In 2016, one has to wade through Soundcloud’s deepening sea of electro-pop offerings to find a single gem—so much upbeat synth, so little time. But today, EARMILK is here with your liferaft: LL. The private songstress is one of the most promising “deep pop” artists we’ve heard in awhile, and she’s somehow been virtually untouched by press and promotion. No matter: Her newest single, "Metamorphosis," is a gorgeously raw first sample.
The track's whispery pop floats on the dark shyness and slightly demonic blips of a musician just starting to break out, unwittingly branding LL as a slightly more accessible echo of FKA Twigs. Her other recent, standout track, "LET ME IN," fills a similarly relatable space somewhere between her disdain for attention (“I don’t want anyone to notice”) and craving for emotional closeness, begging to be “let in” while staving off the pain of scrutiny. The other two songs currently posted on LL’s Soundcloud, “S A L T” and “L I E,” are equally disparate to a touching effect. Each jam can be consumed together line by line as the sound of LL coming into her own, naked as a human and as an artist.
In a radio climate heavily saturated with techno-pop sop, this is exactly the fresh sound we needed to paddle onward. We spoke to LL about her own "metamorphosis" and the concept of freedom:
You say your "LET ME IN" is inspired by the idea of breaking free. What does the word "freedom" mean to you these days?
The whole EP is formed around the concept of breaking free. I like to use a lot of natural metaphor in my writing, so the title, "Cocoon," seems to be a way of exploring and expressing that notion. "Let Me In" is actually flipping the idea of breaking free on it's head. It's about coming back into safety when you are hurt or needing some form of healing. That I think is a relatable notion for us all… whether that be running to or confiding in family, friends or just a step back to move forward. It's at the end of the EP because I like the idea that things come back around, full-circle… to express the infinite. The concept is all about breaking free and right at the end is a track about wanting to go back to my roots, to heal. Metamorphosis on the other hand is about rising out of darkness and the fortification and strength in that process. There's a definite freedom in that track – a bravery even. I'm always pushing myself, so this really is about pushing out and through from fears into something altogether more beautiful. I try lyrically to be quite open so that people can relate to and interpret the lyrics in different ways. It could be about getting over a hangover or it could be about life vs. death.
My personal view on the word freedom – it's surely one of the greatest feelings on earth. We can shackle ourselves way too easily and for me freedom is a very beautiful feeling… as long as it's done with love, breaking free is the best way to grow and takes a certain bravery – however delicately explored. How we choose to find our own sense of freedom is so important to truly living, I think.
Your music is a fusion of a handful of different genres: pop, R&B, ambient. How would you describe the EP's sound?
It's futuristic…I want to take art into a more sensory dimension. I want to create tastes, scents, lighting design, seamlessness. We live in a very digital age, and we can be so much more than we realize. I think outside the box and so, hopefully, this resonates musically.
Is it a departure from your previous material?
In a way, yes. I mean, I've been composing since I was young and written music for my film projects, but at the same time, it's only a year ago that I really discovered that I am meant to be doing music, and so really I'm only a year into this incredible journey. It's been a big shift in my life. A lot of people know me as more of a director of visuals so to have fully immersed myself in this and be so new still is an exciting feeling. The piano is really my main writing friend and I didn't have one since I moved out of home so for a good few years there was definitely a little hole in me… I got gifted a piano for my birthday about 18 months ago and I haven't stopped writing since. At one point I was writing a track a day and I would stick to this if I didn't now have so many things to finish and some beautiful collaborations happening. But yes, it is different – because what I write solely by myself is very piano based. There will be some stuff like that coming really soon… well in 5 tracks time! This EP definitely has a lot of sonic collaboration with someone so special to me – my producer and friend, Eclectic. It's through producing with Eclectic that this sound has become what it is. The way we work together is incredibly organic and the magic in our process I feel has a definite impact on the sound.
Walk me through your usual songwriting process. What has producing Cocoon been like?
It starts with a feeling that you need to express, and either I'll play some keys and ad-lib a top line, or I'll voice note something down. Sometimes hundreds of little ideas come and then I'll send the ones I like to Eclectic and/or a couple of people I trust musically, and we'll go from there. This project was so amazing to write. It started with spending days with my friends Geordan and Kola last summer. We would play and write and jam and have drinks and it was just this really cool little time. I specifically remember a 48-hour creative session with Kola Bello — another good friend of mine who also plays keys for Ellie Goulding — and Eclectic. I'd sing, they'd play, and we recorded the whole thing on a voice note…I just hit record on my computer and listened back the next day. There lies the seed for "Let Me In."
Describe the "healing process" that comes through creating music for you.
Music is everything. I mean, you're happy, you want to sing about it and express that feeling. You're sad, you want to do the same. It really is about expression, taking what is inside of you and allowing it to be free and hoping that you might touch someone or others in that process to give them a wider spectrum of feelings, too.
What artists inspire you lately? What have you been listening to on repeat?
Well, I'm doing a cover with Eclectic of a Nina Simone track – it's going to be very minimal. I mean, she is definitely an artist that I think embodies so much soul and an artistic energy that I totally respect. Right now, I'm so sad to hear of Prince's passing – he is truly an all-time great: 'How Come you Don't Call Me Anymore?' and 'Purple Rain' are both things that I could listen to all day long with such passion. Sia I think is an amazing artist. She's someone I can really feel. I definitely like FKA Twigs, especially LP1. But actually, the thing I'm listening to on repeat at the moment is not hugely known – it's "ANIMA!" by Crave. If you haven't heard it, please go listen to it now. It's like Adele meets Radiohead and the lyrics are just incredible. There's so much talent out there. It's an incredible world to be a part of.