“Listen up, get free, trust, release, disrupt, lean in, turn up, to me”, breathes NY-born, Paris-based pundit of punk, Louisahhh – and we obey. These lyrics are from Love is a Punk, the opening track of her debut album, The Practice of Freedom, released on the inclusive label, HE.SHE.THEY. Chatting with her, I get the feeling that Louisahhh does nothing in halves. She loves animals, punk, techno and her craft; loves life, loves living life, and everything in between.

The Practice of Freedom
is as much a masterclass in fine-tuned production (Louisahhh entirely deconstructed and recomposed her album since 2018), as it is in spontaneity, freedom, and catching “the muse as it ran by”. Through her techno-inspired punk, or punk-inspired techno, she draws inspiration from Nine Inch Nails, her newfound passion for BDSM, and her European clubbing background to give one big middle finger to the system. Whatever you thought about punks before, think again, and if freedom’s a practice, Louisahhh’s here to teach us.
A whole lot has happened in the world since we last interviewed you back in 2019, Louisahhh – excuse the understatement. What’s changed for you since then, or stayed the same?
That was such a good memory and it’s really clear in my mind - my memory is absolutely abysmal trash - it feels both near and far. Obviously, global pandemic and all, a lot has transformed on a large scale for all of us. Personally, the day to day is kind of similar: lots of creativity and exercise and time with animals, lots of screaming gleefully into the abyss. The album is out, so my career has exploded in a way, but also gotten smaller because of staying home for the past year
Before we get on to the sound of your new album, The Practice of Freedom, the project itself has been around for quite some time, in one form or another, right? What made now the right time to release it?
I’ve actually been trying to release it since writing it back in 2018, but everything kind of fell apart and had to get rebuilt. I should say, actually, that I tore everything down and rebuilt it around the album. It was an incredibly scary and frustrating process, to leave what I knew behind and embark on a new road that I had to construct in a much more hands-on way than I had been working, but I am so grateful for the learning experience of it, and that the record came out when it did. I feel like there is some sort of divine constellation in the patience required that made it all worth it, that I was kind of forced to sit on my heels and wait to release it when the world was ready for a record that sounded like this and contained the themes that it contains.
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Earrings and blazer BALENCIAGA, tigh high boots stylist's own.
So I’d actually encountered the phrase "the practice of freedom" before in the work of bell hooks, who used it as the title of one of her works. Hooks uses the phrase to describe the empowering and liberating potential of education, which feels relevant to your own project, in a way. Is this where it came from? What does ‘the practice of freedom’ mean to you?
I love that you know about bell hooks’ use of the phrase. Yes, it’s from her; I’m a huge fan of her work and her ideas around liberation in transgression, in the notion of a pedagogy that includes overthrowing racial and sexual oppressions as ferociously loving work. I am deeply inspired by this and it feels incredibly relevant to both my ideologies as an artist and also to the present moment.
My first experience of the album was in one, long techno-punk filled sitting. So much palpable emotion in such a short time was pretty overpowering, but also a really purifying experience – like you state in the track No Pressure, “no pressure, no diamond”. Was catharsis a large part of the album for you – both the process of creating it, but also the impact you wanted it to have on listeners?
It’s funny, I have a hard time thinking about the actual process of creating the record - as I mentioned, my memory is really bad, but I am getting a fresh understanding and experience of the songs every time we perform them. Although the band has only had two shows because of the pandemic, we’ve done an absurd amount of rehearsing together, and I’ve sung through the set in my living room probably thousands of times at this point. I feel like it’s not so much my consciously creating cathartic work, but that the work itself is like a crucible for catharsis, if that makes sense. Performing these songs galvanises me and sets me free, not the other way around. It’s exciting to hear that other people are having a similar experience when they come into contact with the album.
I can’t remember listening to another record that saddles the line between techno and metal quite as well as The Practice of Freedom. Was this fine balance an intentional choice? Did you draw your inspiration from both genres?
Thank you! The Practice of Freedom was a return to my roots in 90s alternative America: Garbage, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins. These were the references that producer Vice Cooler and I shared going into the writing process. After living for the better part of the last decade in Europe and being immersed in the club culture that is more broadly available here than in the USA, it was inevitable that those sensibilities would influence the sound of the record. I guess the truth of where I’m at musically is what you’re hearing, and also the explicit desire to be able to play this album both in a mosh pit and on a dance floor, to have a really crazy live experience performing it as a band, but to make it possible for DJs to play some of the songs in more traditional techno sets. I feel really proud of how it’s landing, I think we succeeded at this goal.
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Earrings and necklace BALENCIAGA, coat ARTURO OBEGERO, tigh high boots stylist's own.
You mention Vice Cooler, who I know produced the album. Did you know him before the record? What was it like to work with him on it?
Vice and I had known of each other and had crossed paths many times around LA while I was living there, via our mutual friend David Scott Stone (LCD Sound System, The Melvins), but had never worked together or really connected before starting to collaborate on the record. He invited me over to his house when I was on tour in the US, having some days off in LA, and we wrote Like a Shot in one afternoon, and it just kept building from there. I can’t say enough about Vice’s insane talent, vision and work-ethic. He understands the musical landscape outside of techno way more than I do, and has been super helpful is pushing the record to be all that it can be, from getting Dave Pensado and his team on board to mix it, to linking us with our awesome American PR, Carrie Tolles. I learned so much working with Vice and I have so much love and respect for him and the way he makes art and does business. We’ve started working on the second album and it’s really cool to see how things are coming together faster and with more depth now that we know each other better and trust each other more. Vice Cooler is a gift in my life.
My favourite track from the album is A Hard No. I was completely absorbed for four minutes flat. All I could do was sit, listen and let your hyper sensory mantra wash over me. Were you trying to convey anything in particular with the song? What is the “it” in the song that gets such “a hard no”?
This song in particular was one that kind of wrote itself, like it just flowed through me from the ether, onto the page, and I can’t really take credit for it besides being available to catch the muse as it ran by. That being said, I think for a lot of my work the "it" is the divine, which I understand (or experience) to be a little more rich and nuanced than the black and white, good and evil binary that can be sold to us by organized religions. The third verse, which is repeated twice, actually has two different endings, though they might be indecipherable in my roaring: "let me see my own disease" and "let me know I’m all I need", and that’s kind of the core of it. For me, my relationship with ‘It’ contains both of those things. I’m really glad you like it. I am very proud of and grateful for this song.
I read that part of what went into creating this album involved your journey with your sexuality, particularly exploring the world of BDSM and submissiveness. I thought I missed that element at first, but when I thought about it and remembered the track Master, I was like, ‘oh okay, maybe that’s what this is about…’. What was this experience of exploration like for you, does it come through in any other songs in the project?
Hah! I am very relieved that it’s not too obvious, as I wouldn’t want to be so blatant that it’s the only thing someone can think of when they hear the record. Of course, Master is definitely a specific flavor of love song which is quite BDSM specific. I keep joking that I hope a Christian rock band covers it because they think it’s about Jesus. (It’s not. Unless you want it to be?) Additionally, Hunter / Wolf has some undertones of atypical relationship constellations, and the phrase "a no is a hard no, everything else is a yes," was actually something that a play partner told me during a scene negotiation. I mean, even Love is a Punk kind of loosely holds this idea that love itself is capricious and uncontainable, which is to say (for me) that this (specific dynamic) is how I express it and experience it. Throughout the record there are references to bondage or masochism, but I’d rather let the listener have their own experience of it. This is some of what it means to me, but it is very much open to interpretation.
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Earrings and blazer BALENCIAGA, tigh high boots stylist's own.
One of the biggest themes that I heard and felt in The Practice of Freedom was love. Obviously, tracks like Chaos and Love is a Punk, the album’s opener, both explicitly mention love. But I feel like other tracks, like Corruptor, Not Dead, or Hunter / Wolf, deal with love in other forms, maybe from less obvious perspectives, like times when loving someone is difficult, or when the person we love is no longer there. What does love mean to you, and your art?
What an interesting question! I guess love is the thing that drives all of my work: longing for it, receiving and giving it (whatever that might look like), losing it, grieving it, naming it, delighting in it. I feel very grateful to have a life I can really feel the fullness of love just fucking bursting in today.
Finally, I’m quietly hopeful that at some point in the near future I’ll be able to hear a Louisahhh track in the middle of a sweaty dancefloor in some anonymous club. Are you feeling hopeful for the future? Do you have any plans, musically or otherwise?
I can’t talk about plans anymore, it’s too heart-breaking. We have a few gigs as a band lined up this summer, and I really hope they happen, but France just went into our fourth 'confinement' so hope seems a little foolish, though we’ll try to be optimistic.
My plans are: this evening I will cook a curry (vegan, eggplant, coconut milk, red lentils); every day I will meditate and practice french and do yoga and dance and sing. I will ride my bike to the horses, I will ride the horses; I will do my morning pages and leap around the living room; I will make up lullabies for the dog; I will read my book until I fall asleep in bed with the one I love. It is a good life either way but god damn, I miss the energy we share when we’re in a deafening room sweating and moving together. I hope to see you soon, friend.