Meet: NZ/NYC synth-pop artist Lips

When I was younger I moved from a small village in Yorkshire, to London. The big metropolis that London is both scared and excited me. There were certain things I didn’t understand when I arrived there. Principally that car horns are used much more frequently than in rural life, where its only used in moments of extreme danger or anger. In fact, can I make an apology to the poor Royal Mail van driver I jumped out of my car to remonstrate with on my first week down there, for doing that very thing after I didn’t pull out onto the main road at a time he thought best (I mean, have you seen all that traffic?)

By the time I moved back out of London, I was savvy to the weird ways of its locals, you know never talk or smile at anyone, drive like a lunatic, and a liberal use of the car horn is not only permitted, but advisable.

Stephanie Brown, aka electro-pop artists Lips, also made an even bigger move, when she left her native New Zealand, and moved to Brooklyn. But it was more her brilliantly retro-synth sounding songs that transfixed us more than anything else. And none more than the fantastic Everything to me, which I still reckon is the best songs of the millennium, so far. (yes I know its only three years in, but it makes it sound good)

Lips – Everything to me

We spoke to Stephanie about Lips, and music, and moving house (but not road etiquette, sadly) here

Hey, how would you describe your music to those people who haven’t heard you?

I would say it’s electro synth soul.  But actually I don’t know, i usually just combine words together that I like  🙂

Growing up in New Zealand, how did that influence your music?

There is a  lot of space in our country and I like lots of space in my music, maybe that’s a correlation.  I like to hear where all the instruments stand. The way you can isolate each instrument  in Kind of Blue for example, I like hearing the space.

And what were your musical influences? Was there a specific record that you played over and over?

Sign of the times, Voodoo, Grace.

Is it difficult getting noticed in New Zealand?

No not so much as other places, cos there aren’t that many of us. But the flipside is that if you put out something bad then EVERYBODY knows about it straight away!

There’s quite a striking image with the music you make – Is image important to you?

Hugely. The lips character is the front person of lips and I use her for all my artwork and videos. I work with the same artist for all the artwork so it’s really fun, we have fun throwing round ideas, it’s a vital collaboration for me. I’m looking forward to exploring Lips further as we progress.

You made a big move to the USA – was that for musical reasons?

Yes. I had been working as a freelance keyboard in Auckland but I really wanted to make my own music. It made sense to me to move away at the same time, to make it a clean break.

It’s a big place though, right – must have been a bit of a culture shock?

Yes! It was really different! I’m still learning about the culture I think, but I’ve met some fantastic people! It’s a remarkable place.

Your EP ‘Look, listen’ came out in October – can you tell us a little bit about that? What was the inspiration?

I wanted to make a soulful EP but I’m not a soul singer, actually I’m the opposite,  a very plain-spoken singer. So it’s quite stripped back, I think the melodies are soulful in their own way. I like arrangements that lay bare the song. And I’m a keyboard player so it’s predominantly keys, synths and electro drums on that EP.

You’ve been back home for some gigs though – how was that?

It was great! I love going back home and soaking up the culture and people, it’s like a reset button. It’s a special place, beautiful beaches, dark humour 🙂

And Kiwi producer Lewis McCallum did a fantastic remix of your track – is there a lot going on over there?

I’ll pass that on! Yep there is loads going on, really really great music being made. She’s So Rad, Julien Dyne, many great bands and producers.

Lips – We don’t have much time (Lewis McCallum remix)

And what are your plans for the rest of the year?

I’m playing SXSW and then heading back to NYC to play some shows. I’m going to release a little EP in April and then an album at the end of the year. And hopefully get to Europe!!

The best album I’ve heard this is year is….

Toro y moi – Anything in Return

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