From appearing in a Hollywood movie and founding her own theatre and literary companies to having a brother in one of the most influential bands of the early 2000s, it’s safe to say that Brighton’s Lucie Barât exudes intrigue and talent.
The singer is launching her career as a solo artist with her debut single Take Me Away, alongside her band of Laurance Bridge (bass), Fred Lovett (drums), Harry Caiger (guitar) and Cameron Williams-Hill (keys / synth), ahead of a debut EP next year.
Lucie’s music is a delicious blend of spoken word vocals countered by heavier rock, which has, for some reason, initially confused some people. “It’s had mixed feedback from radio stations because they don’t know where to place it,” she tells me as we enjoy a beer in one of London Bridge’s finest establishments. “They were confused by the heavy guitar chorus and the spoken word verse, but it’s really not the first time that’s ever been done! The biggest comparison is probably Kate Tempest, yet they’ve been saying things like Kate Nash – which offends me. She’s fully pop and might speak a bit but I wouldn’t say that’s well-crafted beat poetry or rap.”
Don’t worry, Kate Nash this is not. Take Me Away opens up with dreamy guitar licks and synth, then dives into Lucie’s cool spoken word lyrics that open up: “On waking my eyelashes clasp each other, 24 hour old mascara, The remains of an ephemeral mask, That I’ll resurrect with no fuss, Like a L’Oreal Lazarus.” The vocals increase in pace and intensity as the song builds into a big rocky chorus led by singalong, almost shouted vocals then drops down into another cool spoken verse. There’s a dreamy bridge section after the second chorus, before going out in big rocky fashion.
It’s really fun and catchy, with engaging lyrics – such as L’Oreal Lazarus – that make you sit up and listen through the verses then instrumentals that make you want to rock out through the verse. So, what’s holding people back from embracing it? Well, according to Lucie, and I agree with her point here, it’s the ongoing deluge of music.
Lucie tells me: “The thing is with mainstream stations is there’s too many people giving feedback, there’s so much music and people trying to get in. When they got rid of Top of the Pops the focus moved to all these different charts and things like X-Factor, and it’s all about streams and downloads, which makes it all so disingenuous – especially when you turn up to a gig and there’s only 20 people in the audience.
“There’s so much work convincing people that you’re worth promoting and justifying your place, rather than making music, which is a little bit depressing. I think it’s a sign of how music and definitions of music has shifted. Pop used to be a dirty word but now it just means melody, indie has mutated into various hybrids I’ve never heard of. What does indie even mean now?”
The terminologies may be loose, but Lucie’s very clear on what she wants to do and Take Me Away is the first true representation of that vision. She said: “Everything on the EP has an element of spoken word in it, whether it be the verse or the middle eight. It’s quite beat-driven, there’s a lot of hooks, a lot of melody and a lot of sung stuff, but we’re not shy of the distortion and loads of heavy guitars.
“It’s basically everything that I like about music. I like using the vocals to emphasise beat and rhythm but I also love hooky melodies and a bit of dirty guitar, but I like a clean, subby bass. It’s a bit like seeing what’s left in the cupboard and making dinner with it, that’s kind of what my EP is.”
Her musical taste has been shaped by bands like Everything Everything, pioneers that brought electro back like LCD SOundsystem, lyrically inspired by music like Tracey Chapman, while her friends tell her she “listens to all the old dead chicks like Julie London.”
And in terms of what gets her writing, she says: “It used to be all the usual ‘me, me, me’ existential ponderings and experiences. I’ve recently done a bit of railing against the world politically because there’s so much to get angry about if you want to, but I’m a pretty chilled person. Writing for me is about reaching out and wanting to connect through empathetic songs and universal issues, and for me it comes down to we’re all here and we’re alive. I’m not all activist, I’m a little bit of a hippy as well.”
As alluded to earlier, Lucie has had an interesting career to date. She earned a scholarship to go to drama school and, upon graduating, started a theatre company with her friends and recruited Dame Judi Dench as patron. She played a handmaid in the 2004 movie Troy, which starred Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom, before focusing on her music. She also founded literary company Little Episodes, which published poetry and put on events to present that poetry alongside theatre and art exhibitions, using the arts as a platform to raise awareness for people who suffer from depression, addiction or mental illness. It’s an eclectic mix of interests from a really enigmatic, interesting and highly likeable person.
Lucie explains her interests as: “I’m the kind of person that is ridiculously energetic and when I like something I get fully into it. Like, ‘I wish there was a film about this, so why don’t I write one?’ I got really into poetry and wanted to put a book out but I was told nobody really publishes it and there’s no money in it, so I setup a publishing company and published five books of poetry with other people. Then when it came to the launches I thought I don’t really want to stand in a bookshop with everyone drinking warm wine so why don’t we put on a gig, and write a play and have an art exhibition alongside it.
“I just think anyone can do anything if you look at ways to do it step-by-step, and that’s just what I’ve done all my life. I love poetry, I love theatre, I love film and TV, I love music, all of these things interest me so I’m just trying my hand at them all I guess – it’s all just one massive DIY project!”
As you’ve probably deduced by now, Carl Barât of The Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things is Lucie’s brother – she was at drama school when the band’s fame blew up – and the two recently went out on tour together, alongside another band we recently featured Sisteray. Lucie told me: “It was lovely. Obviously I’ve known all of them for so long it was great to be out on the road together. Scarborough was nice because it was furthest away from home and we got to just hang out for the day, do soundcheck and play the gig, it was really nice and the first time I’ve got to hang out with the boys for maybe 15 years or so without it being in passing or rushing.
Take Me Away is streaming on Spotify now, and is officially released in all other formats on 24 November. You can hear Lucie’s music for yourself with three gigs next week in London, Manchester and Southsea. Check out all her upcoming gigs here. 2018 also promises to be an exciting year for Lucie and her band with a European and UK tour to support her debut EP, which is pretty much recorded and from which the next single is out in February.
Lucie says: “It’d be lovely if people came to gigs and listened to our music, just come and have a beer and listen to some music and it’d be really nice to hear what people think of it.”