10 things you need to know about ethereal London artist LOLA

Spiritual musings and digital avatars stalk the realms of her transportive debut EP, The Sleeping Prophet.

by Frankie Dunn
30 April 2020, 12:00pm

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets… and this LOLA wants you to listen to her new single, “Feral Soul”. Taken from the 23-year-old’s debut EP, The Sleeping Prophet -- out 1 May -- it’s a beautiful otherworldly creation about feeling overwhelmed by the negative voices in your head. “It’s a story of harmony through conflict,” the Londoner says. “I was struggling with my mental health and I couldn’t recognise those voices as being fragmented parts of myself. I personified and demonised it as a foreign entity so that I could detach myself.” Eventually having to face her demons, the parts of herself she didn’t like, LOLA learned to embrace them. “The process of self-acceptance is never-ending, it feels, but more rewarding than I ever expected.”

In lieu of a more traditional music video, LOLA decided that sending a digital avatar of herself dancing through a dark and twisted dream-state would be much more fun. “Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times I screamed when the animator Manu Pillai sent over the tests he was doing with my avatar,” she says. “It can dance better than me, so I’ve definitely been partially living through her. It’s surreal though -- and weirdly so freeing. I can’t be as critical as I would if it was just a video of me dancing. It’s surreal and extremely humbling.”

With The Sleeping Prophet, LOLA is on a personal mission to define the wounded feminine however she can, “so that it’s somehow easier to understand, so that it’s documented in a more realistic and well-rounded way”. Having realised what a complex and intangible subject it is, the emotionally very open and honest artist aims to continue attempting to capture her take on it. “In 2020 I’m striving to be my most authentic self and to be accepting of who I am at my core, and what I have to give -- it’s a constant battle.”

Currently self-isolating with her mum, we tore LOLA away from her quarantine obsessions -- watching cooking shows and researching Korean skincare with her cat Inka -- to delve a little deeper into her world. Get to know her better via these 10 fun facts...

1. LOLA remembers being brought to tears by a piece of music aged 3
“I went with my mum to the Royal Albert Hall when I was about 3 years old. My grandpa was conducting the London Big Band and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for Laurie Johnson and my dad, a percussionist, and my uncle, a drummer, were both playing too. My mum says that when they started to play the first minor song, I started bawling my eyes out -- when she asked me what was wrong I blubbed “it’s just so sad!” I remember feeling overwhelmed. I don’t often get brought to tears by music, so that memory has always stuck with me.”

2. Music-making runs in the family, basically
Music has always played a big part in my life: my family is made up of musicians, I started playing classical piano at around 8 years old, and then went on to get a music scholarship at school. There were a lot of pressures involved in doing classical music and in being expected to perform at established venues. I loved the music itself, but I developed an anxiety disorder quite young and I would get really horrible stage fright. I started having panic attacks when I was a teenager and eventually had to step away from music because I found the expectations people had of me so stressful. I went on a trip to the other side of the world by myself and, being away from everything, I realised how much I missed music and that I needed to pursue it properly.”

3. At 10 she wrote and recorded a painfully deep handclap song
“Oh my god, I will never forget it because I will never live it down. I was obsessed with handclaps, so I made up a song and taught it to my friend so that we could have our own *unique* and *iconic* handclap. I told my dad, who convinced a very shy me to record it, which he then somehow made into an actual song. It was called “Lucy Walker” and it sounded exactly how you would imagine a 10-year-old’s song to sound. I did this telephone voiceover at the beginning where I remember trying to sound like Tracy Beaker. My favourite lyrics from it are: ‘Oh why am I so selfish?/ Why can’t I be like Lucy?/ Na-na-na-na, oh why is the world so complex? Why am I so clumsy?’”

4. She grew up on a diet of Frou Frou, Sade, Björk, Little Dragon, Kate Bush, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, D’Angelo, David Bowie and Prince
"I can hear now in my music that a lot of my influences are from the artists my parents played to me growing up, which are probably the artists that spike my nostalgia the most when I listen to them. I hear a lot of what my grandpa used to play in his house -- jazz and film music -- in the instrumentals I am drawn to now. My mum has always sung chamber music, so I think that might be why I love layering vocals and harmonies the way that I do.”

5. LOLA’s debut EP Sleeping Prophet is named after her fave clairvoyant
“It’s taken from the nickname given to the American clairvoyant Edgar Cayce, who gave readings on healing, future events, reincarnation and a lot of other things while asleep. My mum has a collection of his books in her house, which she introduced me to as a teenager. My family has always been somewhat spiritual, so when I was old enough to understand the realms of spirituality a little more, I became really fascinated by the concepts involved, such as reincarnation and prophecies. The mystical and magical is something I’ve always been intrigued by -- growing up I believed in fairies, angels, mermaids, gods and goddesses -- and I’ve always included it in the art I’ve made.”

6. And spirituality has shaped her songwriting methods
“The way that I write music now is based off of a piece of advice I was given by a family friend, who told me to not think too much. In doing so, I find that I don’t really know what my songs mean at the time, but days or months later something in my life usually occurs that makes a song weirdly poignant. It feels like somehow my subconscious knows what’s going to happen. This makes me trust myself and my intuition a lot more. It’s a nod to the power that each of us have within us.”

7. LOLA recommends pairing her EP with Studio Ghibli’s Castle In The Sky
“The visuals are so transportive, and the storyline reminds me vaguely of my own journey across the EP. Sheeta, the main character, is captive until she escapes and embarks on a journey to find her home, a floating city. The EP is about defining the wounded feminine, and the main character of Castle In The Sky has suffered so much and yet is so kind, warm and complex. She strives to find where she feels she belongs. Both works are about not being crushed by the challenges you face and maintaining a sense of yourself no matter what the outside world says you should be.”

8. Into the beautiful creepy EP artwork? She drew it herself
“It was actually just meant to be a mock-up. I had asked my friend Zanne Chaudhry to help me come up with a concept for the artwork and we landed on the idea of doing something symbolic, surreal, folk-inspired and quite spiritual; where we could visually represent the themes of the EP with photography. There are faces in each corner of the artwork that symbolise each of the songs, which encapsulate four quite different parts of me -- this also ties into “Feral Soul” and the many faces we wear. Moths fly around as a reference to the first track “Wingless” and pixies whisper in the shadows linking to the untold secrets mentioned in the fourth track “Divinities”. Zanne decided that my drawing was better than the photography idea, and so here we are!”

9. LOLA played a witch in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
“I used to do the ‘extra’ roles in films and TV shows and I was a witch in the Parisian Ministry of Magic in Fantastic Beasts 2, which is my claim to fame. I’m also a trained barista, so I can do latte art -- I’m very proud of the fact that I can draw a teddy bear out of coffee and milk!”

10. Many songs have been written about different ‘Lola’s through the years, but her fave is “Whatever Lola Wants”
“I was constantly asked about most Lola characters growing up -- every single teacher joked about the “Copacabana” song. I have a lot of amazing memories attached to “Whatever Lola Wants” though. I heard the song itself before I watched Gwen Verdon perform it in Damn Yankees, which is also iconic. My godmother, who is an incredible singer, once sang it as a surprise tribute at a festival when I was about six, and my parents used to sing it to make me laugh when I was having a tantrum. I was bullied throughout my childhood, so I was shy and not the most confident, but that song made me feel special: like maybe I was capable of a lot more than my peers were telling me I was.”

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