Q&A: Larkin Poe on 'Venom & Faith,' Elvis Costello
Photo by Robbie Klein
Following the conclusion of the Lovell Sisters in 2010, as Jessica Lovell got engaged and made college plans, her two sisters quickly regrouped to form Larkin Poe the same year.
Rebecca Lovell, lead singer and guitarist, and Megan Lovell, lapsteel guitarist and harmony vocalist, transitioned to a sound that's often heavier than the progressive acoustic they played in their former group.
Following "KIN," "Reskinned" and "Peach," the duo released the new LP, "Venom & Faith," which they were in St. Louis to promote during a Dec. 9 date at Old Rock House. Larkin Poe will take a break from headlining later this month to support Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band's final tour.
Ben Province: What does the name of the new record mean?
Rebecca Lovell: We actually pulled "Venom & Faith" from the lyrics [of] "Honey Honey," track three off the album. The title of our last album, "Peach," was an homage to our Georgia roots. With this album, we wanted a title that would allude to the duality of our art: gritty guitars offset by gentle vocals, musical moments of both tragedy and joy, the sacred and the profane.
BP: And you named the band after your great-great-great-great-grandfather. Why did you decide to use his name?
Megan Lovell: As sisters, we wanted to pick a band name that would have familial significance. We also love the fact that Larkin Poe was related to Edgar Allan Poe -- talk about southern gothic.
BP: It seems one of your goals is to make an American-sounding album based on a number of genres, including country, blues and even hip-hop. How do you manage to put all of those styles (and more) together on one album?
RL: Megan and I both share a deep, deep respect for the source music of the American south! As a female-fronted blues/rock outfit making music in the 21st century, our goal is to create something new and fresh to hopefully contribute a new chapter to the longstanding story of the blues.
BP: You covered two songs on "Venom & Faith," Bessie Smith's "Sometimes," "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" by Skip James, but the other eight songs are yours. This is not as heavy on covers as your previous releases. How have you seen your songwriting evolve?
RL: As the main songwriter for Larkin Poe, I’ve been writing songs since I was 17. Songwriting is a never-ending voyage of discovery; learning to allow vulnerability into my lyrics and chasing after the next song idea is something that never gets old.
BP: In the world of country and roots music, there's generally two approaches. There is the Miranda Lambert-esque radio country or Chris Stapleton's brand of Americana. Both artists are great, but it doesn't strike me that you're trying to fit either category, and want to forge your own path. Is that accurate?
ML: We absolutely want to forge [our] own path, and have been doing just that for almost 10 years as Larkin Poe. We feel privileged to make music for a living, and appreciate our incredibly supportive fanbase, who have walked every step of the journey with us.
BP: Elvis Costello is a great example of an artist who did not fit a single category. You have had the opportunity to play in his band. How did that come about?
RL: We met E.C. many years ago at an Americana music festival in North Carolina called Merlefest. Serendipitously, we all wound up on stage together singing a gospel song during an "all-star jam," and an immediate kinship was struck. In the intervening years, he's graciously asked us back again and again to sing and musically support him on a variety of tours. We've learned so much and loved every single moment.
BP: And you got to record backing vocals for him and the rest of the New Basement Tapes: Marcus Mumford, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and Rhiannon Giddens of Carolina Chocolate Drops. What was it like to be a part of those songs, based around unused Bob Dylan lyrics?
ML: It was an incredible experience to be a part of the New Basement Tapes; the creative energy pulsing in the studio space was palpable! Truly unforgettable.
For more on the band, visit LarkinPoe.com and follow the duo on social media @LarkinPoe.
This interview was conducted by email and has been edited for style.