LVRA has never allowed boundaries nor contraries to restrict their creativity. Their latest EP, soft like steel, which released yesterday, is a manifestation of curiosity. The experimental project ambitiously explores a variety of sounds and concepts including freedom, beauty, and morality. Soft like steel is also being accompanied by a short film of the same name, demonstrating LVRA’s prowess in multi-medium storytelling. The EP and short film both debuted at LVRA’s first headline show at Colour Factory House in London also on 22 March.
“We act so strongly against our beliefs despite knowing how fragile they are, because it’s extremely exhausting to unlearn what we already know” LVRA tells us as they explain the album is all about unlearning ideas that have been ingrained in us. Their music encourages us to question everything we have grown accustomed to, giving us the opportunity to reimagine the world around us and see it in a whole new light.
Could you please start by introducing yourself and what you do?
My name is Rachel and I perform under LVRA - I’m a 23-year-old artist, producer and DJ of Chinese heritage, based in London now but originally born and raised in Edinburgh.
You’ve been described as “an artist who draws from the molten core of industrial, hyperpop and deconstructed club music to crystallise a sound that’s both anthemic and experimental”. Where do you find creative influence for such a distinct and unique sound?
I feel like my music has landed in a place that combines my love for all the different phases of pop, alternative, rock and club music I had growing up. Despite the many hundreds of genres and sub-genres there are now, a lot of them speak to the same raw emotions that we collectively feel as humans, so I’ve found it most exciting when an artist can find a deeper connection with their listener through pushing boundaries. It’s why I’ve always had a curiosity for experimental music and artists who can explore concepts and feelings in a new way.
Your EP soft like steel came out 22nd March! I was really intrigued by the contradictory nature of the project’s title, are contraries or paradoxes concepts that interest you?
You got it - I love the idea of a paradox. Something which should be contradictory but, in some senses, feels true anyway. The point of a paradox is to make you think - and that is exactly what I wanted the listener to do. Writing this EP was my way of journaling all these thoughts - of things like beauty, religion, capitalism, morality, and ultimately the freedom we have to choose our own path.
Following on from this, given the sensory nature of the project’s title, I’m interested to know what does soft like steel feel like to you?
I’d describe it as feeling like being swallowed by a huge monster and making a tough journey through its dark, gooey and violent insides until you make it out the other end and land on a soft bed of sand. By the end you feel like you’ve been reborn.
Of the EP, you’ve already released the songs venom and anxiety. In what ways do these tracks set the tone of the project?
To stick to my earlier metaphor - those songs represent the latter half of the journey through this monster’s insides. Anxiety, you’re very much stuck in the chaos of the stomach, whist by venom you’ve gained the confidence to fight your way out. Although the songs individually capture different thoughts, as a whole they represent a desire to question, understand and then act on the ever-changing ideas around us.
I also read that, on the EP, you explore your own perspectives on themes such as freedom, beauty, and autonomy. Why did you want to dedicate your focus to these subjects in particular?
When I look back on my life I can see how quickly my perceptions have changed as I have moved to new places, met new people, had new experiences. The songs explore how those perceptions, beauty etc, have changed. My fear is that at some point we stop absorbing this new information - we act so strongly against our beliefs despite knowing how fragile they are, because it’s extremely exhausting to unlearn what we already know, particularly if it’s something learnt from a young age. My intention is to encourage the energy of curiosity, openness and confidence to take control of your own narrative.
Sonically, soft like steel is very different compared with, for example, your 2019 releases U Don’t Have To Like Me and U Should Be In Love With Me. Why do you think your sound has evolved in the way that it has?
I grew up singing pop melodies, writing at my piano, but I think deep down I knew I always wanted to explore something heavier and darker. It’s really been a fun process of experimentation in the last few years, and the more time I spent in clubs, the more I realised what I really wanted to do when I stood up on stage was to provide that same cathartic experience that club music gave me.
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Soft like steel is being accompanied by a short film of the same name, featuring several tracks from the EP! Could you talk a bit about the film and what the process of creating it was like?
It was always my intention to create a project that encompassed a storytelling visual that could sit alongside the music. I just love the idea of world-building and exploring ideas through different mediums. The musical project was kind of written side by side with the film, which I think made it easier to think of the project as a story. I had some demos at the time which were a good starting point, but ultimately it was sitting down with Oscar - the director and also my long-term collaborator and partner - and discussing our shared understanding of the themes of freedom and autonomy that helped us to build a story we felt like we could both connect with. Because we both work full time, we shot the film over four weekends in 2022; it was an extremely challenging project for the team to execute, but with the help of an amazing crew and the versatility of our lead actor, Aoi, we managed to achieve an outcome we were all really proud of.
I feel that releasing a short film really illustrates the cohesion of the project as well as both the dialogue and distinctions that exists between the tracks. What was your vision for the film and what were you trying to communicate with it?
The film is really a physical representation of the journey that I’ve been describing through overturning and unlearning old ideas. Oscar, after listening to me speak obsessively about freedom and free will, was immediately inspired by William Blake’s quote: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.”
Blake saw the world as being filled with contradictions both within and outside of us, and saw the danger in closing ourselves off to the vastness of these ideas. We wanted the protagonist to step through these doors, represented by the portals in the film, and face the prejudice that prevented them from seeing beyond their pre-determined beliefs. The final challenge is to destroy their perception of themselves, to ultimately be reborn with a new set of perspectives.
You collaborated with artists such as girl_irl and Spent on this project, are there any other artists you would be particularly keen to work with in the future?
Loads! London is such a great place to meet and collaborate with people - for me I love working with artists who really understand their own sound well. It’s so exciting to experiment combining sounds and seeing what comes out the other end. I have a few collaborations lined up - keeping it hush for now!
Your first headline shows will take place at Colour Factory House in London on 22nd March and at Civic House in Glasgow on 31st March. Is there anything you can tell us about what you have in store for these shows?
All I can say is that both shows aim to create the world of the EP through multiple mediums - I want people to touch, hear, see and interact with it. Having played pretty much exclusively solo audio shows, the best thing about these headlines is that it I’m able to collaborate with some amazing local artists in both London and Glasgow who will bring their own interpretations of how this world looks and feels.
Finally, looking beyond the release of the EP, what else does 2023 have in store for LVRA?
More music and collaborations - more visuals, shows, merch, events. I’m really excited for it!
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Top and skirt LYNN LA YAUNG, dress and shoes LUCA HOLZINGER, jewellery AMY RODRIGUEZ.