It was while playing a gig in Vienna, Austria that Oli and Louis Leimbach, better known as Lime Cordiale, made eye contact and exchanged the same thought: “What the hell is going on here?!” The duo were on their first headline European tour, not really knowing the size of their fan base over there. “We took a gamble,” says Oli with a shrug.
They certainly weren’t expecting a big crowd in Vienna, but not only did Lime Cordiale sell out the show, when they performed that night, the audience knew all the words to their songs, something that continued to happen throughout their European tour. “When you play a show and strangers are singing your own song back to you, it’s like a massive drug,” Oli says. “You sort of get addicted to that.”
Back at home, audiences provide that drug in spades. Lime Cordiale’s infectious performances and genuine, generous interactions with their fans has made them one of Australia’s buzziest acts over the past couple of years. It’s a fact that was reflected in the Triple J Hottest 100 poll in January when Lime Cordiale was the only act to have four songs under 40 in the triple j’s hottest 100 of 2019 — a feat that not even Billie Eilish could pull off. It’s been an incredible start to the year for the Sydney duo, but the brothers would be quick to tell you that it’s been a long way to the top.
Back in 2009, when they started Lime Cordiale, “we didn’t really know what we were doing,” Oli explains. “Some bands are like, ‘We’re starting a band, this is our genre, this is our image.’ We just started playing any gig we could get.” Their mother was a classically trained musician, so learning instruments as kids was never in question. It was only in high school that the brothers, who’d been playing clarinet and trumpet respectively, grew more interested in singing and songwriting. When they realised they couldn’t sing and blow horns at the same time, they picked up guitars.
Rowdy, drunk crowds at house parties and in pubs and RSLs across Sydney’s northern beaches helped shape the band’s upbeat, quirky sound, forcing them to play louder and groovier to command the audience’s attention. “If people are talking with their backs to you, you haven’t done a good job,” says Oli. “We jumped on electric guitars and our drummer started hitting it harder and it was pretty organic.”
Their growth was organic, too, thanks to their tireless gigging. In 2012, the year they released their debut EP Faceless Cat, they played about 100 shows, according to Oli. “It’s not like we really had a fanbase, we just played heaps and got a bit of a name locally,” he says. “We did it the old school way and we didn’t say no to anything.”
Eight years, three EPs and one album later and the boys have nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram and are playing to wildly enthusiastic crowds across Australia and overseas, with James Jennings (drums), Felix Bornholdt ( keyboard) and Nick Polovineo (trombone, guitar), rounding out the touring band. The new Lime Cordiale album, 14 Steps To A Better You, represents how far they’ve come, both musically and personally.
If their 2017 debut Permanent Vacation was a permission slip to go your own way, 14 Steps is a navigation device for those who got lost. The album title is a parody of self-help books and its songs represent “lessons” on how to be your best self, packed with incisive commentary about their mates, lovers and the world at large. “We all have a certain level of power so remember, the power is yours,” say the boys. “Be a better you.”
No Plans to Make Plans is about “people who are concentrating on climbing the ladder but they’re not necessarily doing anything for the greater good,” says Oli. Dear London is Louis’ apology to the city he failed to fall in love with when a romance went sour (London, it’s not you, it’s her). Money is about a gold digger; Addicted to the Sunshine addresses our reckless attitude towards the environment and activist posturing. “Everyone is pretty hypocritical with everything they do,” says Oli. “Australia is so beautiful but it’s like the majority of Australians don’t give a shit about preserving it, really.”
Some of these messages might be sharp, but the sunny, buoyant, music makes them easy to digest. 14 Steps was recorded over two weeks on a farm in New South Wales with “no reception and no distractions.” As with the first album, they worked with producer Dave Hammer and this time, with an established rapport, were able to experiment and play; “find beautiful sounds and wreck them.” Elephant in the Room features choppy arrangement and vocal distortion; Screw Loose has a sludgy, ska-like vibe. On Our Own is breezy surf pop, while Money has edgy, art-rock textures. No two songs are alike, but all of them go down as easily as an ice-cold beer in a heatwave.
Still buzzing from their Hottest 100 sweep, the year ahead looks equally bright for Lime Cordiale. The release of what is sure to be one of the year’s most beloved albums should see their rise go stratospheric — and they’ll be back playing their beloved live shows in venues all over the world as soon as humanly possible.
Heavy touring is something the brothers have always found more energising than exhausting. Especially when they return to obscure European towns and find that their fans have brought their mates, and mates of mates to their shows — and everyone in the house is singing along.
“When you release a song, you don’t realise that people know it until you play a show and people are singing that song back to you,” says Oli. “That’s pretty huge, and it’s incredibly rewarding.”