AN album full of love songs.

This is how I Know Leopard lead vocalist and chief songwriter Luke O’Loughlin describes the Sydney’s four-piece’s debut album Love Is A Landmine.

Produced by The Preatures’ Jack Moffit, the album centres on Luke’s relationship with bass player Rosie Fitzgerald, which began during an emotionally charged period two years ago.

“Our relationship started smack bang in the middle of the writing period for this album,” Luke explains. “The foundation from which it began is a terribly rocky one which threatened to implode the band and proved to be traumatic for both Rosie and myself.”

A soft-rock stylistic detour from the band’s 2015 EP Another Life, Luke says the album was inspired by ‘70s touchstones including ELO, The Doobie Brothers, 10cc, and Wings.

“We just wanted to give all the music we love a place to live in the modern world.”

Here’s Luke’s revealing track-by-track breakdown of I Know Leopard’s debut.

‘Landmine’

Heartbreak is something I’ve experienced quite a lot of in my adult life. For me it’s something that hurts exactly the same every time it happens. You don’t get any better at dealing with it from your first experience to your most recent. Around the time ‘Landmine’ was written I was feeling paralysed by the fear of heartbreak and couldn’t bring myself to actively seek out new love or allow myself to get too close to anyone. In my head I likened it to venturing out onto a minefield as heartbreak is kind of like this ticking time bomb that all of us will inevitably set off at one point or another in our lives. And so “love is a landmine” felt like a good line and concept for a song. Throw a few “la la las” in front of it and you got yourself a chorus.

‘Everything Goes With You’

This is the closest the album gets to a ballad. It was also our big Electric Light Orchestra moment. I grew up listening to and obsessing over all their records so it was great to finally get that out of my system. The song is actually written about Rosie, who plays bass in the band and who I am currently in a relationship with.

Our relationship started smack bang in the middle of the writing period for this album about two years ago. The foundation from which it began is a terribly rocky one which threatened to implode the band and proved to be traumatic for both Rosie and myself. Rosie was married and was also at the time in the midst of challenging beliefs she had held dear growing up in a religious community. We had been in love with each other since she joined the band. After successfully repressing these feelings for so long we finally gave in. It obviously spelt disaster for Rosie’s home life and sent me into deep guilt and despair over the fact I might have ruined the band along with her marriage. Worst of all I was worried I might have lost Rosie for good.

Miraculously, after some time, we beat that odds that our relationship wouldn’t survive through it all. We gave it a shot and here we are two years later – happier than ever. ‘Everything Goes With You’ was one of the final songs I wrote for the album and it’s about how incredibly Rosie not only weathered the storm that was the inception of our relationship, but also how incredibly well she puts up with my shit. People that are close to me know that I’m not the most emotionally stable person but Rosie has always had a way of placating me. I’ve never met anyone as accepting and empathetic.

‘Heather’

With ‘Heather’ I just wanted to write a classic “tormented in love” song. There are songs from the ’70s and ’80s with this kind of theme which I was drawing upon and although it is isn’t based on a specific personal experience, I think a lot of people can relate to a relationship or even brief encounter in which they have felt chewed up and spat out. Lyrically the song has an exasperated feeling to it so I wanted the vocal performance and the production to reflect this. It was also the moment on the record that allowed us to spread the sass on real thick. The tempo was actually originally a lot slower, similar to an ‘Unchained Melody’ type of feel, but it was our producer Jack Moffitt’s suggestion to speed it up and in turn wake it right up. There were also initially a lot more layers of synth and guitar but by stripping it right back I think it gained an energy and attitude that makes it one of the highlights of the record.

‘All That She Cared About’

Along with ‘Evergreen’, this is one of the oldest tracks on the album. The song actually went through two reworks from the original version. One with producer Jack Arentz in Melbourne which was largely electronic and the second with Jack Moffitt for the main album sessions, in which we brought back some of the organic sounds again. Although the bones of most of the songs on the album were tracked live, this one (as well as the interlude) was the only song that was more pieced together from the collection of audio that built up for it over the years. So I think that’s why it has a sampled feel and sounds quite different to the rest of the songs on the record.

‘Mums And Dads Of Satanists (Interlude)’

This was made from the remnants of a song that didn’t quite make the cut for the album. Initially it was a tough one to let go of as we all really loved the sound design of the song and some of the chord changes were real heart melters. It was just the lyrics and melodies that didn’t get there for us. One day I was messing around with the stems and by stripping away the vocals and most of the rhythm section, it worked really beautifully as an instrumental. I’m so glad we were able to find a place for it on the record and that we were able to salvage the things we loved most about the track in the first place.

‘Blame It On Me’

I wrote this song around the time Rosie and I were trying to make a go of a relationship in the wake of all the trauma. We were both riddled with guilt about what was happening but at the same time we couldn’t be without each other. It was really difficult to see Rosie so constantly weighed down by the torment of it all, so I wanted to be the person that she could offload everything onto. I just wished there was a way she could transfer some of that pain to me so that I could make it more bearable for her. I remember one day she was really depressed and completely forgot to go to work. As she raced out the door I yelled out to her, “You can blame it on me!” Then I went to the studio that day and wrote this song. Fun fact: that recording of the little girl poem in the bridge of the song is actually me with a pitch shifter on my voice.

‘Seventy Lies’

The importance of learning to love yourself before you can successfully love another is an idea the record touches on from time to time. I’ve battled with depression and anxiety throughout a large part of my adult life and I’ve always found it to be an obstacle when entering new relationships. For a long time I was getting far too good at presenting a fabricated version of myself that only lead to hurting and disappointing others down the track and in turn further alienating and hurting myself. Lyrically this song centres on this idea but in line with the rest of the record, it’s presented against a pretty whimsical backdrop. You can probably hear the touchstones of my favourite ’70s bands here too. There’s Wings, Abba, Doobie Brothers in the instrumentation.

1991

I feel like this is the anomaly of the album. It really came out of left field. A lot of people have told me they hear Prince in it and that might be true, but I think the influences were more a combo of a Bee Gees album I was listening to at the time and also what was probably my favourite album of 2016 Soft Hair – a collaboration between Connan Mockasin and LA Priest that was, in my opinion, criminally underrated. We really wanted to go all out on the quirks with this one. We attacked it with the same mentality as ‘Heather’ – lots of space, lots of sampled sounds and, as Jack Moffitt called it, lots of “mangled” sounds. I love warped synth textures and I love synth solos so for me this song really provided a playground for both of those things. Rosie’s undeniable bass groove was probably the first thing written for it though which I think is the true hero of the song.

‘Evergreen’

I grew up in the Adelaide Hills on a serene six-acre property. My parents still live there and they have kind of a granny flat which has these big windows looking out onto the property and in particular onto a kind of valley of tall, skinny European trees. I go there as often as I can to write and it is the place where most of the songs off this record were conceived. When you stand in the middle, surrounded by those beautiful tall trees, it feels like they’re shielding you from all the bad things in the world. If this sounds childlike it’s probably because it’s a relationship I’ve had with those trees since I was a kid. For those few moments you’re just simply existing along with all the birds and bugs that it is home to. So this song is a love letter to this place. The world can be suffocating at times but it’s nice to be able to return to this special place and feel free from any judgement and be reminded of some of the simple beauty in the world.

‘Shiver Yourself Warm’

I read the phrase “shiver yourself warm” in the Ernest Hemingway novel The Old Man and the Sea. I thought it was a beautiful expression that perfectly captured the idea of overcoming adversity of any kind. More specifically, I found that it keyed into my personal experiences with depression. Overcoming my spells of depression have often felt like I was shivering myself warm. It’s not an option to target the source of the feeling in an attempt to fix it. It’s just always there with you and you often have to just bunker down and see it through till it dies down.

For what is quite a sombre subject matter, this song is probably one of the poppiest on the album. We were close to leaving it off as we thought it might be too much so but we came around to really love it. It’s definitely got my favourite drum sound on the record. I remember the snare drum sounding like it was almost going to crack the studio speakers when we recorded it.

‘Epica’

This song slowly morphed over time. We originally thought it was going to work as a single but that was before we added what is almost like a second act to the song. Then we really enjoyed its freedom as an album track. In the studio we would just jam that second section for ages partly because we wanted to capture some unplanned, playful moments but mainly because it was just a lot of fun. There’s no hiding the 10cc/‘I’m Not in Love’ influence here with the tape loop choir at the end. This song chronicles the pretty harrowing time when our relationship as well as the future of the band hung in the balance. It was almost as if I was writing in a kind of desperate appeal to both of us; to just pause for a moment and try to see through all the turmoil to what I believed was real love underneath it all. I’m glad we did.

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