Q&A: Say Lou Lou on Finally Wrapping Their ‘Lucid Dreaming’ Period
Miranda and Elektra Kilbey on their long-delayed debut LP and what differentiates Australian and Swedish pop
It’s been a long couple of years for Australia-via-Sweden twin duo Say Lou Lou in trying to get their debut album Lucid Dreaming out the door. Since first crashing the pop scene with “Maybe You” in 2012, sisters Miranda and Elektra Kilbey (daughters of Steve Kilbey, frontman for ’80s Aussie rock stars the Church) have built up a devoted following with a steady stream of sublime pop singles that encompass both dreamy soundscapes with cinematic narratives (“Julian”) and candy-coated, dancefloor-ready superpop (“Games for Girls”). But record label disputes have delayed the release of their first LP for years, until the sisters decided to just put the damn thing out themselves, self-releasing it earlier this month.
Say Lou Lou talked with SPIN before the release of Lucid Dreaming about the problems that caused the holdup, how they’re influenced differently by the music of their two home countries, and their own experiences with the album’s titular phenomenon.
So how big of a relief is it to have the album done with?
It’s, like, so relieving, and it’s like giving birth. We hate that it took so long. We’ve been working towards it, and it’s taken a bit longer than we thought, so we’re so happy that it’s finally coming out and that it’s done. We can close that book.
What was the final piece of the puzzle? What was the last thing you guys had to get done before the album could finally come out?
It was something to do with marketing. Mixing took quite a long time, getting everything exactly right, making sure they all fit together. I think more than anything, what took the longest was finding where to release it and then releasing it ourselves. Not so much looking for where to release it, but deciding to release it ourselves.
Were labels trying to push you in directions that you were uncomfortable with?
In what way?
Just… you don’t want to compromise. I just don’t see a reason to have to compromise on the record. I think artists nowadays, we have so much power, we have so much more outlets on the Internet, so I guess we thought we would be better off doing it ourselves. We had a core group that helped us, we had really good PR, we had really good marketing, we had everything we needed to not be on a label, and it just felt quite… it just didn’t work at that particular time. I mean, it might in the future, but now I think that’s the healthiest option for us.
Is lucid dreaming something that’s particularly interesting to you guys?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, we’ve… not practiced it, but we’ve been interested in it since we were kids. We were quite interested in every practice of the night. We’re not religious people — I guess you would say we’re a new-agey family — so I think we were very interested in our dreams, our birth chart, the stars and moon, that sort of stuff.
Have you tried it? Aren’t there supposed to be ways where you can train yourself to dream lucidly?
Yeah there are ways to do it really properly. I think Elektra can do it quite naturally sometimes. I think if you want to have a proper one, like a properly long one, you have to sort of fall asleep at the right moment, to train yourself to fall asleep at the right moment. Sleeping at certain times, lying certain ways, it’s quite complicated. You have to have a lot of discipline.
Do you feel like that concept informs the music on the album at all?
Definitely. I think, in terms of the sonic soundscape, we found that Lucid Dreaming was a good name that would fit how it sounded. It is quite dreamy and ethereal and quite surrounding. It’s quite dark at times, and also the lyrics can be quite happy, but the sound is dark, and the other way around. Kind of sticking to the dream theme, I also was thinking, contextually, the content on the record as well… it’s sort of like looking back. Dreams are a way of storing memories, and for us, this record is looking back on things, and coming to conclusions, feeling a little bit wiser and older and trying to learn something from your mistakes. I mean, we’re only 23, but learning from our mistakes from our teenage years.
So when talking about you guys with other people, I’ve theorized that the reason you can write such good pop songs is that you have roots in Swedish and Australian music, and those are the countries that are producing the best pop these days. Do you guys feel more connected to the pop music of either country?
I think maybe subconsciously both inform our music. I mean, neither of our parents did pop or anything. I think there’s a battle between the organic, very guitar-y nature of Australia, and then there’s the more electronic, Swedish part of us. I think that’s kind of both in us. Then, I think Swedish pop is more melancholy, I think that’s the Swedes’ forte, writing very upbeat, sad songs. Then I think Australians have those really euphoric, “join the people” kind of songs that I also really want to make. So, it’s really 50/50, I would say.
Which country do you think is winning on the international landscape?
Musically? Sweden, probably. If you look at Billboard, if you factor that in, then Sweden, definitely.
You mentioned your parents, have they heard the album yet? What kind of reaction do they have?
Yeah, definitely they have. They’re cute. In the early stages, they were really critical of us, being like, “Oh, you need to work harder.” Now that the album’s done and they know how much time and effort we’ve put into it, what a big part of our lives this record has been, I think they’re really proud that we’ve finished this record.
Do you guys have a favorite Church song?
I guess “Under the Milky Way” because our mom and dad wrote it together.
Oh wow, I didn’t realize that. That’s an awesome song. So what kind of music was in your house growing up? What were your formative musical experiences?
Everything that our parents used to do, all the old stuff like Bowie, T.Rex, Stones, Kate Bush, everything like that. Big ’70s stuff, but I think we also had stuff from the time: Tori Amos, Jeff Buckley, Cowboy Junkies, Air, everything that was big in the ’90s… I think what sort of stuck with us was Kate Bush, she’s been our favorite since we were three. Or probably before then.
So this is going to be a terrible question, I’m sorry, but I’m curious: as a pair of twins, does the success of Tegan and Sara mean much to you guys? Is that something that was inspirational to you over the past ten years, to see another twin act achieve that sort of international success?
I mean, all the stuff with twins — we love twins. I think they make really good music — but not particularly looking at twins; I think siblings have a certain dynamic in general, rather than just twins. I think that everything from the Carpenters up to First Aid Kit, looking at how they work, their dynamics, and vocally, how other sibling bands tend to work. So, I think they’re really cute, but obviously we root for the twins.
What was the inspiration for “Julian?” That song has such a specific sort of storyline. Was there something that brought that out in you guys?
I think a savior, a woman saving a man is the theme. Definitely a personal experience of saving someone who keeps fucking up. That’s something a lot of women, a lot of people can relate to that. Just kind of turning the tables and feeling empowered, in some way, but also I think we wanted it to feel like it was, not a driving song, but sort of a driving song. Putting on an old tape in your car and driving through the night.
How did you guys get hooked up with Lindstrøm for “Games for Girls”?
I think he or his management contacted us and asked if we wanted to write something for his record, and we did, and then we didn’t hear from him for like a year and thought “He probably doesn’t like it.” Then, he was like “Oh, I’m finished now,” and we were just like “Actually, it’s going to be our single, sorry!” It was an email [correspondence], and then we met for the first time in January and played a show together. Super cute [in person]. Super tall, super skinny, and super cute. He’s like a little music nerd, he knows everything about everything.
That song is so bubbly and not melancholic at all. Was that an interesting direction for you guys? Is that an area you want to go back to, that bubblegum-type sound?
I mean, I think in one way we wanted it to stay a feature, because it is a feature. He only produced that track on the record, and it was a collaboration. I think it’s like opening a window, kind of, and then closing it again. Letting some fresh air in before it goes a bit darker. I’m not sure, I think we kind of find some middle ground between the disco and dark pop.
Have you already moved on to other musical ventures since the album is done? Do you know your next move at all?
I mean, we haven’t come out in America or the rest of the world yet. You can’t really move on. I don’t want to move on just yet. I want to tour and let people, because obviously we’ve had time to adjust and live with this record. I think we want to give people time to revel in it before we restart completely. But we have lots of ideas, and we can’t wait to get started.