After the release of her single, Care, Lola talks stage fright, spirituality, the sleeping prophet and the power of dreams
Hey Lola! A while ago you told me you got fired from a job you were working at. And it made me think about a certain return to transparency in pop music, where singers can be real people who hold down real jobs (at times) like the rest of us. It used to be glossed over. So on that note, where’s the divide between the Lola sitting here and the Lola we see onstage?
Yes totally, that reality should be embraced! But I don’t think there’s a Lola persona, per se… when I do things for music I dress up as who I want to be everyday, but who I don’t have the time or resources to be in daily life. I’m performing how how I always pictured myself as a kid, like a mythical creature, how I always felt… how I am as a performer is how I want to be, visually; an elevated version of myself. I think the only thing that makes it more of a persona is simply that I’m singing, instead of speaking to people when I’m onstage. Actually the reason I don’t really talk between songs onstage is because I have really bad stage fright!
Really? That’s interesting, because you come from a really musical family right? And you’ve been performing, or at least playing, music from a very young age…
Yeah, and I think that had something to do with it. Performing classical music as a kid, you know, there’s a lot of pressure. Seeing my grandpa [Jack Parnell] perform in these huge venues, and thinking, you know, if I’m not doing that then I’m not living up to my name — that created pressure. I also went to a school where I was a bit weird, I was bullied and didn’t have much self confidence from a young age. There was this one teacher who believed in me and she wrote this play and called the main character Lola, haha. It was kind of weird but really sweet, and so obviously I played the main part, but she still made me audition in front of the whole class. And I remember all of the boys laughing and talking about me while I was auditioning… it kind of scarred me. I actually think that has something to do with my stage fright.
It kind of sounds like music was a crutch for you, but behind closed doors…
Yeah I think so. I mean I performed a lot of classical music growing up, but I hated it. I’d always get the shakes. But I never sang in front of people or told them that’s what I wanted to do…
So where was the turning point? When did you decide you felt OK to show people that side of you?
I think it started when I went away. I’d dropped out of art school, and I think being away made me realise that the thing I missed the most was music, singing. So I decided that when I came back I was going to take it seriously. There were a lot of people who were like, ‘hmm you probably shouldn’t’, but I was like I’m gonna do it anyway.
It's interesting that you’re classically trained but your family - at least the males in your family - were very jazz and funk oriented. Did you just soak it all in? Did you get to a point where you were like, this other stuff is where it’s at.
Yes! I mean I still love classical music - although I didn’t when I was playing it. When I was doing piano exams when I was young, given the choice I’d always choose to play something like Debussey or a more jazzy piece than traditional classical stuff. Classical was kind of more of a hobby that was getting me through school but the thing I enjoyed was more current music. It was more interesting. I never thought of it as something I’d have to choose between, because I grew up around contemporary music. My dad had a home studio so his friends would always be around, playing music. The two could always co-exist.
Part of my whole style is that I don’t care about structures, for me that’s the most natural way
Maybe you'll disagree with this but I feel like the intricacies in your songwriting can be traced back to your musical training, your early exposure to jazz and orchestral music. Even the songs on your EP don’t conform to traditional pop structures - or if they do then you’re replacing climatic choruses with soft choruses.
I remember the first person I went to for advice about my songwriting was a young pop artist. And she said to me that she was an advocate for ‘song songs’, and that my songs needed more of that. I’m always being told my songs need more structure, for streaming purposes and blah blah blah. I feel like that completely defeats the point of being an artist, but it’s a compromise. Part of my whole style is that I don’t care about structures, for me that’s the most natural way.
Algorithmic artistry is pretty gross. It's like being pitted against something machine-like just to fit in. But then again that’s not just music is it? It’s the nature of social media in general.
It is gross. But that’s the compromise I have to make in order to keep doing what I want to do. I just have to do have my main versions, which I love, and then a separate version for streaming. You just have to do it. The way a lot of people explain it is that you make a compromise now so that you can have more freedom next time. It’s difficult but I think it’ll get better.
I noticed a well-thumbed Edgar Cayce book in your room. He was known as the Sleeping Prophet, right... a clairvoyant? When did you first become aware of him?
When I was really young, maybe seven or eight, my grandma was really into reincarnation. I remember her explaining it to me — it made more sense to me than going to church, which I was also doing as a child. But when I got a bit older, maybe twelve or thirteen, my mum showed me her collection of these Edgar Cayce books. I think I read the one on Atlantis first. I thought he was a genius. He’d do readings, with children mainly, (their parents would set it up), and he’d tell them about their past lives and as a consequence which way they were going to go. But then they’d follow up with the kids when they’d grown up and see how they’d lived their lives, and it was so amazing how many people fulfilled these prophecies. That was proof to me that reincarnation is a real thing.
Are you trying to use what you see in dreams, or encounter in spiritual experiences, in your music?
It’s what inspires me the most. I don’t want this world to be all there is, without the magic of these myths. It’s what makes life interesting. So I’m going to put it into my music, but it’s also the most real thing to me. To be honest I try not to think too much when I’m creating music, I just let it come to me. As soon as I stopped trying to think too much when I write, the songs started getting better.
If you’re going todo anything of substanceit has to be pure
Since we’re talking about prophecies, what’s your vision for the future?
Since I was little I’ve had a vision of me as an artist, with music at the centre. So I know that I’m going to be doing it, but I don’t want to think about it too much. I’d rather go into it with no expectations or bad intentions. I don’t want something I love this much to be ruined by some sort of expectation - I’d rather be authentic to myself, with a purpose, and help make people feel something. If you’re going to do anything of substance it has to be pure.
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