LoneLady has shared new new single ‘Fear Colours’, along with details of new album ‘Former Things’ and an extensive UK and European tour. Check them all out below, along with our interview with Julie Campbell.
Coming in June on Warp Records, the Manchester guitar pioneer and singer-songwriter’s third album has so far been teased with the single ‘(There Is) No Logic‘ and now ‘Fear Colours’, which she described as “an electro-scape of funk, crunch and vocoder-ed fear!” – and a fitting evolution from her previous work.
Speaking to NME over video call from her flat in Manchester, the bleak, industrial landscape which inspired Campbell’s debut ‘Nerve Up’ and follow up, ‘Hinterland’ surround her home: crumbling mills, run-down factories and the juxtaposition of the old and new: 60s tower blocks next to modern, luxury apartments.
“I can’t really walk past a crumbling industrial building without my heart fluttering a little bit,” Campbell told NME, explaining her love of austere cityscapes and how they’ve influenced her work so far. “I still daydream about owning a big, crumbling mill. I wouldn’t renovate it: I’d just let it crumble slowly around me. Everything’s like Romantic poetry to me, like Bryon or Shelley. I actually like things crumbling into disrepair and ruin, because it’s more romantic.”
Many have noted how Campbell’s work to date has felt like an extension of Manchester itself with so much does the city radiating from her sound. Her first two albums were recorded partly in her home-built studio, partly in an abandoned factory. Recording in the ruins wasn’t ideal, but it worked for practical reasons: studio time was expensive, so too were properties in the city centre. “Manchester really trumpets about its musical history,” Campbell told NME, “but it needs to supports grassroots premises and communities so that there’s going to be great new music tomorrow.”
In 2015, Campbell said that Manchester was “part of her DNA” and that she couldn’t imagine leaving, yet in 2016, she moved to London where latest album. ‘Former Things’ was recorded. Awarded a residency at Somerset House, she had, for the very first time in her career, a large studio space to herself.
“As much as I love Manchester and was immersed in all things Manchester, I was dying for a new environment for a bit really,” Campbell explained. “I’ve always had to take my studio around with me on my back like a snail; I had to carry it around. But it was draining…I needed something new.”
Explaining what her new studio meant, she said, “I just knew it was a place I could be creative in,” while describing it as “part nightclub, part art-installation”.
“I wanted to turn the volume up and make a racket,” she said. “It was my very own concrete bunker that gave me the best of both worlds: I had the isolation I needed to concentrate, but then I could go out and…bump into loads of other creatives.”
Her “LoneLady” first persona came about through a love of creating in isolation, but she told us that this time she was desperate for the opposite. “I could just step out into the hustle-and-bustle of London, which was so stimulating and fantastic,” she explained. “I had all these art galleries on my doorstep too. I get just as much inspiration from going to art galleries as I do from listening to other music.”
Campbell explains how ‘Former Things’ started out as a techno record, before she put her Telecaster aside and instead added layers of synthesisers and drum machines until she had an ’80s electro-pop record that sits somewhere between New Order’s ‘Movement’ and Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Drinking Gasoline’. At its poppiest, like on first single ‘(There Is) No Logic’ and latest dancefloor-ready new single ‘Fear Colours’, the album channels the likes of La Roux and Neenah Cherry.
“I’ve always loved early-to-mid 80’s electronic music,” Campbell said. “I love where the technology was up to at that point. I was really leaning into that whole electro world with this new album.”
Explaining how she gathered lots of vintage equipment to help her achieve this sound, including an old Yamaha keyboard she’s had since she was 10-years-old, she said: “It’s probably only worth about £30, but it’s my favourite bit of gear. It’s the sound of my childhood so I’ll always keep it, it will always be there, playing with the big boys – the ARP and the Korg.”
It’s fitting the instrument appeared, not least because this album is about Campbell’s youth. Whilst the sound is Campbell’s most up-tempo and up-beat to date, the lyrics are now strikingly personal and in her words “incredibly mournful”. “O youthful wonder / it was all inside when I was a child / Why does it fall so far away?” she sings on album track ‘The Catcher’.
“I found myself reflecting a lot on the distance between then and now,” she told NME. “Just feeling like all the joy, wonder and excitement of childhood had gone. I’m wondering what my teenage self would think of me now, reflecting on formative years, on dreams versus reality.
“It’s something that obsesses me a bit really and I do get very melancholy about it…it’s not like my adult life has been really terrible, it’s just something that really gets to me. It really moves me thinking about childhood and your formative years and how hard it is to keep a hold of those things.”
She continued: “I think the lyrics are a lot more direct than they have ever been. This time, I’m not really holding back on how I feel about things. What’s the point of making art if you’re not going to say what you really mean? It’s good to put your neck on the line.”
As soon as her residency in London ended, Campbell found herself back in Manchester, mixing her album remotely with US engineer Bill Skibbe. “Getting this album to the finish line was a real challenge and I think that’s a lot to do with the realities of trying to sustain yourself as an artist: it’s really difficult,” she said. At a time where streaming leaves little revenue and lack of touring leave further reductions in income, Campbell said it’s been harder than ever to make ends meet.
“It’s really hard and it seems to be not getting easier. I’m not an artist who can just churn an album out every 18 months. I like to keep those standards high, but it’s hard to sustain that [financially],” she said. “It’s only goodwill that keeping everybody going; it’s a bit thankless.”
Back in Manchester, Campbell told NME of wanting to return to her London space: “If money wasn’t an object, I’d be quite happy in my bunker in the basement of Somerset House for the future,” she admitted, explaining how she’s trying to find a better balance between what she wants to achieve artistically and what she can achieve practically.
“I’m trying to rein in my romanticism a bit,” she added. “It’s so impractical and I would like to have more albums out than I do. I will happily be the caretaker of an authentic, crumbling industrial mill. It so important to retain a link to the past, to us, to our youth, because that’s the story of us, and…I guess, me.”
LoneLady releases ‘Former Things’ on June 25. Check out the tracklist below.
‘(There Is) No Logic’
‘Time Time Time’
Her upcoming tour dates are below. Visit here for tickets and more information
3: End Of The Road Festival, Wiltshire
11: Down at the Abbey, Reading
13: Hope and Ruin, Brighton
14: The Exchange, Bristol
16: Oslo, London
17: (YES) The Pink Room, Manchester
20: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
21: Stereo, Glasgow
22: St Doms, Newcastle
1: The Grand Social, Dublin
2: Ulster Sports Club, Belfast
15: 24 Kitchen Street, Liverpool
16: Record Junkee, Sheffield
17: Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
19: Hasard Ludique, Paris, France
20: Charlatan, Gent, Belgium
22: Headcrash, Hamburg, Germany
23: Berghain Kantine, Berlin, Germany
24: Blue Shell, Köln, Germany
25: Paradiso (Upstairs), Amsterdam, Netherlands
27: Junction 2, Cambridge
28: Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
29: Joiners, Southampton
30: Arts Centre, Norwich
1: Bodega Social Club, Nottingham
2: Mash House, Edinburgh