Releasing a set of 20 demos with only one album to your nameis a ballsy move but in this case, I think it pays off.
Demos are a beautiful thing. They’re the first time an artist captures a song in a form that can be replayed forever. As a fan, a demo is a way behind the curtain, a way of peering into the ‘process’. That elusive and mystical way in which your favourite songs magic into existence. As an artist, it’s releasing something half-baked–a bit like Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal–but embracing the imperfections.
Low FIdelity Vol.1 is a retrospective look back on Johnny Lloyd’s solo career so far–he’s only one album and an EP in. The record bands together 20 demos tracks burned straight to CD from an old Boss 8-track home studio. As you listen, you can picture the guy sat huddled over his little music box and microphone really getting the things out. It’s not quite the analogue trickery of Mac Demarco or Foxygen but the intimate style of the recordings remains the same.
The 8-track Johnny used only allowed him to burn one song at a time to a CD without a ‘save’ option. Which is a bit like when you got your first PS1 for Christmas. You excitedly unwrapped it. You got the machine and the power pack out of their respective plastic bags. Plugged them in. Plugged the scarp it into your telly. Figured out what RGB was. Then you realised your mum never got you a memory card–”How was I suppose to know?” So every time you played Tomb Raider for a month–until your birthday money–you had to start again. Yeah, it’d be something like that.
Due to the tech, every time Johnny started something, each time he sat at his hotel room bedside, or on a backstage mouldy sofa, he had to finish whatever he started. There was no going back, no half-arsing it. Johnny dedicated himself to each song completely. He hasn’t got frustrated, walked away and not touched it for a month. He’s stayed with each one to the end.
This restriction creates an odd sort of freedom. You can hear Johnny focusing in on what makes each song what it is. And, though every part is at it’s barest, it’s also at it’s most honest. There’s barely an electric guitar in sight, barely a moment where something has that clipped and cold studio feel. Instead, it’s a warm and rough DIY sound that’s authentic and gritty.
From moment to moment on a demo, limitations, improvisations etc. create something special. On ‘Happy Humans’ there’s static break up on the vocal lines, on ‘Pilgrims’ the drums resemble a beatboxer. Some people’s toes will curl listening to that–especially you audiophiles. But, to me, this is great, it’s brilliant in fact. Each track has a bit more character, a bit more of a rough-around-the-edges, stubble-like charm. And, just like when Freddie Flintoff comes on the telly and your mum says over her glass of wine: “ooo I like Freddie,” it just works for me.
People don’t always want perfection, they want their bread with the crusts left on. Yeah, Johnny’s Low Fidelity Vol.1 has its rough edges–it’s frayed I’m afraid. And yes, some songs sound like they’re being blasted out of an old flip phone, but that’s good. In fact, it’s better that way.
Haiku Review: Nothing is perfect. Eat your bread with the crusts on, Flaws are good for you,
Listen to Johnny Lloyd on Spotify andApple Music. And, get the latest print volume of our magazine featuring Black Honey, Mattiel, Matt Maltese and more HERE.