The assembly of creative forces at a sold-out Thalia Hall in Chicago for the launch of Lala Lala’s I Want The Door To Open must have felt like closure on the separation of 2020. Or was it an opening? This album guides the listener to meditate more on the journey than the destination. Songwriter Lillie West gives METAL a peep through the keyhole into a synthetic fantasy destination with a beating heart at its core.
As a dedicated follower of Lillie West and company, I have worn the grooves out of Sleepyhead, The Lamb, and have already lost hours to I Want The Door To Open. How would you describe Lala Lala to readers who are yet to hear your music?
The new album is experimental indie pop. The themes; water, lust, danger, secrets, digital landscapes, avatars, visions. Influences; movies (The Truman Show, Badlands, Miyawaki), Bjork, fiction (Jennifer Egan), poetry (Margaret Atwood, Elaine Kahn, June Jordan, Anne Carson & more), street signs, the desert, paintings.
Did finally releasing the new album feel like pushing the Sisyphean rock over the edge?
Releasing the record feels like entering a new era. Breaking boundaries I felt stuck in and going rogue!
Which first; songwriter or performer?
I suppose, songwriter. Performing is more challenging for me to feel uninhibited in, but I intend to get there.
I love the multiple readings of “I submit to that / a boxing ring” in Bliss Now! - Was addressing conventional domesticity here, and in Castle Life, a theme you had in mind when curating the album?
Both of those songs touch on themes of escaping. I’m a runner, and I find it frustrating when I perceive other people being totally satisfied in their situations. I don’t mean to sound bitter. I’m happy for them, but why am I addicted to fantasy? What is my sickness? It can feel isolating.
Do the several, ethereal, cantillating, voices at play in Photo Photo touch upon the onslaught of stimuli in the information age?
I was actually thinking more in the past; about medieval music and emulating that.
I read about your fascination with water on Instagram. I’ve always loved/feared swimming out into the sea because its immensity marginalises all my vying concerns. Is this the kind of ‘gone’ you are, in Beautiful Directions?
The line “Don’t you know that I am not that kind of gone” is about how I’m constantly leaving, travelling, immersing myself in other environments than the ones at home, some might interpret this as “gone,” but ultimately, I always come back. I’m not gone forever. I’m not totally gone, I’ve not disappeared. I return.
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Did co-producing with Yoni Wolf of Why? and the various featuring musical collaborations on the new album – Ohmme, Kara Jackson, Benjamin Gibbard and Sen Morimoto – feel like an antidote to last year’s forced isolation?
I have always loved collaborating, and it was very rewarding to work closely with Yoni to get places I wouldn’t on my own, but since everyone else’s parts were mostly remote it felt more like a punishment of the pandemic than a reward. It was, however, exciting to get respective musicians' parts back and piece them together at our own pace, in our own style.
What does having GB close the door on the album mean to you?
I love my grandmother. It feels very special that I can collaborate with her in this way.
In Hanif Abdurraqib’s essay, on I Want The Door To Open, he claims the album’s “volume is in its tenderness.” Did the mixing of this record hold as much importance as the band’s instrumentation?
Yes, it's all important. Whatever serves the message or the emotion of the music. Sometimes silence is as important as noise.
Do you write with feeling or intention?
Is this an either or question? I write with both, depending. I try not to analyse that stuff too much and let whatever my body mind heart wants to happen, happen naturally. But one day I may intend to write a song that reminds me of Grimes, and another day I might write because my heart is broken.
At the opening of your second album, The Lamb, you sing the lines “it turns to text, it loses its meaning”. Is tackling lyrics in the abstract within the album, a way of breaching the intangibility of emotion?
Isn’t all art trying to breach the intangibility of emotion? That’s my whole thing. How do I make something that sounds or feels as intense as I feel internally?
Do the keys from the Diver video lead anywhere in the ‘real’ world?
Yes. But it’s a secret.
You previously worked at Thalia Hall, and recently held your album launch there. Did it feel like a full circle moment?
It was very special to be able to release the record and sell out a Chicago venue that I know so well.
Before you go, I have to know. Did you score the music behind the wild Open the Door: Find Your Keys and Unlock Total Serenity, and will this bliss-inducing, nerve-shattering, backing-track ever be released?
The music is made by Ben Gabrinner. No plans to release as of now.
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