Lake & Sea are the Toronto based duo of Neil Clark and Theresa McKay – who have just released their 12 song recording, ‘Tiny Lungs’. Theresa has performed and toured extensively throughout Canada, formerly with her band, The Diviners. Originally from Scotland, Neil has worked internationally for many years with many different artists, and is best known for his association with Lloyd Cole, of whose band the Commotions he was a founder member. Neil’s discography and list of his appearances can be found here.
Theresa: A large portion of my childhood was spent in a very remote region in Northern Ontario. With no other families living within our area, it was a wild and surreal playground offering a complete and constant source of wonder. Cautionary teaching tales instilled a respect for the multiple sightings of wildlife, (moose, whitetail deer, and black bear, eagles, owls, blue jays and many songbirds, timber wolves, lynx, and fox), measuring snow levels on snowshoes with my Grandfather, the Abitibi River with its extraordinary dark currents, viewing controlled land burnings, and summertime playmates with First Nations kids whose families had set up camps in the bush for their hunting season. The best freedom a child could ever dream of. This landscape has always informed my writing life and is the place I return to for comfort and inspiration.
Neil: Theresa and I have often talked about the differences in our lives growing up – not only the obvious geographic one of her in Northern Ontario and me in the West of Scotland, but also in our relationship to the landscapes we knew and the bodies of water within and surrounding these landscapes. The ways in which these factors influence who we become fascinates me – and you know that that’s got to be present in our writing – a kind of resonance, buried in there somewhere. So, in Tiny Lungs, there’s a mixture of Canadiana/Americana, maybe some modal jazz and bluegrass, and maybe even some vintage new wave. At core though, it is Theresa’s stories and voice, and my music and guitars.
Mick Glossop says…”The new album ‘Tiny Lungs’ by Lake And Sea is the best project I’ve worked on in the past 5 years! The songs, performances and arrangements are fabulous.”
In the warm, pre-covid months of late summer, fragments of lyrical and musical ideas started to emerge. Demos were recorded, and early results were encouraging…so…a plan was hatched – then the pandemic struck. Determined to stay positive and creative, Lake & Sea immersed themselves in the project. What emerged within these days of profound unknowing were songs of tender beauty.
Neil says of the process: “A few weeks after Theresa and I met we still hadn’t thought seriously about writing and recording together. Then one evening, she played me her Nightswimmer recording, and I was struck by both the quality of her voice and of the writing. I was writing and recording guitars for Lloyd Cole’s Guesswork album at the time, and she knew other work I’d done – the Commotions songs particularly. I also listened to her band The Diviners recordings, who were very active in Toronto when I got here, and was fascinated by the development of her voice. So, it felt obvious that we had to try this and find a way to make it work.”
Getting to a core of authenticity in a writing partnership takes time, “There was quite a bit of pruning and editing at the beginning”, says Neil, “finding the right blend of guitar tones and sound textures to frame Theresa’s stories. We had to dig deep to get to that stuff…the interesting and unusual lines, and surprising overlaps that aren’t immediately obvious. It’s like an excavation at the start – giving yourself time to really understand the idea and be receptive to the new paths it shows you. When we felt we’d gotten the blend right with ‘Revealer’, ‘Witness’ and ‘Leave’ I think we knew at that point we were on the right track.”
So…think enveloping, textured guitar work from Clark paired with McKay’s close, intimate vocals – set within her stories of evocation and observation. Tightly woven themes of time, transformation, restoration and connection were the foundation, and the starting point for ‘Tiny Lungs’.
Theresa states, “We spent our days slowing down, meandering through much loved books, poetry, film and music – Neil discovered the Criterion Collection online. Plenty of time for new reads and re-reads.…Patti Smith, Joan Didion, Brian Eno’s Visual Music, Granta Travels, Paulo Coelho.… Listening again and again…Velvet Underground, John Coltrane and Elizabeth Fraser – and that late ’60’s period when modal folk met model jazz – all that kept us going and kept us on track.”
On this album Lake & Sea have built a true representation of their combined talents – each track bearing a deeply embedded and unique signature. Ably assisted by drummer and percussionist Ambrose Pottie and the legendary talents of mixing engineer, Mick Glossop – the result is, ‘Tiny Lungs’.