LOLA on Mysticism, Her Creative Process and the Power of Vulnerability
For our latest BRICKS Voices digital cover, meet the celestial alternative R&B goddess LOLA as she discusses mysticism, her creative process and the power of vulnerability.
WORDS Jonquil Lawrence CREATIVE DIRECTION Selfish & LOLA PHOTOGRAPHY Ivar Wigan POST-PRODUCTION Manu Pillai STYLING Ella Lucia MUA Grace Sinnott HAIR Grace Hatcher STYLING ASSISTANT Mh’ya McLean PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANTS Jorge Higgins, George Nicolaides
In a utopian world where FKA Twigs and BANKS could gift us with their intergalactic love child, it might somewhat resemble celestial alternative R&B goddess LOLA.
Hailing from Kilburn, North London, the singer-songwriter possesses artistic depth and nuance far beyond her 23 years. Having always been attracted to the mystical and spiritual, LOLA explores the concept of the ‘Wounded Feminine’ through her metamorphic debut EP project The Sleeping Prophet.
Since composing her first ever song at 11 years old to collaborating with East London producer and vocalist LYAM (Shygirl, John Glacier) on Mountain Dew in 2018, LOLA has refined her medium and developed a unique style sprinkled with symbolism, esoteric musings and otherworldly resonance.
Having previously cited the likes of Björk, Little Dragon, Kate Bush, Eryka Badu, D’Angelo and Prince as influences, LOLA’s enigmatic music boasts a transcendental blend of vocal layers, haunting melodies and ambient synthesizers with ethereal R&B production that grows in intrigue with every listen. The frank articulation in LOLA’s performances intimately invites the listener into her supernatural sphere as if she’s divulging a veiled secret – and with candid tales of intuitive self reflection and mystic symbolism, perhaps she is. Growing up surrounded by mystical teachings, LOLA became particularly fascinated with notions such as prophecies and reincarnation which are both recurring themes within her work.
The release of LOLA’s debut EP The Sleeping Prophet in May this year has solidified her status as one of the UK’s most striking rising stars, and with radio endorsement from BBC Radio 1, BBC 1xtra and BBC6 Music, LOLA’s trajectory shows no signs of relenting.
With 2020’s flourishing influx of digital imagery bombarding the internet, LOLA’s imagination has led her to favour this mode of visual expression. Her music video forthe song Feral Soul incorporates 3D scanning and the creation of her very own avatar and augmented reality. An artist with multiple talents, LOLA designed and created her own surrealist folk-inspired EP artwork too, with the faces in each corner of the illustration symbolising each song and encapsulating her different facets. The depiction of moths represent her track Wingless whilst the whispering pixies allude to hidden secrets in the song Divinities.
Since quarantining with her Mum in North London LOLA reveals “I’ve been working on a lot of music, learning how to use eBay, cooking, and trying to make my cat actually sit on my lap”. BRICKS catches up with the artist to talk mysticism, her creative process and the power of vulnerability.
You released your EP The Sleeping Prophet earlier this year, where did the inspiration for the titles of your EP and songs come from?
My songs’ names were usually just based on what felt right. Generally, the first thing that pops into my head is the name that fits the best – sometimes though, there isn’t a lyric in the song that I feel encapsulates the music enough, and it’ll even be the name of something lying around that I feel fits the song more. For example, with the song “Divinities”, I was wearing a t-shirt with it on. The EP title is taken from the nickname given to an American Clairvoyant called Edgar Cayce, who gave readings on healing, future events and reincarnation whilst being asleep. My Mum has always had a collection of his books in her house. Considering that, the way that I write music now is based on a piece of advice I was given by a family friend who told me to not “think too much” when I wrote music. In doing so, I found that I wouldn’t really know what my songs meant at the time that I wrote them. The funny thing is, the songs that I wrote in this way ended up being kind of prophetic. It was like I was predicting my own future unknowingly. This made me trust myself and my intuition a lot more. It might sound silly to some, but when these things come about, they give me hope and help me find a strength in myself and what I have to give, even if it’s not always apparent. Anyway, that’s how it links to Edgar Cayce and his nickname!
Your music and visual spheres are beautiful, otherworldly and possess aspects of spirituality, mysticism and mythology– do you consider yourself a spiritual person? What parts of these themes interest you the most and have informed your work?
Yes, I do consider myself spiritual, but I think we are all spiritual beings. I don’t think my interest in it makes me any more or less spiritual, if that makes sense. But I am definitely fascinated by spirituality. I grew up with very open-minded parents who allowed me to form my own opinions and beliefs. My mum and grandmother were the first to teach me about reincarnation and that had a big impact on how I viewed life and death. My mother studied astrology and she has always had open conversations with me about her research; spirituality, mysticism and mythology have always been subjects that are talked about at home. Since it’s only been one EP, so far I’d say that reincarnation and prophecies have informed my work the most. Symbolism is something I use a lot too, as many artists do.
The songs that I wrote in this way ended up being kind of prophetic. It was like I was predicting my own future unknowingly. This made me trust myself and my intuition a lot more
What drew you to the exploration of the ‘Wounded Feminine’ in your work?
Honestly, I don’t really know. It just kind of happened, naturally. Then, one day I was speaking to my Mum about my project, and she told me she felt like it was my life purpose to “define the wounded feminine”, and it just felt like she hit the nail on the head. It was more something I hadn’t quite been able to put my finger on that then was suddenly defined after I had done a lot of the initial work.
You designed and created the artwork for The Sleeping Prophet EP yourself – how did this come about?
So, I messaged my friend Zanne Chaudhry who is an amazing artist a few months before the EP was due to come out. I was working in a pretty grim cafe as a barista and Zanne was the first (and only) person I knew to walk in and order a coffee one evening. He told me he was doing art direction so when I was stuck on developing the concept for the artwork, my instinct was to message him. I gave him a rundown of the idea behind the music and he got back to me with literally hundreds of insane references. Our original idea was to do a photographic collage which included a lot of symbolism and secret references to things in the EP. I then did a mock-up drawing of what I wanted the images to be like, sent it to Zanne, and he told me that the drawing was better than the collage idea. As a whole I think it just captured how the project felt to me: a little dark and distorted, but still beautiful and mystical.
There is a discernible element of honesty and delicate vulnerability to your music, how important do you think it is to normalise being open and transparent about our feelings as multi-faceted beings?
I think it’s very important. I don’t think we can truly thrive without being able to feel everything, without feeling stifled. I think there’s a lot of fear around being vulnerable, which is understandable. I think from my own personal experience, I would never have healed from past trauma if I didn’t allow myself to feel multiple things at once. Realistically, we are ever-changing, and that includes our emotions. And it is sometimes without reason. If we don’t normalise it, we might feel crazy.
There is so much power in vulnerability. To make yourself vulnerable is one of the bravest things you can do – it says that you’re willing to take a risk.
Do you think there is power in vulnerability? What role does vulnerability play in your writing process?
Yes, I think there is so much power in vulnerability. To make yourself vulnerable is one of the most brave things you can do – it says that you’re willing to take a risk. When it comes to writing, in order for me to get anything authentic out and for it to resonate through the music, I have to strip myself bare and see what bubbles to the surface. As I said before, I try my best not to think too much about what I’m writing, and instead channel a feeling. If something isn’t raw and true, people don’t connect with it.
Your music feels very intuitive, cathartic and healing as a listener. Is writing and making music a cathartic tool for you?
So cathartic. It’s a transformation of my pain, and of my wounds. It honestly is a form of healing for me. Sometimes you can’t express how you feel with just words, and so it’s difficult to work through and to understand. Music evokes feeling in a different way, it’s like another language. Being able to make something beautiful out of the pain just gives me an unmatchable power over my own emotions and experiences.
Being able to make something beautiful out of the pain just gives me an unmatchable power over my own emotions and experiences.
Your visual work enters the digital realm and plays with the idea of alternate realities – why did this appeal to you stylistically?
I find it hard to accept that this realm is all there is. I feel like the world we live in is so mystical and infinite, and it’s incredibly hard to represent that when your visual options are limited. I think digitally, the possibilities are endless. I love the creative freedom of it, mainly. We all need an escape, if I can live in another world, then why not?
How was your experience working within the digital medium for the Feral Soul video? Can you tell us the idea behind the narrative of the video and how it links to the song?
It was amazing. First of all, Manu Pillai – who animated it and co-directed with my manager Sharkkana Pryce – was a dream to work with. The song itself was captured visually in ways that I don’t think I would have been able to do without a digital medium. It was just so exciting to really see myself go into a whole other space. With Feral Soul, the narrative was about a part of me that I was scared of, aka, “Feral Soul”. Feral Soul already knew all of my secrets, my desires, my thoughts, and my feelings, because it was living inside of me, and was a part of me. The song is specifically about the time where I was still rejecting it and feeling confused. I had started to mourn my ignorance, because I knew everything was going to change from the inside out, which I think we represented with the video –showing multiple versions of myself in a vast and empty space representing the different sides of me battling in my mental space.
We all need an escape, if I can live in another world, then why not?
What are your goals for the rest of 2020?
I’m really trying to let go of any expectations! There are things I would love to do, but I’m not going to put a timeframe on them anymore. I’m proud of where I’m at right now, hopefully 2020 just means more growth for me and my loved ones.
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