- Fri, 2011-09-23 17:18
Lana Del Rey (a.k.a. Lizzy Grant) has been setting hearts aflutter for a while now. Her music has been emerging on the web in dribs and drabs for over a year, but without any releases to appease the hungry masses. In the last few months, however, there has been a new sense of purpose to her online movements, and news that a debut album is in the pipeline has piqued interest anew.
We caught up with Lana to chat about faded glamour, finding her cinematic sound, Hollywood Sadcore, and life beyond fame.
ILM: Hi Lana, everything seems to be taking off for you right now. How are you? How are things?
Lana: I’m good thank you! I’m nervous about what’s going to happen. I’ve been singing and doing everything by myself for a really long time and then when things start going better for you you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, for things to go back to the way they were; not very good. So I’m nervous!
ILM: Have you always had a passion for music?
Lana: When I was very little I was always singing; just like all the singers say. But then I stopped, because you don’t really think you’re going to grow up to be a singer. Then I just came back to it when I was 17 or 18. My earliest musical memories would be of my Dad singing the Beach Boys in his car. I thought that was very cool and I was just always singing at church and at home when I was little.
ILM: When did you actually start making music?
Lana: I didn’t start until I was 18.
ILM: What drove you to start creating?
Lana: Hmm. A couple of different things. I was sort of lonely. I’d just moved into the city…
ILM: To Brooklyn?
Lana: No, to the Bronx at first, I moved to Brooklyn later. Anyway, I started playing guitar – not very well, I’m still pretty bad – and writing songs. They were very weird from the beginning. They were autobiographical and very dark. I didn’t really know what I was doing.
ILM: At what point did you change your name to Lana Del Rey? What felt right about that name?
Lana: I always knew that it was probably going to be changed to something else if I was really going to be a singer. It doesn’t feel like I’m a different person or anything, I just kind of wanted something that was as beautiful as the music was. I had been spending time in Miami at the time, speaking a lot of Spanish with my friends from Cuba, and I guess Lana Del Rey reminded me of the seaside and faded glamour, and also of the seventies drug culture; iconic Miami. I liked the sound of it when it came off my tongue, and it gave me a frame to aspire to sonically. It felt right. I had lots of different things I’d thought of before that…
ILM: The right thing sticks.
Lana: That’s right. It’s like sometimes you meet someone and you know right away you’re going to like them, or you hear the name of a band and you know it’s going to be special. It’s just something like that. I thought it was cool!
ILM: How would you describe your music-making process? How do songs like Diet Mtn Dew and Video Games go from initial idea to finished track?
Lana: Every one is really different. Diet Mtn Dew I wrote at a time when I was really happy. I’d met someone who was perfect for me, and one of the funny things at the time was that he actually drank Diet Mtn Dew, just like me and my dad. I had never met anyone who drank specifically Diet Mtn Dew! We had taken a trip to Greenwich, Connecticut, and it was time to go home and he said “Diet Mtn Dew babe? New York city?” For some reason I just… That was the only line I had “Diet Mtn Dew baby, New York city…” Then he was like “you’re so pretty” as I smiled. For like two years I only had that line, and it wasn’t until I decided to put it into production that I fleshed out the verse. The verse could have been anything, but the chorus I had for a long time. There’s usually only about one fourth of the song that compels me; something that hit home in my life. The rest of it I just make up around it.
ILM: How about Video Games?
Lana: Video Games was a song that came after I abandoned all ambition of becoming anyone noteworthy in music. It was only ten months ago. I just wrote it when I felt love again. It was about a time when it was nice to focus on a relationship and simple things; watching your boyfriend play videogames. It sounds sad, but it was sort of happy. I’d let go of the idea of being a singer because things had gone so terribly for so long. So it depends on the song, but usually I start when a situation just strikes me in a certain way, or somebody that you think is amazing looks at you in a certain way.
ILM: How about sonically? What sounds drive you?
Lana: It’s funny, what I like to listen to is different from the way my music sounds. Primarily I was influenced by Nirvana and hip hop. Of course my songs don’t sound anything like that! But there was something that stopped me dead in my tracks when I first heard Heart Shaped Box, or Juicy, or something like that. I didn’t really know that my songs would be considered cinematic until people started to describe them like that, but then I started investigating old cinema myself, and realised that it was actually sort of similar to certain old film scores. So I started searching out people who would be right to make the record with me. Ironically one of my best friends of seven years is a film composer in Hollywood. He’s not in pop music at all, but he’d always said to me “let me work on your stuff.” So I started working with him, and he started treating my songs as film scores and composing them. His name is Dan Heath. Then I would take that to someone like Emile Haynie, who’s Kid Cudi’s producer, and he would put fresh beats in there. I’m not a beat-maker, but I would describe to him the feeling of the streets that I wanted expressed for the song. So, a small sound emerged… to be honest, Diet Mtn Dew and Kinda Outta Luck aren’t even going to be on the record. I sort of put them up on the internet because I could, because they wouldn’t be on the record. In my mind they’re sort of just fluff. The real record is different. It’s a bit darker, but it’s beautiful.
ILM: You’ve used the term Hollywood Sadcore to describe yourself, which conjures up images of the faded glamour that you referred to before. What does that world of beauty, glamour and Hollywood mean to you?
Lana: Well, it used to mean a lot to me, but that was a really long time ago. It didn’t mean a lot to me because I wanted to be famous, but because I wanted to start living my own version of the American Dream. Build my own life, with my own family and my own piece of happiness, my slice of heaven. I thought that would be created by building my own world artistically and sonically. Hollywood is just the most famous symbol that I could have chosen for a girl’s idea of her life’s dream. It could have been something else, but because there are so many images – the warm weather, the lush scenery, the stars that came out of Hollywood and meant so much to people – it was just the right thing to reference. It used to mean a lot. Now it’s just what I use because I’m familiar with it.
ILM: How do you view fame? Is it something that you aspire to?
Lana: Not now it isn’t. My life hasn’t been about music for a long time. It has been, but it’s about lots of other different things now. It’s about trying to be a good person and a good friend, being active in the world… That sounds funny…
ILM: You can’t let music be the be all and end all.
Lana: It was the be all and end all, but the thing that you learn when you don’t get what you want, or when you lose everything that you have over and over again, is that it’s not important anymore. Building a world for yourself isn’t as important as being a good member of society in the world that you actually live in. That’s what I learned. The thing that makes me happy now isn’t really singing, it’s just trying to live with grace and dignity in my community. It sounds funny! I didn’t think it would come to that. I thought that I would be a simple singer on an underground European circuit. I had a good voice and I liked the music, and I thought it would work. It just went nowhere for so long, so you can see why I would be nervous. Now my life hasn’t been about that for a long time, and I’m not even sure… I think regardless of what happens it will be okay.