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    If Louisville had its own moon, it would probably be La La Land. Well, maybe not all of Louisville, but at least its music scene. The recording studio floats between NuLu and the Highlands on Lexington Road. And it’s much more exciting than life on earth, with gaping ceilings and a whole corner filled with different record players, bins of vinyl and amplifiers. The kitchen is outfitted with a rack of exposed spices and a full bar cart. It’s clean but not sterile. It’s bright but unconventionally lit, with sunshine pouring through a set of sliding doors and lights strung from the ceiling. The adjacent recording space somehow holds multiple keyboards, drums, guitars, amplifiers, cords, couches and rugs while still feeling open. Miniature faux white Christmas trees and globe lights hang from the ceiling. “I’m pretty sure I’m dead,” Lacey Guthrie, a third of the band Twin Limb, says of being in such a place. It’s mid-February, a little after 11 a.m., and she’s brewing espresso and steaming milk for lattes, to which she adds bourbon-vanilla sugar.

    In his 15 years as a recording engineer, Kevin Ratterman, the 37-year-old head of La La Land, has worked with artists such as My Morning Jacket, Young Widows, Rachel Grimes and too many other locals to list.

    “Hey, are you free on April 22?” Ratterman asks bandmates Guthrie and Maryliz Bender. “Ben Sollee just texted and wants us to play a show with him.” Always say yes to pop cellist Ben Sollee. Ratterman disappears to change for a photo and comes back a few minutes later wearing a dress shirt and blazer, though his (intentionally?) messy hair hasn’t budged. They’re a stylish bunch — Guthrie works at the vintage-clothing store Old Souls on Bardstown Road once a week, enough hours to get the discount. She and Bender are also web developers. But their hearts belong to music.

    Commonly categorized as “dream pop” or “dream folk,” Twin Limb combine harmonizing vocals, deliberate percussion and the slow and powerful sound of an accordion, like a tidal wave. (It’s the moon’s powers.) Guthrie, 28, met her twin limb, Bender, 30, at a pool party, and the two clicked like a seat belt in a rocket ship, ready for takeoff. They came to La La Land to record sometime last year. “He locked us in a closet until we agreed to let him in the band,” Guthrie says jokingly about Ratterman.

    For a while in the fall and winter, Twin Limb seemed to play a show every weekend — Time and Space in the Highlands on Halloween, the Do502 launch party at Play, Zanzabar, Haymarket Whiskey Bar. On a night in November, the band performed a free show in Decca’s basement, where people — MMJ frontman Jim James included — gathered  in sweat-inducing proximity.

    “Can you title the article, ‘We need a van in a week?’” Guthrie says. The band is going on tour with Houndmouth, and the creatives are struggling with bureaucratic matters such as this. Bender corrects Guthrie, says she has found a van. Bender is Professor Negotiator, they say. Ratterman is Captain Magic, and Guthrie is Doctor Scientist.

    The scientist bit comes from Guthrie’s — and the band’s — fascination with Earth and outer space, evident in the explorative lyrics, most of which Guthrie writes or at least finesses. Ratterman says, “We’re on this giant, weird thing that’s floating amongst all this stuff that we don’t understand and no one ever questions it. I don’t understand why everybody’s not all the time like, ‘What the hell?’” The sound, in addition to the female vocals, features Guthrie on the accordion and includes lots of synthesizers — evidence of their ’80s upbringings — creating textured layers made from sampling their sounds, a key Ratterman contribution. Of course, having been the drummer in Wax Fang, he picks up a drumstick or mallet every now and then. “I’ve been listening to a lot of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, ’40s stuff, which was kind of a huge influence on the sound of the record, the production style,” Ratterman says. Radiohead is a big influence. Twin Limb’s single, “Long Shadow,” is online. The trio plans to release its debut album “hopefully sometime this year definitely,” Ratterman says. “We’re waiting for something to just come crashing into us.” They’re slated to play a Derby Eve show with Murder by Death at Headliners and are in this year’s Forecastle lineup.

    Guthrie, who grew up in Bedford, Indiana, started playing piano as a girl and grew up using that as a method of self-expression. “Until I moved to Louisville, I didn’t listen to anything that I was in love with,” she says, “and then it just opened up a world of Oh, my God, all these things are possible.” Bender, who grew up outside St. Louis, and Ratterman have similar backgrounds, both involving piano-playing grandmas and cooler older brothers who took them to rock shows. “I remember when I was a freshman in high school and finding out that there were people that lived in the city that were, like, in bands playing music, and I thought this stuff was only on the radio and MTV,” Ratterman says. “It kind of goes in waves, but right now I feel like there’s excessively so much Louisville music that is so incredible. Walk out the door and throw a stone and you’ll hit an amazing musician or great songwriter.” Or, as with Guthrie and Bender, the musicians will walk through La La Land's door.

    Written by Mary Chellis Austin, photo by Amber Thieneman.

    This article is courtesy of Louisville Magazine's March Issue. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. 

    Mary Chellis Nelson's picture

    About Mary Chellis Nelson

    Mary Chellis Nelson is the managing editor of Louisville Magazine.

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