Coachella 2016: Låpsley On Creative Control, Festival Nerves & Debut LP ‘Long Way Home’
Låpsley arrived in a blaze of blog love and critical acclaim in 2015 with a string of intricately-wrought anthems (“Falling Short” and “Hurt Me,” for example). The 19-year-old seemingly approached pop as a form of therapy — cramming life experiences and raw emotions into every self-produced song. That brutal honesty, along with the Brit’s smoky vocals and knack for incisive lyrics, makes Long Way Home one of the better debut albums of 2016.
Translating the intimacy of that album into a festival performance was always going to be a challenge, but Holly Fletcher (her real name) proved more than up to the task on Day 1 of Coachella. I caught up with the rising writer/producer after her set and she spoke about her battle with nerves. Låpsley also opened up about the story behind her impeccable debut LP and plans for album number two. Find out more in our Q&A below.
Did you have any preconceptions of Coachella?
Just like, skinny bitches. That people that would look down on you, that people would be too scared to dance. The same dickheads that you find in London, Los Angeles, everywhere. You know what I mean? It’s just so focused on aesthetic. But actually, once I got here, these people, throw some drinks and some weed at them and they slowly toned it down. It’s not as bad as I thought.
Now that you’ve finished, who are you going to check out?
I really want to see Anderson .Paak. It’s weird, because at SXSW we both got an award. He was the award for America and I got the one for outside of America. I don’t even know how the fuck I got that, but let’s see the American person. Then it was like, “We’re so different, but he’s really cool.” I’m excited to check him out. I’ve got some friends playing, like Savages and Olly Alexander from Years & Years. It’ll be nice to see familiar faces.
I’ve met him a few times. It’s weird, because the only people that you meet time and time again are the artists at festivals. I don’t know, they’re like your new friends in a sense because you’re following the same festival paths.
It must be nice to have a sense of community.
It’s good and you see the artist in a different light because you see them as a person.
You have such an intimate sound. How does that translate at a festival?
It’s definitely easier when it’s enclosed. Easier with a tent than it is with the open air. I don’t know. A lot of it is to do with confidence with my sound technician knowing that the atmosphere is right and the bass is right and everyone who is sat in the crowd can hear what I want them to hear, which is a balanced sound where it creates atmosphere.
If there’s issues with that, like if there’s a lot of wind, then I get stressed because they’re not having the full picture. I’m going to be there trying to get involved in this song and they’re not getting involved, because they can’t because of whatever reason, and that stresses me out. So, yeah, I do get very involved in terms of the sound and the technical aspect. Just because I want it to be good.
I feel like when I go and see an artist, especially that I’ve been listening to on my iPod or whatever. iPod, iPhone, who the fuck has an iPod? [Laughs]. If they’re not good live, it stresses me out. I want to be in there, I want to be in the moment. I want that for my audience.
Is there a sense of relief now that Long Way Home has finally been released?
It’s quite scary actually. I’m not very good at writing about hypothetical things so what I write about is very real. So when that’s suddenly out in the open and it’s out in the open for prejudice, it’s out in the open for praise. It’s just out there. It’s very stressful. Because they’re very personal things and I don’t know how you can prepare yourself for that, but I feel like without this honesty I wouldn’t think I’d be where I am.
If I wrote about things that weren’t real it wouldn’t come across in the same sense. So I think a lot of creative people sacrifice this privacy and these strong emotions in return for paying their rent or whatever. You know what I mean? It’s very stressful, but at the same time if other people who are listening to music can relate to you, you know that you’ve reached something.
One of my pet peeves is when people compare you to…
Is it Adele?
Yes. Your music isn’t even similar to my ears.
I just think it’s bad journalism. It’s like, “Yeah, it’s a nice compliment.” Who doesn’t want to be compared to someone like that? At the same time, if you listen to both sets of music, Adele comes from a country background, you know? I come from a heavy electronic background, now I’m moving into the pop world, but it’s from a very different perspective. I think a part of me feels like would this shit happen if I was a guy?
You wouldn’t even refer to me as a singer/songwriter if I was guy. You’d refer to me as producer or writer. I always say don’t read reviews, but I always read them. Because I’m just interested to see. Because for me, it’s been and done and writing an album is kind of like therapy. It’s out of the way now and I can move on. I almost forget that it’s my job and that I do it for a commercial reason.
I was impressed that you managed to keep complete creative control of the project. Why didn’t you want other producers involved?
I think it’s because I want to be like them and by doing that I need to learn on my own. If I want to be an established writer and producer, I can’t have this intervention at the start and this album may not be the best album I will ever be able to do, but it’s me. I’ve had the ideas for production. I did writing and that’s special in an insane way. I don’t think my time is this album, I think my time is probably my third or my fourth album.
But I’m learning and I’m not there yet. I’m not ready for the next level. I’ve still got to learn, I’ve got lots to do and it’s a learning process. I want to be very honest in the way I am in terms of writing and producing and that takes a lot of time to put in the effort. To understand the technical aspects, I’m going to train to be an engineer this summer so I can understand all the technical shit I didn’t know on the first album and had to get someone to help me.
For some reason in interviews, because his name’s on there, they’re like, “So Rodaidh McDonald produced the album?” No, he was in the room because I needed help because I didn’t understand how to do this or that on Logic. I hate trying to prove a point, because it sounds a bit catty, but at the same time I’m going to fight my course until the point where it seems equal. I think next album is going to be more independent and then if I decide to do a collaboration it’s going to be well thought out.
Have you thought about your next single?
Different countries have reacted to different things. So for example, in Belgium it will probably be “Tell Me The Truth,” because they’re more serious. For Germany, it’s going to be “Operator (He Doesn’t Call Me).” It’s not going as well in the UK as everywhere else. But that’s because radio is very limited and in order to make it in the UK you need a radio hit. So you creep up slowly in the UK because it’s such a small country.
Would you consider including a crossover song on your next LP?
I think, yeah. It’s funny, I listened to “Royals” by Lorde recently and when you first hear it, you think it’s very simple. There are not many layers to it, but the more you listen to it, the more can see why it’s a hit. I think I’m going to work very hard on the next album and hopefully you know, maybe there will be a song like that and it will be successful. But at the same time, it’s very hard to second guess what the public want to hear. There are certain songs on the charts where I’m like, “How the fuck did that get in?” And then I realize it’s so catchy. I’m going to work hard to make a good radio single.
Maybe you can remix one of the songs. That’s all the rage.
Like that one of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”? Every time I hear it I want to cry, because I know it’s not as good as the original, but then you have a few drinks and it’s like, “Damn, girl. I can see why it works.” It’s like you don’t know how to feel. It’s like, “I’m so sorry Tracy, but please play ‘Fast Car.'”
When I listen to the album, I can’t help but wonder who fucked you over.
Oh, nobody did. The whole album is about relationships when you have a mental illness. It’s only when I say that that people think, “Oh fuck, that makes sense in a way.” It’s about this person. He had very severe OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, which is a form of anxiety. It’s the reason why we split up and it’s having to cope with an end of a relationship and nobody has done anything. Nobody’s cheated, it’s purely because I can’t cope and he can’t cope with me and he has to go to therapy and I can’t cope with everything.
So, it was very intense and very personal. I don’t mind talking about it now if it helps other people who are in a similar relationship, but it’s a very weird thing to talk about. Which is why I use a lot of visual metaphors, like I talk about the change in light or I talk about a cliff or I talk about the metaphor of Silver Lake running out of water and a relationship running out of time. I’m trying to show people what it’s like to be in a relationship with someone with a mental health issue because it’s very difficult to put yourself in there. So through visual metaphors hopefully they can try to understand that there’s a separation.
Are you enjoying being in the US?
I’m constantly surprised. Like, getting TV. I had The Today Show, which went very well. I did The Late Show which didn’t go very well. I was shit scared, my voice just went on me. It was okay, it wasn’t my best. I know when I come off and I know that things have gone well, I’ve hit the notes, but that was terrifying and I think I did it too early. However, The Today Show went really well, it was really funny. Yeah, the US constantly surprises me, in a good way. It’s amazing.
It just makes me realize that the US, because it’s so big, it gives space for these alternative genres, it gives space for everyone to breathe. That is so lucky. Europe is very small, it’s very particular. It’s cool. I like how you have specific locations for certain things.
Are you going to do things differently next week?
Yeah, I will have a more positive outlook. I’m just going to be more positive. I do suffer with really bad anxiety. I get a lot of migraines. I struggle because my personality is very extreme, I’m very loud but at the same time I can’t do certain things. I can’t go to parties with friends, because I can’t cope with people. I struggle to go on stage because I feel like I look like an idiot or I feel like they’re judging me.
You looked awesome.
I know, but it’s funny, because the whole thing about anxiety is that it’s irrational, but you still feel the feelings. It’s just like, “I know this is stupid, but I still suffer from the shit that’s going through my head.” Yeah, I think after the feedback that I’ve had, next week will probably go better. It’s funny, because the things that I think are the worst my management say are the best shows. Next week will probably be worse, but mentally be better. We’ll see.