Listen to this track by London-based orchestral pop experimentalists the High Llamas. It’s “Checking In, Checking Out”, a favourite track off of 1994’s Gideon Gaye. The band is led by one Sean O’Hagan, formerly of ’80s concern Microdisney, forming the High Llamas in the early ’90s, when most record companies were tripping over themselves trying to find other acts that sounded like Nirvana.
In reaction to that, and with an interest in genres of other eras, and other countries too, the High Llamas went up another path. They pursued a bouncy, bright, cinematic, and lushly arranged sound, with this one being a great example.
O’Hagan’s interest in The Beach Boys, Bacharach/David, Love, and Jimmy Webb certainly played into the sound of this track, and the band’s sound in general, providing a pretty strong stylistic tie to sunny Californian landscapes as filtered through their experiences living in often less than sunny London.
But what led this Anglo-Irish group in this direction in the first place? And, how did a sound like this make it onto a major label? Read more