Band of the Day

2013.10.21

Lucy Love

A sonic force of cutting edge Danish grime/electro for raging until sunrise
Her heart was old and weak, her body young like seventeen.
lyrics from Prison

Lucy Love is the model of a modern star. She represents an era of cultural flux, where forging your own identity means hard work but great rewards. Her influences are from underground and mainstream, from across the decades and across the world – but, crucially, they are selected with an eagle eye for what works together and what represents her as a person and as an artist. As she says herself: “I know who I am and what I want, and that means it's easy to fit in.” She makes it sound so simple, but it's no small feat.

Pop, club music, art and technology all come together in her work, all focused towards the expression of her singular vision and personality. Costume, video, dance and design are as important to what she does as her relentlessly hooky grooves and honest, outspoken lyrics. This is where a rich tradition of pop theatrics from Grace Jones and Kraftwerk through electroclash to Lady Gaga comes meet the irreverence and sonic force of the UK underground, Scandinavian craftsmanship and a good dose of southern African party mentality.

Born Lucy Siame in 1985 in Zambia to an English mother, but raised in Denmark, she couldn't really help but have a sense of how cultures and subcultures rub along together. She was immersed in music from birth, too: as one of her breakthrough songs has it, her “Daddy Was A DJ” since the beginning of the 1980s who came from Zambia to seek his fortune and good times in northern Europe. Lucy grew up to a soundtrack of 80s funk, disco and Danish music, “constant partying, wet-look hair and very funky music!”. At 13 she went to Zambia to see her dad's old club, and saw how non-stop his partying could be. It wasn't exactly responsible parenting, but the lesson in the other side of life clearly stuck with her.

Her mother, meanwhile, came from the South London suburb of Croydon, and Lucy spent a lot of time there with family, absorbing the British way of life and sense of humour, as well as something of a London twang to her accent. “When I'm abroad,” she says, “people see me as a Scandinavian artist. But in England, people recognise certain things in the humour of what I'm doing and in the language that maybe other people don't get. And it's very important to me that they do because music and clubs in England and especially in London has meant so much to me.”

Indeed, that music literally changed the course of Lucy's life. It was her sister, a dancer, who was considered to have inherited the musical genes, while Lucy was studying art at college with every intention of becoming a painter. But her trips to London were making music and raving more and more a part of her life. In particular, the Tru Playaz sessions at Fabric got her completely hooked on the hardest and heaviest of jungle and drum'n'bass, with garage and grime grabbing her attention too. Back in Denmark she began to get involved in club nights and raves, and started to freestyle songs over a DJ friend's tracks.

The more she sang and wrote, the more she became obsessed with pop music culture and the art of performance, until eventually she switched the focus of her degree course from painting to multimedia art and costume design. With the music she was creating with producer Joakim at the heart of everything she did, she explored every angle available: video making, online presence, stage outfits, lighting, dance – everything became part of the totality that was the fast-developing Lucy Love project. Her fashion sense and visual style as a painter had always been “bold and edgy, very designed” anyway, and the more she explored pop art and the visual style of musicians like Kraftwerk, Prince and Lady Gaga, the more she realised she could apply this aesthetic to every aspect of the project.

From the first single “No VIP” onwards, Lucy Love expressed an uncompromising manifesto in word, sound and image. She was already building a tight-knit team around her (including her “more musical” sister as one of her dancers!), and everything was approached with an ethos of self-determination and not allowing the artwork's clarity to be diluted by outside influence. “Lucy Love is from the heart,” she explains; “and I'm running it, I'm taking the decisions, and the message is that people should be more aware of what they're doing and what values they have. And for me that's about ambition and goals and wanting to work hard.” Everything has been done on a shoestring, but with the ingenuity of true artists and an innate understanding of the possibilities that technology now offers, Lucy and team have created videos, costumes and shows that are never less than dazzling.

And with every step of the way, this has given the project a rare integrity, but let it remain fun at the same time: “progressive, but still kitsch in a way”. Though you can see and hear grime, jungle, electropop, indie intensity of song writing, classic science fiction and many more influences, it's delivered with that steely focus and determination that has won over audiences online and in the flesh. Lucy is already a big deal at home in Denmark, but winning over small but demanding club crowds in her beloved London was just as important: playing at legendary west London club night Yo Yo was a key turning point for her. “This was a crowd that isn't easy to impress,” she remembers; “if they don't like it they don't dance, and I really wanted to win them over – so when we did I felt like, OK, this is really working!”

With her third album “Desperate Days of Dynamite”, Lucy is broadening the scope of what she does constantly. Her early songs displayed attitude, honesty and wit, and all these are still present, but as she grows into her identity the songs are gaining in emotional power too. The musical climate, too, seems to be getting ever-more suited to her: electronic music is producing more and more artists with crossover appeal, and Lucy has that by the tonne. Some people fear that too much information, too much availability of culture, too much of everything is making musicians lose their identity – but someone like Lucy, who knows who she is and what she wants, who understands subculture and the art of pop is a shining example of why that needn't be the case.