Over the past few years, Sydney songstress Lupa J has gifted us with stirring, electronic tracks packed tight with originality. Lyrically, her songs always seem personal, and her sound is always layered and emotive, but her style, an amalgamation, keeps us on our toes. At 19 years old, Lupa J guides her own musical and creative journey: controlling her writing, recording and production processes. She has given herself the room to explore stylistically, and her most recent release, ‘Put Me Back Together’, is a somewhat more ‘dance-able’ offering matched with powerful meaning. The release includes an accompanying music video which is a lushly curated, whirling vision of expressive dance which she directed and edited herself. Ahead of this mega talented artist’s upcoming performance at The Ladies Live x Vivid, we asked her some questions about her most recent tour, her influences and her challenges.
Congratulations on the release of ‘Put Me Back Together’ and your most recent tour! You were supporting Brooklyn-based alt-hip hop act K.Flay for the past month or so around Australia. Any particular moments or shows during the tour that stand out to you?
I just remember being amazed after the first show in Brisbane when K.Flay stood around for about an hour taking pictures and signing CDs for an enormous line of people, talking individually with each and every one of them longer than was required of her. She’s just such a kind, open and down to earth person, no one else I’ve played support for has been that friendly and giving to their fans. And understandably so, I can imagine it would become somewhat draining night after night on a long tour – but that just makes it all the more amazing that she was able to put in such effort for it.
Both yourself and K.Flay tackle some important messages in your music. I’ve read your new single ‘Put Me Back Together’, was inspired by The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Can you tell us a bit about why her story of her uneven marriage and battles with suppression and liberation resonated with you?
I first read The Yellow Wallpaper for school a few years back, but I came across it again recently after I read Gilman’s novel Herland and appreciated it much more. It really resonated with me because in my first significant relationships (with men) I always felt my passions and my emotions were really misunderstood and dismissed. There was this enormous pressure on me to be more ‘contained’, or more ‘feminine’ in order to stay attractive and wanted – and so during early high school I went through a long period of trying to fit an image of femininity that I just couldn’t, obsessively consumed by insecurities surrounding my appearance and my body. I recognised the parallel between my experiences, the experiences of girls I knew and Gilman’s story: under these expectations to stay pretty and contained at all times, an expressive & emotional woman – any woman – will crack. Often her deterioration isn’t obvious; the more ‘invisible’ disorders connected to self-image are currently on the rise in women – eating disorders and suicide are the biggest killers of young women right now. In this sense, not all that much has changed in our attitudes surrounding how women should behave and express themselves, so I wrote this song as a celebration of female wildness and emotion.
I love this new single, and the music video obviously adds a whole other dimension: the video is very emotive thanks to the theatrical setting, the hues of red, pink and orange and expressive dance throughout. You directed and edited it yourself… how did you come up with the vision for the film clip and what was it like being in control of these creative processes and bringing it to life?
It was so much fun!! I knew after I’d written the song that I really wanted a video that was dance based because a lot of the lyrics in the song are about allowing yourself to completely let go through dance. From my very first songs I’ve always loved putting visuals to my music, because I often see images in my head when I’m writing the lyrics – so I’ve had directing and editing input in nearly all my videos so far.
Editing video feels like a very similar process to producing music on Ableton to me.
Where do you see yourself and your music headed in the next few years? Are you hoping to branch more into these self-directed creative processes of producing your music and directing music clips?
Yes definitely, having creative control is really important to me – especially with music, it’s so personal to me that I’d feel weird allowing someone else to produce my music. I also really want to get better at production, so I think it’s vital that I keep pushing myself to get better, even if that means stumbling through the dark a little. I’d be happy for a producer I really respected to give me some tips though!
It’s cool to hear and see elements of violin in your sound and live sets… a little hint of your past as a classically trained violinist. When did you make the switch to electronic music? Was there a definitive moment when you realised this was the direction you wanted to take?
It was actually quite a sudden change – I’d grown up expecting I was going to be an orchestral violinist, but then once I hit 15 the pressures on me to practice 3+ hours a day were mounting, and it was just all so competitive. At around the same time I was going through some major emotional and personal changes, and I’d started writing songs to get my head around it. I discovered Grimes, who was a catalyst for my entry into electronic music & production. Then I put these new electronic demos online and they gained far more listens than I ever expected, and it suddenly occurred to me that I could do this instead of classical violin and it made me much happier.
You’ve released two EPs and a bunch of singles since you began that journey. You’ve been busy to say the least! How do you keep up the momentum and have you been met with any challenges as a young artist along the way?
I think the main challenge I’m experiencing right now is figuring out what kind of music I actually want to make! The range of artists and genres I’m influenced by now is so broad that it’s hard for me to figure out where I fit in, or what style I want to write in. Right now I’m slowly working it out by writing in a bunch of different styles, and just seeing what feels right to me, figuring out ways to blend them together.
The Ladies Live X Vivid Sydney event will feature great local artists… you’ll be there performing alongside Gussy and Phoebe Twigg. Who are some other local artists you’re loving right now?
I think about half the stuff I listen to, and nearly all the gigs I go to are local artists! Let me try and list them all… Rainbow Chan/Chunyin, Friendships, Marcus Whale, Habits, BV, Corin, Kimchi Princi, Jaala, HTML Flowers, Lonelyspeck, Rebel Yell… it goes on, they’re all insane!
Catch Lupa J play at The Ladies Live x Vivid
June 1st, 7pm – 1 am
44 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills NSW 2010