posted February 22nd, 2024

The High Llamas return today with new single “Sisters Friends”, a glitchy soul number featuring lead vocals from Rae Morris from their upcoming 11th studio album, Hey Panda, set to arrive on LP/CD/digital on March 29th.

“Sisters Friends” exemplifies what head Llama Sean O’Hagan was looking to achieve on this very modern pop album, combining and clashing various techniques new and old, to create a distinctive sound; when Rae and Sean’s vocals meet in the chorus, there is a euphoric twisting of those elements. For Rae Morris, the invitation to collaborate was “a big honour.” Detailing her feelings on the new single, she shares: “I feel very at home with its story and calm, elegant beauty.” O’Hagan adds: “Rae sings it with open generosity, almost like a folk performance but the tune is deffo from the church.”

For the video, Sean and “Sisters Friends” video director Simon Russell took inspiration from Brazilian TV archive of Elis Regina and Tom Jobim — who were captured elegantly using studio technology rudimentary in comparison to today's techniques — for the presentation of Sean and Rae using clear imagery and simple cuts. Layers of bright and colourful electric light accentuate visual elements referenced in the lyrics to bring it all together. Regarding the lyrics, Sean notes: "This song traces a homeless man and his dog from London to The Isle of White off the UK southern coast. The man makes a living playing a Japanese instrument called a Shakuhachi."

While making Hey Panda, Sean found himself opened up by the sounds of music brought into the house by his adult children and the sounds encountered at sessions for which he’s recently written arrangements. In addition to the more traditional contributions he made to The Coral’s 2023 Sea of Mirrors album, plus his score for the Safdie Brothers’ 2022 film production, Funny Pages, Sean’s drawn great inspiration through working with King Krule, Pearl and The Oysters, Hey Panda contributors Fryars, and of course, Rae Morris.

Over the course of 12 tracks, Hey Panda projects soulfully through an enervating abstract of today’s sound; blissfully exploding open the machinery of the Llamas’ stately melodies and expressive ditties, with drums and vocals hitting different, burning sounds and contemporary production twists pulling the ear at every turn. “We live in the finest non-judgemental musical times where the legacies of soul, jazz and lo-fi indie have produced a hybrid of generous and stunning creativity,” Sean concludes. “I want Hey Panda to be of this generation."

Artists in this story: The High Llamas