Anyone who asks me what music I listen to the most will get an earful about The High Llamas. They are without a doubt the group that I spend the most ear time with. Their records are incredibly rewarding- you can really dig in deep with all that is happening- from the songwriting to the sounds, and especially the arrangements.
The principle figure in The High Llamas is Sean O'Hagen. He's also responsible for a ton of string and brass arrangements for a lot of other artists, including Stereolab, Super Furry Animals and Sondre Lerche. So when we had an opportunity to flesh out our first album with a proper budget I was very keen to hire Sean.
Sean and fellow Llamas member, keyboardist/vocalist/cellist Marcus Holdaway did string arrangements on 3 songs for us- Alice, Bella Luna and The Bells. The sessions took place at The Dairy Studio in London and were recorded by the wonderful Fulton Dingley.
I first met Sean for coffee at cafe near our London hotel. After several long minutes of me try to explain just how much The High Llamas meant to me, we got down to business. My inclination when hiring an arranger is to make a general plan for the songs and then to just get out of the way. This was indeed the right call with Sean… the parts he and Marcus came up with were surprising- they approached the songs in a way that I couldn't imagine- exactly what I was hoping they'd do. The results were subtle but added so much to the songs. It is still one of the highlights of my musical life.