Tim Keegan and his band Departure Lounge are set to release their fourth studio album Transmeridian next month. We caught up Keegan to discuss what it was like working with R.E.M’s Peter Buck for their latest single Australia. He also told us about writing Transmeridian in only one 24 hour session, his future plans for Departure Lounge and some of the most interesting people he has met during his years working in the music industry.
Hi Tim, thanks so much for speaking with us! Firstly, how are you doing under the current circumstances?
Thank you! It’s a pleasure. Erm, Ok thanks, all things considered. How are you? I’m glad I converted my old brick shed in the garden into a studio/office just in time for the first lockdown.
Departure Lounge are set to release their new album Transmeridian next month, can you tell us about what we can expect from the band’s fourth studio album?
Indeed, we are. Well, it’s a bit of a trip. We hadn’t made up music together for so long that we just played and played for hours when we got in the studio. It’s ended up being a mixture of conventional songs and instrumental pieces, which are largely improvised. In the end we managed to make sense of it all, but it’s quite a broad spectrum of sounds and styles, which reflects what the different band members bring to the party, I suppose. We think it’s probably the most representative album so far – mixing the acoustic guitar-led songs of our other albums and the more ‘out there’ piano-based stuff, like we did on our Jetlag Dreams album.
What has it been like working with Violette Records?
It’s been a rather wonderful collaboration, I must say. They care as much as we do about the music and how it is presented and it’s a pleasure to work with them. We share the same ethos about music and art and life and all the records they put out are pure class.
I read that Transmeridian was recorded in just one 24-hour session, is that right?
Yes, the recording of the backing tracks was all done live in two sessions on the same day. We spent the remaining 3 days sorting it all out, editing and overdubbing. You can only do that if you work with someone really good, and we were fortunate to have found Peter Miles, the studio owner and house engineer at Middle Farm, who became our co-producer through the process of recording.
What inspired you to form Departure Lounge?
Well, that was a long time ago (1998). I had a solo deal with an indie label in London called Blue Rose and I wanted to do something different – more reflective and musically adventurous than the indie pop music I had been making up until then. I knew the others from different bands and musical projects and I asked them all to come and play on some new tracks I was doing. We became a band gradually over the next year or so, again through the process of working together.
Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with R.E.M’s Peter Buck and why you chose to collaborate with him for your single Australia?
Yes, I’ve known Peter a long time and have played with him a few times over the years, initially with Robyn Hitchcock, with whom I played for a while in the nineties and early 2000s. We met up again recently at a small festival, Ice Station Vadsø, in arctic Norway and had a great time. I first saw R.E.M. play in 1985 and I’ve been a big fan ever since. When listening to the playback of one of the tracks from that marathon session (which was to become ‘Australia’) I knew straight away it had to have Peter on it. Fortunately, he agreed and added the perfect jangly Rickenbacker part in his inimitable style.
What is the most interesting musical project you have been a part of during your career? Who are some of the most memorable people you have met?
Oh gosh. Time for more name-dropping! I have been really fortunate to meet and play with such a lot of interesting and wonderful music people. Some are well-known and some are not, but actually some of my favourite projects have been with people who are not in the public eye. I produced an album for R.P. Mullender in 1997 which is incredible, but was never released. There are such a lot of great musicians who have not had the breaks. Often life gets in the way, like it did with Departure Lounge. I have found in a lot of cases that making music with people is an extension of friendship. And in some cases, it is the friendship! It’s a different way of socialising and communing. When it works it’s so much fun. The most interesting musical project I have been involved in is definitely Departure Lounge. It’s very rare to find a group where the chemistry works, both on a personal and musical level, and with this band it just does.
Two of the most memorable people I have met are Lou Reed and Lee Hazlewood – two of my all-time favourite singers and songwriters – but I didn’t get to play with them.
What are your future plans for Departure Lounge once restrictions have eased and life finally returns to some kind of normality?
That’s a good question. I think we are back on track to continue making records together again, but we’ll have to see. It’s not straightforward, as one of the band lives on a different continent, but we are all still great friends and where there’s a will there’s a way.