Lavelle possesses a talent that encompasses more than one job title. At once a producer, DJ, businessman, art enthusiast and fashion aesthete, the prolific 34-year-old is the mastermind behind the widely acclaimed musical supergroup, UNKLE, whose latest incarnation includes Lavelle, his brother Aidan Lavelle and Pablo Clements of the Psychonauts.
In recent years, UNKLE has moved past its beginnings in tangential hip-hop and electronic formats, moving into compositions inspired heavily by the visual artistry of film and video. Their latest endeavor, End Titles… Stories for Film, is a collection of shelved soundtrack music composed by UNKLE over the past few years. It was released last month by Lavelle’s own independent label and studio, Surrender All.
“It’s not really to be seen as our new record in the same way that War Stories or something like that would be,” he says. “For a new album, it’s not a load of new work. It’s a compilation, a collection of older work, predominantly, and a few new bits and pieces.”
Being a largely collaboration-based project, it seems only natural that filmmakers would comprise the next installment of UNKLE’s portfolio of well-formed audio-visual partnerships.
Much of the material consists of music that was composed for Spike Jonze’s skate film Fully Flared, as well as Odyssey in Rome, Alex Grazioli’s documentary about notorious filmmaker Abel Ferrara. Ferrara himself sings grittily on “Open Up Your Eyes,” an acoustic number that was used for the ending credits of the film they did with him.
The entire collection of 22 songs was recorded and compiled in five weeks, a timeframe that Lavelle describes as “intense.”
“It was a sort of mash of ideas constantly happening all the time. But it was good, and we were focused because we knew we had a deadline,” he remarks. “It’s taken so long to make and finish records—I wanted to try something different this time.”
With an ever-revolving line-up, UNKLE has reinvented itself several times over the past 15 years. Never adhering to a clear-cut genre, End Titles pieces together the rawness of rock and electronic beats with lush, classical scores. Chris Goss and Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age and Gavin Clark of Clayhill provided vocals on most of the songs, with significant contributions from Black Mountain and James Petralli from White Denim.
Though made of disparate musical forms and various soundtracks, the result is a dark and tumultuous collection of songs with a beginning, middle and end that lends it the cohesion of a concept-based album.
Lavelle does point out the difference, though, between making an album versus a soundtrack.
“You’re recording against it [the film], so the emotion is already there – a lot of it was reacting to what we were already given.”
Carrying the project one step further, Lavelle reveals that they have just finished recording an entirely classical version of End Titles, sans beats with only instrumental orchestration. It will be a limited edition release, available only through UNKLE’s Web site.
Though there aren’t any more film projects currently in the pipeline, Lavelle is hard at work putting together a new UNKLE album. Meanwhile, he is touring North America as a DJ and will be appearing at Monster Massive at the Los Angeles Sports Arena Oct. 25.
End Titles… Stories for Film is currently available. For more information, visit monstermassive.com and unkle.com.