How revered Melbourne producer LANKS uses collaboration to further his music
10.11.2020

How revered Melbourne producer LANKS uses collaboration to further his music

LANKS’ new album, Spirits Pt. 1, features more than 15 collaborators.

Melbourne music craftsman LANKS is back with a new double album, Spirits, with the first instalment of the LP now out in the world. Part two of the record will be with us on Friday February 19.

Spirits Pt. 1 is a lushly-produced music smorgasbord that draws from genres all across the music spectrum. Exploring everything from indie-pop, soul, chillwave, hip hop and beyond, LANKS wouldn’t have created such a musical adventure without some complimentary voices.

On all but one of the album’s ten songs, a collaborator surfaces. From opening track, ‘Rebound’, which features Nick Hill and JANEVA and sees LANKS commence the journey with a serene electro-pop number, to the instrumental ‘Dusk’ which pairs LANKS’ electronic whimsy with the bouncing hip hop tendency of Ghosting, LANKS not only crafts soundscapes that take listeners to another place but he also champions emerging artists.

To celebrate the release of the record we asked LANKS, aka Will Cuming, about how he uses collaboration to further his music – and there’s much more to it than just slapping a voice on top of a beat.

Introduction

These past few years of doing a hundred or so sessions per year have taught me a lot. Working on my own projects LANKS/lindsay/Ok Moon, as well as other people’s projects, such as Ngaiire, Tia Gostelow, The Kite String Tangle and so forth, I’ve made amazing friends and been lucky to learn from so many incredible people! Here’s a few thoughts to hopefully help unlock the power of collaboration.

Leave your ego at the door

I heard Sia say those words in an interview once and they stuck. A healthy amount of ego helps artists have confidence, but it can kill the vibe in a room or lead to fights over splits as well. In time I’ve learned when to let someone run with their idea and when to fight for mine. It always depends who the song is being written for obviously, but your collaborators have different skills and strengths to you, and the quicker you can figure out how to unlock that the better your session will be.

Preparation and spontaneity

If you do a long stint of sessions you can often feel the well running dry. Bringing new people into the room is a great way to spark yourself, but you can also read books, write notes in your phone of lyric ideas, journal, listen to music, transcribe music, listen to podcasts, paint, draw, hang out with friends, talk and listen to a friend, hang out with your grandma, experience life!

You never know what unlocks ideas for you, but preparation allows you to better execute when inspiration strikes and be better in the session, and more spontaneous and confident. It’s kind of like if an athlete only turned up to play the game each week but never trained. 

Do more sessions with less collaborators

After you’ve done the speed dating-style sessions that many writers go through, you start to build great connections with certain producers/writers/artists and when that chemistry is strong, dive deeper! I did a single session with Xavier Dunn, Dustin Tebbutt, and Hayden Calnin in 2017 and we all loved it so much that we booked another few days together, and then another few, and another… until we realised we’d made an album. I learned more about collaboration during that process than any other work I’d ever been a part of!

You get to go deeper, hit road blocks, find out solutions to get around the road blocks, balance multiple artists’ visions and voices, and pick up tricks and skills from having these incredible teachers around you.

There will be a time where you need some fresh minds to collaborate with or some solo time, but don’t end a good thing too early.

Own your own destiny

I witnessed a friend ask a well-respected publishing A&R in Australia about how an artist can get their publisher to get them more sessions… The response was honest and direct. She said the artist should get off their ass and make it happen!

You are the CEO of your own music business – not your manager, publisher, label, lawyer, or anyone. You are driving the bus, and are working with these other people to plan the route. So own it. And watch what your publisher can do for someone who works hard, is humble, and people like working with.

Forge your own path

Everybody’s path is completely different. Ask questions of smart people and follow your ideas and instincts and then learn from mistakes. Try and keep a balance of when to listen and when to blindly follow your vision into the night.

LANKS’ new album, Spirits Pt. 1, is out now via THAA Records. Give it a spin here. For more on LANKS, head to his website, Facebook and Instagram.

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