Describing the exoticism of the Levant and the industrious regality of Germany, the name Lebanon Hanover is immediate in its sensuosity. The duo who comprise the band are about as poetic and mysterious as the students in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, dressed in black and beholden to old literature and goth rock in equal parts.
The name actually comes from a town in New Hampshire in the US, a state known for its rolling greenery and ski resorts. While their music tends to summon such labels as cold wave, gothic and nostalgic, the band’s singer and guitarist Larissa Iceglass feels more at home in the embrace of nature. “For me, lovely humans, nature and music are life savers, taking me into different territories away from the modern and fast times,” she tells us.
Iceglass met her partner-in-music, William Maybelline, over the internet. How very modern. Conversing through music recommender website LastFM, they initially sent each other ’80s YouTube videos, establishing their shared love of music. Eventually Iceglass took the trip to Maybelline’s home in Sunderland in North England and the rest, as they say, is history.
The duo’s music strays from the formulas adopted by many modern musicians. Iceglass tells us, “Rawness is beautiful. I cherish imperfections in all walks of life. Modern music is so synthetic and they use autotune and it’s so digital. My heart beats in an analog, warm, imperfect way.”
As is stated on their Facebook page, “nostalgia is negation, sadness is rebellion.” Their music confirms that their own brand of sadness, which almost feels like disappointment with the present state of world affairs, shakes with a sound that is rebellious, that cuts like a knife through plastic, synthesized pop.
Take for example ‘Gallowdance,’ a 2013 track on which Iceglass sings with such baritone doom that you can feel the energy of the notes vibrating somewhere around your diaphragm. The spareness of early Joy Division tracks, which used bare pizzicato strings and blunt drumbeats, rings out in the background of the track, drawing the listener to consider the emptiness that surrounds the music, the shadows of the song, if you will.
Image via Lebanon Hanover/Bandcamp
“It was the purpose of Lebanon Hanover to create minimal somber music like in the early ’80s,” Iceglass says, “It suits our dark age more than any happy plastic high-pitched pop.”
Part of the impetus for that track came from literature. As Iceglass tells us, “I was obsessed with the word galgen from Christian Morgenstern, which evolved into ‘Gallowdance’ eventually.” The word, which is German for ‘gallows,’ is taken from Morgenstern’s 1905 collection of poems Galgenlieder (Gallows Songs).
To characterize the pair as simply gloomy, gothic intellectuals would be inaccurate, or at least misleading. As they have expressed in previous interviews, they find themselves at home and at ease with fans, expressing themselves through song and photography. They recently even started an Instagram account. That surely means that they embrace certain aspects of modernity, right?
“I am inspired by the countryside wheat fields and vineyards. That gives me more creative nutrition than an overpopulated touristic city,” Iceglass tells us. In that sense, we’re not quite sure how well the duo will adjust to China’s urban sprawl, although we are sure they’ll enjoy the DIY aspects of music here in the Middle Kingdom.
Their label, Fabrika Records, is based in Greece, the home of Pan, the god of the wild, and Arcadia, the same place that Pete Doherty was searching for in the midst of his well-documented battle against himself and his vices.
One aspect of their disagreement with modern life is their consistency when it comes to releasing physical formats. Sure, this is one way that musicians make a buck via their online platforms, but it’s also a heavy investment, usually undertaken by the record label, and it shows their commitment to old, near-obsolete formats.
“We have both collected vinyls for a long time and no other medium can compete with the solid sound of a vinyl. I now own an old car with a ’90s tape deck, so even tapes I listen to quite frequently. It’s nostalgic, but we are living it,” Iceglass says about her fondness for old physical formats.
What does all of this tell us about the band Lebanon Hanover? They are old souls fighting to survive in an increasingly modern society. The intrigue of such a band deciding to leap into China is tantalizing. How will they respond to Shenzhen, that massive concrete city in the South?
Whatever happens, we are sure that they’ll maintain and find a way to work their experience in China into new music. Who knows, perhaps the intention in heading east is to find new inspiration. As Iceglass tells us, their commitment to documenting the world around them is endless.
“We always carry our pens and journals with us, as well as our analog cameras,” she says, before confirming “It’s 24 hours a day, really.”
Beijing: Sep 4, 8.30pm; RMB150 presale, RMB180 door. Omni Space. See event listing. Tickets.
Shanghai: Sep 6, 10pm; RMB150 presale, RMB180 door. Mao Livehouse. See event listing. Tickets.
Shenzhen: Sep 8, 8.30pm; RMB150 presale, RMB180 door. B10 Live. See event listing. Tickets.
[Cover image courtesy of promoter]