Loch & Key is a dream-pop band composed of L.A.-based husband and wife Sean Hoffmann and Leyla Akdogan Hoffman. Sean is an eclectic musician who has been a member of American Music Club and Bedroom Walls, while Leyla is a multimedia visual artist and lawyer in addition to being a vocalist. I recently interviewed the duo in advance of the release of their surreal new high-fidelity album, Slow Fade, which features elements of bossa nova, folk, pop, jazz, doo wop, and ambient music, and their upcoming concert at Ojai’s Greater Goods on Saturday, October 14.
Your musical style has been compared to a diverse array of artists. I’m curious to know who your primary influences are?
Leyla Akdogan Hoffman: I don’t claim any conscious influences. I try to avoid sounding like other artists. I do admire singers who convey subterranean emotion beneath an emotionally distant and unaffected delivery. Sade, Hope Sandoval, Chan Marshall, and Rumer (Sarah Joyce) come to mind.
Sean Hoffman: I’m all over the place as far as influences go. I like Judy Garland, John Zorn, Maxwell, Aaron Copland, John Hassell, Sonny Sharrock, Nick Drake, Bloodstone, NRBQ, Paco de Lucía, The Fall … I take pride in the fact that we don’t sound like contemporary bands; there’s no extraneous floor-tom floggings or millennial whoops over here.
Slow Fade’s songs seem to flow seamlessly between many genres — even country on “Madonna Inn” and doo wop on “Big Cats.” Do you both collaborate on the songs?
SH: Leyla had a big hand in writing Slow Fade. In some cases, like “Big Cats,” she did it almost entirely by herself. Other songs, like “Madonna Inn” and “Barstow,” were more of a collaboration.
LAH: When Sean writes a complete song with lyrics, he has it all mapped out in his mind and communicates his vision for it very specifically to me — the phrasing, tone, etc. When I write, it’s lyrics, vocal melody, and basic outline chords; I bring it to Sean; and he composes the music underneath … Sometimes Sean has music without lyrics, I have lyrics without music, and we make a chimera [such as with “Deep Space”].
There seems to be a motif of referencing enigmatic historical figures in your songs “Gil Perez” and “Kaspar Hauser.” Were you influenced by Werner Herzog’s cult classic film about Hauser, Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (Every Man for Himself and God Against All or The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser)?
SH: I love strange stories and often find myself going deep down the rabbit hole in search of new ones. Gil Perez, as you mention, is one of those stories I found; Kaspar is another. I became aware of Herzog’s film later. There’s another allusion in our song “Kaspar Hauser” to the Wild Boy of Aveyron. Feral children interest me greatly. I want to know what secrets the animals know. But there’s a price to pay for that sacred knowledge: You will never understand what it is to be human. Is that bad? I don’t know.
Slow Fade was mastered at Elysian Masters by Dave Cooley, where a refurbished Neumann VMS-66 cutting lathe was utilized — apparently the same model that the early Led Zeppelin discs were cut on. How did that enhance the sound of your album?
LAH: Sean has had Dave master a few records he’s produced now. When we were ready to print our vinyl, we found out Dave was now cutting lacquers, too. We’d obsessed so hard on the sonics of the record all the way through, so when Dave said they’d compared the lathe against a lot of other shops and found it to be exceptional, we were like, of course we have to have them do it. We definitely believe both Dave’s mastering and cutting the lacquers on the Neumann gave us the best possible sound on vinyl.
SH: I’m a big fan of Dave’s work, especially all the Light in the Attic material he works on. The record came out sounding extremely hi-fi, and we would like to think there are some ghosts in that machine …
Loch & Key plays Saturday, October 14, 7 p.m., at Greater Goods (145 W. El Roblar Dr., Ojai). Visit greatergoodsojai.org.