Lola Parnell

Lola Parnell

earrings PAULA KNORR shirt MATT DYER

I met Lola in North-West where she hails on the eve of her debut single launch “Mountain Dew” to talk all things music, modelling, self love and Spanish princesses. When we sit down she’s endearingly awkward but confidently holds her own as we exchange some habitual banter before diving into the interview.

For those who don’t know you yet, could you introduce yourself, we want to know MORE. 
My name is Lola, I’m 21 and I’m based in London. I’m a singer, a songwriter, and an artist. 

Firstly, I love the music I’ve heard of yours thus far; there’s a real sense of relatability and personal experience in the lyrics. Where do you dig for inspiration for you’re songs?
I guess something notable is that I have always felt like an alien or an outsider, and that’s definitely reflected in my work. For a long time I didn’t even know what my actual ethnicity was; my mum got me a DNA test for my 21st birthday. The first question people would ask me was always this: “so… where are you actually from?!” I even thought I was adopted for a hot minute because I felt so weird looking. There are a lot of myths and legends that are told in my family, about Spanish Princesses and weird traditions. We have a family chalice… None of my family history or identity felt real. Saying this to kids at school meant immediate jokes and shit like that, so I tended to try and fit in. I don’t think it was a case of me not being liked or welcome by my peers, it was more how I felt about myself and how I didn’t feel like I could really relate to anyone. The whole process of finding my identity, making sense of my own experiences, and learning to accept myself was one that would have been made a lot easier if I had seen someone in the media who I could relate to. It’s been such a crazy journey in finding out who I am now, that has been really complex and difficult for a number of reasons. I tried to encapsulate the process in my work, which I’ll get more into when I’m ready - it’s in the music anyway!

When did you start to steer more down the music route, when did it all start?
I grew up around music, my whole family including my Grandparents are and were creative. It was super inspiring to see growing up. The musical experiences I had were always so magical, and those moments stuck with me forever. I think classical piano got me into it initially - I really hated the theory shit. Apart from that - the feeling music gave me was kinda like a drug. I made this hand clap with my friend when I was eleven, which my dad recorded and made into my first official single (ha!), and I guess my songwriting started there. Music became my solace. I could be honest with myself when I was making it because I could make even the ugliest things sound beautiful. Writing is how I figure out more about myself - it’s like my own subconscious speaks to me. My independent journey in music began about a year ago, though, after I had left London for about 6 months. It gave me the space to take the time to get to know myself and to figure out what I wanted to do and what I wanted to make. When I came back, I decided that music was going to be my life, and that I would just have to make it happen!

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Your musical style/and composition is so unique to yourself, how would you describe you’re sound to someone who hasn’t heard Lola yet?
I find this question sooo hard. I don’t know! How the hell do you even describe sound?! I feel like categorising music is becoming more and more pointless these days. There is an unlimited spectrum of music, and I feel like calling an artist’s body of work one specific “genre” just doesn’t do it justice… You could call my music Alternative but I think it’s pointless to categorise my work when it’s constantly evolving and changing. I guess I would say that the running theme and feel is kind of ethereal and nostalgic. 

What type of music where you into growing up ? Who are your main musical influences?
Okay, so if I broke it down, it would be like this: my Grandpa had a Big Band that he would sometimes conduct from his drum kit… he was such a cool guy. He played Jazz in his house non stop. You know that Jazz that sounds like endless solos and improvisation? Then we would have little interludes where he would play the piano. His music was hypnotising. The layered melodies I heard in his house stuck with me. Then we have my Dad: he’s a funk dad. Like a stereotypical funk dad, with 70’s inspired flowery shirts, corduroy trousers and a fedora. He had a home studio in our house and would bring in a ton of amazing musicians all the time who did every style you could imagine. But his preference was pretty hard core funk. He introduced me to Soulwax, Stevie Wonder, Parliament, Jamiroquai… and his style of percussion is engraved into my CORE - I live for a bit of percussion on a track. And lastly my Mum. She was more of a mixed bag when it came to her music taste, it was more eclectic. She sang a lot of Chamber music while I was growing up, but she listened to a lot of Kate Bush, Seal, Prince, Bowie, that kind of thing. Her and my dad would play artists like Eve, Little Dragon, Justin Timberlake, Frou Frou, Corinne Bailey Rae, Jamie Liddell and Erykah Badu in the car. I think that’s why I love a falsetto so much. The songs I remember being obsessed with are ‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind’ by Eve featuring Gwen Stefani, and ‘Breathe In’ by Frou Frou. Imogen Heap is still one of my idols and it’s my dream to write with her.

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As an independent artist who writes and co-produces, can you tell us about your creative process?
It depends on who I’m working with. It’s a lot of trial and error, all that stuff. But writing wise I try not to think about anything too much, because when I overthink something it loses it’s authenticity. Like maybe someone has pissed me off; rather than thinking bout how to describe it, I channel the feeling. Sometimes I won’t even know I was upset until after I’ve written the song… then I’ll hear it and it’s like “damn! Is that really me?! Is that how I feel?” When it comes to the beat again it depends, sometimes I can leave the producer to do their thing and sometimes I’ve gotta be there 24/7. But I have a playlist where I put everything I think I could reference, so some days I’ll take it into the studio and be like “GUYS! Listen to this ‘ding’ sound! We gotta find something like it!”

London is notorious for nurturing some of the best underground and global artists, whats your take on London grown music from inside the scene? Where does Lola fit into it all?
Is it corny to say that I think that London has the most exciting emerging talent right now?! What I love about the scene is that there are a lot of really unique acts starting to excel in the industry, like they’re really being recognised for their craft. It’s so refreshing. I do think that the majority is still underrated, though. It makes me so happy that people are staying true to their vision - that’s what we need right now. I mean, as for myself, all I can really do is do my best to convey what I want to say through my work and stay true to myself as an artist. I’d like my music to bring something different to the table. I don’t know. This is the hardest question. I just wanna make people feel something and start a conversation. I hope that people will relate. 

Who are you listening to right now?
Uh, right now I’m listening to a lot of RnB and Soul music - D’Angelo, Erykah, Sade, SZA, Moonchild. And I’m listening to an unreleased song by my homie on repeat, shout out to LYAM! Love you.

Your debut single Mountain Dew is launching this month, how are you feeling on the eve of its release? 
I’m so anxious, but I’m super excited too; releasing a song is like putting your baby out on the street. Once it’s out it’s up to the people to do with it what they will. I’m still in shock that this song even happened, it was a fluke; we made it in a day. The message is that of self love. Learn to love yourself before you get yourself into that relationship shit with someone; be confident in yourself, trust your emotion and don’t feel guilt for however you feel. It’s a track about the fact that everyone falls in and out of love, and you have to be mentally prepared for that possibility and the energy it takes from you. As the angel SZA said: “it’s self love and it’s lit.”

Your visuals are incredible; do you work on your own art direction?
I am super lucky to have the team that I do. I’m surrounded by geniuses. It’s like a dream. Everyone I’ve worked with on the visuals has been a friend whose work I fuck with. The person I’ve worked with the most has been Yumi Carter, my manager, and my best friend;  we usually brainstorm together and come up with concepts. All of our messages to each other are screenshots and videos and inspiration.

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As a new emerging female artist in a traditionally male dominated industry what message do you want to put out there? Any advice for aspiring creatives?
The ultimate message is always self love and acceptance. Always. I’m still learning to do that every day and my work captures that process - I try to be as honest as I can, even if the truth is ugly. It’s the idea that if I can be honest about how I feel, you can too. If I can overcome everything and achieve my dreams, you can too… the cheesy lines could go on forever and ever. I just want people to believe in themselves and stop being such harsh critics. There are a lot of things I wanna talk about here… I gotta stop before I ramble. Just take time for yourself. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Listen to understand, not to respond. You control how you think of yourself, no one else. It’s just about reminding people of those things. My friends always say I’m corny but I think I’ve just outdone myself.

If there is one sentence to describe who you are or your way of seeing life – what would that be ?
Kali Uchis said in an interview with Noisey, “What really changed my life was the realisation that I literally don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do, ever, in my life. Once you realise that, you come to a consensus that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing with a purpose, and you’re doing it because you want to… You don’t have to do anything because someone told you to, or because you think that it’s obligatory.” When I heard her say that, it really hit home. I did a lot to please other people, and it ultimately made me miserable; it always goes into a downwards spiral. It’s okay to be selfish, and to look out for yourself. It’s how I try to live my life now, I have to be my own best friend - ultimately, we are alone in this world, so do you! You might as well.

top and trousers PAULA KNORR corset INGRID KRAFTCHENKO shoes PAULA KNORR chain around the waist STYLIST’S OWN

 

courtesy of LOLA PARNELL

photography, graphics and illustrations ALESSIA GUNAWAN
styling LEA FEDERMANN
hair YUUKI YANASE
makeup STEVIE SQUIRE
photography assistant TOSIA LENIARSKA
fashion assistant JOHANNA LILLIE

 

words BETSY JOHNSON

 

interview LEA FEREMANN

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