reskinned” in May 2016, which can be purchased on their official website: here.