Rythm and teenage blues

British artist Låpsley played one of her first concerts at Øya-festivalen in Oslo. This year she’s coming back to Scandinavia with a lot more confidence.

When you interview a 19 year old musician from Liverpool who just released her first album, you don’t expect her to show up in full training gear. But that’s exactly what happens when Holly Lapsley Fletcher walks through the door of her regular coffee shop in Islington in East London.

– I just had my first session with my trainer after the tour began, she says, still short of breath.

– It was really hard.

She pulls her hair back before turning around to order a soup and a coffee.

On the way to our meeting, I’ve walked around her neighbourhood listening to her music, vibrant electronic pop music reminiscent of James Blake (of whom she’s a fan) but less melancholic, more upbeat. It makes you light-footed as you go. When I ask her how she got started with music, her response could serve as a recipe for almost any new artist of her generation.

– I started making music on my computer in my room, then I put it online and it just went viral.

An equally important element of the story:

– It was never my intention to become an artist. 

In Låpsley’s case this seems to actually be true – not least considering her outfit – she was into sporst at school and wanted to study physical geography. She worked hard to get into one of the prestigious universities near her hometown of Liverpool, music was something she did to take a break from studying. She put the music on Soundcloud so that family members in the US could listen to it.

– To turn down my place at the university in order to be an artist, after having worked so hard to get in, is one of the most difficult decisions I have made, she says.

– I’m still trying to come to terms with it. Performing live still scares me a bit, but I love writing music.

She still writes all the music on her own with an eletric piano and a computer. When you listen to it, it sometimes sounds like there are several people singing, but in reality this is all Låpsley. Distorting her own voice has become a sort of trademark. 

– It was something I just started to play around with, and I liked how it helped me get different perspectives into the song, how it created harmonies.

– You also produce the music yourself?

– Yes, along with a technician. It’s something I want to get better at. A lot of the time I know exactly how I want the music to sound, but I don’t know how to actually do it. 

Photo: Luke & Nik

One of the things you can read about Låpsley in interviews, is that she plays a lot of instruments. When I ask her about that, she responds with a laugh. 

– It sounds very impressive, but the truth is that I was a very lazy music student and almost never practiced. I only started to play a new instrument because I was bored with the previous one. But I remember that I really wanted to get into the youth orchestra in Liverpool, which was quite difficult, and since I didn’t want to practice as much, I found out what they needed the most. That’s how I started playing the oboe.

Laughter again.

– It sums up my personality pretty well. I’m always looking for shortcuts.

From what she says during our conversation, it’s still obvious that she’s keen to learn. Playing live, for example, is something she is working to get better at. The ongoing tour takes her to places like San Francisco, Sydney and Japan. This weekend, she will perform at Bergenfest, and next week at Piknik i Parken in Oslo. One of the first places she ever performed was The Glastonbury Festival, the year after she visited Øyafestivalen in Norway. She wasn’t to happy with her own effort at either venues. 

– My live show wasn’t that great at the time, it’s much better now. I have learned a lot in a year, including how I can change the songs to make them work better live.

She looks forward to coming to Norway again, she says.

– I would like to show you that I can deliver a better show.

– Speaking of Norway, it is a little odd that you have a Scandinavian letter of the artist’s name. Why is that?

– The name is actually Scottish, but I found out that my family originally were Scandinavian lock keepers. I thought the å was cool and it also makes my artist name a little different from my real name. 

She’s had to think more about things like that for the past two years, ever since she was discovered by the industry at age 17. Suddenly she has to take into account how she is perceived and the fact that people will have an opinion about her.

– It was something I chose to relate to when I signed a record deal, she says.

– How do you like dealing with all that?

– In a way it feels very shallow to have to make choices about things like clothes and makeup. I don’t want to come across as a person who just focuses on myself. But it’s also made me more aware of what kind of things I like, which is good, although the record company would probably want me to pay even more attention to those things.  

– What other advice have they given you?

– They’ve obviously had to deal with a moody teenager and almost act like a kind of parent to me. Of course I’m going to make mistakes. I say the wrong things in interviews or doing something goofy when I receive an award. But I’m 19 years old. I think I should be allowed to do that.

Låpsley plays at Bergenfest on June 18th and at Piknik i Parken in Oslo on June 24th.

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