NME Radar: Breakout

Lav: Heartbreaking poet with songs envied by Billie Eilish

Billie wishes that she'd written Lav's 'From Me, The Moon' – but her haunting new song 'Wavvy' sees her experimenting with fleshed-out production

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

Lav released the longing, misty-eyed ‘From Me, The Moon’ on a whim. The 21-year old first started writing poetry at an early age as a means to make sense of her emotions and find some sort of control. “Whenever I feel bad or sad, I reach for a pen,” she explains from her home in LA. After struggling with self-harm and eating disorders, “writing poetry became the only coping skill I had that was healthy.”

She slowly built an online following with those words as well as TikToks about shitty boyfriends and the realities of visiting Disneyland with IBS. The sepia breakup anthem of ‘From Me, The Moon’ was just another part of herself she wanted to put out into the world but soon enough, it caught the attention of Finneas and Billie Eilish who shared the track on their Instagram Stories. Six months later Billie went on CBS’ This Morning and said that song, along with Lana Del Rey’s ‘Off To The Races’, was one of the tracks she wishes she’d written.

This spotlight sent a wave of attention Lav’s way – but now she’s back with her first new song. ‘Wavvy’ is a step beyond the cutesy music that she’s played with before, all shuddering synths and haunted regret, but the track still dances with a rose-tinted romance.

‘Wavvy’ has just been released, how are you feeling about it?

“I’ve been anticipating it for so long so it’s a real sigh of relief that it’s finally out. I’m excited but nervous because it’s so different to what my fanbase has told me that they love. I always wanted to be a more ‘Pop artist’, which is hard with a ukulele unless you can play like Eric Clapton. I didn’t want to be a Ukulele Girl forever so now I’m waiting for the hate to roll in.”

What does that song mean to you?

“Last year I thought I slept with someone too early. We didn’t talk much afterwards and I ended up blaming myself. Being a girl that’s something you worry about, you don’t want to give it away too quick or too easy. Originally  I wrote ‘Wavvy’ from a very sad place, feeling insecure about whether I was a slut or not but as time went on, I was almost embarrassed. I’m a feminist, why should I be getting on myself about wanting to have sex? It became something very different after that realisation. It’s interesting it comes across as powerful now. I guess I’m just a strong woman. Now it’s a hoe-anthem, it’s way more positive.”

It’s the first song you’ve released since ‘From Me, The Moon’ blew up. Did that add to the pressure?

“I didn’t feel it until this week but when I did, ‘oh shit’. There was so much buzz around ‘From Me, The Moon’, – I had child star syndrome. I felt like nothing I do is going to be as good as that but also, I’m very anticipatory, I’m very hopeful and I’m not making music for other people. I’m making it for me. It isn’t a great marketing strategy if I want to make money but I want to be able to be proud of what I make.”

Billie Eilish said she wishes she’d written that track. No big deal, right?

“When she said that, I had an aneurysm. It was insane. She had already shouted out my song on Instagram then 6 months later, she told CBS’ This Morning [US morning talkshow] that she wishes she’d written it. I wrote that song in 15 minutes in my bathroom on GarageBand and I love it. I poured a lot of raw emotion into it, it’s written messy and it’s just my stream of consciousness. I think that’s why she connected to it.”

How did the attention from Billie change things for you?

“I had a little bit of a following before because I am stupid on the Internet and tell awful, funny sex jokes. I always had eyes on me, but now it’s just building. Before people were just happy when I released anything. Now more people are waiting for me to release the next thing, which is pressure.”

Were you a fan of hers before she was a fan of yours?

“I think anyone who’s ever listened to a Billie song is a fan. When Billie released ‘bellyache’, I played it for four days straight. It was a big shock to have her like my music because, to some degree, I idolise her. She commented that I was hot the other day on Instagram as well. I can’t believe I tricked Billie Eilish into thinking that I’m talented and good-looking.”

CREDIT: Karen Davis

“I didn’t want to be a Ukulele Girl forever. I’m waiting for the hate to roll in”

You were thinking of quitting music before that happened, right?

“You hear everyday that being a musician is an unrealistic dream. My whole life I was told I wasn’t special enough and it’s disenchanting to have everyone telling you that you’re not good enough. This industry is really hard if you’re not 90 pounds, hot from all angles and making music for the Top 40. So at the time, I wanted to give up because it felt like there was so much against me. Then Billie shouted me out and I took it as a sign from the Earth that I should keep going.”

Do you believe in yourself more now?

“I will always believe in my love and passion for music, whether I’m writing it for myself, my kids or a very tiny group of fans. Just like a shark has to swim or it’ll die, I have to make, create or listen to music. I really do believe in my music and the power that my words have, it’s just that this industry will make you insecure with the most confident things.”

Your lyrics are deliberately messy and you don’t filter anything online. Do you think that’s why people are connecting to your art?

“My music is the only place I can be pretty vulnerable. It conveys a side of me that I’ve been hiding. A lot of people can connect to that idea of hiding their vulnerable side. People listen to music with friends all the time but I hope that I’m the kind of artist that people listen to when they’re alone and can really connect to it. I think it’s just sad and everyone can relate to something sad.”

“When Billie shouted me out, I took it as a sign from the Earth that I should keep going”

You get compared to Billie or Lana Del Rey a lot. Does that worry you?

“Definitely. Billie’s style is very different to mine and I was scared when so many of her fans followed me. I want to go in a more dream pop, almost funky direction and Billie is anti-pop. I started thinking about wearing oversized hoodies or dying my hair green. And I think people just compare me to Lana Del Rey because our music is dark and sexy and that’s fine. I’m aware I’ll never reach that level of pure glamour and sad stardom but I hope I join the likes of Billie or Lana in that genreless world they’ve both created.”

The big question: what’s next?

“I’m scared but excited about where this is going and where it caps. I’m not going back to college so I hope this works out. ‘Girls Before Me’ is the next single which is dreamy, sad but different again, and I’m working on an EP.  Maybe I’ll pull a Frank Ocean, move to the countryside and only release things every couple of years or maybe I’ll be performing at Coachella in three years time.”

Lav’s new single ‘Wavvy’ is out now