It’s been a whirlwind 18 months for brothers Oli and Louis Leimbach, the masterminds behind Aussie breakthrough act Lime Cordiale.
Their brand of sunshine-soaked, ska-tinged indie pop earned critical acclaim with 2017 debut Permanent Vacation, propelling them to regular rotation on Australia’s premier radio station Triple J.
But the Sydney natives’ ascent went from 0-60mph when the recorded ended up in the hands of one of the biggest pop stars on the planet.
Oli tells Daily Star Online how Dre London, the manager of US rapper Post Malone, was played Permanent Vacation after one of the Sunflower hitmaker’s shows in Sydney – and the rest is history.
A fancy lunch and meetings with Post Malone later, with games of beer pong in between, the brothers were on a plane to LA to sign a co-management deal with Dre and Post’s London Cowboys firm and Aussie label Chug Music.
“They just run at 100mph. There’s so much going on at such a crazy level. If anything it’s so interesting to witness that sort of Los Angeles pop music business”, Oli told Daily Star Online.
Today they release their second album 14 Steps To A Better You, a title parodied on self-help tapes, which continues their slick brand of infectious pop.
Singles Dirt Cheap, Money and Addicted to the Sunshine are among the best you’ll hear this year as they swap between Beatles-esque psychedelia, synth-laden indie rock and laid back slacker pop.
Their stock continues to rise in Australia and beyond. Not only have they been named in YouTube’s Foundry Class of 2020, huge singles Money and Robbery were among an incredible four songs in Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2019 list – only Billie Eilish secured more votes – and they’ve enjoyed a breathtaking 120 million global streams.
Lime Cordiale have notched up 100 shows worldwide thanks to their reputation as one of the most enthralling live acts around as they capture the raw energy of playing at house parties back home during their formative years. And, lockdown rules permitting, they’ll be bringing the hypnotic hooks and brass to these shores for a UK tour in December.
Daily Star Online’s Rory McKeown caught up with Oli from their home in the northern beaches of Sydney for a chat about how 14 Steps To A Better You was made, their partnership with Post Malone, and the Australian music scene.
Hi Oli. How are you? How has lockdown been for you? How have you kept yourselves occupied?
“We came from Los Angeles. We were over there in between tours. Our 2020 was going to be a very much based overseas, concentrating on America and the UK and Europe.
“We came back here unexpectedly and a bit too soon. Los Angeles was going a bit crazy. I didn’t know if people were overreacting as it was a pretty weird time but it was feeling very eerie.
“As soon as we got back to Australia it was like nothing had happened. They were three weeks behind America in terms of everyone running around and overwhelmed by the whole situation.
“We got back and we were like ‘hey, why is everyone still hanging around at the beach?’ Everything started closing. When we got home we stayed in our own homes for two weeks.
“We were in writing mode after LA. We got back and were still in that headspace and kept it going. We never spent any time at home. We’ve been the most domestic we’ve been in our lives.”
It’s been a big year for you. You’ve been announced as one of YouTube’s Foundry Class for 2020. What does that mean to you?
“I don’t really know! Apart from getting a bit more active and we have a direct line to the head of YouTube in Australia and she gives us some tips on how to get things out there. It’s just about being aware of YouTube and I guess since being part of the Foundry Programme it’s opened up our eyes in terms of what is possible on YouTube. Getting a video out once a week changes things.
“There were some other pretty nice perks in terms of helping out with exposure and it came at a really good time with our album coming out.”
You’re set to release your second LP 14 Steps To A Better You. What was its writing process like? How did it differ to Permanent Vacation?
“Not so much. We don’t really have a structure or plan to it. It’s different every time.
“Much like the last album, we pull everything together that we’ve got from polished songs to scraps and voice memos. We have these huge folders of demos that we try and consolidate into favourites, themes. It goes from 200 songs and trying to get it down. There are lots of songs we might have written at home separately, together or with other people, or on planes… or anything, and then trying to find the general theme throughout the whole thing. It’s workshopping through a whole bunch of demos.”
Do you sit down and work through them together?
“We sat down and listened to everything with our producer. When it gets into more of the writing and producing, it’s much more of a collaborative process.
“It’s so much fun, working on songs and recording. You can get experimental. Our producer in Australia, he’s really great. He never says no to anything. You come up with this really wacky idea and he wants to take it even further, meanwhile keeping it with this nice pop sensibility.
“I feel like we’ve got a good balance of trying to push the edginess while keeping those melodies in there that we love. I’m always inspired by the Beatles albums, how they, at the time, were the most edgy and political but at the same time they were the most popular artists. Their balance was so amazing.”
It’s extremely varied in sound throughout, a real breath of fresh air, songs with incredible pop hooks on there like Addicted to the Sunshine and Money. Are there any songs on there that you’re particularly proud of?
“Aesthetically I really love Elephant in the Room. I love the way we’ve made that whole thing sound like an elephant plodding along. I love the instrumentation of that song.
“Our trombone player is so technically great. He doesn’t ever hit a wrong note. With that one we just had to try and make him play not like the great trombone player he is and make him try and sound like a wailing elephant. That was pretty fun.
“No Plans to Make Plans is one of my favourites that hasn’t been released. The message in that song is kind of about someone with power and not using it for good, only selfish reasons. With power comes a lot of responsibility. That’s a big theme in this album.”
It’s obviously 14 tracks long – how did you come up with the name and is it a reflection of how you will feel afterwards?
“It came half way through writing the album. There are a few themes that kept popping up. A lot of these songs are very opinionated on people’s lifestyles and how we think people should live their lives. But when we say that, that’s already a big contradiction because a lot of these songs are about not listening to people, not caring about other people’s opinions. There’s a lot of contradictions on the album.
“Self help tapes are really funny. In general they’re full of contradictions and people of power trying to push their opinion on to you. It’s very interesting.”
Were self help tapes an influence on the writing process?
“I don’t know about self help tapes in general. That came after we realised that these songs were going in that way. When we were refining lyrics, we were pushing it that way even further.
“I think our first album was go your own way, don’t listen to people, you can have a left of centre lifestyle, you don’t have to take these steps that every other person is taking. This album is the same message, do your own thing, don’t listen to people, but do something good with your time on Earth. The first song on the album, That’s Life, the main line in that is ‘we’re here til we die, that’s life’. That’s a big message of do your own thing but making sure you’re doing it for good.”
When you listen back to the final album, is it the album you always thought you’d make?
“I think we’re both really proud of it, for sure. A lot of the instrumentation is something a bit more we sought out to create. I’m a clarinet player and saxophone player. I played clarinet and flute on it. My brother plays trumpet. There’s all that instrumentation throughout the album. The Beatles-esque mellotron is all through it.
“I think we’ve created an album from our imagination more than trying to find references from other songs we like. I think we did a bit more with Permanent Vacation. The first album was ‘I really like these drums from this hip-hop thing’ or ‘this guitar from this’. This time we tried not to listen to any references and just change and experiment and go with stuff in our heads. I’m definitely keen on moving to the third album and seeing what happens there.”
Are you already thinking about the third album?
“Yeah with all this downtime, definitely.”
Is there any direction you’d like to go in?
“For sure. I think there’s a lot to be said about simplicity. It’s so easy to put a lot of ideas into one song. I think I’d like to make things clearer in a lot of ways with the messages and also the production. That might mean making things sound weirder in a way.”
You’ve signed to Post Malone’s management London Cowboys. How did that partnership happen and how supportive are they of your output?
“I woke up to an Instagram message saying Post Malone’s manager wanted to get in contact. When I contacted him he said ‘give me a call, we’ve got to go to lunch’. I guess we were just stoked on a free lunch at that point at a fancy restaurant. We were going step by step. Free lunch? Sweet!
“He wanted us to go to the Post Malone shows. He was doing three headline shows in Sydney, it’s insane. We hung out with Post Malone for a few nights. The next thing we went over to LA, hanging out and meeting people.
“It’s been pretty interesting. It’s a very different scene to the indie rock scene in Sydney that’s for sure. They just run at 100mph. There’s so much going on at such a crazy level. If anything it’s so interesting to witness that sort of Los Angeles pop music business.”
What’s the scene like in Sydney in general and how has it moulded you into the artists you are now?
“It’s definitely changing. For us it started at small bars and house parties. Then from those house parties and bars where we’d get all of our friends to go, we moved that into Sydney city.
“We grew up just north on the beaches of Sydney. After a while, when our friends stopped coming to the gigs, I guess we were over exposing them to our music, we had to do the grind wherever we could in Sydney.
“The scene in general in Sydney has changed. House parties don’t seem to happen as much anywhere in the world. People are just way more social at home on computers and things. When I was in high school, it was all about what party are you going to this Friday and Saturday night. Sometimes you’d go to three different people’s houses whose parents were away for the weekend. Maybe I’m just getting older and I don’t hear about these parties anymore.”
There seems like a lot of bands making it big in Australia in general.
“There’s definitely a competitiveness in the early stages of being in a band. Do you guys have the expression the ‘tall poppies syndrome’? If anyone sticks out as being too different you get cut down.
“It’s a bad thing in Australia really. People don’t like people that stick out from the crowd too much. As musicians it makes you work really hard because if you’re not sounding good, people will tell you. The competitiveness disappears once you’re all doing festivals and you realise you need to work together. In those early stages, it keeps people working.”
What do you think set you guys apart?
“Probably having horns on stage from day one. We’ve been a lover of wind instruments. To people that didn’t grow up with wind instruments, seeing a trombone is like, they don’t even know what that is!
“The reggae or dub vibe for people…we grew out of that scene as well. We’ve always wanted people to dance and always try to get people’s attention when we were playing. I hate people standing at the front with their backs to you. I guess trying to get drunk people in bars, to dance or pay attention is pretty difficult, and maybe that’s what’s given it the edge.”
Visually you’ve got a unique style about you. Who are you inspired by?
“A big thing is Louis’ art. He’s done the art from day one. That’s grown with the band’s sound. We’ve always got our clothes from second hand stores, we like things to be worn down, and that’s with our merch and everything as well. We get t-shirts that are always faded and looking old. I guess we like to think as ourselves as environmentalists. We’re trying to go for organic stuff rather than plastics.”
You’ve, fingers crossed, got a European tour to look forward to, including a show at London’s Garage, at the end of the year. What can we expect from a Lime Cordiale show?
“We really enjoy getting onto smaller stages again, which is nice. In Australia, it’s is awesome that we’ve got to bigger stages and crowds, but it definitely puts up a wall between you and the audience.
“Even the Garage which is 600 capacity, it’s small enough for us to be at the bar before hand. Being overseas for us, we have so much energy because we’re so excited. Last time we were in Europe and England it was just really energetic and fun.”
What are your hopes looking forward?
“I’m hoping to get back into touring again. That’s something we’ve been missing. We are doing a whole bunch of small shows in Sydney and a few festivals have got the green light to go ahead if they meet a few requirements. That’s pretty sweet.
“We’re starting to get a bit itchy with the whole not playing shows thing. More time overseas is a big one for us. We’ve got a lot of family in England and we’ve been talking about potentially, maybe in 2022, we can spend the year in London and really base ourselves out of there. That would be ideal for sure.”
Is that something you’ve always wanted to do?
“In the Australian scene, you could be selling a whole bunch of tickets and be the talk of the country, and there suddenly might be another band and you disappear. We want to be able to get overseas and play as much as we can. Basing ourselves out of London would be a pretty smart move for us.”
You’ve notched up 10s of millions of streams and had four tracks in Triple J’s Hottest 100 last year – when you look back on your career, are you overawed by how far you’ve come?
“I’m definitely proud of ourselves because we’ve hit so many hurdles. It’s been a gradual climb. I used to get jealous of bands that would start up and we’d already been going for a few years. They’d start a band and get a whole bunch of radio play and be selling out shows. The chances are that band ends up breaking up or something happens and we just keep chugging along. We’ve been proud of that.
“You get addicted to these small achievements rather than these huge ones that other bands are getting. You can go a little bit harder in terms of when you have a song to release you don’t just expect that it’s going to do super well. You know to put the work behind it and play shows and get it in front of people’s faces in your own way.
“There’s definitely something to be said for sticking around. As long as you keep playing and practicing you tend to get that better inevitably. The Triple J Hot 100 was something we’d listen to each year and it was always something in your imagination that you’d make that countdown. To have four songs highly placed last year, it feels surreal for sure.
“It’s something you daydream about as a kid listening to the radio, driving around thinking ‘imagine if I was doing an interview there’.”
Lime Cordiale’s 14 Steps To A Better You is out now via Chugg Music and London Cowboys