Singer-songwriter-cum-actress Lori Campbell talks to us about her new film, Hinterland (read our review here), in which she plays Lola, a twenty-something musician from London who escapes the city with her old friend Harvey (played by writer/director Harry Macqueen – read Harry’s interview here) for a journey of nostalgia, rekindled friendship and suppressed desires.
I did want to ask you first about your music career. What’s your style of music?
(pause) I’d say, that’s a really difficult one. Generally when people ask that I say that you should just see me play, really. Failing that… I’d say it’s sort of folk soul I guess. That’s the easiest way of explaining it. It’s singer-songwriter, acoustic guitar, storytelling music. It’s difficult. That’s a really hard question!
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Biggest, long standing, is someone called Ani Difranco. She’s who really got me going when I was fourteen or fifteen. And since then, Feist probably played quite a major role. But all sorts! Right now, I’m listening to – hold on, I’ve just got a new EP from someone I saw play and it’s amazing – The Night Jar. There you go! “Currently listening to…”
You released a short album last year didn’t you?
Yeah, I made my first EP in August.
Yeah that’s the one. I’m usually solo, so it was a strange choice to do that. But I just felt at the time like I wanted to make something bigger out of my music and get playing with other people, and that worked so…
Two very different things. The writing was done over a long period of time. I write very slowly. Some of the songs are three or four years old and some of them I’d written just days before. Production… I took it on as a personal project and funded it all myself and recorded it with friends. It really was an education, rather than a project where I knew what I was doing. Like, “How do I do this? Help!”
It was a good experience though?
Yeah it really was. It was a very steep learning curve and a really interesting one.
Moving onto Hinterland, I understand that you hadn’t done any acting at all before the film…
That’s what Harry’s saying is it?
He said that it was your first professional acting experience.
Yeah. Well, that’s true. Obviously as a solo performer, I do perform a lot, so that helped with the basics. I’m used to being put on the spot as a live performer and that helped with the improvising aspect of it. I also did study theatre a few years ago, but that basically made me feel like I just wanted to do music so I did quit that quite quickly. So, I’ve been on the stage a bit, but he’s right, I’ve never been on screen.
How was the whole experience of shooting the film?
It was a complete whirlwind! I wasn’t really doing anything at the time. I was kind of wandering, and – it was weird – there was a strange synchronicity to me ending up being in the film because it sort of mirrored what was going on in my life. That was very strange. Harry found me through someone else who worked on the film – Rosie Morris, who was integral to the film as far as I’m concerned. She called me and said “My friend’s writing a film and he’s sort of writing you into it but he doesn’t know you yet!”
So we met up, and I thought I was going to be working on the soundtrack, so they kind of tricked me a bit! I was all keen for it and then when they asked if I wanted to play the other character in the film I was like “Oh, I don’t know!” I pictured it being quite a musical thing, and I’d be playing a lot and not be in it as much but it ended up being, really, just the two of us for the whole film. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. But I’m really glad I did it. Yeah, a total whirlwind from beginning to end. It feels very strange now having done it two years ago and having waited that whole time to get any sort of feedback! It’s the opposite of what I normally do where I play a song and people either like it or they don’t and I can tell. It’s really weird to be in this position.
Well, Bristol (laughs)
Sorry. in the film she’s from London! How much of yourself was in the performance?
There’s a fair bit of myself in her. It was kind of clear from the outset that that was how it was going to work. But once we started workshopping we had to build her character because it’s not a documentary! Once we started that process, for me it was important to really get to know that character and really believe in it. We worked a lot on that. There definitely is a character there but I would say there’s a fair bit of myself in her. Especially since a lot of it was improvised. There’s only so far you can stretch yourself, especially not being an actor! I treated the ten day shoot like a game. That was the only way I could do it. If I didn’t believe what was going on, I’d be like “Harry we’ve got to stop! I don’t believe this. What are we going to do?” So I was probably a real pain in the arse.
But you’re still friends?
Yeah, of course! It was wonderful meeting Harry through doing this. We got on really well. A lot of people have thought that we were old friends in real life and we weren’t. I’m so impressed that people get that from the film.
It certainly comes across that way.
It was definitely an intense couple of months from when we met to when we shot. We were all kind of living in the same house and I was coming and going from Bristol. It was very intense but with the guidance of Rosie we were able to separate ‘real life’ and living in this Hinterland house.
We spoke to harry about how the city dampens our ability to really connect to one another. Is that something that you were thinking about whilst you were making the film? Is it important to you at all?
Yeah, it is important to me. I lived in London for about four years and I’ve been in Bristol now for about four-and-a-half. It was part of the reason I left London so it’s something that I do think about a lot. It’s very strange how people can live in London these days!
From the first scene where you leave London, there’s quite a lot of driving in the film and scenes that take place in the car. How was that all to shoot?
The first scene I found the most difficult. All the other scenes where it’s improvised stuff in the car were fine because we were in Cornwall and we were just driving around, but shooting those first scenes there was just this oppressive, squished experience. There was four of us in the car and it was just talking but it’s the subject matter as well. We dealt with a lot of the back story in that first scene which was really hard because it was so broken up – we had to keep stopping and turning around and driving back. It was loosely improvised – we had the structure and we had the story but it was improvised – and when you do something like that too many times, after a while you don’t know what you’re talking about anymore. That was difficult.
I really liked the scenes driving through Dartmoor because we had the follow car with Ben [Hecking, cinematographer] in the boot and it was really fun watching him drive around backwards. It was just me and Harry in the car in those shots so it was much easier for me and much more fun.
I thought that was wonderful. I hadn’t seen any of the film until I saw it in the cinema in April last year and I loved that scene. That whole day there was a feeling in the air – it was just so much fun and there was so much electric energy. Going around and seeing all these ponies in the car park where we’d planned to pull up… I could see Harry was kind of thinking, “How’s this going to work” and I completely put him on the spot by telling him to give one of the ponies an apple! Afterwards he said he was scared and he really didn’t want to do it!
It works beautifully for that point in the film where we are getting to know these characters…
I was so determined to drag the whole crew to Dartmoor and Devon. I love that area of the country. I’m from the South Coast just near there. We were driving through and I said “We have to go up and see The Tors!” That whole scene where I’m standing on the rock… it felt so real for me. It was a wonderful day, it really was.
After your experience with Hinterland are you planning on doing some more work in film?
These last couple of weeks I’ve been talking to people about the film and getting feedback… I had to kind of put it on pause in my head until now because, without having known how I had done or how the film had come out, I didn’t really know how to proceed with it. I’m working hard on my music career and that’s my main focus, but if there is something else I might be able to get involved in then great! I want to collaborate as much as possible in all sorts of mediums. Who knows, this film might lead into working with some different people on different projects. Yeah, of course I’d love to!
Words> Andrew Wilson
Hinterland is in cinemas and on Demand through Curzon Home Cinema 27th February (Buy Tickets)