Jim de Whalley

The Luka State Chats Impeccable Truths & Influences Found on New LP

Socially charged, politically charged, personally charged, and musically charged, the energy felt from the new Luka State album is unmatched.

Conrad Ellis, frontman of The Luka State, is baring his soul and putting his foot down all at once. There is a lot to pull influence from for him, as a singer-songwriter, indie rock guitarist, mental health advocate, and Cheshire native; this is why the album and this moment is so smooth and so charged. They’re following up 2021’s Fall In Fall Out with More Than This, and quite a bit has gone down in the last couple of years. Emotion bubbles to the surface on every track, half of which address the nation – Britain – and half of which address our wellbeing – inner turmoil and all. Listeners can, and will, feel that come its release on Friday. This latest output is well-rounded sonically and intimately.

We were thrilled to reunite via phone call with Ellis last month and hear all about this record, straight from the source, and how it came to be for both himself and the band.

Back in 2021 we chatted with you a bit about your music video for “[insert girl’s name here].” Obviously a lot has gone on in the last two years, but, for you, what do you think the biggest change has been musically, lyrically, or personally, between 2021 and 2023?

I think change is inevitable in every walk of life. We’re constantly changing as people, changing as humans. I think that in the aspect of the music world, you change musically as a songwriter, you change as musicians, you adapt and you grow as artists. Life’s all about personal growth, isn’t it? 

Since we last spoke, it’s been amazing to get the second record, More Than This, in the can. We recorded it and we’re very proud of it. We’re very proud to be at the stage right now since we last spoke to you; it’s a very exciting time.

It absolutely is, and like you said, change is inevitable. There are 12 tracks on the record coming out. I’m curious if there were any more that didn’t make the final tracklist, because listening to the album from start to finish, it feels very full and very complete – like these songs were the ones laser-focused on.

Thank you very much. That is very kind of you. We actually try to write as many songs as possible and then pick the best out of the batch of songs that we’ve got. I think it’s important as a writer to be constantly writing and keep the creative juices flowing. You’ve gotta keep it a well-oiled machine, I think, so there were many songs made that didn’t get picked. Some of them are not very good at all [Laughs], that’s the reason they don’t get picked. The best ones get picked, we work on those from there, and make them better by taking them into the pre-production stage and through to the recording process.

That makes sense to me! You want to pick what feels the best to you so you also enjoy the ins-and-outs of that process.

Yeah, I think that’s the best way to work, you know? We were very focused on this second record – we knew exactly what we were setting out to achieve. As I said before, we’re very proud of that.

You should be. What I’ve taken away from this record is that there’s a nice level of intimacy in the lyrics and even the musicianship. It feels very close to home and I am sure fans will find that it helps them feel connected to you, to the band, to the stories. 

Thank you. I have a saying that ‘music is power.’ Music has the ability to change the world. Music has the ability to change our lives in the most magical, amazing way. On this record, the lyrics are very, very deep. There is a big message behind this record. We began writing the songs as a band from the ground up with not much inspiration for or from anything, really, other than the experiences we’ve gone through as people. This album was born from the catalyst of, and during, the pandemic. I was working for a food bank delivering food parcels to underprivileged families who were struggling financially. It’s something that’s still happening now in the UK – the rising of poverty is huge and the cost of living has dramatically increased. I was delivering free parcels and it inspired me to start writing and telling the stories of these people and these families… that’s what “More Than This” was about. Upon writing this song, I found I was very liberated. I found a very freeing feeling in it that I was able to finally find as a songwriter and as a lyricist talking about my emotions in the most honest way that I possibly can. 

This record touches on a lot of issues and subjects that we find it hard to talk about as people, maybe when we sit down face to face, but through the power of music, it’s ok to listen and talk – it helps conversation. After that song, we wanted to talk about all of the social and political issues over in the UK at the moment. They are issues that I think are probably worldwide, too.

I also talked about my journey through mental health from negative to positive – substance abuse and all these kinds of things that I feel that is important for music to talk about. Rock and roll should be talking about these things now. There’s not enough of that in rock music at this moment in time.

Upon listening to the record and having “Oxygen Thief” and then “Losing Streak” back to back, there is a really wonderful kind of juxtaposition of stories being told about feeling inadequate and not deserving of things that are basic privileges and really basic to humanity, but then realizing that you can push through those times to find what you deserve, whether it be the basic necessities or something really grand. That fine line and that message grows throughout the album. Of course closing More Than This with “Movies” adds to that level of growth, but it takes time to make it possible.

Thank you. I’m glad you got that from the record. The record is technically a concept record; you’re joining me on my journey through mental health. Through “Losing Streak,” we go through the topic of substance abuse and self-medication and all these kinds of things that we find impossible to go to as humans. I feel that we don’t talk enough in this day and age as much as we could. There’s still such a negative stigma surrounding mental health. There’s especially a negative stigma surrounding men’s mental health – that men shouldn’t talk and they keep it in – and that’s why people sometimes turn to substances. You join me on this journey of getting better, so throughout the album the songs start becoming a bit lighter as I heal. 

As you mentioned then with “Movies,” that was kind of our way of putting a full stop on the record… an exclamation at the end that is just me walking off into the sunset. It’s showing everybody that there is light at the end of the tunnel, you have just got to dig deep and persevere and know that we can get there. It’ll take hard work and determination and other people, as well. 

Love is a big part of this, too. We need each other at the best of times and the worst of items, so that’s what the album is about.

There is an understated appreciation for ourselves and one another, but I believe the new record highlights that. Hearing you say that love really is a big aspect in the album hones in on that, because while love is needed, there are many different kinds of it to be realized and accepted into our lives.

I’m so glad you took that from the record. For me, the most punk rock thing and the most rock and roll thing that we have as people is compassion and unity and togetherness and love and the ability to look out for one another and the ability to be kind. Now that is rock and roll. It is punk to show that we care about each other. 

I don’t believe in the anarchy side of punk and rock and roll anymore. It’s cool to be a better person. We all should be the best versions of ourselves that we can possibly be. This record is about coming to terms with the fact that sometimes you’re not the best person, but you could be. There’s nothing wrong with that because we have probably been there, you know?  We might even dip in and out of that, because we’re human, and we wanted that message to prevail on this record

From my end of things, I think you did that perfectly, because it feels like you really grasp onto every one of these concepts and internalize them, but at the same time, it’s just good music that in itself, listening to is a form of therapy.

Yeah, I feel that writing and songwriting in general is my form of therapy. I find solace in music. First and foremost, I’m a music lover. I absolutely am obsessed with music. I have my certain records, certain songs, certain bands that I go to. I have a song that I go to when I’m feeling angry. I have a song I go to when I’m feeling sad, when I feel elated and happy. Everybody kind of has that band or that song or that feeling that music can bring out that emotion out of us. If we can be that band for other people and these songs can be that crutch and that hug and that voice, then this is a job done on our part. I’ll be very proud of that if the music resonates with people the way that we’re hoping for it to resonate.