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Lebanon Hanover and the Process of Exorcising One’s Soul

photography CHRISTOPHER POLACK
23 May 2024

With over a decade of releases under their belt, Lebanon Hanover have solidified themselves as a major goth revivalist in contemporary music. Taking their name from the neighbouring towns of Lebanon and Hanover in New Hampshire (USA), the band deals in dark and minimal aesthetics, taking cues from the post-punk and goth rock of the 1980s. With their latest EP, Better Than Going Under, the band turn their gaze towards acoustic guitars. Adam Hollander met with members William Maybelline and Larissa Iceglass in early autumn to discuss their influences, their process and the ethos of their production.

Adam Hollander I hear that you guys are fans of Thomas Bernhard... 

Larissa Iceglass I am a huge fan. He is one of those authors that continues to fascinate me, even after years, and whose work has had a healing impact in dark times. 

AH Obviously, your music is grounded in electronics. Cold Wave, Synthwave—these very electronic goth genres. And they have lots of crossover appeal with dance music, too. There’s a YouTube video of Ellen Allien playing ‘Gallowdance’. and then, of course, she did a remix of ‘Invite Me To Your Country’ a couple years ago. How connected are you both to the world of dance music?   

William Maybelline I am personally connected with many dance and contemporary artists. It’s something I’ve been interested in since my youth. It is an honour to have Ellen Allien playing and remixing our music.

AH Electronic music is very admirable for its uniformity or replicability, particularly with drums. There are very defined rhythmic models in house and techno which are designed to be easily repeatable. Almost like a sonic readymade. Maybe it starts with The Cure’s ‘A Forest’, or maybe it’s even earlier with Krautrock—that driving, repetitive rhythm. I feel as if this is critical to the Lebanon Hanover project? 

WM Well, we definitely take from the era of repetitive drums, and there are so many drum machines to choose from. We have always been drawn to that locked machine beat. 

LI We love repetition and sequencing, but we also break with it and go pop or experimental.  

AH Who were you listening to when Lebanon Hanover first started? I can imagine that Veronica Vasicka’s Minimal Wave label, or Blackest Ever Black would have been significant touchstones.

LI Actually I was only listening to 1980s music back then. I discovered the Minimal Wave Tapes Vol. 1 only later, in 2011, I think. It was mostly British and German wave. 

WM Xmal Deutschland, DAF, Kraftwerk, Malaria, Sad Lovers and Giants were the big ones for us. Of course, there are still many more…

AH Your single from last year, ‘Better Than Going Under’ showcases a bit of a new sound. ‘Kyiv’ especially sounds like something Swans would have written in the early 90s. What exactly informs each new evolution of your sound?

LI Swans is one of my all-time favourite bands. It’s probably that simple and classical song writing on acoustic [guitar] that we wanted to go back to. We also bought a twelve-string at the time, so picking that up helped the base of these songs.  

WM We look in different directions. We’re open to being drawn to different bands and sounds. It’s just a natural progression in this sense. 

AH What does your production process look like at the moment? How much has the DIY mentality remained with the project?

LI I would say it hasn’t changed much. It’s just that now we’ve learnt to tune the instruments before we record.

WM All is DIY. There have been albums I wrote a lot at home and then passed on to Larissa, but there have also been times where we wrote together. With the new album (close to completion now), we decided to write all the songs together.

AH Larissa, you’ve mentioned previously that you have a dislike for more modern styles of production, the reason being that there’s too much sharp, high-frequency content. People in music production talk a lot about this really elusive idea of ‘warmth’, which is often synonymous with analogue recordings. Although you aren’t strictly an ‘analogue’ project, this idea seems very important to you. How meaningful is this idea of warmth still? How has this sustained and developed through the past decade of producing music?  

LI Yeah of course it’s illusionary to record fully analogue, but we absolutely love the warmth of productions from the past. So, over the years, we have improved the way we record, but we do try to keep some warmth. Maybe even a bit of imperfection. I believe this has a stronger feeling.

WM We definitely stand by songs with life to them and we try to make sure nothing is too surgically mixed or overproduced. We always keep that raw take, and that becomes the song. It’s been like that since the beginning.

AH How much does place influence the music? You’ve resided in Switzerland, Germany, Greece and the UK since the band’s inception and some of your lyrics are written in German. Is having an international identity something that is intentional?

LI No, not at all. That just happened when I left the country I was born in. After the years, I eventually realised I don’t feel so comfortable there anymore. I am forever searching to belong somewhere, and to be honest, I still don’t really know if I’ll find it.  

WM I don’t think we place/ground ourselves anywhere particular. We are aliens. After all, everything is internal. For sure, a surrounding area can definitely have some influence, especially when recording our first few albums in the north of England. That was very rough. But what I’m saying is, pain remains on the inside, wherever you go. Writing songs is a never-ending process of just exorcising one’s soul. 

AH What is your relationship to Fabrika Records like? You’ve mentioned previously that they’re a sort of family to you.  

LI Still the same. We grow together each year. There is only a very small chance in the world to find people you connect with, so much so that you can fully be yourself and when you sit on the sofa after a shitty party, you can put a Current 93 record on and just talk about everything. This is magical. They are family. 

WM We have been with them from the beginnings of the band. We have been through everything together. The label and friendship we share is solid. 

AH I'm always curious what people are listening to. What records have been grabbing your attention lately?  

 LI Jim E brown  

WM Just a few: Recall IV by Interstate and New Scene’s Waves.

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