Lime Cordiale on the strategy behind their Hottest 100 record-breaking album
Oli Leimbach of Lime Cordiale and the band’s manager Andrew Stone chat to TMN about the strategy behind the band’s latest album release – why it took so long, how it engaged fans, and what allowed it to make triple j Hottest 100 records.
Sydney pop-rock band Lime Cordiale had a stellar year off the back of their second studio album, 14 Steps To A Better You. The 2020 record was a long time coming, with singles released as early as 2018.
To top it all off, the band made its mark on triple j’s Hottest 100 for 2020, which took place last month. On the big day, Lime Cordiale ended up placing five songs on the Hottest 100, putting them in the same leagues as Billie Eilish in 2019 and Violent Soho in 2016, and only behind Wolfmother’s record of six tracks in 2005. Additionally, the band are the only act to receive five entries within the top 26 songs, and hold the record for most songs off a studio album to be included in the countdown.
For the band, made up of Oli and Louis Leimbach, James Jennings, Felix Bornholdt and Nick Polovineo, the expectation of making it into the countdown was high, following success in previous years.
Since releasing their debut LP Permanent Vacation, the band earned the support of triple j and a number of other partners, including YouTube. They had also signed with Post Malone and his manager Dre London in a co-management and label deal, in the hopes of garnering more international support.
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“The first year we had absolutely no idea. We were shooting a music video at the time and we were hoping maybe we’d creep in at #99 or #98, so by the time we got to #90 we were like ‘Awww’ and turned it off. There was a slight level of disappointment,” Oli Leimbach tells TMN.
“Then when we got #86 [‘Dirt Cheap’ in 2018], that was insane. You get the best feeling ever, everyone’s messaging you.”
As this year’s countdown hurtled towards its conclusion, the band worried they had done something wrong. None of their songs had charted by the time the Hottest 100 wrapped up the 30s. Then, as if all at once, five songs played on the air in short succession.
“We were thinking if we were to have five songs, they’d be really spread out among the whole Hottest 100,” Leimbach says.
“We thought ‘Did we do something that disqualified us? Did we do a post or something that was too much?'”
According to Leimbach, getting tracks on the Hottest 100 wasn’t a major component of their marketing strategy. If it was, they would probably have released fewer singles and focused on pushing them.
The band’s manager, Andrew Stone of Chugg Music, was, however, in favour of releasing a lot of singles in succession. Ultimately, their goal with the record was to be across all engagement avenues constantly, ensuring they were on the radar of current and prospective fans. Each single release was not only embraced by pre-existing fans, but also welcomed new listeners into their fanbase. The Hottest 100 milestone seemed to be a byproduct of their success.
“I think in terms of making the most of the momentum we got out of the early success, we just wanted to stay on radio and people’s minds for as long as possible,” Stone tells TMN.
“That for us meant asking ourselves, ‘Why release everything at once when you can at least attempt to have a song on radio for 12 weeks, and then another song on radio for 12 weeks?’ By the end of it, you’ve got four songs that audiences have responded to.
“By releasing stuff every 12 weeks, you bring in new fans every time you do it. We didn’t just release it into a vacuum, all of the songs were at least top five most played on triple j, we had music videos that went with them, we had a partnership with YouTube that was going strong. Every release felt intentional.”
Stone sees this “always present” strategy as representative of what the biggest artists are doing these days. Luckily, he describes the band as a songwriting powerhouse and can live up to this expectation – roughly 100 demos were recorded for 14 Steps To A Better You. As an independent label, Stone believes the team at Chugg was able to devote more time to the band compared to if they were at a major record company.
“You don’t see artists really disappear off the face of the planet for three years while they construct their new record. In a playlist-driven, algorithm-driven economy, you kind of want to be as present as often as possible,” he says.
Both Stone and Leimbach see touring as the most important tool in engagement with Lime Cordiale’s fans, with Leimbach saying the band put in a lot of effort to make their shows memorable.
This time around, however, Lime Cordiale didn’t have the advantage of touring. Instead, they pivoted to high-quality digital content. With their induction into YouTube’s Foundry Program last year, they were able to put together a professionally-recorded livestream show. They also joined TikTok and got a handle on posting online Q&As.
“One good thing to come out of the pandemic was people realised the importance of being able to communicate online; they can see the results of it if it’s done well,” Stone says.
“The things we tried were making sure we were everywhere on all the relevant social media, that we put out good-quality content. It also helps that Oli is a filmmaker by trade.”
The theme that ties all of Lime Cordiale’s decisions together is the idea of rewarding fans for their support.
Prior to the album’s arrival, the band released eight singles over two years, a drawn-out process by anyone’s observation. Even though the team believed no single was a throwaway release, they feared some fans could become exhausted from the extensive campaign. In a bid to keep fans close, Lime Cordiale released a deluxe Relapse version of their album, complete with six new tracks. One of the deluxe songs, ‘Reality Check Please’, even made it onto the countdown.
“People had heard a lot of the songs on 14 Steps already, and we wanted to surprise people a little, maintain momentum through to Hottest 100 and the ARIAS, and show people just how prolific the band are,” Stone says.
“The record was pretty much finished 18 months before its release… So instead of waiting for album three, we thought ‘Why don’t we show people what we have – reward the fans who maybe were a little annoyed by the fact they didn’t get a whole bunch of new stuff?’
“A lot of people were alerted to the band’s existence by the promotion and marketing we did for the album, so in one way it’s catering to that part of the audience, but releasing the Relapse thing was really a reward for those fans who’d stuck with the band for the last eight years.”
Despite their various successes with 14 Steps, Stone admits they’re still navigating the disruptive world of streaming, social media and engagement. But even with all the changes and challenges, the need for music acts to interact with their fans and thank them for their loyalty never falls out of fashion.
“Maybe it’s a signal of what’s changing with the way people are consuming music, or the way triple j engage with artists. The way artists engage with their fans. All the old rules are a little out the window. We’re just trying to respond to what we’re seeing, what we think are the right steps,” he says.
“It helps to have a band that’s just so bloody great and will really work their arse off to release good music and engage with their audience. It’s really beautiful to have that.”