Pop Culture

Artist Spotlight: Lime Garden

Lime Garden are a four-piece composed of vocalist Chloe Howard, guitarist Leila Deeley, bassist Tippi Morgan, and drummer Annabel Whittle, who met while studying in Guildford before relocating to Brighton after college. Known originally as LIME, they had to change their name to avoid confusion with the Montreal disco outfit of the same name, whose existence they were aware of but never thought they’d reach a point where it would matter. After sharing a strong run of singles and touring with the likes of Yard Act and IDLES, the band have just released their debut album, One More Thing, which was recorded in Bristol with producer Ali Chant. Self-described as “wonk pop,” their music is snappy, playful, and melodic, and the immediacy of the album never clashes with the band’s more chaotic tendencies; if anything, their pop sensibilities and cheeky humour allow them to get both weirder and more vulnerable as the album progresses, making for a dynamic experience that suggests there’s always more sides to Lime Garden than they’re already showing us. They’re no strangers to the realities of the music industry but care to stir the life out of the mundane, chasing the dream like that alone is part of the fun.

We caught up with Lime Garden for the latest edition of our Artist Spotlight series to talk about the band’s early days, dreaming big, the process behind One More Thing, and more.

How do you look back on the band’s early days, and what were your first impressions of each other?

Chloe Howard: Me, Leila, and Annabelle – Annabelle’s helping load out the van right now – we all met in Guildford at college, and Leila was the only girl on my course. And I just remember thinking she’s the coolest bitch I’ve ever seen in my life.

Leila Deeley: I remember thinking you’re the coolest bitch I’d ever seen!

CH: There we go!

LD: [laughs] It was so natural, we just really instantly glued together, and we haven’t really stopped since we were 17. I remember you were like, “Do you wanna hang around at our place?” I had a car at the time and she was on the seat next to me, and she was just playing really cool tunes. I was like, “Aw, this is really sweet!”

CH: It was one of the most natural meetings I’ve ever experienced in my life. One of those things where, I don’t know if you believe in fate or whatever, but I definitely feel like we were meant to meet for a reason.

LD: Annabelle’s from Scotland, Tippi’s from Wirral, Chloe’s from Oxford, and I’m from Surrey, so it is really crazy.

How quickly did it go from connecting on a personal level to feeling like you shared the same musical vision?

CH: Since we played our first show at the Boileroom in Guildford, we’ve always been on the same pace – that this is what we want to do.

LD: “Dream big.”

CH: Yeah, we’ve always been “Dream big.” We’ve all sacrificed so much to do this, but also, it’s all we want to do. We’ve always been on the same level with that – I think half the battle with starting a band and trying to make it in music is being on the same level.

LD: We’re all equally as intense with each other [laughs].

CH: Intense about music as well, so it’s the perfect balance.

Some of the songs on the album, especially around the middle, revolve around fame and success. I was recently talking to Rachel Gagliardi, who was one-half of the punk band Slutever and just put out her debut album as Pouty, and there’s a song there about wanting to play the big stages. She was telling me how liberating it felt to admit that out loud after being in the scene for so long, even if it’s in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way, similar to your song ‘Pop Star’. On the next track, ‘Pine’, you sing, “Everybody wants to make it yet no one seems to admit/ You got a big enough ego to sail a ship.” I’m curious if you got a similar feeling out of putting that out there in your music.

CH: 100%. You know, tonight we’re in Norwich playing to like 2,000 people, but in two days’ time, we’ll be back at work. We’re very lucky that we lead such crazy lives that are polar opposites, and it’s a really interesting thing to talk about. Also, I like taking piss, it’s quite fun.

Tippi Morgan: I think to admit out loud that this what you want to do full time – we want to play bigger shows – it makes it more real. You just believe it.

LD: And it’s so common in music for people to play small.

CH: Definitely, the culture of playing down your aspirations as a band.

TM: And be completely humble.

LD: We’ve definitely done that in the past, but now we really want to own our space.

CH: On the ego stuff as well, I had a big realization through writing the album: There is a lot of ego involved with performing and writing music and the whole industry is ego-fuelled, and a lot of people act like they’re above you and they don’t have this egotistical way of operating, but if you’re an artist and you choose to put your art out for people to observe, you automatically have an ego, which I never really thought about before.

LD: Everyone has an ego, that’s literally how we were designed. But I think it’s working where that sits, and can I benefit you and other people if share something amazing? That’s definitely the way that we look at it.

How did you collectively decide to not downplay your ambition in that way?

CH: I think it was all very natural. During the process of recording the album and sitting on it–

LD: And touring, playing festivals.

CH: We just realized we want to own our space. We’re happy to be in this industry.

TM: You gain more confidence in yourself, like, “I should be here. I should be doing this.”

I mentioned the song ‘Pine’, which uses vocals and guitar as more textural elements contributing to the atmosphere of the song. What was it like playing with that?

CH: So fun, wasn’t it?

LD: Yeah, Ali [Chant], who produced the album, he really listened to all the stuff we were keen to experiment with. And we tried so much stuff that didn’t even go on the record. Just working in that way, so loosely, was pretty game-changing. That song changed a lot in the studio.

CH: I feel like a lot of our music is very lyrically driven, so it was fun take a step back in that sense and really melodic elements of music do the talking instead. That was quite liberating.

How did you determine what experiments should stay in?

CH: It was all a feeling, really.

LD: We all have very similar, like, “Nah, that’s going out.”

TM: If someone isn’t feeling it straight away, it’s going out.

CH: There is a feeling when you listen through a track – ‘Fears’ is one that sticks to my mind – when you listen to it in the studio all the way through for the first time, you can sense the energy in the room that it’s not done. But you will listen to it sometimes and there will be this vibe in the room.

LD: Like you’re all done.

CH: And you won’t be really saying anything, you’ll just be like [all nod]. And Ali chimed in on that really early with us as well, so we were all close in mind.

LD: On the other side of it, we definitely in the past have overcooked stuff, and a lot of this album was knowing when to stop. Trusting the song, not having to fluff it.

When it came to the AutoTune that’s on ‘Pop Star’ and more prominently on ‘Floor’, did that feel like a risk at the time?

CH: We’ve always been a little bit rebellious. We’re pinned in this post-punk indie world and have been for a long time, so we wanted to do something that isn’t really being done in that kind of context. really being done in that kind of

LD: We just love pop music. It’s naturally something that we just absolutely love, so it felt like it was impossible to go without.

CH: The ‘Pop Star’ bit happened–

TM: We were just messing around with AutoTune and were like, “We should just use it.”

CH: And ‘Floor’ used to be a dream pop song. We wrote it three years ago – I remember I had the melody in my head and we were going to write it in the studio that day. I thought of just playing around with the melody through that, it was very much experimenting in the moment.

With a song like ‘Mother’, which I know came out of a conversation that, Chloe, you had with your mom, how do you go about pitching that to the band and bringing it into a collaborative context?

CH: Lyrically, I’m writing all the time, and I just keep stuff with me. A lot of the time one of the girls will send something over that’s just music, and when I listen to it, it will make me think of this thing I’ve written or that thing that I’ve written. With ‘Mother’, me and Annabelle made the music together, and I knew as soon as we did, these lyrics that I’ve got were meant to go together. That’s how I paired the two.

You mentioned the song ‘Fears’, which made me wonder if when writing, you ever start with a broad theme or feeling in mind that you then try to nail down until you hit something interesting, or if you have you the central line or chorus and try to build around that.

CH: That song, I was just like feeling really anxious and I couldn’t sleep, so I just wrote down a list of just everything I was scared of, basically, and thought that could be a fun concept for a song. I made this loop, and it had this monotonous, repetitive vibe to it that was anxiety-inducing in itself. But it’s different for each song, really, isn’t it?

LD: Yeah, and it usually takes quite a different direction in the studio.

TM: It was quite bare, I feel, and it naturally ended up being its own thing.

CH: All our songs have different starting points, which I think is what keeps it so exciting, writing music as a group. You never know where the next song is going to come from, whether it’s going to be a bass line or a beat or a guitar line or a couple of words or a melody. It can start from anything. That’s why I think we’ve got such a variety of sounds within the album.

When you landed on that line, “I fear the thought of some success,” what was the thinking behind making that the focus of the song?

CH: Well, the band is my life, so I don’t have a lot else to offer the world, so that’s what I write about a lot of the time. I thought it was an interesting concept because we’ve spent the majority of our adult lives doing this and chasing this dream, and I was imagining: What if we did it?

TM: And we talk about it all the time: What if we do? What happens then, who will we become?

CH: And if we achieve everything we set out to achieve, how would I feel? Would I feel whole? That was what I was thinking of in the moment, I think.

How did you decide to end the record with two of the more intimate songs?

LD: Whenever we tried stuff other ways, we all collectively felt like that slowed down the pace.

CH: You can hear us getting more vulnerable as the record goes on. It starts with the hard-hitting pop songs that we love making, and I think it’s cool that as the record progresses, it gets a bit more experimental, a bit more vulnerable. It’s almost like the listener’s been allowed to sit with us for a bit and we’re letting them into the world a bit more.

Could you share one thing that inspires you about each other?

TM: I didn’t play an instrument before I joined this band, and the band being so open and non-judgmental – I felt like I just slipped in.

LD: It felt like that for us, too.

TM: It’s nice knowing there’s never any judgement from anyone. It’s not a contest of who can play whatever.

LD: Tippi never holds a grudge no matter what. Somebody can do something so nasty, and she’ll still just be like, “Hey!”  [laughs] I think that’s awesome. Chloe, I aspire to be as confident as her – she’s got unshakable confidence.

TM: And swag!

LD: And I love that. Annabelle–

TM: Is literally the coolest person on Earth.

LD: And she just runs life like a ram.

CH: Having a good time. Mine is – I feel like I will be an eternal child, hanging around with these girls.

LD: Same.

CH: We just have so much fun, and they’re so talented. I wouldn’t want to do this with anybody else.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Lime Garden’s One More Thing is out now via So Young Records.

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