Khruangbin’s Laura Lee – My Life In Music

Frontwoman Laura Lee reveals the albums that saved her: “A record had never given me that much emotional support”

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From Uncut’s 300th issue, bassist Laura Lee chooses the grooves that helped make Khruangbin cratedigger rock sensations. Read more in Uncut 300 – available now for home delivery from our online store.

THE BEATLES
REVOLVER
PARLOPHONE, 1966

We had all the Beatles cassettes on rotation in the car growing up. I actually taught myself to read from the liner notes – you think about it, “Love Me Do”, they’re all kinda short words! But my Beatles record was Revolver. Still today, every time we record an album I always go back and listen to Revolver because it’s such a study in freedom. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is a pretty wild experimental choice and sometimes people are afraid to make those choices now. I like Revolver for its all-over-the-placeness because you really can hear each band member. My dad used to quiz me in the car on who wrote each song!

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GLORIA ESTEFAN
MI TIERRA
EPIC, 1993

This was the record where she got back to her Cuban/Miami roots. My mom, who’s Latina, adored Gloria Estefan because she represented this woman who crossed over into the American diva world. Then when she put out this record, she was harking back to where she came from. It was the record I probably sang the most with my mom. It feels like a really old-school record and it was my first taste of Latin music. It still has the polished-ness of being on a giant label, but because she was trying to highlight the fact that she was Cuban, the production does feel a little less clean, a little bit smokier.

XSCAPE
TRACES OF MY LIPSTICK
SO SO DEF/SONY, 1998

We’re talking middle-school, so around age 13. My parents got divorced and I moved around a lot in the city. My dad had a new girlfriend and I was living in a black community, and via that I got incredibly into rap and R&B. So this is my coming-of-age album as a teenager. I should definitely not have been singing those lyrics! Xscape were all incredibly powerful singers, I assume they came from church. It was still that time in R&B when vocal melodies felt so much more dynamic than they do to me now. While the production of this era was kinda flat, the melodies were really full. I’m a melody person.

UB40
PROMISES AND LIES
VIRGIN, 1993

This was introduced to me by my stepdad and became a huge part of my life in high school. I go back and listen to UB40 a lot, they’re an amazing band. They get a bad rap for some reason – I think people have a concept in their head of what reggae is supposed to be and it doesn’t meet up with that. But being in a band that I have no idea what genre we are, I’m grateful that we weren’t put in a category like they were! I remember the first time we played Birmingham, we were like, “Can we play a UB40 song?” We weren’t sure if they were heroes or not, so we were too scared to play it in the end. But if we ever go back, we will.

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RADIOHEAD
OK COMPUTER
PARLOPHONE, 1997

When I was 16, I got this tattooed on the back of my neck because I feel like this record saved my life. I was going through a traumatic time in my young life and it made me feel that I wasn’t alone – it made sense of the world to me. A record had never given me that much emotional support. I would come home from school, lay down on the ground and listen to this because it made me feel calm. There are some frantic, manic things that happen on the record, but it was calming for me. I’ve been lucky enough to see Radiohead maybe 10 times and they’ve blown me away every time. I look up to them as a band because they never let me down.

CLUTCH
SLOW HOLE TO CHINA
RIVER ROAD, 2003

In late high-school/college I got really into stoner rock and metal. I went to see Mastodon play and Clutch opened up for them. I’ve seen big metal bands, I’ve seen Metallica play a giant stage, and that’s also an amazing experience. But seeing stoner metal in a sweaty basement, I really love that energy. The rush you get from those shows made an impression on me. This record in particular is full of riffs. Clutch are a powerhouse – they never broke big, but within the stoner rock scene they’re very well regarded. There’s something actually really funky about stoner metal and I really like that aspect of it. There’s a groove, in this hypnotic, hazy way.

THE ELECTRIC PRUNES
RELEASE OF AN OATH
REPRISE, 1968

When I was in this stoner rock/psychedelia phase, it somehow led me to find The Electric Prunes. I’m still blown away by this record. I grew up going to Catholic school, and a lot of the progressions and the feeling I get from this record, it feels Catholic to me – and that’s before I saw the song titles like “General Confessional”. It has that kind of baroque quality to the music while also being psychedelic, and I found that to be a really inspiring, interesting juxtaposition. This was my introduction to David Axelrod, he’s infinitely fascinating. The DVD of his performance at the Royal Festival Hall [from 2008] is essential bus content!

MARVIN GAYE
I WANT YOU
TAMLA, 1976

If I had to pick one record to listen to for the rest of my life, it would be this. I think it’s perfect. This is when he was breaking away from the mould that had been defined for him, so I think it’s quite a rebellious record. While literally it’s about a love affair, you could also probably make the argument that it’s about him wanting a life that was different to the one that he had. He stops following a formula because he wasn’t trying to appease the heads of a label in terms of creating songs for pop radio. Songs start and stop in odd places. That’s a beautiful thing to keep in mind when crafting a record, to not feel like you have to do anything to please anyone.

Khruangbin’s latest EP with Leon Bridges, “Texas Moon”, is out now on Dead Oceans; they play London’s Alexandra Palace on April 14, Glasgow’s O2 Academy on April 15, and Manchester’s O2 Apollo on April 16.

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