Quenching the thirst with Lime Cordiale: "It still feels like we’re a small band."
Since their #1 album, the Leimbach brothers have been busy winning ARIAs, planning a festival, and collaborating with Idris Elba.
Debuting in 2011, ARIA award winning pop rock group Lime Cordiale have gone from strength to strength, writing infectious indie-rock tracks that have taken the nation by storm. The masterminds behind the group are Sydney based brothers Oli and Louis Leimbach, who struck gold with 2020’s 14 Steps To A Better You, an album which features songs Money, Inappropriate Behavior, and platinum single Robbery. The release peaked at #1 in the Australian Album ARIA charts and took out the top album at the 2020 J Awards, warranting the Relapse deluxe edition.
Whilst putting together the reissue, the Leimbach brothers sought after a featured artist for the track Unnecessary Things. Being a fan of actor, musician, DJ and record label boss Idris Elba, regularly blasting his track Boasty as a pre-show hype up, it seemed appropriate to reach out to the Luther star, Naturally.
“Dancehall somehow became our hype music just before we came on stage” expresses Louis Leimbach. The feeling was reciprocated once Elba discovered the outfit's knack for delightful melodies, quoting that “I listened to them on Spotify, fell in love with them very quickly.”
The collaboration went so well that it didn’t just stop at the one track, the Lime Cordiale brothers, Elba, and producer/ co-writer David Haddad returning to the studio in Sydney to write and record a mini-album whilst the movie star was in town filming. The release titled Cordi Elba is an amalgamation of songwriting, style, and sounds between the three musicians, consisting of six tracks and lots of fun moments.
“We wrote everything together,” Oli says. “We were all writing lyrics – it wasn't our music or his music, it was smack bang down the middle with every lyric.”
“I wanted to collaborate,” Elba adds. “We agreed about the vibe and the song was there. They were really open to ideas; it was an opportunity for me to write songs I normally wouldn’t write. Ultimately, this is a step into a new universe musically for me.”
And musically, the union has produced a unique sound that differs from both artists previous releases. It maintains elements of the warm and inviting instrumentation signature to Lime Cordiale, that so many Australians have grown to love, mixed in with some snappy lo-fi tracks, tracks like Holey Moley and Meant To Be A Holiday showcasing more of Elba's house and dub DJ influence shining through. The singles Apple Crumble, a pop-ier playful track, and rock-driven track What’s Not To Like - referencing Elba’s character in Luther dropping late last year - giving listeners a very small taste of what is to come.
With the release of Codi Elba last week, followed by a huge run of dates around the country in addition to their signature festival The Squeeze, you can expect to hear a lot more of the Leimbach brothers this year. While you wait for the tour featuring the likes of Thelma Plum, Client Liaison, The Vanns (and potentially Idris Elba in person or hologram form), listen to the mini-album, and catch up on all things Lime Cordiale below as we chat with Oli and Louis Leimbach.
14 Steps To A Better You was a huge release for you two, how has the success of the album influenced what you’ve done next?
It put a lot of pressure on, our albums have kind of grown in. Our first album, Permanent Vacation felt like we released that album and not much happened. And then it was like we did a lot of touring, and people sort of caught on to us, and Spotify was really great because we had a lot of artists that we were related to in a related section. We were starting to do good things as well, and so it was at its most successful point a year later when we were touring and stuff. I guess 14 Steps To A Better You was different in a way, because we pushed it real hard. We released that and then it went to number one and that was unusual for us.
It was also released in COVID time as well, right in the middle of COVID. We had it ready and were sort of holding it back for a while, kinda due to COVID and a few other things. But we just couldn't really wait any longer. Because you never know when it's going to end. Still now you don't know.
Do you think that because it was COVID conditions, it meant that people were listening to the album more?
Yeah, a lot of people moved their albums because they were scared of releasing an album when they couldn't tour around it and be promoting it at shows. So I think it kind of cleared a way for our album release and we were suddenly releasing an album to a pretty hungry audience, that suddenly had job keeper come in and everyone had money, and they weren't even working so were buying our album and things like that. So yeah, it was quite nice in that way, but it doesn't feel like we've been able to witness people knowing this album. We haven't even done the album tour yet. That's not until April. So it's stuff like at the ARIAs and when we bump into people and they say “we’ve been listening to the album” and then you win an award. It still feels like no one even knows it. Feels like we’re a small band.
Congratulations on winning an ARIA award for the Best Australian Live act at the 2021 ARIA awards, how did that feel considering how live music has been impacted over the past couple years?
I think we got a jump on it a little bit. It felt like a sympathy award (laughter). No, we pushed the live shows real hard, we were doing live shows as soon as restrictions eased for like a tiny little period. We would go out and tour with restricted shows, I think we probably did do more shows than most bands. I think we did forty of those sit-down with eighty people in a month, or less. It was so intense. Playing shows to eighty people, then when we played shows for three hundred it seemed like a big crowd all of a sudden, then we’d do a festival to three thousand (people) and it felt like we were a small band again, building up from nothing again. It was pretty interesting.
We weren't expecting it, everyone always says that “we weren't expecting this award” but for us, we were genuinely not expecting this award. I think we even said to our manager “should we get a speech prepared?” and immediately he was like “you won't win it”. Because there were just so many people in that category, and a lot of those artists on major labels win those awards. So it was a pleasant surprise. I was getting a few canapes, a few cheeses on crackers pretty much just before they were announcing the award, because I just wasn't expecting to have to walk up there. Bit of olive in the tooth while doing a speech.
Codi Elba is the next release for you two. How did you go about reaching out to Idris Elba to feature on Unnecessary Things?
We had a song for Unnecessary Things that we were looking for someone to feature on for quite a while. About six months we were hoping to get someone to jump on it. We were looking overseas, we were looking at a French artist that we were interested in; initially, we were looking at Australian artists, we just kind of just wanted to do something different and we told our publisher that. We were looking at people like Arlo Parks as well, who we love and she wasn't available.
And then our publisher who is mates with Irdis from a while back, I think they know each other from London, she used to manage a few bands over there, and Idris was in Australia shooting a George Miller film and heard the track and knew that we were looking out for someone to feature on it and pitched it to us, heard our music and liked it I guess. It is pretty strange because we had been a fan of Idris Elba, had seen all of Luther and we were playing his track Boasty on tour, it was our hype up tune just before walking out on stage, and then we got off that tour and that message came in and we went straight into the studio with him, it was very very strange.
You're a fan of ‘Boasty’ and have said it's a staple pre-show hype song, did you get a chance to jam it with Idris while in the studio?
(laughter) we did crank it one time, backstage before he jumped on stage with us at The Enmore. You put it on and then it’s like, that's a bit embarrassing I shouldn't have put this on.
You’ve mentioned previously that your songwriting is a collaborative process between Oli + Louis and your producer David/Dave, how was adapting to another person being involved in the process?
Dave started out as just our producer, we didn't do any songwriting with him and then on 14 Steps, there are a few songs that we wrote, well I think it's actually only on the relapse we started writing with him. He wrote Reality Check Please with us, and a few songs like that, and we just kind of liked that process of being able to work the production things from the very start. So it's different working with Dave than just working by ourselves. We like doing things with different processes.
Sometimes we get a killer song with Louis on a lonely night, just writing a song by himself. He'll get something different from me by myself. And then when we're together, we write something different. And then when we're with Dave, we write a different song again. It's kinda nice just having those different flavours.
We’ve been working with him (Dave) a lot on the next album. But again, it's the same. It's just nice having a few different tastes, and it's pretty much just the three of us when we're recording in the studio 95% of the time. Then we'll bring out drummer James in, Nick and some other horn players in, and Felix on Piano parts that we can't play. But up to there, we just do as much as we can ourselves. It’s quite a nice collaborative process.
How did that process shift bringing Idris into the mix?
Well, that was just the four of us in the studio. I think the fact that we knew we had limited time with Idris because we knew he was going back to London, meant we were just charging through the whole time, trying to get as many tunes out, trying to get his vocals on as many things as possible. We told him don't worry about things like the drums, they sound like crap and we'll just do them later. We kept working on the track when he went back to London and just sent him updates. We've managed to get heaps down in a six week period of him working in between the film he was working on. Stole him away from the film, and took all of his time.
If you had more time with Idris Elba, how do you think the release would have evolved?
Probably would have kept writing songs right?
Yeah, There were a few that didn't make it because we only made it halfway through them. If we kept going and were releasing an album, Cordi Elba would be the band name, and that would have had to be a whole new artist thing because they'd be too much content. The thing about an EP or mini-album, it's just like this little side project, a collaboration. But if you do a lot of music then suddenly it feels like a whole new artist. Which could have been fun, and you know a couple of years down the track we could have done a second album. Maybe we'll do that anyway?
Will you be incorporating many of the Cordi Elba tracks into the Squeeze sets? If so, how will the songs change without Idris Elba being there?
We don’t know yet? We’re trying to work it out. Whether Idris comes back or we put him on a video screen or something behind? Yeah. What do you reckon works? Would you be satisfied if he's up on a video screen? I mean, that'd be kind of sick.
Yeah. It could be pretty cool if you had the technology to have a hologram.
Oh, yeah. I remember watching that Tupac hologram, with Snoop Dogg. Yeah, I was watching it live from Coachella and they never said anything about it. It was pretty weird, I don't know how they do that. I think the family got really nostalgic about it, and didn't really like it because they didn't tell them. He kind of looked like a ghost as well. The ghost of Idris Elba, that would be interesting.
The Squeeze lineup recently dropped, how do you discover new artists to join you? And is it a difficult process?
We had a long list of people that said they were interested in it, so we put the word out that we're looking for artists. Then there were certain people like Thelma Plum, who weren't on that list but we wanted to play, so we asked and we didn't actually think she would say yes, and then was so stoked that she came on board. Then after that, we've got the two of us and asked do you think Client Liaison will join? We kept asking people thinking that they would just turn it down, and then it got to a point where, holy shit we're got a mad lineup, this is cool.
So we are pretty excited about it, there are a lot of dates. It feels like a real festival. Before it felt like a glamorised gig because it was at the Enmore (NSW), the Metro (NSW), and the Forum (VIC), and because it was in venues it was an all-day indoor festival. But now it's proper stuff. Get serious. Could go terribly wrong and we’re just bankrupt in the streets. We’ll see how the tickets go.
Do you think a lot of those artists that you did ask said yes because there hasn't been any live music for such a long time?
I don’t know. I feel like a lot of people are scared to do festivals. We’re lucky we have Michael Chugg who is our manager. He’s a very experienced promoter like the god of all promoters in Australia. He has been so enthusiastic, he's taken this on as his pet baby project. We're just going with that. He’s like “we're gonna do thirteen dates around the country, and it's going to be this size”, and we’re just like yeah, do you think we’re going to pull that off?
So we’ve been pretty lucky that he is just going with our vision on it. We choose the lineup, and we choose how we want the festival to look and feel, and the carbon slice that was added to the ticket, which is $1 per ticket to try offset the carbon footprint of the festival. These were ideas that we presented and ‘Chuggie’ has run with them.
That brings me to my next question, the aim of The Squeeze is to have a huge impact for the industry and a small impact on the environment, can you elaborate a bit more on your partnership with FEAT. Live?
Yeah, I mean, essentially, it's Heidi from Cloud Control, we’ve been following what she’s done for ages, and we wanted to get involved as much as possible. I think it's become cooler and cooler to be talking about the environment. At one point years ago it was like “you’re a greeny nerd” “oh shut up stop talking about the environment”. I feel like when we started that was a thing, and so you had to be like “I don’t want to push it on people”. Now it's like if people have to pay an extra dollar for tickets, they want to be involved in that. We want that message to be put out there from the get go, from the ticket buying point. You know what it's about, and I guess if anyone has a problem with doing that, okay that's cool. You don't need to buy a ticket.
It's $1 and it makes a huge difference. I think everything we do should be thought about environmentally and to offset.
It's been really cool. Heidi's going full steam ahead with helping us out on the whole festival environmentally, we're talking about solar panels at the Bella Vista show (NSW), and things like that. It’ll be next level. It's awesome to be able to try and pave a way, which lots of artists are doing, but not enough. I think it's cool to try and set a standard, this is just how it should be. A dollar a ticket is pretty easy. I think it should be a bit more, like three bucks would make a huge difference, but at the moment a dollar a ticket does make a difference.
What are the main things you have both taken away from making the Codi Elba release?
The process was pretty great. Idris is very good at storytelling, finding a character and just going with that. Just getting lost in the moment and vocal takes, it was a different way of songwriting because we told these strange stories in each of the songs.
Yeah, I guess it gave us a bit of confidence with our music, writing, and having someone that's super successful just in the studio being impressed by us every now and then. It feels cool to have someone of his calibre in the studio, and not feeling too self-conscious about our skillset. I think if you were a fellow actor alongside Idris it would be intimidating. Like our music video (laughter). Yeah. It's like “shit we’re suddenly acting next to Idris Elba”.
Lime Cordiale's collaborative EP with Idris Elba, Cordi Elba, is out now via Chugg Music + 7Wallace Music. Find their forthcoming tour dates below:
Tour Dates (tickets here):
Thursday 7 April | Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth, WA
Friday 8 April | Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth, WA
Tuesday 12 April | Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 20 April | Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, NSW - SOLD OUT
Thursday 21 April | Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, NSW - SOLD OUT
Wednesday 27 April | Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, NSW ** NEW SHOW
Friday 6 May | Riverstage, Brisbane, QLD
The Squeeze Festival Tour Dates (incl. Lime Cordiale, Thelma Plum + more):
Saturday 2 April | Hall Park, Mandurah, WA
Saturday 9 April | Sturt Reserve, Murray Bridge, SA
Sunday 10 April | a day on the green, Peter Lehmann Wines, Barossa, SA
Saturday 16 April | a day on the green, Mt Duneed Estate, Geelong, VIC
Saturday 23 April | Conolly Park, Wagga Wagga, NSW
Sunday 24 April | a day on the green, Heifer Station, Orange, NSW
Saturday 30 April | Bella Vista Farm, The Hills, NSW
Sunday 1 May | Park Beach Reserve, Coffs Harbour, NSW
Saturday 7 May | Sandstone Point Hotel, Sandstone Point, QLD
Sunday 8 May | Kingston Butter Factory, Logan, QLD
Saturday 14 May | Riverway Stadium, Townsville, QLD
Sunday 15 May | Cairns Showground, Cairns, QLD