Artist Interview – Hell and Lula

Hell and Lula are an uptempo, high-energy rock band from Los Angeles. When we first listened to Hell and Lula we had their song on repeat and were delighted when they agreed to a feature interview with Song Revelation. Read the full in-depth interview with Mak (the lead singer) below to find out about which modern-day artists he is inspired by, who he would like to collaborate with given the chance and what his career highlights have been.

 

Hell and Lula

 

Q: What are you called?

I’ve been called a lot of things by a lot of different people. Some of which I don’t care to repeat. These days, however, my name is Mak and I sing in the band Hell & Lula.

 

Q: If you could use a tagline of less than 20 words to describe your music and who you are what would it be?

We wanna make you dance, we wanna make you think, we wanna make you think about dancing.

 

Q: What is your musical background?

We all come from a rock music background, more or less (from bands as diverse as retro new-wave to hardcore). H&L’s music is very electronic and dancy and often has a very strong pop sensibility, but our live performance undeniably has the energy of a rock show.

 

Q: How have the last 12 months been for you?

Ups and downs. Always ups and downs, both creatively and business-wise. Indie bands, these days, have to wear a lot of hats and you have to piece together a strong business team as well as a strong creative and personal team. Like it or not, the bands who are succeeding seem to be the ones with good marketing and business senses. Our consumer culture and entertainment industry strongly favor artists that know how to brand themselves, so it’s more important now than ever for bands to think of themselves in those terms if we want to survive.

 

Q: Who inspires you musically?

That’s changing all the time, of course, but lately, I’ve really been into Bill Withers and Yeasayer. And lots of inspiration comes from new songs discovered at random. I may not remember who the artist is and the musical style could be from a seemingly unrelated genre, but little things that get you thinking about musical patterns in a new way are always good. I know that Devon, who writes the music (I write the vocal melodies), is often inspired by some world band he comes across or mood music that he’s trying to fall asleep to and will chop that up and put it to a dance beat and voila, we have a new song.

 

Q: Which modern day artists do you look up to?

I already mentioned Yeasayer. The Black Keys are killing it, right now. They’re just playing blues, but with a twist of this or that and enough soul to make it feel fresh. Gotta love that. I love anything done well. Mew, TV on the Radio, Francis and the Lights, Cocorosie. I gotta love anybody doing weird and getting away with it, since that’s what we hope to do.

 

Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?

Yeah, Bruno Mars. That kid writes hits! Actually, I’m pretty happy working with Devon, at the moment. He’s pretty prolific and never fails to hand me something pretty fun and challenging. Touring is a different story. There are dozens of bands I’d love to tour with. I feel there are so many things (big and small) to learn from playing with more established and experienced artists.

 

Q: What songs are on your iPod at the moment?

Alexander Ebert and Nick Drake have been in heavy rotation, as of late.

 

Hell and Lula shoot @Joshua Tree. Photography by Daniel James O'Connell

 

Q: What is your creative process for creating a track?

Devon programs all of the music for a song, usually in Ableton, and sends it over. From there, I usually spend a couple of nights banging out various melodies. It’s fairly straight-forward. Hopefully, inspiration will come quickly and I can have the skeleton done in a few hours. From there, it’s a matter of fine-tuning and finalizing the lyrics. Unfortunately, a lot of the first-round ideas I have end up getting tossed when I listen the following day with fresh ears. I’m pretty obsessive over my work, which can be good when properly harnessed, but it can also dig you too deep until you become lost in the cloud of sounds and lose sight of the song, itself. Ultimately, my goals are to write something that walks the line between eccentricity and accessibility and to write something that sounds like me without sounding like something I’ve done before.

 

Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?

Each in it’s own turn, but truly: melody. No melody = no song. Words without a melody are a poem. Plenty of meaningful songs happen without words or with meaningless or shallow words. Melody always comes first, with me. I usually won’t finalize the lyrics until I’m forced to track the vocals for real and seal my fate as a lyricist forever.

 

Q: Where are you based?

The Arts District in downtown Los Angeles.

 

Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?

My neighborhood is pretty amazing. I really lucked out when I moved to LA. I found a great community that welcomed me with open arms. We have a parking space for our Cool Bus only a block from all the hot spots in the Arts Dist. and the landlord has let me build an urban garden. The lot is fully paved, so I collect scrap wood from a couple of the local wood shops and build planter boxes. A few of the neighborhood people have gotten involved and it feels like the beginnings of a community garden, but without the inflated rent of the city-run gardens you find in SoCal.

 

Q: What are you currently working on?

We’re finishing up songs for a self-release called Fermi’s Paradox, due out in April 2012, as well as working on material with a producer for a release later this year, potentially through an indie label. We’re also about to launch a Pledge Music campaign (search Hell & Lula Pledge Music) to crowd-source funds to convert our Cool Bus to run on waste vegetable oil from restaurants. It’s better for our health (old bus = bad exhaust), the environment and it allows us to tour more affordably.

 

Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?

Ha ha. No highlights come to mind. I just love performing. I go deep and sing with my entire body. But speaking of bodies and highlights, we recently played Cheetahs in Silverlake, which is a strip/burlesque club (the girls don’t actually get naked, but they do pole-dance) and for each song, a different dancer would come on stage and dance with me. It was pretty amazing. We have a high-energy show, as it is, and with a professional dancer to play with, it’s next level shit ;)

 

Q: What are you hoping to achieve in over the next 12 months?

Creatively, we’re hoping to complete a trilogy of music videos based on the “zoo earth” idea that intelligent life has already visited earth, but view us as a primitive species and are leaving us to our own devices while checking in on us periodically to see our progress. The current conception is to do a past, present and future of alien non-intervention visitations. We’ll see where it leads. This is all really goofy shit and it may seem really nerdy (and it clearly is, but nerds are obviously cool), but we just want to have fun and cut our teeth a little on the video front. When you’ve have a tiny budget (or none at all) campy works really well.

 

Hell and Lula

 

Q: Do you have any gigs or shows that you’d like to tell us about?

We’ll be at SXSW this year. If you’re in Austin, you can find our shows on our Facebook or on our website at http://hellandlula.com.

 

Q: What do you do to relax?

I try to practice zazen daily, and most of us in the band are beginner-level yogis. A few of us read fairly often, as well, which can be both relaxing and stimulating. I can’t recommend zazen enough, however. It’s both the simplest and most complex thing in the world and has changed my life in a dramatic and fundamental way.

 

Q: Where would your favourite holiday (vacation) be and why?

I hear New Zealand is heaven on earth. Aside from being phenomenally beautiful and serene, the people seem to be very warm and open and friendly. L.A. is a very high-stress environment. There isn’t much room for quiet or stillness or fresh air. The creative energy here is incredible and people are doing amazingly innovative things all around you and all that’s really inspiring, but I’d like a bit more of a balance between work and rest. I find that even when I’m resting, my mind is still hard at work. Maybe New Zealand is a place where I might find that balance, or maybe I should simply look for it here. But I still wanna go.

 

Q: If you could give a little piece of advice for new or aspiring musicians what would it be?

Figure out who you are and never lose sight of that. And once you’ve decided what it is you’d like to accomplish, surround yourself exclusively with others who share your ethos and goals. Just as the wrong path will never lead you to where you wanna go, the wrong travel companions will lead you astray, right path or no.

 

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?

http://FallingWhistles.com

The deadliest war on the planet since WWII is in Congo, but most people don’t know that it’s happening or why. Visit the site and tell a friend. Join us and be a whistle-blower for peace.

 

Editor’s Note: Hell and Lula encompass everything that a great rock band should. One of Song Revelation’s bands to watch for 2012 and beyond!

 

If you’d like to get in touch with Hell and Lula or check out some more of their amazing tracks just follow the links below:

Website: www.hellandlula.com

Bandcamp: http://hellandlula.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hellandlula

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/hellandlula

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/hellandlula

 

Videos: Three Great Covers by Anna Calvi

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Anna Calvi is one of the most promising female performers to appear in the last six months — and her rise has been almost meteoric. London born- and -raised Calvi got her start playing music early, beginning with the violin, later switching to guitar. As a solo artist more or less from the start, she played around her home city for a few years, but never really fit into any prescribed scene. She was, after all, a singular female with an unorthodox playing style, an unusual voice, and an obsession with dark glamour and offbeat musical predecessors like David Bowie.

 

Anna Calvi

 

In an era of so much cookie-cutter music, though, this kind of strident individualism struck a chord with a certain breed of music fan, especially those in the fashion world.  Though Calvi shuns any kind of designer-focused style, she carefully chooses clothing as dramatic as her music, often appearing in frilly, men’s flamenco-style shirts.

 

This all added up to a self-titled first record this past January that debuted at number 40 on the U.K. charts. With its off-kilter song patterns and quavering, haunting guitar work, the success was well deserved. But beyond Calvi’s original compositions, she’s also known as an interpreter of other people’s songs, especially live. Here are three that are particularly striking.

 

“Sound and Vision,” originally by David Bowie

In this early, self-filmed YouTube video, Calvi attacked one of the greatest tracks by her idol Bowie in her attic, accompanied by a friend playing a squeezebox.

 

Anna Calvi onstage in London

“Jezebel,” originally by Edith Piaf

It takes definite guts to cover a song as renowned as Edith Piaf’s “Jezebel.” But not only did Anna Calvi do so, but she’s performed the song to rousing reactions in Paris.

 

 

 

“Joan of Arc,” originally by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen songs cover a wide, moody emotional palette, making them particularly suited to Calvi’s introspective re-workings. Her tinkling, wavy guitar playing gives the song almost an aquatic effect in this clip, taken from a performance at Le Nouveau Casino in Paris.

 

Anna Calvi

 

 

Clever Music Videos Are A Great Way To Sell A Song

Ever since there have been music videos, there have been music videos worth talking about. Pop bands in the sixties would regularly film promotional clips to sell their songs when they could not perform on TV shows but for some reason, Queen get the credit for inventing the music video.

OK Go Make Memorable Music Videos

The promo for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was certainly memorable and sued great technology (for the time) but the art of the music video was only warming up. Music Television, or MTV as it was better known, was creating a real platform for bands to promote their songs and one of the most memorable early videos used one of the jingles for the station in its background.

I want my MTV!

It is hard to believe how huge Dire Straits were in the 80s but the advent of the CD and MTV saw this band sell a hell of a lot of units. ‘Money For Nothing’ featured new computer graphics and animation and with Sting crooning ‘I want my MTV’ in the background, the track went into heavy rotation on the new music channel.

Another British artist that embraced the new technology was Peter Gabriel and the animation work on his video’s was second to none. ‘Sledgehammer’ was shown repeatedly and cleaned up at the Music Video Awards thanks to its visual representation of the lyrics and fun feeling.

Jackson served up a few thrillers

Michael Jackson was also heavily involved in taking advantage of the music video format and on ‘Thriller’; he extended it into a mini-movie. The choreography on the Thriller video made it a classic and Jackson knew how to use his dance skills to captivate an audience. The King of Pop turned up trumps again a few years later with the ‘Bad’ video, where Jackson’s gang had a dance rumble against a team led by Wesley Snipes.

All of these were exciting and exhilarating videos but by the time Michael came to duet with his sister Janet on ‘Scream’, the emphasis of the video was placed on big budget effects as opposed to interesting storylines or dance routines.

A lot of bands were happy to splice live or studio footage of them with a small narrative or story but the best videos were the ones that stood out and were different from the norm. This was certainly the case when the Beastie Boys recorded a video for their single ‘Sabotage’.

Listen all of y’all, its a Sabotage!

The trio dressed up as old school cops and their antics in chasing bad guys and enjoying donuts helped catapult the band back into the big time after a few quiet years away from the commercial spotlight.

As special effects become more common, the videos that catch the eye are the ones that no longer rely on effects or wizardry. A great example of this was the Ok Go video for their song ‘Here It Goes Again’, which featured an elaborate dance routine using treadmills.

This video caught the eye and has already been lampooned and parodied on the internet and on TV commercials for branded products. You know you have made a great video when mainstream media steals your ideas for their own commercial needs. There have been some great music videos over the past few decades and there are sure to be many more in years to come.

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