Neko Case, k.d. lang And Laura Veirs On The Art Of Working Together For the three singers, collaborating on the new album case/lang/veirs brought surprises, slip-ups and, finally, satisfaction.

Neko Case, k.d. lang And Laura Veirs On The Art Of Working Together

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ATOMIC NUMBER")

CASE/LANG/VEIRS: (Singing) I'm not the freckled man, I'm not the fair-haired girl, I'm not a pail of milk for you to spoil.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

That is the opening track off the new album called "case/lang/veirs." It is put together by k.d. lang, Neko Case and Laure Veirs. And they join me now from the studios of Oregon Public Broadcasting. Thanks so much for being with us.

K.D. LANG: Hello.

LAURA VEIRS: Hello.

NEKO CASE: Hello.

MARTIN: Hi, welcome to everyone. So we're listening to a song called "Atomic Number." As I said, this is the opening track on the album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ATOMIC NUMBER")

CASE/LANG/VEIRS: (Singing) Latin words across my heart, symbols of infinity, elements so pure - atomic number.

MARTIN: It's clear that the three of you have some musical chemistry. Your voices sound pretty darn good. So who gets the credit for recognizing that that would be a good collaboration to make happen? Was it one of you or...

VEIRS: K.d.

MARTIN: Oh, it was k.d.

LANG: It was just a guess.

(LAUGHTER)

LANG: It was a guess. No, it was truly instinctual. I didn't really know but I did feel like there was enough differences and enough similarities that it would blend together to create something unique and comfortable and yet unique.

MARTIN: And this wasn't just come play my music with me. You wanted to write songs with these two other artists.

LANG: I wanted them to write the songs so I could sing their great lyrics.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: What did that look like in practice when the three of you first got in a room?

VEIRS: So k.d. and I wrote - this is Laura - k.d. and I wrote for a while together 'cause Neko was on tour. We would meet every week for a month here and there - 'cause we both live in Portland - and just sit down. Sometimes we'd start from scratch. Sometimes we'd have nothing, and we'd go on a walk and - oh, there's a fireworks stand. And there's a firework called Delirium. That's a cool song title. Let's call our next song "Delirium."

And then we would make these sketches that, by the time Neko joined us, were able to be fleshed out by her. And so she would add a brilliant bridge, like, right on the spot. And in the case of "Delirium," that song, she really made it her own and then ended up singing that one on the record.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DELIRIUM")

CASE: (Singing) The smell upon your skin is fireworks. Delirium, delirium, kaleidoscoping in.

MARTIN: Neko, when you first started this collaboration, what were you nervous about?

CASE: I worried if I was in a league with these two because I'm a lot more slapdash than they are, in a way.

MARTIN: Tell me more about what that means to you.

CASE: Gosh, I don't really know. I definitely had a lot of guilt because I wasn't able to come in right off the bat. My role was essentially parasitic.

(LAUGHTER)

CASE: I would lamprey onto their whale shark, and I would get my nutrients. But then, sometimes, I would also act as a pollinator and, you know, I was kind of like a bee. I would come in and pollinate things and then fly off again.

MARTIN: What kind of compromises have to happen when you do a collaboration like this? Because of each you are musicians in your own right. You front bands. You have independent careers.

LANG: Basically, what we're all alpha humans who have our own careers and our own, you know, bands. And those bands are our jobs. And, you know, we're used to having absolute veto power. So when you come in and you agree to be part of a democratic process of no, that's not working right there, you know, you're going to feel the cuts. But they're going to heal a lot faster than you think they are.

MARTIN: Was there a song that didn't live up to expectation when you got into the studio?

VEIRS: Well, there was one that k.d. changed at the end...

MARTIN: This is Laura, right?

VEIRS: Yeah - called "Why Do We Fight".

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHY DO WE FIGHT?")

CASE/LANG/VEIRS: (Singing) Let's face up to the fan and face down on the mat. Won't solve this or anybody else's fight.

VEIRS: She took out a lyric that I felt was too pat. And it leaves the song more open and mysterious without it. So there were some editorial changes that happened at the end and that really each song kind of was really lifted by. For example, (singing) ba-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da (ph) is this line that they came up with for "Silverlake" - the song "Best Kept Secret in Silverlake."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEST KEPT SECRET")

CASE/LANG/VEIRS: (Singing) You can really play. Ba-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da. You're the real thing. Your heart's in the right place.

VEIRS: That just lifts that to this more transcendent place. And those are the kinds of things that those guys came up with and myself, too, in the moment in the studio. It was just really fun to see them emerge and be these hooks and these tricks that make - that really allowed each song to live 'cause each one was on the chopping block.

LANG: It's true. There were a lot of chopping blocks.

MARTIN: I want to play another song on here. This one is a k.d. song. This is called "Blue Fires."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLUE FIRES")

CASE/LANG/VEIRS: (Singing) Why does the autumn flame burn blue? Why do January cherries bloom? Why do blue fires burn in me, yet not in you?

MARTIN: Is it always different, I suppose, every time you try to create that kind of texture with other people, especially people you haven't made music with in the past? Is it always the same kind of thrill when you realize - oh, yeah, I was right - that harmony's going to work?

LANG: It's always, always a thrill to make music with people. To - collaboration is one of the finest, finest gifts of artistry. But I think what's very interesting about this is that I trust them as people. I trust their souls. I trust their moral compasses. And, to me, that's what makes this a particularly strong collaboration.

MARTIN: So you had a hunch about something bigger than just the sound of your voices and what they would create in the studio. You just - you knew who these women were. If you didn't know them personally, you suspected that the three of you would have a deeper kind of connection.

CASE: I did. And because I'm fans of both of their music - so knowing that - how they made me feel, I'm just trying to, you know, steal some of their sunshine. That's all.

(LAUGHTER)

VEIRS: That goes all around.

CASE: It's true. Plus, we all have really terrible senses of humor. And there's a great deal of high school grab [expletive] and a lot of belly laughing. So that doesn't hurt either. Like, it's definitely very fun.

VEIRS: Neko actually grabbed my [expletive] today.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

LANG: Well, she didn't grab mine. And I'm hurt about that.

CASE: No, no. It's not the same if you know it's going to happen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANT TO BE HERE")

CASE/LANG/VEIRS: (Singing) I just want, I want to be here with you, not bracing for what comes next.

MARTIN: K.d. lang, Neko Case, Laura Veirs. They joined us from the studios of OPB in Portland. Ladies, it has been a pleasure. Thanks so much.

LANG: Thanks for your time.

CASE: Indeed, thank you.

VEIRS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANT TO BE HERE")

CASE/LANG/VEIRS: (Singing_) It hasn't found me yet. My friend is an artist who doesn't fit in. Lost her front tooth, can't keep a job. But the things you make are so...

MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

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