Interview: We ask Lupa J about 'Waiting For Her', influences, and the violin

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Prize winning artist/high school student/wolf enthusiast Lupa J has been hard at work of late with the release of her latest single "Waiting For Her" along with winning competitions, playing festivals and catching up on homework; but she has taken the time to sit down and respond to some questions we had for her.  

Kate: First of all, congratulations on winning the Mountain Sounds Festival Support Slot Competition! How was it playing the festival?

Lupa J: Thank you so much! It was a pretty cool experience – definitely the biggest stage we've played on yet! But because we were one of the first acts onstage our audience was pretty small – I mean, not small compared to some of our previous audiences, but in such a big dance tent it felt a little empty. Everyone who watched responded really well though, which was nice. 

K: Your song ‘Statues’ is also kicking all sorts of goals at the moment; can you tell us a bit about your recent, richly deserved achievements with that song?

L: Late last year my singing teacher encouraged me to enter a song into the Songsalive! Australia song comp – and because Statues had just been nominated as a finalist in Triple J Unearthed High I entered it. The song comp has a few different categories – one of which is the Parramatta prize (funded by Parramatta council) for songwriters based in North + Western Sydney. The finals for that category were held last Sunday – and I won! So now we're playing at the awards night this Tuesday, at which they'll be announcing all the other category winners. Statues is a finalist in a few of the other categories, which is cool.

K: Your new single ‘Waiting For Her’ has very evocative lyrics. The feeling I got from the song was almost a story of a girl in a controlling relationship, however I’ve also read that it’s about unrequited love. Am I completely off the mark? Can you clarify the meaning behind the lyrics? 

L: You're close – Waiting For Her is about becoming trapped in a suffocating relationship; in which one or both partners become so immersed and dependent on each other they lose a part of their own identity. I often end up writing about people whose current lives reflect elements of my own past experiences, so this one's inspired by a few friends I've had who completely rely on the love of another to feel happiness. Maybe you could say it's about an unrequited friendship – waiting for a friend to learn how to breathe on her own. But it doesn't really matter - I like the idea of leaving lyrics open to interpretation so people can fit whatever characters they imagine into the narrative. 

K: It was recently International Women’s Day and given that you are kicking arse at such a young age and flying the flag for young women everywhere, would you say there have been any women whom have inspired or influenced you and your music?

L: Haha I'm so glad I come across that way! (I try so hard) There are definitely a LOT of women who inspire my music. The current top three are Grimes, Laura Marling and FKA Twigs. Grimes and FKA Twigs for their awesome (often experimental) electronic production, and Laura Marling for her incredible lyric writing. And I just love how they're all such incredibly strong, unique characters. 

K: It’s super cool that you still bust out the violins in the midst of all the beautiful indie-electronica that is ‘Statues’ when you play it live. What instigated the change from classic violin to modern electronic? Or is it like a child who learns ballet but as they grow up discover hip-hop and begin break dancing instead?

L: I guess I've always loved music, and picking up violin when I was 6 was the first way I could get into it – but as you get better, and start playing harder and harder pieces, it becomes increasingly demanding. Especially being at such a small, classical music-focused high school – it's REALLY competitive. At the time I started to write songs there was pressure on me to practice three hours a day, to play all these flashy solo violin pieces (which, frankly, I hated) – and on top of that I had extremely crippling performance anxiety. I loved playing in orchestras, and small ensembles – but to do it as a career, you need to be a good soloist. And I just wasn't. I had been listening obsessively to a lot of modern indie folk + electronic artists for a while, and so when I started to learn how to MAKE that sort of music, I felt a kind of happiness I'd never experienced before. I just realised that I could express myself so much more honestly through creating music instead of playing other people's music. 

K: You’ve probably been asked this a million times before but can you please explain where the name ‘Lupa J’ comes from?

L: I was originally just Lupa, but I had to add the J (for Jones) after another artist named Lupa asked me to change it. 'Lupa' actually comes from a childhood obsession with wolves and the Miyazaki film 'Princess Mononoke'. Princess Mononoke is a young girl raised in the wild by wolves – she is a strong, fierce character who lives to fight the humans destroying her forest. After watching this film at age 7, I soon proceeded to make myself a wolf-girl costume and spend my days fighting imaginary battles against the evil forest-destroying humans. This carried on for several years (I was a weird kid). I still love wolves. But since then, I've always carried this ideal of having a strong, fearless character – and after losing that part of myself for some time, I regained it when I began to write music. So I made my artist name 'Lupa' – which in latin, means 'she-wolf'. 

K: You’re in your last year at Conservatorium High School. Is it very competitive there between students? Also what have your teachers said about your music and success?

L: Yeah, it's a tiny selective school so there's a lot of pressure on everyone to do really well in everything, not just music – it's inevitable that there'd be quite a bit of competition. There are a few teachers at that school that are just generally really incredible, good-hearted people – and they have been extremely supportive and encouraging. Funnily enough, those ones are mostly humanities subject teachers... a lot of the music teachers seem a little unsure. There's a bit of a hostile divide between classical and modern 'pop' music... which sucks when you're in both worlds! 

K: What can we expect from you after you graduate?

L: Ummm... a drastic increase in happiness levels. Haha. But in all seriousness yes, that will mean more songs – haven't figured out what shape or form though! 

Written by Kate Carnell