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Artist Feature New Music

Lily Arminda Talks New EP “DTR (Define the Relationship)”

Lily Arminda is making the type of endearing indie pop that enfolds the listener in an atmosphere of soft pink lighting and black lipstick as she spills her innermost secrets over darkly serenading dreampop instrumentation. Proclaiming herself as a “soft-spoken songstress” early in her career, Arminda migrated from making intimate folk songs on her first two EPs The Hourglass (2016) and Mismatched Poetry (2017) to effervescent bedroom pop on her 2019 sophomore project, Neighborhood.

Photo by Alec Ilstrup

Now with her forthcoming studio EP, DTR (Define the Relationship), which she worked on with Dan Alvarez and Jordan Dunn-Pilz of the beach goth band TOLEDO, Arminda continues her onward trajectory of embracing bolder, more ambitious sounds. Combining the echoing guitars of Galaxie 500 with the sweet and sour lyrical vignettes of Soccer Mommy, Arminda unfurls the incessant self-questioning that comes with being in a relationship where other party isn’t as invested as you. “It hurts to think I love you when you don’t see me like that/I can’t afford to spend my life wide-eyed,” she laments on the title track.

I spoke with Lily Arminda about this exciting new chapter, signing to an independent label, obsessing over pop stars, and finding comfort in the familiar.

If you could sum up this project in one word what would it be? 

Intimate.

What sorts of records have you listened to over the course of recording DTR?

My listening is always all over the place – I listened to a lot of indie rock/pop which definitely translates over to this project (albums like Clean by Soccer Mommy and Pang by Caroline Polachek) but I also listened to country albums (lots of Glen Campbell and Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and Dolly Parton’s Trio II album) equally as much. There’s a moment on “I Miss Knowing the Extent of Goodbye” near the end where I sang something that one of my producers Jordan Dunn-Pilz deemed my “Kacey Musgraves moment,” so maybe the country influence comes out a little bit. I was also really caught up on Guerilla Toss and Kate Bush as well as Roméo Elvis who is this great French rapper. 

I haven’t put out any music since 2019 and my sound has definitely evolved a lot since then so I’m excited to put out a project that feels much more “me.”

– Lily Arminda
Photo by Alec Ilstrup

What was it like working with TOLEDO on this project and how did you initially link up with them?

A couple friends of mine went to college with Dan so I met him and Jordan through them right before the pandemic. We put the recording part of the project on hold until September 2020 but I sent them songs over the summer so once I got to the studio they already had so many ideas for production. Dan and Jordan are best friends so it was cool to see them play off of each other while we’d collaborate and they were super welcoming to me as well. Their studio was right near me in Bushwick so I got to walk over there a few days a week for a couple months and work for a while. Since we were working long hours we would always go get deli sandwiches and just hang out in between recording.

From what I’ve read, this record sounds like it’s been years in the making. What part of unveiling this project are you most excited about? 

I’m excited that this EP is my first studio project. I’ve put out a lot of bedroom projects which are special in their own ways but I like that this one feels more polished. I haven’t put out any music since 2019 and my sound has definitely evolved a lot since then so I’m excited to put out a project that feels much more “me.”

My favorite part of this project was the lush and dreamy instrumentation. How did you and your collaborators initially arrive at this stylistic touchstone?

I was listening to a lot of indie rock and pop around the time of making this project so I was just really inspired by what I was listening to. I feel like my soft vocals are supported well by the kinda dream pop sounds we incorporated into this project. 

Songwriting for me is usually done to process something or memorialize something, so writing these songs helped me work through lots of feelings.

– Lily Arminda
Photo by Alec Ilstrup

Who are some of your most seminal vocal inspirations? 

Sophie Allison of Soccer Mommy has been super inspiring to me in many ways and I especially love her voice. Her vocals can be kinda soft like mine and that’s cool to see because I used to be a bit insecure about the power of my vocals. There have been so many times when audio engineers at venues have begged me to sing louder when if I do it makes my voice lose its unique tone and magic. It’s reassuring to see her be so successful as someone who sings like me. I’m also inspired by Adrianne Lenker and particularly the cry to her voice – it’s inspired me to play around with singing more.

How do you feel that your personal growth has been showcased in this project? 

Songwriting for me is usually done to process something or memorialize something, so writing these songs helped me work through lots of feelings. I’ve been writing songs my whole life but it’s cool to see that I am always improving at expressing myself and understanding myself. 

Something that I’m always curious to ask artists about is how the pandemic has expanded their record collections. Were you able to take advantage of the extra time at home to discover more music, and if yes, what are some of the most valuable new discoveries you’ve made?  

There are so many artists I could list but to name a few, I got really obsessed with pop stars like Mariah Carey and Katy Perry (in her Teenage Dream and One of the Boys eras). I found this disco inspired duo called Ultraflex that I’m still super into. I found a lot of specific songs that I fell in love with like “Sorry You’re Sick” by Ted Hawkins, “Onie” by The Electric Prunes, and “Blue Flower” by Mazzy Star. My favorite album to come out during the pandemic was Death of a Cheerleader by Pom Pom Squad. I listened to a lot of old favorites during quarantine as well because I think, like a lot of people, I wanted to feel comforted by the familiar. 

What artist (living or dead) would be your dream collaboration? 

I’ve always wanted to make a country album so I think working with Glen Campbell (if he was still alive) would be my dream collaboration. He has one of my favorite voices of all time.


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DTR will be available to stream on all platforms September 17th, 2021.

Categories
Artist Feature Music New Music

Goth Lipstick Returns with “formless, shapeless”

There’s no doubting the fact that Goth Lipstick—the eclectic duo helmed by frontwoman Francesca Fey and her creative partner Paperface—is one of the most exciting acts in the underground DIY pop scene. Last year their debut album, crystalline corset—a trans feminist coming of age album inspired by characters from Francesca’s favorite anime and Ghibli films—found its way onto several “Best of the Year” lists on Bandcamp. 

Now, with their sophomore LP formless, shapeless, Goth Lipstick has adopted a much more raw, textured, and haunting sound that hearkens back to the ghostly dance pop of Farrah Abraham’s My Teenage Dream Ended, while staying true to their semi-fictional introspective roots. The production takes cues from SOPHIE’s Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, clipping’s Visions of Bodies Being Burned, and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. The album is narrated in the style of the Japanese Isekai literary genre–which revolves around characters being transported to a fantasy world–to tell the story of two wraiths on the run together who are forced to survive in a parallel universe.

“After being first exposed to [Isekai] in anime, I have been spellbound by the idea of resurrection in a new world.” Francesca tells me. “The genre was the perfect way for me to reflect on what it means to be a young trans woman growing up with a vision of what an ideal existence could look like as well as on the struggles I have faced personally that have shaped my [own concept of identity].”

The titular track, “formless, shapeless,” opens with a whirring drone that is promptly followed by glitching percussion and a succession of computer-blip effects that lay a sturdy foundation for the track with repeated chants of “I wanna be your love, I wanna be your love,” and paradisiacal background vocals from her girlfriend Gwendolyn.

The following track, “wraiths awake,” is an anthemic wakeup call from the previous track’s dream sequence, with blasting candy-coated synths and head-banging percussion plucked straight from the PC Music handbook. Fey delivers the line “If you wanna find the way to my heart/Then buying me a dress is the place you wanna start,” with so much conviction before letting out a blood-curdling scream of “WAKE UP!” 

“Identity thief” opens with one of the nastiest, coarsest, and bombastic basslines I’ve ever heard, which rears its head at ongoing intervals throughout the song as Francesca professes in her whispery cadence, “I feel something when you sculpt me/Shapeshifting into anything/Skin like water, body of ice/When I’m someone else, there’s a place I can hide.” These specific lyrics highlight the malleability and plasticity of an unfixed identity, a philosophy that Francesca’s hero SOHPIE has also preached on songs like “Faceshopping” and “Immaterial.” 

The fourth track is a cover of the 1975’s saccharine tale of chemical romance, “Chocolate.” It is an excellent reimagining of the original work. The engaging production begins with computerized synth blips that gradually build to a climax with distorted basslines, faded background screams, and glitching android sounds, making for a much more experimental reinterpretation of the song that is far more interesting than the original.

“I wanted to write a song about [two wraiths] getting super high together and falling in love, but the only way I could truly represent that kind of experience was with a song written by people who had been through it themselves,” Francesca says before going on to say, “a good cover should stand alone from the original, and the best way for me to achieve that was to completely reimagine everything from the ground up, distorted synths, wild vocal effects, and all.”

This is quickly followed by “fangs,” a sinister rumination on recklessness and self-destruction. It’s a whirlwind of unpredictability with masochistic lyrics (“Love is grip that squeezes me like a tourniquet/Take a whip to my hands leaving marks on my wrists”), complemented by sporadic blasts of glitching machines, which are guaranteed to catch every listener off guard in the best way, making it impossible to resist the urge to violently thrash your body along to the song.

“[That song] started when YouTube recommended a video [to me] about songs composed in extremely fast tempos, and that inspired me to write these quick, glitchy drum patterns that play throughout the track,” Francesca tells me.

The penultimate track, “faceless, nameless” opens with high, fuzzy guitar overdrive that hearkens back to My Bloody Valentine in their prime—specifically “When You Sleep” off the group’s iconic 1991 album Loveless—before climaxing in a crashing, grandiose solo and closing with cinematic piano keys. The abstract lyrics and the tinkering percussive droplets over the piano at the end transition into the final track, a brief love song entitled “forever,” which is forty seconds of utter silence that hearkens back to John Cage’s 4’33.

“John Cage actually went to my college! He might have subconsciously influenced that track, but it has a completely different intention than “4’33.” The main inspiration comes from my difficulty with writing love songs,” Francesca says. She then goes on to say that her aim with the track was to write “a song that quite literally can be performed for a lover regardless of how physically far away anyone in the partnership may be, [no matter] what technology or instruments are available, or even if anyone in the partnership is alive or dead. To me, it is the ultimate love song.”

What makes the silence at the end so profound is that it leaves the listener with a pang of bittersweetness, but plenty of space to breathe. It’s the perfect ending to the harrowing, heavenly whirlwind that the album takes the listener on. It’s our favorite slice-of-life movies with a mystical twist.  

Score: 10/10

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