The quiet one

Bedroom recorder turned performer Thomas/Richard drops a new recording this week. Shannon Webb-Campbell stops in for a listen.

photo Darryl James

“I’m growing a bit concerned as I’m still waiting for the records to arrive from Nashville,” says Richard Lann, over a bottle of pulp-free orange juice at Uncommon Grounds. “I wish that they were being made over in Dartmouth so I could just pick them up.”

While these wrinkly details are being ironed out, Lann has been mucking around with Aaron Wallace, founder of Sleepless Recordings, on drums and Matt MacDonald on bass as Thomas/Richard, who with the Sleepless Nights will celebrate their drowsy 7-inch split release with Jon Samuel at Gus’ Pub on January 26.

In between yawns, they’ve all been creating music and running a label out of their apartments.

“We don’t have an office or any money,” says Lann. “We’re not your ‘traditional label,’ we’re one of those collective/groups of friends/supporters of each other. We don’t have set jobs or titles per se, although the bulk of the label-type work is handled by either Aaron Wallace or myself. Basically we started as a vehicle for Aaron to release material by The Sleepless Nights and shortly thereafter, for myself to release my solo material, followed by Benn Ross, Share and so forth.”

At the ripe old age of 23, Lann should add a few notches to his belt—he began networking while still living in New Glasgow by trekking into town and snapping shots at local shows. Once the rumours surfaced that this shutterbug also played music, he was asked to open for Wintersleep for their gig at the North End Recreation Centre in 2004. Since then he has shared the stage with Jill Barber, Xiu Xiu, Brian Borcherdt, Folds of Policy, Contrived and more.

“I never intended for anyone to ever really hear these songs I wrote,” he says. “I’m pretty shy and quiet. I don’t even consider myself a very good guitar player or singer.”

Thomas/Richard draws on the intimacy of Hayden’s bedroom recordings and combines them with the vulnerability and frailty of Elliot Smith. His hushed melodies are slow-fi lullabies, with the occasional muted lyric layered over a few chords.

“Most of my songs don’t have very many lyrics,” he says. “This is due to my terrible memory. I can’t even remember how to play some of the songs from I Just Wanted To Be Sure Of You. That’s why most of my lyrics are basically the title of the track repeated over and over. I suppose it makes for good improvisation, as the songs end up being rewritten and revised because of this.”

In contrast to his shy demeanor, Lann finds performing to be the most enjoyable part of the music-making process.

“I don’t know why but I find it easier to be in a room performing with a lot of people around,” he says. “Instead of something more intimate, like a few people sitting around a bedroom or something. I guess there’s less pressure. If I get nervous onstage I usually start telling bad jokes.”

Like most wallflowers, Lann finds inspiration in simple occurrences. “One night we were up until three o’clock in the morning and that’s when I wrote “Lemonade Safari,”” he says. “My girlfriend and I were drinking lemonade, she was reading a magazine with a flashlight and that’s basically what the song is about. My next EP is going to be about my pets. I have a two fish, a hamster and a puppy named Macksy.”

His pseudonym pays homage to his childhood—he was born Thomas Richard Calvin Lann. He was known as Thomas until age five. “People will see photographs of me as a kid wearing a name tag that reads Thomas,” he says. “They usually think I have a brother but it’s me. My grandmother still calls me Thomas-Richard so the name is sort of in honour of that.”

Thomas/Richard w/The Sleepless Nights and Jon Samuel, January 26 at Gus’ Pub, 2605 Agricola, 10pm, 423-7786

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