“Rollerblades” (Plastic Little Remix) –Eliza Doolittle
“Pop” has certainly been big business in 2009, generic indie bands (who generally weren’t actually indie) found that the public had turned a deaf ear to their increasingly unconvincing, manufactured mewling as the “pop singer” became fashionable once more. Maybe the recession caused people to seek out a slightly more escapist, upbeat, optimistic vibe? Or perhaps it’s just the cyclical nature of music? For my part after a hard day at the coal face the last thing I wanted to hear was Bloc Party in sackcloth and ashes, whining on about Mercury being in retrograde or some other such po-faced piffle. Wallowing in romanticised misery is of course a perversely pleasurable indulgence but there should always be some room in your heart for a bit of fun, for pop that is bright and breezy and isn’t burdened by the weight of the world. Sometimes we can take things far too seriously and get so wrapped up in things we consider “worthy” that we forget what fun actually is! “People have forgotten what life is all about. They’ve forgotten what it is to be alive. They need to be reminded.” Music is an often essential ingredient in that process.
All the reasons mentioned above may go some way to explain why I found listening to pop newcomer Eliza Doolittle’s début EP a thoroughly enjoyable affair. Listening to songs such as“Rollerblades” and “Money Box” certainly had an effect on me, both mentally and physically! Within minutes of listening to her début my hunched and hideously twisted frame had visibly straightened and my usual sour faced grimace had miraculously been transformed into something that resembled a smile. Why even the ubiquitous rain-cloud above my head had all but evaporated and I actually started to whistle..in public!! Doubtless had London been the place of my birth I would have hooked my thumbs through my jacket lapels and affected a jaunty walk to denote my cheery disposition. Eliza’s EP contains songs that are perfect examples of how to write endearingly bright and breezy folksy tinged pop songs. Initially the songs may appear to be somewhat simple in terms of structure and production but the reality is they actually display a far greater degree of sophistication, wit and style then the normal overproduced chart bound fodder and this is what will surely propel Eliza into the “Pop Premier League!” in 2010. After a year in which we have been bombarded by a profusion of shrill voiced synth driven pop it’s nice to be able to listen to a female singer whose voice is given room to breathe without being buried under layered synth effects or suffering the indignity of “death by vocoder.” Of course the danger of producing bright upbeat pop in today’s cynical consumerist ‘too cool for school’ society is that you may be perceived as irritatingly chirpy, mentally ill or worse, be viewed as suffering from the maniacal preternatural state of euphoria that seems to afflict the majority of children’s TV presenters who appear to have mainlined “Haribo” prior to leaping on screen and gurning like a simpleton. People basically mistrust happiness! Eliza avoids these pitfalls due in no small part to the quality and depth of her song writing and her natural way of singing. There’s also a reflective soulful element to Eliza’s free spirited vocals, which in a sense, acts as a counterbalance to the bright, sunny vibe the songs give off.
After speaking with Eliza it’s apparent that the songs really do reflect her personality, happy-go-lucky yes, but with an intelligent thoughtful side. A genuinely nice girl who believes in herself, who refuses to compromise in terms of record company makeovers and a young lady who wants to be totally involved in all stages of the creative process “I would never have been able to be Britney or anything like that – someone who just sings. I love being involved with every bit of the music, making it from scratch. It’s really fulfilling.”
Now the question is could I make it through the interview without making naff jokes about “My Fair Lady?” Maybe, “With a little bit…with a little bit… With a little bit of bloomin’ luck!”
VP: Your name? Obviously it’s taken from the character in “Pygmalion/My Fair Lady” what made you pick it ?
ELIZA: Well, Eliza’s my real name and the rest, well, it’s a nickname I’ve had for so long I can’t even remember how it came about to be honest. Everyone calls me it !
VP: Is singing something you’ve always done? Did you start at an early age?
ELIZA: Yeah I was quite young, I started singing when I was about eight. Then when I was around about 12 I really wanted to go for it. I started writing my own songs and then a year or so later I recorded some demos. It all started from there really and I continued and just tried to get as good as I possibly could.
VP: So how did getting a record deal come about?
ELIZA: It was after I wrote “Rollerblades” that I got a lot of interest, a label really liked it and were keen to see if I had other songs that had a similar vibe. So I signed a deal about a year ago and spent about eight months writing the album.
VP: Yeah, the EP’s got a different vibe to one of your earlier tunes “Piano Song”
ELIZA: Yeah, before this album I was really trying to work out what I wanted to create, what musical path I wanted to take. I’m really happy with the album as I feel it really does represent me. All my old songs were quite separate; they didn’t really come together as a whole. As soon as I wrote ‘Rollerblades’ I thought ‘Yeah this is it this is the sort of music I want to make.’
VP: Sorry to bring this up, but it seems to be the curse of English female singers, certainly those who come from down South, that almost inevitably you get described as “the new Lily Allen” or “the next Kate Nash” . Do you find this a bit annoying?
ELIZA: You mean because we sing in an English accent? I’ve always sang in my own accent and hundreds of singers before Lily have done so too. Maybe it’s because Lily is the most recent and most successful? I suppose it always happens with girls, we are always compared to what’s gone before. I can kind of understand it, it gives people a point of reference but I always say it’s a gender not a genre but.. whatever! I’m already over that comparison now; I think real listeners will be able to tell it’s different!
VP: Your music is often described as breezy folk-pop, but on myspace you list your likes as everything form Destiny’s Child to Radiohead. Is your taste really that eclectic?
ELIZA: Oh yeah, I try to listen to everything, I’m pretty open. When I was really young I was into UK garage and slightly cheesy R’nB, I guess when you’re young you can get into a clique, want to fit in, so your taste can be a bit narrow. But when I was 14/15 I really started to open up to all sorts of genres from rock to Indie to old soul music. If it’s good music that’s all that matters. Although I must admit I do find it difficult to get down to metal!
VP: What have you been listening to in 2009 ?
ELIZA: The Xx, I love The Golden Silvers album, I liked Miike Snow and the Empire Of the Sun too.
VP: The Sound Of 2010 list from the BBC will be out at the end of the year. Anybody you’d like to see on the list? Any tips?
ELIZA: OOOh , well there’s The Cocknbull Kid, Kid Harpoon, Alviin. Also Sam McCarthy and MPHO are both amaaazing!
VP: The “taster” video for your EP features somebody Rollerblading is that you ?
ELIZA: Ha, ha yes that’s me on the Rollerblades, I got pretty good by the end of the day. It’s not like, an official video though; it’s like a viral video for the internet.
VP: So it’s your legs on the EP sleeve?
ELIZA: Yes, my legs, both of them !
VP: I’m always interested to find out how much input an artist has with regard to their promo videos…..
ELIZA: Well, I’ve already filmed the video for my first single for next year. In the case of that song I really wanted to see what the directors came up with. I worked with an amazingly talented guy called Daniel Eskhill. Because it was like, my first single, I wanted it to be quite simple and show me in my best light really, so it’s got me bouncing about but with some amazing effects. I do have a lot of creative control; I’m creating the art work for the next single for example. I guess I’m kind of a control freak but at the same time it’s always good to listen to advice of people like directors who have that expertise. They might have ideas or take your ideas and lead you to a place you wouldn’t have thought of! And the next videos amazing, honestly!
VP: So what have you got lined up for 2010? Is that when we can expect the album?
ELIZA: Basically gigs, gigs, gigs hopefully. Something like a UK tour would be great. In February we are due to go to L.A. and hopefully that may lead to a few more American dates while we are out there. The first single proper is due out in February and then another in May followed by the album. So these are huge things for me and I’m very excited!
VP: Are you planning any festival dates?
ELIZA: I’m looking to do like a hundred festivals in 2010, to make up for not getting to any in 2009! I was just so busy, so to do some in 2010 would be a real highlight !
VP: The internet and music? Has it changed things for the better or is it, as some in the industry feel, strangling the life out of music?
ELIZA: How is it strangling the life out of music? No I think it’s changed things for the better, it’s so easy to find music now. I suppose there’s the argument that there is so much out there that finding something good is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s certainly put power in the hands of the people and music now isn’t purely label led. It’s so easy to promote yourself on the net and it doesn’t really cost that much! Hopefully if your music is good people will want to hear it. Mind you I say all this but I’m not that brilliant with the net, but I’m getting more into it with facebook and twitter etc. The more you do it the more you get used to it and enjoy it.
VP: Finally, five words to describe your music?
ELIZA: I -find-this-really-difficult!! (is that ok? )
Eliza’s Ep is avialable here via I-Tunes
Official Site (Free Download available)
Ps. Apologies for the world’s worst pun in the interview headline – a career in the tabloids awaits me I’m sure !
- Eliza Doolittle to Release Debut Album in the U.s (hangout.altsounds.com)
- Eliza Doolittle: Pack Up (trendland.net)
- Eliza Doolittle lives with mum (mirror.co.uk)
- Art Review | Long Island: Eliza and Henry, and an Undercurrent (nytimes.com)
- Eliza: I’m only good at music (mirror.co.uk)