Podcast 801: Leaving Laurel
Shimmering, introspective melodies from Gordon Huntley and Griff Fulton.
Podcast 801: Leaving Laurel
Shimmering, introspective melodies from Gordon Huntley and Griff Fulton.
Leaving Laurel today is a project helmed by Canadian producer Gordon Huntley and Griff Fulton, whom we’ve featured on XLR8R before as Aspetuck. But it hasn’t always been that way. The project began in 2019 when Pierce, Griff’s younger brother, began working on music together with Gordon, the brothers’ close friend, inspired by their time together in the hills of Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, hence the name. Griff, who managed the pair’s solo projects, helped them build Leaving Laurel from scratch, and they released their debut album—11 tracks of deep house—on Anjunadeep in 2021.
That same year, tragedy happened when Pierce passed away following a struggle with his mental health. Once the album was released, Griff felt “obligated to take Pierce’s place in the DJ booth,” he tells XLR8R. “The three of us had years of DJing together behind us and it just felt like the best way to carry on his legacy.” Then, later that year, Gordon opened up Pierce’s laptop to rediscover old ideas they had been working on together that he had forgotten about. He also discovered new Leaving Laurel material Pierce was working on that he hadn’t heard yet, plus some notes from Pierce that helped spark some new ideas. From all this, Gordon put together an entirely new album called When the Quiet Comes, Leaving Laurel’s second album that serves as his eulogy to Pierce. “Making this record was my search to find purpose after Pierce passed,” Gordon says. “It was a light to show me a way forward.”
In support of the album, which is available now, Gordon and Griff have prepared an XLR8R podcast. Featuring tracks from Molly, Axel Boman, and more, it’s a mix of music that Pierce would have loved. Many of the them, including those from Aphex Twin and Eno, were listened to in Laurel Canyon, and capture the deep, introspective melodies and inviting textural percussion that sit at the core of the Leaving Laurel project. “Overall the goal was to portray a clear but concise depiction of how an extended Leaving Laurel DJ set sounds,” Griff says.
01. What have you been up to recently?
Griff: Mostly spending my days at various playgrounds around town with my two-year-old! I’m a stay-at-home dad so the majority of my day during the week is spent with the kid. I’m usually able to find some windows of time throughout the day to work on music, catch up on emails, record mixes, and dig for new music. A lot of my free time lately has been devoted to marketing the album, getting content together, and calls with the label.
Gordon: When the second Leaving Laurel record was done, I was feeling drained creatively. So I’ve spent some time away from music, and dipped my toes into the water of another passion of mine: the craft beer scene here where I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Without any prior experience I managed to get a job at my favorite brewery in the province. My favorite part of the job is that when I bartend they let me play whatever music I want over their pretty impressive sound system. So while I’m on my feet there I get to catch up on a lot of music that I otherwise might not have the time to check out.
02. What have you been listening to?
Griff: I’m always listening to all kinds of stuff but here are some highlights that I’ve been listening to more passively, while being a father, cooking dinner, or just in the car:
- a German group called To Rococo Rot whom I have a constant fascination for. They have this incredible blend of ambient, post-rock, quirky experimental electronic, IDM, and krautrock.
- a Swedish artist named Mattias El Mansouri recorded a mix for Nous’klaer’s Outsiders residency on Kiosk Radio back in February. I have listened to it at least a dozen times.
- Axel Boman recorded a mix for a Belgian festival at the end of March. It’s so fun and happy, perfect for the warmer weather and longer days.
- Donato Dozzy & Neel’s project Voices from the Lake just reissued their self-titled album which is now available digitally for the first time so I’ve been listening to that quite a bit.
- Dutch producer Eversines has a new album out called Dwang that is really really great.
Gordon: Lately I’ve been fascinated with this scene that happened in the late ’90s and early oughts, where artists were blending shoe-gaze and dream pop with jungle and drum & bass. I’ve heard people describe it as “blissbeat” or “drum & bliss,” and I can’t get enough of it! Some of my favorite artists from that world are Accelera Deck, Love Spirals Downwards, and Isabel’s Dream.
Outside of electronic music, ’90s reverb-heavy guitar music is what I listen to the most, but I always want to hear it with more driving electronic rhythms. It turns out that idea was already done over 20 years ago! Here’s a good starting point I found recently.
Apart from that whole microcosm, I’m obsessed with the new Talaboman releases, as well as James Holden’s Imagine This is a High Dimensional Space of All Possibilities record, and this German psychedelic group from the late ’90s I’ve discovered called Monoland.
03. Where and when did you record this mix?
Griff: I recorded it at the end of April on a Sunday morning at my house in upstate New York. I had been thinking about how I wanted to approach the mix for quite a while. Gordon and I have always been huge fans of XLR8R and the podcast, and Pierce was as well, so the opportunity to record something for it felt really special!
04. What setup did you use?
Griff: I was planning on recording it on my full DJ setup in my living room but I ended up doing it in my studio in the basement where it’s a bit quieter when my daughter is up and about. It’s not a very glamorous setup: I have a portable Pioneer DDJ Rekordbox controller which allows me to record a mix directly from Rekordbox. It’s incredibly convenient and fits perfectly on my studio desk.
05. What can the listener expect, and how did you choose the tracks you’ve included?
Griff: I wanted the mix to represent a couple of specific themes and abstract feelings by combining the music Gordon and I bonded over throughout our years living in Los Angeles with some newer emotive club music that Pierce would’ve loved or would’ve heckled me for not sharing with him before.
Overall the goal was to portray a clear but concise depiction of how an extended Leaving Laurel DJ set sounds. We played an extended set in San Francisco last year which gave us the opportunity to play a lot of ambient stuff for the first couple of hours and then gradually ramp things up as the crowd filled in. It’s a nice feeling when you can take your time to build a story with a DJ set and it’s something I hope we’re able to do more of because we both have so much music we’re into! This mix was an attempt to distill that kind of experience into a shorter format.
Also, when we were living in Laurel Canyon a few years ago, Gordon and I used to sit by the pool with beers, playing music for each other, taking these deep dives into scenes, artists, genres, etc. I’ve always been the one sharing the more underground, experimental, club-focused electronic music I’ve found with him but Gordon opened my eyes to a lot of music that wasn’t on my radar. Music like My Bloody Valentine, NEU!, Slowdive, CAN, etc. He comes from more of an indie rock and shoegaze musical background while I’m much more focused on music made with computers and drum machines but there’s still a ton of overlap in terms of our listening habits. He’s a bit older than me and was exposed to a generation of electronic music that I feel like kind of went over my head when I was younger: I was listening to hip-hop when he was listening to the Artificial Intelligence compilations on Warp, for example. We’ve always described our individual music tastes as a Venn diagram so it has been inspiring sharing stuff with each other over the years and seeing what music we both connect with. Those experiences back in 2017, 2018, 2019 really changed the way I think when it comes to music, DJing, production, etc.
I used this mix as an opportunity to squeeze in some of that music from those years in Los Angeles that we are both very nostalgic for. It brings me right back to those times by the pool, when Leaving Laurel was slowly starting to materialize and our lives were much more simple. For example, Brian Eno’s Another Green World: I had listened to tons of Eno’s music before but I hadn’t heard that album until Gordon played it for me and it will forever be one of the most interesting albums in my record collection so I decided to include a few songs from it in this mix. Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works is another great example. It’s an album that has inspired an entire generation of artists and I had never heard it until Gordon showed it to me. I knew of a lot of Aphex Twin’s catalog but a lot of it wasn’t really for me. That album though is exactly the emotional tone and feeling I look for when I’m digging for new music. It was like being struck by a bolt of lightning hearing it for the first time and realizing how much of my favorite contemporary electronic music has been so deeply inspired by that album. It also very clearly sits in the middle of that Venn diagram of our individual music tastes.
06. What’s next on your horizon?
Griff: We’ve got a couple of shows coming up: a festival in Albania called Anjunadeep Explorations in early June and Anjunadeep’s Open Air event at the Brooklyn Mirage in early July. Other than that, I’m just spending time with family and friends, staying creative and enjoying the warmer weather!
Gordon: Outside of my dabbling in the craft beer world, I’m very much in that discovery phase of what music comes next for me. I’ve been rearranging my guitar pedals, synths, and Elektron boxes into new combinations pretty much weekly, looking for new inspirations. But I’m not working too hard: in Canada when the weather starts to get nice, we tend to all emerge from our homes to spend as much time outside as we can. So apart from musical experimentations, I’m looking forward to appreciating the rare northern sunshine, the travel we’re about to do together, and spending time with friends this summer!
XLR8R Subscribers can download the podcast below. If you’re not an XLR8R subscriber, you can read more about it and subscribe here.
01. Brian Eno “Zawinul/Lava” (Island Records)
02. Suso Sáis & Suzanne Kraft “On Plateau” (Music From Memory)
03. Lord Of The Isles “Poly Ballad” (Lapsus Records)
04. Sean La’Brooy “It Might Rain” (Analogue Attic Recordings)
05. Andrea “Hazymo” (Ilian Tape)
06. Fantastic Man “Forbidden Fiction” (Mule Musiq)
07. Alex Albrecht “The Blacksmith” (Analogue Attic Recordings)
08. Joy Orbison “froth sipping” (XL Recordings)
09. Glances “Sun Dapple” (Wisdom Teeth)
10. Aphex Twin “Xtal” (Apollo Records)
11. Tecwaa “Bania” (Höga Nord Records)
12. Martinou “In time we’ll know” (Nous’klaer Audio)
13. Dewemer “Long Low Edmund” (Nous’klaer Audio)
14. Molly “Si Seulement” (Giegling)
15. Gonno & Nick Höppner “Bangalore” (Ostgut Ton)
16. queniv “Redesign” (De Lichting)
17. Sanguine “Hell For Bees” (Self-released)
18. Axel Boman “Eyes Of My Mind” (Studio Barnhus)
19. Leaving Laurel “this time last year” (Anjunadeep)
20. Eno & Hyde “Lilac” (Warp)
21. Svaneborg Kardyb “Farvel” (Gondwana Records)
22. Quiet Village “Pillow Talk” (Whatever We Want Records)
23. Aphex Twin “I” (Apollo Records)
24. Brian Eno “The Big Ship” (Island Records)