Introducing Lail Arad
Lail Arad sings with a wicked gleam in her eye. Just watch the videos on her Myspace page. Songs like ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’, ‘Who Am I’ and ‘Adam Green’ are brimming with sparkling wit and keen observation. Lail’s debut album Someone New is due out this Spring and she was kind enough to take some time out for a little girl talk.
Your You Tube videos have been causing quite a stir in the office, particularly the song ‘Who Am I’. Can you tell us who are you singing about there? The girl in the song sounds like the type of girl who used to pick on me in high school!
Well, I think she began as me and then gained a life of her own! Maybe I wrote it as a warning to myself! It's probably the song on the album where the character went furthest astray from reality. Mostly the songs are very much based in my own experiences and emotions – of course sometimes you stretch and skew for the sake of the song – but yes I’d say the writing is autobiographical.
So, Adam Green… Has he been in touch yet?
I actually met him for the first time recently (I made that video over 2 years ago!). We swapped ipods and heard each other’s new songs and his reaction was:
“I’m very disappointed that the song you wrote about me isn’t on the level of these songs!” It was very funny to finally meet.
I see that you list your location on MySpace as Antarctica. How fortunate as, in order to ease the pressures of urban crowding, you have been selected for relocation to live in the wilderness for a year. You can take one album, one book and one DVD to keep you amused. What will you be packing?
Contra - Vampire Weekend.
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet – Reif Larsen.
Milk – Gus Van Sant
No scrap that, let's be honest:
Blue – Joni Mitchell
The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster
Though your songs exhibit a definite folk influence, I can also detect a cabaret aspect to them. Can we expect a degree of theatricality when we catch you live?
I don’t like using the word cabaret because it has aesthetic connotations which I don’t like too much… Yes, I like giving a real performance in my live shows, but in a very sincere way I hope (no jazz hands!). There has to be something special, something raw, otherwise you can just listen at home.
What’s the most memorable gig that you’ve performed so far?
Some of the awful ones are pretty memorable… forgetting cables in taxis… playing with 39 degrees fever… playing to empty rooms… crowded rooms of drunk friday night revelers…
Playing Secret Garden Party last year was amazing. It was my first proper festival. I don’t usually get nervous, but there I could barely do the soundcheck! We were playing on the Where The Wild Things Are stage and there were just a few of our friends sitting there when we started, but when we began playing people drifted into the tent from all sides… it was kind of magical.
And the most memorable that you’ve attended as a punter?
Well I can’t not say the Devendra Banhart gig at the Forum a couple years ago when I ended up on stage! I attended as an unsuspecting punter and at one point he asked if there was anyone in the crowd who had written a song they’d never shared before. I must have held my hand up high cause next thing I knew I was playing ‘Winter’ on his electric guitar, which I’d written three days before! The crowd was amazing. You can see on Youtube, someone caught it!
I hear that instead of using technology to steal music from the web you’ve been doing it ‘old school’ and squirreling away records from your parents’ collection. What have been the most revelatory albums you’ve chanced upon and why?
Recently I’ve been listening to ‘The Basement Tapes’ of Dylan and The Band. Its hard to say why… it's just amazing rock’n’roll. Also Patti Smith ‘Horses’, the record is a bit scratched but it adds to the attitude. Oh, and then there’s ‘Attempted Moustache’ of Loudon Wainwright III – for me he’s one of the best songwriters ever. Endless treasures. And a nice break from Spotify and MySpace.
What can you tell us about your own debut album?
I can tell you that it was an incredible experience making it – with Guy Katsav the producer and Roi Erez the musician I’ve been working with for the last few years – we had a lot of fun and I think that comes across in the recordings. There are 12 songs on there and I was very careful to give each one all it needed and not more. It was very tempting to get carried away in the studio with the endless possibilities of arrangements and production – and some of the songs gained musical dimensions which make them richer, more colourful – they were crying out for a band. But it was also important to know when to leave things simple. And I like the combination, it makes sense to me.
Your ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ is quite wonderful; The lyrics seem to come spilling out to the point that the accompaniment can barely keep pace. What are your views on “the birds and the bees”? Do you think we have a skewed relationship with sex as a society?
It was tricky doing that Salt’n’Pepa cover! I thought I had a lot of lyrics in my own songs ‘til I tried this! I did it for Indie Ghetto, a great Youtube channel who get indie artists to do hiphop covers.
I think my song ‘The Pay You Have To Price’ reveals a lot (too much!) about my views on sex. if nothing else I hope it makes safe sex cool again (was it ever?!)… you have to hear the song!
Going back to your writing style, your songs are a departure from the typical ‘verse – chorus – verse’ format. Is that a conscious decision?
Not really. The only conscious decision was not to be a slave to any songwriting rules. The standard format became popular for a reason and often I use it because it works well … but if another structure (or lack of) makes sense for a song, I wouldn’t think twice.
So, debut album about to hit the stores, what’s next for you?
One thing at a time!