Ray LaMontagne is perfectly content being an outsider from the world of popular music, living in a 19th-century farmhouse in the Berkshires, driving old cars and spending his days laboring away on his ethereal music. So LaMontagne had no hesitation about releasing the noncommercial Ouroboros, a winding collection with echoes of Pink Floyd, consisting of two 20-minute tracks as a way of recreating the vinyl experience. “They had a hard time getting it at first,” he says of his label. “All I can do really is just hope that the real music heads out there will get it. This is a record made for them.”
The album was produced by LaMontagne’s friend Jim James. The band (sans James) — bassist Tom Blankenship, drummer Patrick Hallahan, guitarist Carl Broemel and keyboardist Bo Koster — will join LaMontagne on the road this summer beginning June 10th. “I’m really proud of it,” says James. “One of our favorite records is Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, that kind of feeling where you can just get into the record, and it’s more of a piece. There’s still songs, but it’s all interconnected.” Here, LaMontagne reflects on the process and why he “doesn’t give a flying fuck” what people think.
You’ve said of this record that there was one night when the album “made itself clear” to you.
That’s how I approach writing. I can’t sit down with the intention of writing a song. I’ll only pick up my guitar if something is knocking on the door. Once the melodies have sort of been bothering me for a time, then I pick up my guitar and try to find them. But only if they want to be found.
You usually take a few years between albums. Ouroboros arrives just two years after Supernova. Did these songs come faster than you expected?
I had just gotten off the road from the Supernova tour, and Jim and I actually talked earlier that year about getting together and doing something. We had set some time aside, and I knew that date was approaching. I just thought, “I’ll make myself available to receive.” It’s hard to explain. I make myself available. I go into my workspace and I just sit. I make myself quiet. If the songs start to appear, I follow them and see what happens. That’s really what I did. I got home and took a couple weeks to just decompress and made myself available.
I spent three or four weeks in a very calm state of mind so that I could hear these things. One night I just couldn’t sleep. I had a horrible night’s sleep — very vivid dreams, very restless. I woke up with a splitting headache. In my dream, everything seemed to make sense. I saw myself doing it: “This goes here, this goes here — it’s like two songs.” I immediately e-mailed Jim and sort of let him know what I was thinking about, and he seemed up for it. I made a demo of what I considered at the time to be two songs, two 22-minute songs or something. And sent them to him. And we were off. He was into it.