Soft Hair: LA Priest & Connan Mockasin’s New Do

Soft Hair: LA Priest & Connan Mockasin’s New Do

Soft Hair is dynamic duo of synth experimentalist Sam Dust (LA Priest) and psychedelic popeteer Connan Mockasin.

Both cult indie sensations in their own right, the pair first met in 2009 when Connan supported Sam’s previous act – the beloved albeit short-lived British band Late Of The Pier – on tour. After spending months together on the road, a close friendship and collaborative project evolved.

The two played together in the studio over the course of a few years. Eager to employ methods neither of them had used before, the result was an exotic blend of familiar and conventional sounds. And with no set plan regarding the release of the album they created, both followed their individual artistic callings.

After dissolving Late Of The Pier and fleeing the spotlight, Sam travelled the world extensively, reconnected with his musical self and returned successfully as LA Priest, releasing the album Inji last year. Meanwhile, Connan’s solo career picked up too, having released two acclaimed albums that soon had him working with artists like James Blake and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Five years after the original recording sessions, their self-titled debut album is finally seeing the light of day. We met the duo to chat about their joint musical vision, lizards and secrets to good hair.

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Following the announcement of your collaboration, why did it take so long to actually record the album?

Sam: Well, we’d actually finished it. I would have never said anything before we’d finished the record because I don’t like doing that. It is kind of unlucky to talk about something before it’s done.

But didn’t you announce it five years ago?

Connan: We finished it five years ago!

Why didn’t it come out sooner?

Sam: We would have been happy if it came out, but we were very relaxed because we were happy with what we’ve done. We made it for ourselves and didn’t have a plan on how we would make money out of this. I had pretty much given up on making money as a musician at that point and just started doing what felt right. It didn’t seem like a sad thing that it wasn’t gonna be released right away. I feel like it still sounds fresh today.

Connan: Yeah, I am happy for people to hear it.

Could you describe your music in three words?

Sam: Like, how it sounds? In three words I’d say: Valuable lizard blues, yeah, valuable lizard blues or self-evident harmonies.

Connan: I don’t reckon it’s for us to describe, because we made it. That is not fair.

Yes, but it is always interesting to hear how the creator sees it. To me your music sounds like soft cushions.

Sam: Oh, soft cushions?

Connan: Soft cushion hair.

Since you are mentioning hair: How did you come up with the name “Soft Hair”? 

Sam: Well, it sounds like a normal phrase, and if you search for it online, you get hair products and magazines. There is a little bit of alternate universe with the record that we were imagining. Like lizards, but they’re not really lizards, they’re sort of like different versions of humans. They are a bit weaker than normal humans and a bit more paranoid. And these are the kind of personalities the songs are based around.

…but lizards don’t have hair?

Sam: No, but they aspire to have soft hair. They only got a few strands, but they take great pride in the softness of those strands. They are a really mixed up breed of lizards.

What ingredients do I need to mix into a shampoo to get really soft hair?

Connan: Monkey dust.

Monkey dust, what’s that?

Connan: Monkey dust, that is dust of a monkey. You know, that is his name, Sam Dust, he’s kind of like a monkey?

Sam: Yeah, true. So, you want soft hair? If you haven’t got it, just give up, because you are never gonna get it.

Your hair seems to be super soft, almost like a cloud.

Connan: I haven’t conditioned it, it is just washed. I do like washing my hair. I don’t like having greasy hair. I used to have curly hair. I shaved it twice and then it grew back straight.

Sam: I would like to have more features in my hair, like curves maybe? I tried curling my hair on one of Connan’s tours once and it was just taking ages and ended up with this one bit sticking out. Well, that was weird.

How long time did it take to make the record? Did you write everything together? did you send demos to each other? Tell us a little bit more about the process behind Soft Hair.

Connan: We mostly did it together in bulks over a few years. We were thinking: Let’s make movie, basically a soundtrack to a movie.

Sam: Yeah, that’s right. And that is why it was so easy to start making music together. We didn’t take it very seriously because we both liked the idea of making a soundtrack. We kind of dabbled and there is not much pressure when you’re just making background music. So we did write a lot of stuff that isn’t on the album that feels more like cinematic music. Then at some point we realized, nobody even knew who we were, so they weren’t gonna ask us to make a soundtrack. We are still open for it though!

Does your newest video have something to do with the film you were imagining?

Sam: No, we came up with the idea the day before. It wasn’t really an idea even.

Connan: We were just having a party.

Sam: It is probably the bravest thing we have ever done. The video could have been very different if we had planned it more, but I am glad we didn’t, because it means we can plan the next one. We still have these really big ideas reserved for the future. Prostatic lizard costumes would have be nice.

Connan, what makes working with Sam so much better than working with all the other musicians you’ve collaborated with up to now?

Connan: Sam was the first.

Sam: You always remember your first.

Connan: You never forget your first.

What surprising new things did you find out about each other while working together?

Sam: Oh, like secrets? I remember finding out that Connan was sometimes quite unsure about some of his best work. I thought it must be kind of obvious to him that he’s making some great music. But he was saying stuff like: I didn’t really think anybody would like it. That sounds crazy. It is really nice to hear he has the same doubts and that he’s kind of self-critical. I don’t know, that is only one side of my finding out. Connan didn’t find out anything about me though.

Connan: Yeah. I don’t know.

Maybe you need to go on tour to find out?

Sam: Yeah, that’s when you find out! You find out a lot in hotel rooms, don’t you?

So, will there be a tour?

Sam: Yeah, obviously we have done a lot of touring individually. This is going to be a bigger experience if we do it. So it’s all like market research, this record is all like testing the water.

Connan: It is down to demand. It makes more sense to see if people actually want us. But we have to be realistic.

Sam: Some people already have been saying that they want a live show, so that is promising.

Which song was the hardest to write or to finish?

Sam: There was a bit in “Relaxed Lizards” that took ages. It was one of the first songs.

Connan: It wasn’t that hard. None of it was hard. Harder was trying to figure out “A Life Without Medicine.” There was a little bit of key theory involved, but we were not good at it.

Sam: It was one of the few things where we knew what we had to do and just had to work out a way to cheat mathematically to change the key, so it almost felt like a job then. Actually, it’s one of the most satisfying bits to listen to on the record. It doesn’t sound strained, luckily.

Connan: No it doesn’t, it took only a little bit of brainpower.

Don’t you feel tempted to change some of the tunes after five years?

Connan: No. It’s finished, it’s done. I’m really proud of it. I am happy with the album!

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