lila gold's strange magic
Lila Gold is ready to emerge from her Los Angeles cocoon as a new pop idol.
Lila Gold loves LA. There's a magic to it, she tells me from her Chinatown apartment. "There's this old nostalgia of dreams that have succeeded and dreams that have died. It runs through the whole city. It's really inspiring, I feel it a lot." For the better part of a year the artist has been feverishly working on new music there, after uprooting her life in Sydney. And soon, I imagine, she will emerge from her downtown chrysalis as a fully-formed pop heroine.
Before we spoke, Lila's label sent me four demos — top secret, they assured me, and hardly close to finished, though they sounded awfully well-produced for drafts. Given this, I'm surprised to learn that Lila's not even sure she'll ever release them all, "I'm going to be demoing for at least two or three more months, which is going to mean a lot more tracks. I like excess. I would like to have 30 or 40 tracks, if not more, to choose from. Then I'll start releasing singles."
There are a couple of early Lila Gold songs floating around online; less anthemic than the demos I heard, but certainly pointing in the same direction. Lila's vision is clear; she sings this sort of down-on-its-luck, intensely romantic pop-rock which looks at dirty, dark things — experiences, neighbourhoods — through resolutely rose-tinted glasses. LA certainly makes for a fitting muse.
"'I've been making music since I was 16, and I got signed when I was 18 or 19," Lila tells me. "I'm turning 23 this year. Back then, I was working with different producers and writers, but I was always really defiant. It's not that I didn't trust people, it's just that I knew what I wanted to sound like and what my sound was." By the sounds of things, after much trial and error, Lila's vision is finally coming into focus.
"There's some stuff that I've put on the internet and then deleted," Lily explains. "That's just how it's been. My label were cool with me putting something out to see what would happen, and I think it broke the ice a bit to put out those little tracks. I had to learn not to worry. It's there, I'm proud of it, but those songs were like the sketches."
Now, she says, she's learned more about production, and can find sounds herself more easily. "One of my favourite drum machines is the Dave Smith Tempest," she tells me. "That thing is fucking insane. But you better wrap your head around it. I'm a gear geek, but drums are not my forte. When it comes to triggering drum samples, I'm almost a degenerate with it."She cites Korg's MS-20 Mini as her favourite synth, and more surprisingly, an iPad. "I have a little keyboard for it, and I just download hella synths and use random ones. It actually sounds really good. What you can get out of that thing is pretty impressive."
Lila records with Jason Tibi, an American techno producer from LA's hardcore punk scene. "I don't read or write music, so I often don't know what key I'm singing. The way I write songs, I'll dabble with something on the synth and then Jason comes in to tell me what key everything's in." Lila also writes with her dad, the Australian rock veteran Mark 'Diesel' Lizotte. "He's a real OG," Lila says of her father, "we're very close, and he's such an incredible songwriter."
When you throw a 90s rocker and an LA punk in the studio together with Lila, you end up with a surprisingly cohesive sound, she assures me. "The sound has a lot of electronic elements to it, but it's definitely pop. I say pop because that's not a dirty word to me." At the moment, Lila's recording three nights a week, at least. "I sit on my floor and tell Jason to come over late at night sometimes, and he drives over and we record for four or five hours. We're always recording, you have to, I'd go crazy here if not."
America has long been a second home to Lila, who spent many of her younger years in SoHo before her family returned back down under in the early 2000s. "I had always planned to move back to the States," she says. "I didn't even finish school — I'm a highschool dropout. It's so funny, everyone that I grew up with in TriBeCa and SoHo, they're practically all in LA now." Did she have any fears about the move working out? "I didn't have time to worry about the move working out, because I just got up and left," she admits. "I sold everything, I didn't really say goodbye to anybody. My best friend was the only person who knew, and I left on the night of her birthday! She was so pissed off."
Lila's brother, the photographer Jesse Lizotte, is now in Los Angeles too, largely at her behest. "He's been living with me for about a month or so now, in my little downtown spot. He's my best friend, so I love having him here. I'm forcing him to stay." Having family with her helps ward off homesickness, which she says arrives every now and then. "I think the thing that I lament about Australia, about Sydney, is it's really forgiving. If you're having a hard day, Sydney has this warmth to it. The energy is warming and calming. I think that has to do with the culture and the nature in Australia, and Jesse brings a piece of that over with him. If you're in the shits in LA, you're in the shits. It can suck."
Lila won't be returning anytime soon though, she insists. "When people say, 'Oh, you live in LA because you're a singer.' I'd live here if I wasn't. Though you've got to have the right head for it, because there's a heavy spiritual energy here, a lot of angels and demons." Does singing help her avoid the demons? Lila thinks, and arrives at this answer: "I don't know if I avoid them… I'd have one on each shoulder happily."