Solkatt are Leo Pearson and Peter Lawlor, a hardware synth loving duo with a penchant for danceable grooves and subtle string arrangements. Lawlor has previously released house inflected dance music under his Replete alias on labels such as Ele Records, Paper Recordings and Always Human Tapes. Pearson has released music on Howie B’s Pussyfoot Records as part of Inevidence in the 90’s, and over the years has worked on music for the likes of David Holmes and Shit Robot, and more recently has been part of Future Bones. We caught up with Peter recently to find out what’s been happening in his world…
Hi Peter, thanks for catching up with us. Can you kick things off by giving us a bit of background into Solkatt; who’s involved, what you do individually etc?
Solkatt is a project started by myself and Leo Pearson around 5 years ago. All of our music is recorded in Leo’s studio in the Irish countryside on the outskirts of Kilkenny. There’s no set role for each of us when making music. But, since I moved away it’s been a lot more sporadic and a case of grabbing a day here and there to get some ideas done. Leo has been tasked with actually making sense of all of these different ideas and turning them into finished tracks. Which is pretty much how our forthcoming Gold Seal EP was made.
And how did you first meet Leo? Was it because of a mutual appreciation for music? And when was the idea to become a duo first discussed?
I had just moved back to Kilkenny after living in Cork and Dublin for the previous couple of years and a mutual friend recommended that we meet up as he knew we were into the same things. We knew each other before that, but were more acquaintances. We immediately had a project to work on for RedBull Ireland, with their Soundome project for Electric Picnic. Myself and Leo composed all the music to be played on this 48-speaker geodesic dome that was to premiere at Electric Picnic that year. After that, we decided to start Solkatt and turn this music into something a bit more resembling songs.
Do you have a preference for working as a duo or individually? Do you have to compromise more when working with Leo? Or do you generally find a middle ground fairly easily?
We definitely manage to find a middle ground pretty easily. We’re both quite open to each other’s tastes and preferences and realise the point of doing this is not to just make the type of music we’d end up making if we were doing it on our own. Put simply, we make decisions and arrive at places that we wouldn’t do so had the other person not been in the room, and that’s the whole point of Solkatt as a project. Leo, in recent years, has been doing soundtrack work, whereas I would be coming more from the dance music side of things. So we try and combine the two in a way that works both as a live act, but also in a way that Djs can play the tunes out also. It’s tricky, but we’re definitely improving in finding a balance between the two.
You moved to Glasgow a while back. Can you tell us a bit about life over there? How does it compare to life in Ireland?
I love Glasgow. It’s a brilliant city with lots happening in relation to music and the arts in general. It’s also a very liveable city, when it comes to the cost of living. I’ve been here nearly three years now at this stage and feel like I’m only really starting to experience the real Glasgow as much of my time here was during Covid. It’s a very unpretentious city, which is something I really love about it. I could genuinely wax lyrical about Glasgow all day. Love it.
Is Glasgow a city that’s generally accommodating for musicians do you think? Do you see that changing in future?
From my experience, yes. It has such an amazing history when it comes to music and dance music especially. The fact that there are so many Irish artists and musicians moving to Glasgow just shows how accommodating it is. There’s an outlet for whatever you’re into if you look hard enough. As far as changing, the only thing I could see that could impact this would be if the cost of living dramatically rises over here. As at the moment, you can pay rent, go the gigs and you don’t have to work for Google or Facebook to be able to do that.
Musically, can you talk us through some of your favourite moments in the city so far?
Well as I said, much of my time over here has been during covid, so it’s only since things have relaxed that I’ve been able to go out and experience what the city has to offer. From the top of my head, seeing Optimo kick off their new residency in the Berkeley Suite was great. It was a surreal experience as it was my first night back clubbing. The Berkeley Suite kind of bookmarked covid for me, as seeing Prins Thomas in there was the last gig before Covid. So to go back there first, and seeing Optimo was brilliant. I also got to see For Those I Love on his first live tour. His album was an album I spent a lot of time listening to over covid also. The last thing that really stands out is getting to go to Sub Club for the first time to see Harri & Domenic and finally getting to meet Domenic after he signed my solo music for his label.
Aside from Solkatt, you’ve also been busy with your Moot Tapes label. Can you tell us a bit about the idea behind the label and how it’s going etc?
It’s a label I started with my friend Steve. He does all the artwork and I organise the music side of things. It’s a really fun project with zero expectations or pressure. We mostly release non-dance music related stuff on there. It was a project that I started to indulge my tastes beyond dance music. So we release quite a wide range of stuff. From ambient electronic, motoric krautrock, folk, field recordings etc etc. We’ve recently moved away from releasing tapes and have started releasing limited 7inch records for our Signs of Life series.
You’re also about to release on iconic house label, Seventh Sign, and really seem to be finding some momentum of late. Can you tell us about that one and how it came to be?
Yes. I’m really excited to be releasing on such a legendary label. After my last Polytunnel EP I just sent on a batch of demos to Graham and he was really into them. This would have been around September 2019. So just as I moved over to Glasgow. It’s taken quite a while to come out but I really couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out. To be alongside some of my favourite producers like John Beltran, Terrence Parker, Carl Finlow, Dan Curtin, Marcellus Pittman etc. is a level I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to get to. To have the seal of approval from the likes of Graham and Domenic from Seventh Sign is something really special for me.
How did you spend much of the pandemic? Did you find it a creative or frustrating time as a musician?
Both. I had finished up my post-grad and had been working full-time throughout the pandemic as I’m a primary teacher. Like a lot of people experienced, there were some unbelievably grim times throughout the two years. At the same time, I got an awful lot of music made and signed during this time also. So it certainly wasn’t a waste, but I’m looking forward to playing more gigs regularly now and just releasing a lot of music.
The latest record, Gold Seal, brilliantly showcases your diversity. Is this something you set out to do?
It’s not really a premediated thing from myself or Leo. I just think that both of us have such broad taste that this diversity naturally shows up on our releases. We did set a goal of doing a set of releases that reference back to the heyday of rave culture, but at the same time we naturally end up twisting this to fit with our own sound.
Indeed, you’re known for your eclecticism, and although it’s a damn-near impossible Q to answer, how would you best describe your sound?
I think for Solkatt our sound is definitely based around the idea of having quite big sounding tracks that we know will work really well in a live context. We look to create moments in our tracks that are going to be big moments in live sets and more importantly keep people dancing. We’ve been lucky enough to play some interesting live shows and it’s great to see the tunes translate well in this regard.
Can you talk us through some other upcoming Irish acts we should be watching out for?
Eamon Ivri is a really interesting musician who I’ve released on Moot Tapes, but he also makes music under his Lighght alias. Great on Twitter also.
Rob Mirolo makes amazing music as SSMMÜTT and is a brilliant illustrator.
Belacqua makes bonkers but amazing tunes
Elizabeth Rooney is a great dj who plays under Eliza, and has impeccable taste when it comes to techno and electro.
Finally, please talk us through five pieces of music, art or literature that you found yourself returning to over the course of the past two years.
The comics of Stephen Morton. Ireland’s greatest living artist. His comics are sad, funny and related to the experience of trying to live in a society that doesn’t value art or artists.
Irish director Paul Duane’s documentary, Best Before Death, following The KLF’s Bill Drummond around is a brilliant watch and something I discovered during lockdown.
This is a very recent one, but I can’t stop listening to Job Jobse’s essential mix. It’s just a perfect example of when a really technically skilled dj also has perfect track selection.
Nala Sinephro’s debut album for Warp, Space 1.8. It’s straddles the ambient electronic and jazz worlds in a way I just haven’t heard before. It’s a perfect record. The work of Harry Clarke. He was an Irish illustrator and stained-glass artist. I wasn’t aware of his work until relatively recently and to my very uneducated eye, I found his style very contemporary in a way that surprised me as he was doing it 100 years ago.
Solkatt’s Gold Seal is out now. Check out the release here.