With flourishes of alternative rock, post-punk, metal, emo, and a lineage of influential British bands, LABRAN looks to leave his mark with his debut album ‘Never Let It Show’. Released on October 21st, 2022, the album ends a productive year for the Birmingham singer-songwriter.
Throughout the 2000s and early 2010s, Richard Labran experienced the life of an independent touring musician. The West Midlands native went from appearing on legendary radio DJ John Peel’s ‘Peel Sessions’ with Solway Fifth to opening the first Supersonic Festival in his hometown with Deadsunrising, and later returned to the festival with Formation Flight. While his last band, IONS, released two albums before splitting up in 2014.
Through a combination of the Covid-19 pandemic, boredom, six years of studying, and an ambition to strike out on his own, Richard Labran returned under the simple eponymous moniker of LABRAN. Accompanied by former IONS drummer Andrew Langford, LABRAN sees Richard branching out as a singer-songwriter.
“I guess I just got the itch to write music again, but this time wanted to do things differently, without having to go to loads of rehearsals, band practices and having to coordinate everything else that goes with being in a band,” says Richard. “It is always a pleasure working with Andrew though. He’s a dedicated, reliable, and passionate professional who pays small attention to detail to get his drums right.”
“We want people to enjoy our music and appreciate the diversity of song writing. We want them to come back and listen to future releases.”
About Never Let It Show
Never Let It Show showcases a diverse range of guitar driven compositions. The opening track ‘Host A Ghost’ sees LABRAN serve up a harmonious slice of melodic post-hardcore through an introspective telescope, leaving you mesmerised.
“‘Host A Ghost’ was the catalyst for a new way of writing and recording music and gave me the confidence to continue recording more songs. It was inspired by someone I know who spiralled down after a difficult breakup, they found it hard to form relationships with others and obsessed over the love they’d lost. They became a drifter with little focus. It’s about others like her – people who have had difficult relationships and experiences trying to start again.”
Host a Ghost:
Track two ‘Juno’ features electric guitar driven folk inspired by the tunings of Nick Drake. The song is a romanticised hybrid of Roman/Greek mythology told through NASA’s Juno space shuttles journey to investigate the origin and evolution of Jupiter. The song’s lyrics are carefully crafted and bring a level of intellectualism that begins to set the tone for the remainder of the album. Then comes ‘Rare and True’, a song which has some beautiful chord progressions and interweaving delay driven guitars that capture the imagination and let you know that this is an alternative guitar players album.
‘If I Can’t Stop by Now’ introduces synth to the album and is another well-crafted song that delivers the groceries at 165BPM and quite literally showcases spellbinding lyrical construction. The song is told through the perspective of death referring to serial killers, death rituals, witchcraft, and the finite nature of our solar system.
‘When You Are Not Around’ weaves together intricate, rhythmic, and dark acoustic, electric, and bass guitar accompanied by a faultless drumming performance that really grabs listeners attention.
“I really found my feet when writing ‘When You Are Not Around’, the track is one of thirteen songs that I decided to record at home, and I’d started to feel more confident in the delivery of my vocals and the recording process. The same could be said for Andy who had nailed and got to grips with recording on an electric drumkit by this point. The track is basically about unrequited love, rejection, and the realisation that feelings can be entirely our own experience. There are so many great works of fiction in this area, and I wanted to try and create a song that captured the same type of mood.”
When You Are Not Around:
There are tracks on the album which strike political notes: ‘Having just finished spending six years studying the social sciences, national and international politics, and economics, lockdown came at a time I’d been reflecting on my own country and the wider world. ‘Find Your Own Way Back’ is a song that deals with my own thoughts of the Tory party and Brexit. I couldn’t help but feel a lot of damage had been done both to the mindset of what was once a tolerable and proud society, and to the international system because of Brexit Whereas ‘What Has Become of Man’ was inspired by a documentary made by a famous former resident of my hometown Joe Lycett. It deals with the influence of the fossil fuel industries on the international system, national crisis, and warfare.
What Has Become of Man:
Then there are the tracks ‘Eyes on The Road’, ‘Lost Not Found’ and ‘Never Let It Show’, all of which deal with topics like abuse, PTSD, ill mental health, suicide, and the difficulties of trying to cope and get by in contemporary society. For example, Eyes on The Road’ sees LABRAN provide a thought-provoking take on being dependent on Antidepressants, highlighting a yearning to escape.
“‘Eyes On The Road’ is about societal pressures to conform to a certain way of being and the impact on our mental health,” he explains. “It’s about labelling people who do not conform or diagnosing them when they behave differently i.e., ADHD. In many ways, it’s about the need for escapism from negative life experiences and societal pressures.”
Eyes on The Road:
The final and title track of the album ‘Never Let It Show’ has an eerie feel to it which LABRAN describes as having been told through the perspective of artificial intelligence in a post-apocalyptic future.
“Never Let It Show is about AI reflecting on modern humans, how they shaped and experienced the world and how the AI feels having processed this information and replaced human undertakings in economic activity”.
What’s clever about the track Never Let it Show is the robotic like synth loop underpinning it and how this all comes together and is captured in the albums concept artwork designed by Richard Labrans’ friend stoo_cgi.
Never Let It Show is an impressive debut album inspired by multiple influences and genres such as alternative rock, post-punk, post-rock, brit-pop, and metal. What’s certain is LABRAN can’t be accused of trying to replicate the sounds of other bands or accused of being genre specific and perhaps this will mean the album struggles to find a space in any given scene. Regardless, the album certainly has its moments, is well crafted, and it will be interesting to see how LABRAN evolves over the coming years.