Cate Le Bon

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Welsh songwriter Cate Le Bon’s distinctive voice and smart arrangements manifested as a dark, looming take on psychedelic pop over the course of multiple critically acclaimed solo albums, side projects, and production for others. Though earlier albums had hints of a folk influence, her spindly guitar leads often stole the show, tending toward more distorted and demented forms. Released in 2013, Mug Museum came after a move to Los Angeles and boasted some of Le Bon’s clearest, most engaging songcraft as well as a guest appearance from Perfume Genius. Along with her active solo career (2016′s Crab Day, 2019′s Reward, 2022′s Pompeii), Le Bon has collaborated with fellow warped pop purveyor Tim Presley in a side project called DRINKS as well as taking a producer role for indie royalty like Eleanor Friedberger and Deerhunter.
Cate Le Bon grew up in Carmarthenshire, a rural town in West Wales. In 2007, she opened for Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys, with whom she occasionally collaborated, during a tour of the U.K. That same year, she self-released her first single, “No One Can Drag Me Down”/“Disappear,” and recorded an album, Pet Deaths, which was shelved. Edrych yn Llygaid Ceffyl Benthyg, a Welsh-language EP, was issued on Peski in 2008, the same year she contributed vocals to “I Lust U,” a song from Rhys and Bryan Hollon’s Neon Neon album Stainless Style. Me Oh My, Le Bon’s first properly released full-length, came out on Rhys’ Irony Bored label in 2009 and was hotly tipped by Uncut magazine. Her sophomore release, Cyrk, which paired the spooky, folk-tinged timbre of Nico with the experimental, Nuggets-meets-Krautrock attack of Os Mutantes and Faust, arrived in early 2012.
In 2013, Le Bon’s well-received third album, Mug Museum, saw her relocating to Los Angeles, and featured a guest appearance from Perfume Genius on the track “I Think I Knew.” Her move to the States coincided with an uptick in more high-profile collaborations. Not long after her move, Le Bon contributed to new recordings by Kevin Morby, Manic Street Preachers, and Willis Earl Beal as well as forming the new group DRINKS with White Fence mastermind Tim Presley. DRINKS released their debut, Hermits on Holiday, in 2015. Le Bon’s fourth album, Crab Day, arrived in early 2016, and she took a five-piece band on an extensive tour in support of the record. A four-song EP, Rock Pool, followed the next year, and in April 2018, the second DRINKS album, Hippo Lite, arrived.
Along with steady recording of her own work, Le Bon continued collaboration and production work, acting as producer for solo music from Alex Dingley, H. Hawkline, and Josiah Steinbrick, remixing Eleanor Friedberger’s 2018 track “Are We Good?,” and working extensively with Deerhunter on their seventh studio album, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?, released in January 2019. A new volume of Le Bon’s solo music followed not far behind with fifth album Reward, released in May 2019. The LP was recorded with a cast of familiar collaborators, including drummer Stella Mozgawa from Warpaint and guitarists Josh Klinghoffer and Huw Evans. The record marked a turn toward more personal subject matter than Le Bon’s often opaque earlier material. Late that year, a collaborative EP release between Le Bon and Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox was issued as part of Mexican Summer’s Myths series. The wily and experimental Myths 004 was largely recorded by the two artists in Marfa, Texas, when they were there for a festival. In 2021, Le Bon issued the nervy single “Running Away,” the lead track from her sixth solo long-player, Pompeii. The album, made in remote collaboration with some of the players who contributed to Reward (Mozgawa on drums yet again, Stephen Black sending in saxophone parts), took Le Bon’s abstract pop vision to even further out places; it was released in February of 2022. ~ Andy Kellman & Fred Thomas