Over her half a decade making music, Lucy Tun has gone through many guises. In 2018, she started out under the quasi-eponymous name LCYTN, making leftfield pop music that was labelled bedroom pop – largely because it was literally written in such surroundings – but had ambitions far beyond those four walls. “I always had this idea of making music that felt bigger than just my bedroom,” she tells NME today.
At the same time, she accidentally stumbled upon a burgeoning career as a DJ and producer. In 2019, she released the beat tape ‘Bad Weather Vol. 1’ on Soundcloud, mixing all her productions together. “My managers at the time were like, ‘This is DJing! You’re mixing your songs together!’,” she recalls, unaware at the time that the work she was doing would fall into such a categorisation. “My friend then taught me how to mix, and I started doing remixes and more dance-heavy tracks. I began to really love DJing and producing.”
On the tape, Tun sampled Jai Paul’s track ‘Crush’ and sent it over to the Paul Institute label. “I still have the response on my phone,” she says, still aghast. “A waving emoji from Jai Paul!” The elusive singer and producer and his brother AK Paul have remained strong supporters of Tun’s work since then, and met at Paul’s long-awaited debut live shows in London earlier this year. “When I started DJing, it was like this whole new world of music sharing had opened up to me,” she reflects now. “As an artist, I want to be known for being open to anything, while still retaining my own individuality.”
After finishing a degree in economics and Burmese during the pandemic, and fighting through the same sense of loss and disconnection that we all experienced, Tun returned in 2021 with a new project under her own name. Her music as Lucy Tun reflects these personal changes and a desire to embrace being in the limelight.
Debut EP ‘Unreal’ (due November 10), is simultaneously a personal statement from Tun, but also her most collaborative work yet. The recent TikTok hit ‘Kulture Klub’, written with producer J. Ar. J, is a pop smash dripping with charisma and snapping 808s, while thrilling new single ‘Rabbit Hole’ saw her working with older brother Daniel, who gives the track an indie leaning.
“While I was playing the riff, I was thinking of ‘90s stuff like Garbage,” Daniel tells NME on the video shoot for the song in north London. “I think it definitely sounds a bit like a Garbage song.
“…you should check out Garbage, Lucy!” he adds, laughing.
She responds: “I thought you were telling me my song sounds fucking garbage!”
NME: What was happening in your life when you decided to change your performing name? Did it feel like a symbolic thing, and representative of something larger?
“I was coming out of a really dark time. When the pandemic hit, I was in uni, going into my last year. My plan was to really enjoy being a student, to hang out with my friends, to do typical uni student things and not try and do the music thing. All of that got ripped away, because a lot of my friends at uni are from other countries so had to move back. I felt like the rug had been pulled from under me. I had all this music that couldn’t come out, I’d just signed with a live agent for the first time and couldn’t play gigs.
“I just felt totally confused for six months, and when I finished my degree, I was even more confused. I was like, ‘What the fuck do I do?’ It was like that for about a year. At the same time, there was a military coup in Myanmar [where she and Daniel are from], which hit us quite close to home. It was a lot of chaos, a lot of instability, a lot of confusion. Changing the name and making new music was representative of me seeing the light after all of that.”
You studied economics and Burmese at university – did that greater knowledge of your roots seep into what you wanted to do with your music?
“I didn’t really know a lot about Myanmar at all until I went to uni. I was born and raised here in the UK, and didn’t have much knowledge of it. Studying the language and understanding the language and travelling back there really did connect me to the country a lot more. I got to make some music out there and write and produce some songs for some other Burmese artists. I had an amazing three years at uni and I don’t regret going at all. Even if it didn’t have anything to do with my music, it was a very important time.”
How does your work as a DJ and producer intersect with your pop music and singing? Do you see them as working hand-in-hand?
“It feels like two different mediums to express my love of music. I love a lot of different types of music, and I think most people don’t really stick to a [single] genre of music anymore. Everyone loves everything, because it’s accessible. My plan is to be able to express myself in all these different ways and not limit myself to just one thing.”
‘Kulture Klub’ went viral on TikTok earlier this year. How do you interact with the platform?
“I’ve never thought about, ‘How can I market my song?’ while I’m writing. I feel like that’s what I speak about with every artist nowadays though, and it’s a blessing and a curse. It was all done retrospectively though. I was not thinking about any of that when I wrote ‘Kulture Klub.
“TikTok is a new thing, but the idea of marketing yourself has always been there. I think about Camden High Street, and people giving out their mixtapes or USBs every day. How different is that to posting a TikTok every day? The essence is still there. If I were to give any words of comfort or assurance to artists who are struggling with it, it’s that you know what to do, because this is something that artists have always been doing – it’s just got a different name. TikTok can be like what MTV was.”
Does the release of ‘Unreal’ feel like the start of a new chapter for you?
“I’m already on the next thing. It’s already there. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, to actually get the train going. There’s a lot more coming after this, and it won’t be a huge long break. It’s about me stepping into the light and stepping into the limelight. I went into this new project wanting all of that. I want people to know me and see themselves in me and my music.”
Lucy Tun’s debut EP ‘Unreal’ will be released on November 10