Interview: Lotte Mullan
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 11:21:29
Lotte Mullan leaves a mark with her EP. Claw Marks [iTunes link] really does cut deep, sharpening undeniable melodies with incisive and irresistible lyrics. It's as witty and wise as it is wonderful. It's also a fitting introduction to an undeniably powerful singer and songwriter.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Lotte Mullan talks Claw Marks and so much more.
What ties Claw Marks together for you?
I guess it's a concept piece in that the songs all explore this idea of romantic masochism and the slightly hurtful, addictive side of love. I chose Claw Marks as the title since it sums up that feeling you get of being stabbed in the heart. It can be ecstasy, or it can be hell, I suppose. There's a lyrical theme tying it together. Quite a lot of the songs I was writing at the time were under that umbrella of extreme emotions. For the EP, I really wanted to give everybody a taste of what's to come on the record when it drops later in the year. I thought that would be a good way to say, "There's more to come".
Did you write all of the songs around the time?
Yeah, they were all written over a two year period. I tend to write a lot, and then pick away at what I think is the best. Every song has that sense to it. It's slightly darker.
Even though it is dark, it's still catchy.
Thank you! I'm not sure how that ever happens. That's the magic potion. People have been saying that to me. It always surprises me when people sing things back to me because I'm quite introspective when I'm writing. I know some artists write with a view to the big sing-a-long chorus, but I don't know how that's possible.
What's the story behind "I Hope It Breaks Your Heart"?
That was the one that spearheaded this set of songs. The idea of that was, "Basically, how can you really fuck with someone's mind when you feel they've fucked with yours?" I was talking with friends about relationships. There's a common thread among passionate people. That's revenge. You feel you've been hurt, and you want to hurt back. There are the classic scenarios. It could be stamping on someone's record collection. That actually happened to my brother. He's a DJ, and somebody did that to him! That was the worst for him. Or, it could be stealing the favorite sauce pan when you split up the house. For me, the worst thing is no response at all. It's just the radio silence or tumbleweed of nothing. No phone calls. No texts. No saying angry things to people in order to get back to the guy just nothing. I thought that would be like a cold war. That was the idea behind the song. On the verses, I'm listing all of the things I'm leaving behind in the house. He can have them all, because I hope they remind him of me and break his heart. It's cold, isn't it?
Where did "Claw Marks" come from?
That's really interesting. Not many people have picked up on that one. Thank you for asking about it! "Claw Marks" was really about a sense of masochism and being in a relationship with someone quite controlling. You get the sense of being overpowered by another human being. Then, they leave you. The main line is, "You left your claw marks on my heart". The girl's saying, "I've always been this person. I've always been a bit lonely and a bit fucked up. I told you at the very beginning". You know there are those early stages of a relationship where you go quite deep with someone. You want to tell them about your soul, and you love that person for who they are. That's what happens initially. Maybe a year or two later, you're shouting at them for not doing the wash or something [Laughs]. It's like, "I told you I was this person from the beginning". Don't try and change a person. Love what you loved at the beginning.
Is it important for you to tell stories with the songs?
For me, that's essential. I can't wrap my ears around certain types of songs that just have a cool drum beat or hook. That doesn't do it for me at all. I know it does for a lot of people, but I have to have a story. It doesn't need to be a literal thing with a beginning, middle, and end. I just need something to get my teeth into that I can picture even if it's one thing. I try to do that with my writing. I always make a lot of notes. I'll do a few stream-of-consciousness pages on each song. I'll have the crucial bits for the lyrics and choruses. That's how I approach my writing.
What influences you outside of music?
Reading is a big one for me. I'm probably more influenced by novels than music in many ways. I have to read all the time. It's a compulsion. I just read Nora Ephron's Heartburn. I was a bit late to catch on, but it really made me feel. I like films and literature that cut deep but do have a sense of irony and humor as well. It doesn't have to jump out, but it's got to show you're not just sad. There has to be a bit of a wink somewhere, even a small one. I call it, "Lighting a candle in the corner of the room". Even if a piece is ultimately depressing, there's a tiny ray of hope.
If you were to compare Claw Marks to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
That's an interesting question. Blue Valentine definitely left a mark on me. It's about two people getting along on so many levels, but there's something fundamentally still not working. I think that's a really hard thing to deal with in life. The things you love aren't always right for you. I'd say Blue Valentine. Oh a big one was The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It's a film and a book. That on fascinated me while I was writing. I was thinking about how some things really affect certain people. Other people can just be blasé about certain things. Then for others, small things can be very heavy and really affect them. I think I'm one of those people. I tend not to have that lightness of step carefree people have. That had a big impact on me.
Have you heard Lotte Mullan yet?