To the uninitiated, Curse of Lono might suggest a doomy, goth-rock crossover. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The London band’s new album, People in Cars, reveals something very different.
Lono’s specialty is a deep, ambient, country vibe channeled through vibrant, instant-hit choruses and a richly textured sound. Echo-drenched pedal steel and baritone guitars build in layers under main man Felix Bechtolsheimer’s rich baritone vocals, creating the ideal companion to a late-night desert drive
Right now, Bechtolsheimer is the last man standing from the band that recorded the album; Covid forced the other members to abandon the perilous world of rock ’n’ roll for predictable, regular incomes. “When I recorded the debut Lono album, Severed, in 2017, it was just me and the producer, Oli Bayston, who did pretty much everything,” says an unfazed Bechtolsheimer. “So it’s come full circle.”
The band’s name derives from Hunter S. Thompson’s 1983 book of the same name – and Bechtolsheimer’s life to date wouldn’t seem out of place in one of Thompson’s works. He’s dealt with addiction issues, taken radical experimental cures in Germany – plus a year off in Florida to finally kick the habit.
To top it all off, during the last 12-plus months, deaths of family members and friends have given him a rich vein of source material to draw upon. “Although I’d have settled for less heartache and a more boring album,” Bechtolsheimer says.
Bechtolsheimer’s baritone guitars are a key part of the Lono sound. “I first got interested when I saw a Taylor acoustic baritone in a music shop, tried it and instantly fell in love. I’ve got quite a collection now, including a Fender Bajo Sexto, tuned A-A (low to high: A, D, G, C, E, A), a Fender Bass VI, tuned E-E (low to high: E, A, D, G, B, E [octave below standard guitar tuning]) and a G# Richard Fortus signature baritone tuned B–B (low to high: B, E, A, D, F#, B). I run them through an Andy Ross (Rat Valve Amps) hand-rewired Fender Princeton.
"My tech thinks it’s the best guitar amp he’s ever heard. I also used a 1960s Selmer Little Giant five-watt amp and a Supro 1605R five-watt amp for most of the distorted stuff on the record. I always like to have some kind of tremolo effect running, either from an amp or a pedal, as it seems to give my sound a real sense of movement.”
The most upbeat, rocking song on the album, Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride, takes its title from the world of Hunter S. Thompson – and happens to reflect Bechtolsheimer’s philosophy on the rollercoaster ride he’s been through.
He’s already recruited another band for live work and is preparing songs for the next album. “I’ve wanted to make music since I first discovered punk and Pink Floyd. The two may have little in common, but they showed me that there was so much more to say in a song than ‘I love you, baby.’ The power of music is enough to get you through the toughest of times.”