INTERVIEW: Lizzy Farrall

"I thought that the people that were around when that first EP came out would enjoy the journey in the sense that they’d watch me change.”

INTERVIEW: Lizzy Farrall

By Gem Rogers

Apr 10, 2020 16:52

There’s no two ways about it, these are strange times we’re in. Tours have been cancelled left, right and centre, the shops are (almost) all shut, many of us can’t quite remember what the outdoors looks like, and barely a sentence seems to be uttered without the word ‘unprecedented’ somewhere in there.

Releasing a debut album is nervewracking enough on a ‘normal’ day, filled with anticipation and excitement; to release that album during such, well, unprecedented worldwide turbulence? That’s a whole extra rollercoaster ride – and, for Lizzy Farrall, one that comes at the end of a long two years of hard work and challenges. We caught up just a few days after the release of ‘Bruise’ to talk growth, the creation of the album, and overcoming everything the world has thrown at her.

The road started for Farrall, as it often does for aspiring musicians, with YouTube covers – but not so many can say that it led to a deal with one of the alternative scene’s most well known and loved labels. The chance discovery of a Story So Far cover by booking agent Brad Wiseman led to a fateful Facebook message; “he just like pitched himself and was basically like ‘yeah, let’s get on a call and talk, I work for this company’. At first I was like oh god, who is this, this could be creepy,” Farrall laughs, “but it turned out to be this amazing guy!”

After a year of working together, Wiseman began to pitch Farrall to labels, and in came the legendary Pure Noise Records – home of State Champs, Knocked Loose and, serendipitously, The Story So Far. It was a huge achievement for a young artist from Chester, but it was still only the beginning – debut EP ‘All I Said Was Never Heard’ came along in January 2018, with an acoustic sound that’s a world away from the charged and energetic songs that followed just a year later.

“I don’t not like my first EP, just when I think back to that first EP… It’s like a little girl. It’s not me, it’s me as a child,” she explains of the evolution in her sound. “It was my first step into the music industry, I’d not really put anything out before.” Speaking to Farrall, one thing that’s immediately evident is her forthright and warm honesty, and when asked whether she felt the move from acoustic to a modern, full band sound was daunting in terms of fan response, she’s unfazed.

“Yes and no – I think because I’m still up and coming, you know, I’m not going to paint it like I think that I’ve got a huge following. I’ve got a good solid following and at that time it was small, so for me, I didn’t feel like people would be annoyed, and I thought that the people that were around when that first EP came out would enjoy the journey in the sense that they’d watch me change.”

The most daunting part, instead, was releasing music with a more mainstream sound on such a well known alternative label as Pure Noise – “Is this going to work? Are people who are big fans of Pure Noise going to respect this, in that sense? But once I released ‘Barbados’, it felt like people were like, ‘Okay, I want to get behind this girl’”.

It was ‘Barbados’, the single released in January 2019, that heralded the start of a new era for Farrall, and an EP of the same name followed in May, full of lively hooks, earworm choruses, and – most importantly – bucketloads of heart. The five tracks felt like an introduction to the future direction of Lizzy Farrall, but it wasn’t originally meant to exist at all, as she explains.

“We’d been given the tour in the US with Set It Off, and Emarosa, and Broadside, so the label and us discussed that we wanted something new to put out for that two month tour in the States, but we didn’t think it was time to put the album out. So we came up with taking a few songs off the album and putting it on the EP.”

Unfortunately, courtesy of the demon that is visa denials, that tour wasn’t meant to be, and it was just one of the setbacks that Farrall has had to overcome along the way. The surprise EP still dropped, though, and in the end she thinks that it worked in her favour – “I think if I’d just dropped the album and it being so different, I think people would’ve been a bit more shocked, but with this now you can see a more natural progression into what I was going for.”

Recorded last year, ‘Bruise’ still contains three of the tracks that were borrowed for the Barbados EP, and they nestle alongside seven others that take listeners on a ride through a world of vibrant colour and emotion where no two songs sound alike. It’s exhilarating and exciting all at once, diving from upbeat pop melodies to soothing, chilled vibes where there’s even space for saxophone solos – on paper, it seems like it should feel disjointed, but nothing could be further from the truth. That variety didn’t happen by accident, either, with Farrall determined to steer clear of any musical ruts.

“This was one of my main ideas, I think for so long I’ve never wanted to be stuck in the same genre. I didn’t want that. I wanted to be able to I guess float, and be able to come in between different genres and not be held down into a certain scene.”

Avoiding any structural clichés – “Normally people would progress like so it’s like upbeat upbeat upbeat and then it would drop, and towards the end of the album it would be more of the ballads” – was key to creating an album that keeps listeners on their toes, going just where it pleases and grabbing attention in the same way your favourite playlist does.

“I think my intention for that is also, I haven’t got a great attention span and I don’t think a lot of this generation does anymore, and for me I do find it hard listening to a full album if I don’t think it’s diverse enough. I don’t know if that’s like a lot of people in general but I didn’t want that, I want people to listen to it and be like this is so weird…”

“I could go weirder if I wanted to!” she laughs a moment later. “I didn’t want it to be too… obnoxious, I guess is the term that I’d use, and it’s a stepping stone into being more obnoxious, we’ll see!”

 

Of course, dynamic and exciting sounds aren’t the only thing ‘Bruise’ has to offer. Threaded through these thirty minutes is the same kind of honesty in lyricism as comes across when speaking to her, delving deep into raw and emotional moments in words that feel both heartfelt and conversational. Farrall’s ability to tell stories that instantly capture the imagination feels especially fresh and unique, and while many of these songs are clearly incredibly personal, there’s an openness that allows others to find their own meaning and comfort. Though Farrall tries to avoid giving too much detail on the exact meaning of individual songs, so that others are able to hold onto their own interpretation, these are still her own feelings – so was it difficult to release these moments and emotions into the world for all to hear?

“In a sense, it’s like a relief,” she answers. “It’s hard, because obviously a lot of the topics are really, really personal and probably things I wouldn’t tell a lot of people, but then I’ve disguised it with the lyrics, so people aren’t 100% sure what I’m singing about, but then… I am.”

“It is hard but it’s so refreshing for me because it’s an outlet, it becomes a way for me to talk about topics that I don’t or wouldn’t necessarily.”

There’s lightness amongst that emotion, too, especially on a song that Farrall cheerily describes as “a cheesy duet” – coming in the second half of the album, ‘Knight Rider’ features Bradley Walden of Emarosa, whose latest album ‘Peach Club’ is drenched in the same kind of 80s retro vibe that ‘Bruise’ also pulls on. “I wanted someone that had progressed similar to what I was doing, which I think Emarosa have, like if you look back at their first ever album it’s so different… And I love Bradley’s voice, I think it’s gorgeous,” she says of how the duet came together. “I wrote the song and it just came into my head, I want Bradley – and luckily my manager is good friends with him, so I just remember messaging being like ‘can we get Bradley on this? Is there a way we can do that, can we get a contact?’”. The result is an effervescent three minutes that yes, is definitely a cheesy duet – but in the best and most smile-inducing way, and one that still preserves hidden depths.

After all that Farrall has put into the creation of the music that forms ‘Bruise’, it’s not too surprising that she has also paid close attention to the imagery around not just the release, but the whole presentation of her social media and performances. Anyone visiting her Instagram page can’t fail to notice a distinctly purple hue, which has been closely linked in with the concept of ‘Bruise’ – something that she’s been working towards for many years.

“I knew from a very young age that I wanted to call something ‘Bruise’ – it’s always been something that I’ve liked. Either it was going to be an EP or it was going to be the name of a song, it’s just always something that I’ve liked, and to be honest I didn’t know if I was going to call the album ‘Bruise’ for quite a while. It suddenly hit me when it came down to writing the album, I was like this is ‘Bruise’! This is what I’ve been waiting for.”

In the end, it was a perfect fit, and the use of colour that was inspired by heavier bands like Loathe, Knocked Loose, and Lotus Eater – “I was just like, I’m not anything like them – so I’m going to bring this metal, this heavier rock thing” – represented not only the literal colour of a bruise, but the transition Farrall’s music was undergoing. “I felt like I needed something else to show that things were changing and that’s where the purple came from,” she explains. “It was just something eyecatching I thought. And immediately people were like – why has she gone purple? What’s that about?”

When asked whether the purple is likely to stick around for future releases, Farrall reveals she’s already been making the most of lockdown time – “this wave just hit me and I was like, oh my god, this is the next thing, I’ve got it.” Whether the purple stays or not remains to be seen, but we can likely expect some visual elements to be carried forward – and though ‘Bruise’ has only just landed, Farrall is already preparing for her next steps, and it’s easy to share her excitement for the future.

For now, though, there is more than enough joy to be found in ‘Bruise’ to keep fans happy until the next release, and to say it makes the perfect quarantine companion is an understatement as it splashes sunshine on even the greyest of days indoors. With all the upheaval in the industry, the release hasn’t gone entirely as planned, though – in a perfect world, Farrall would have now been embarking on an almost entirely sold out UK tour with Set It Off in support of the album, a tour that would surely have brought in plenty of new fans.

“I’m not going to sugar coat it, it’s been hard. When you’ve worked for something for nearly two years – I wrote the songs two years ago, recorded the album a year ago – to work so hard and be constantly waiting for that right time to drop the album and it’s like “OK here is the time, we’ve got the Set It Off tour in the UK, this is insane, all the shows are pretty much sold out” and then it was like BAM here’s the coronavirus. It was just like… oh, shit.”

It’s testament to the loyalty and strength of her existing fanbase that, after the postponement announcement, they reached out to find out how they could help, and in an instant turned a devastating moment around. After a tough 2019 for Farrall and a 2020 that has been punishing for the whole music industry, she remains philosophical about it – “It was hard, but the way that I look at it is like, you can’t be mad that it’s happening because it’s happening to everyone. It’s sadly affecting everyone in the world, and I guess there might be upsides to it in the fact that more people will be looking for new music to listen to while they’re stuck inside. When it first happened I was really disheartened and I was quite upset, now that I’ve come to terms with it and the response has been so good, it’s made up for it.”

And for the future? It’s a difficult thing to discuss, with nobody really knowing what’s in store in the coming months. For the moment, Farrall is still scheduled to appear at 2000trees in July, a festival she has been desperate to play for a long time. It’ll be her first show since the release of ‘Bruise’, and she has plans – “People who probably have never listened to me and never seen my aesthetic are gonna be like ‘what the fuck is this?’” There’s pure joy in her voice as she talks of her ideas for bringing ‘Bruise’ to life on stage, before she sums it up quite simply as “it’s gonna be creepy, it’s gonna be weird”.

So though things remain uncertain for now, hope still lies in the future – and it won’t be too long before we’re able to not only celebrate live music again, but also this stunning debut from an artist who has already started to carve her own clear path. And when that time comes? Quite frankly, there’s nobody we’d rather get weird with.