Photography: Shervin Lainez
Tell us about the genesis of this new ‘classical’ side of yourself
Well, I began studying composition when I was in college, having grown up as a guitar player and being keen for something that would help me understand the bigger musical picture beyond what was under my fingers. Over time that became something I loved just as much as songwriting and playing in bands, as well as its own career path. As far as how I got here, I honestly have no idea.
I just did one project after another, tried to not do a bad job and be nice, and over time, it added up to a “career.” In practical terms, I think it has been a balancing act between being entrepreneurial and producing my own projects – which I always made space for as it gives you the freedom to hone your own voice, on your own terms – and working on more “commercial” ones where I am working for / with other people. Directors, other composers, ads, other artists, and so on. The former feeds the latter, quite often, and vice versa.
How would you describe the highs and lows of being an artist?
They are high, then they are low. Then they are high again. Then low again. It’s like a laundry cycle. Or the tide.
What’s a musical guilty pleasure of yours?
There are no guilty pleasures only pleasures. I did not come up with that. But it’s true. And to that question I would answer Duran Duran’s “The Chauffeur” and Rush.
What are some things that greatly inspire your artistry?
Nature. And recently, friends, family, relationships. While writing OVERLOADED (the previous record for DELANILA) I spent so long mired in these thoughts about disconnection, and the internet, and social media, and the increasingly dystopian world we live in that afterwards I found myself wondering what comes next. What the antidote or solution is, almost, both for myself and more broadly. The answer for me, and it seems for many of us, has been re-prioritizing time in nature, and with other people. Human connection, in its fragility and joy and beauty.
I suppose it was a corollary to my own life, in that after spending so much time by myself in a room working on these projects I realized that I had not paid enough attention to other areas of my life, and some of the people in it, who are really the most important thing. Then beyond that, the pairing of music and visual – be it a score, an artwork, a music video – is something I find inspiring. Music obviously doesn’t need to be accompanied by an image to say something, and concert music in particular usually isn’t, but I find that imagining what that image could be while I am writing often sparks ideas. To that end, I see a lot of visual art, which makes sense as I grew up being dragged around galleries by my parents. Now I drag other people around galleries.
Who is an artist that you look up to more than others today?
I really admire Trent Reznor’s work. And Ben Frost. They both have incredible sounds and production, and voices that are totally unique, as well as identifiable across genres.
Favorite activity to blow off some steam?
Muay Thai. Cycling. Swimming. Weight training. Really just exercise. Tempered by negronis.
Tell us about your latest release and how it came about
Sure. This record, which is called “Out of the Tunnel,” grew together piecemeal, from numerous discrete pieces that I wrote for various people and projects. Over time I realized that I was writing about the same ideas over and over, which to me spelled…album. In this case they are all about nature, and about introspection and self-reflection, and for me the role that the former plays in the latter.
At their core though, really they are all about chapters of intense personal change, growth, and transformation, and of looking inwards, for which the tunnel is a central metaphor. A dark strange chapter of profound change that you enter into, with nature’s guiding light up ahead, knowing that you will emerge as a different person. A beautiful view and sense of tranquility at the end of the dark road. So really it’s about connection to nature, and to the self, and about moving forward through periods of transition. The title work in particular was written just after I had moved to LA, which was a turbulent time for me. I guess it all makes sense in the context of the introspective year we have all just experienced as well.
What are some things you do to deal with anxiety and creative blocks?
I go to a lot of art museums, which is a tried and tested way for me to move past creative hurdles. For me there’s something about being in a quiet, white, open space that functions as a reset button. A tranquil moment to clear your mind, and an expanse of space. Which is at a shortage if you’re in NYC, as I have been on and off for ages, and which I think formed the basis for this “habit.”
Plus you’re around all of this beautiful art, which in itself is creative and inspiring and mind-expanding, and makes you think differently. Sometimes I just walk around to let my brain wander, and other times I will listen to mixes of things I’m working on. I think there’s something about having the music be a contextual part of the experience which is cool, and makes me visualize things differently, or imagine how phrases I was previously stuck on could unfold. I find it all quite meditative.
What’s the future looking like for you?
I’m going to take a vacation, as I haven’t taken one in a long time and am in need of a scenery change. There’s work too, and other projects, but I’m more excited about the vacation. I want to go back to Iceland or to Hawaii or Berlin.
What inspires your visuals, videos, looks etc?
Really just a love for all things cinematic, sci fi, epic, heightened, profound and dramatic. I think growing up as a girl there is still a lot of messaging in the world that tells you, overtly or subliminally, to be nice and dainty and polite and “small,” and so I always wanted to do the opposite. To make things that are big, and loud, and sprawling, and larger than life, and to take up as much creative space as I could. Things that take you somewhere else, to worlds unimagined, in the way that my favourite artists always did. People like Guillermo del Toro, or Francis Ford Coppolla, or Igor Stravinsky, or Pink Floyd. As a result my projects have a tendency to snowball into big unwieldy things. As far as looks, assuming you mean fashion looks, it is funny to me that I have any that are worth talking about. I think I always just wore black for years because it was one less thing I had to make decisions about, and because I always looked like I had made an effort even if I hadn’t. Then after a while it made me feel too serious, and now I have jeans and white t shirts. Photo shoots are just an attempt to not look boring. It’s all a work in progress.
What is the most embarrassing memory and most proud moment of your career so far ?
I don’t get embarrassed very easily because life is funny and absurd and who really cares. Though I remember once I was walking backwards while hailing a bus in London, tripped over a bench and found myself lying on my back on the seat staring at the sky in front of a bunch of passengers. I probably should have been embarrassed but it was funny. Proudest moment would be releasing OVERLOADED last year. And probably also getting into the Sundance Labs, as it came at such a key time for me and was such a pivotal experience, in many ways more so than other more official gigs or projects.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
From my Mum, to make it known to the people who matter to you that they are appreciated and valued, but also to stand up for yourself if that isn’t reciprocated or something feels off or one sided. It’s hard to follow that all the time, but it applies to everything from work to friendships. And from a composition teacher, that if you are stuck on a musical phrase it is probably because it’s too perfect, or too resolved, and in order for music to keep generating itself it has to leave room to answers to its own questions.
Where do you think the music and entertainment industry is headed after this past year?
Obviously no one really knows at what point we will emerge from all of this fully, but I think whenever we do it will be an exciting time in music. Every single one of us has been changed by the events of the past year. There’s a shared experience, and shared trauma. Especially among musicians, who have had their lives disrupted more than many. All of which means that people will have new things to say, and perhaps that there will be easier points of connection among us all. I think (and hope) that there will be an explosion of culture, and renewed appreciation for it. I wonder though whether that will translate to some sort of intense expression of catharsis, as we all process the magnitude of the events of the past year(s), or whether we’ll all be looking for feel good things to shake it all off, forget and have fun. Personally I’m on board with the latter, though I guess time will tell.