After her record Sleepyhead, Lillie West changed so much that Lala Lala became a new project for her again. With tragic life events circling around her, The Lamb transpired out of Lala Lala making sense of this time. We caught up with West ahead of the latest North American Lala Lala tour to talk about her big life changes and what music making is for her now.
Northern Transmissions: How did very intense and frightening life events shape your writing on this record?
Lillie West: I always write about what’s happening to me or what I’m thinking about. It definitely colours the record paranoid, and there’s a lot of songs with references to specific things that were happening. The lyrical content is frightened and careful in terms of how it is, but I definitely didn’t write it carefully.
NT: I was interested to hear how you wanted to tackle internet culture on “Copycat” and how it’s left you feeling alienated?
LW: I think that everyone is constantly trying to appeal to as many people as possible. On social media, having all that creates a language that is very repetitive, and everyone is using the same words and sentiments to the point that it becomes meaningless, boring nonsense. I don’t think I’m immune to it or better than anyone, I’ve just been thinking about it. People also talk a lot of shit to prove that they know something, and I think it’s more about tearing people down because they want to be excited.
NT: Alternatively how did your friend Jilian (Ian Sweet) inspire you to write “When You Die” and how did you want to explore death in a song like this ?
LW: I wrote that over a while after Jilian’s band Ian Sweet was in a car crash, and that freaked me out. The original full title was “When You Die You Become Perfect” but I cut some of that off. It was inspired by them but it was also inspired by other deaths and how social media reflects death. It also looks at how after death you become perfect, like somehow all sin is forgiven, at least on a smaller scale. There’s regret as well, when you have a fight with someone and then something bigger like death puts that in perspective, and you’ll feel like an idiot for caring. Death is a really forgiving thing in a way that nothing else is, because it’s so final.
NT: Contrasting these darker tones, what led to the more psychedelic and child-like look of your video for “Water Over Sex”?
LW: It’s funny that people see the record as so dark, because I see it as me figuring things out. I loved the animation that was going into the video, and I thought it was playful. I don’t want the record and everything around it to be one tone, because darkness isn’t just dark. To paint something that way is just false, because there are a lot of layers.
NT: Looking back, what led you to follow music after a brief time studying sculpture and printmaking, and do you find yourself drawn back to that anymore through Lala Lala?
LW: Connecting with people maybe? I don’t remember making a conscious decision to switch from one to the other, but now music just takes up most of my time. Music kept extending for me over time and now I’ve started doing crafts more since I don’t take myself to seriously. Visual Arts have become a much more enjoyable activity, because I always felt like I had to be working towards something in art before, now it’s just something that I do for fun.
NT: With so many lush textures on this record, how do these songs evolve from their initial demos to a Lala Lala song for you?
LW: It can vary a lot! The song “Scary Movie” is basically just the demo. There are a lot of keys on the record that just came out in overdubs because we had these keyboards in the studio. For “When You Die” Emily Kempf was singing and playing bass on the record, and she sings in a round with me from when we were rehearsing.
NT: I was also interested to hear that you never really practiced before, so what changed your mind and how has it changed things for you?
LW: A lot of that came from sobriety, and it gave me so much more time now. Music is so much more important to me now and I try to make more time for it since I enjoy it more. Performing now I have a general idea of what is going to happen, I just know how the show will go. Before it was a total toss-up of what I might do.
NT: Why do you feel so disconnected from Sleepyhead now, and in what ways do you at least feel that album was important to your growth?
LW: Everything has really changed in my life since Sleepyhead. The hope is that I’m constantly changing and improving in my music. The new record feels more like a beginning than Sleepyhead, that really felt like the end of something for me. I’m excited to see what happens next, since I know so little about music theory that I’ve been learning so much so quickly now.
Words by Owen Maxwell
Lala Lala Tour Dates:
11/01 – Indianapolis, IN – The HiFi #
11/02 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom #^
11/04 – Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Center #^
11/05 – Omaha, NE – Waiting Room #
11/06 – Kansas City, MO – Record Bar #
11/08 – Denver, CO – Gothic Theater #
11/09 – Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge #
11/10 – Boise, ID – Visual Arts Collective #
11/12 – Seattle, WA – Neumo’s #
11/13 – Portland, OR – Revolution Hall #
11/14 – Eugene, OR – WOW Hall #
11/21 – St. Louis, MO – Ready Room #
11/23 – Detroit, MI – Loving Touch #^
11/24 – Pittsburgh, PA – Sprit Hall #^
11/25 – Hamden, CT – Space Ballroom #
11/27 – Portsmouth, NH – 3S Artspace #
11/28 – Boston, MA – The Sinclair #
11/29 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer #
11/30 – Brooklyn, NY – Elsewhere #
12/01 – Washington DC – U Street Music Hall #
12/03 – Richmond, VA – The Broadberry #
12/04 – Durham, NC – Motorco Music Hall #
12/05 – Atlanta, GA – Terminal West #
12/06 – Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle #
12/07 – Nashville, TN – Exit / In #
12/08 – Lexington, KY – Cosmic Charlies #