Analogue Music | Luluc


By Matt Conner

Zoe Randell's devotion to the work is impressive considering how much she knows it might not matter.

Luluc's songs are birthed in the tension—part riddle, part regimen. Over her years in the indie folk duo, Randell has learned to diligently apply herself to the work in order to be available when inspiration channels itself through her faculties. For such a mystical process, Randell certainly has mastered at least a few aspects of the exchange.

We recently caught up with Randell to discuss Luluc's stunning new album, Sculptor, and what she's learning about the act of songwriting since the last time we spoke.

Analogue: The last time I spoke to you was four years ago, and I wanted to start here, because then you'd mentioned that your songwriting process was grueling. It made me wonder if experience and some success had changed your relationship there?

Zoe Randell: Nice question. I'd say it's improved, mostly because I've been doing it a bit longer so I'm more used to the sort of up and down process that you go through with it. I've done it enough times that it doesn't feel like a fluke. I know if I do my kind of routine where I sit at the desk and turn my phone off, the work will come. In the early days, it all felt like an accident.

It is grueling work because you do have to go to places... if you're going to write a song and it's going to have any merit for anyone else, you have to go through the idea yourself. If you call anything out, you have to call it out of yourself before you call it out of anyone else. You use your own personal experiences, but you have to move beyond it. It's endlessly fascinating, but I think the parts of it that I used to find hard—the internal work as well as the fear that it's all some kind of fluke—are things I'm less worried about now. I've learned to actually enjoy it.

If you're going to write a song and it's going to have any merit for anyone else, you have to go through the idea yourself. If you call anything out, you have to call it out of yourself before you call it out of anyone else.

One thing that helped was that I saw a talk that John Cleese did about the creative process. He was saying he would take the phone off the hook, back when there was hook, and not engage with anything other than the work itself. Lots of artists and musicians and authors talk about various version of this, but after hearing John Cleese describe it, I took up the habit a couple years ago and it's worked really well for me. It's a bit more fun.

Analogue: Do you have a very disciplined process then, or a set time and space that belong to the process?

Zoe: I have to be because it's one of those things where people will happily take the time if they can. There's also endless amounts of stuff to do because we're indepedent artists. We sort of do everything ourselves. I have to be very strict that this is the core of the work. If I don't protect this then all else is irrelevant. I have to be discipined with myself but also with other people. If someone comes to visit or something, I tell them that I work from home between these hours, so if you're here I need you to be elsewhere. [Laughs]

It's a challenge definitely, but as I've said, I've gotten more confident understanding that I need that space. It will have varying results, but as long as I create that environment for myself, the ideas will come and the work will take shape.

Analogue: You sound very, very clued in to both sides of this process. You have this disciplined approach and process because you're aware of the work it takes, but you've not lost sight that there's a magic to it all. Have you always been that clued in?

Zoe: Like I said earlier, the songs felt like accidents which makes it hard to feel like you had anything to do with it. [Laughs] It is quite magical. I guess I've always been quite creative. When I was a kid, I always used to play with clay and draw a lot. I mean, I would just do it impulsively. So I'm comfortable with that side of things, but I guess I'd never really tried to break it down or wondered what if I tried to take this on as a role.

Credit: Charlotte de Mezamat

When I stated writing songs, I was just drawn to it. Now as it's gone on, it's almost like I can't put it down even if I wanted to. I've actually tried to and a couple weeks later, I'm noodling away and ideas are coming up. I think that's why I'm attracted to it. While I've worked out that there are things I have to be disciplined about, if I want those accidents to happen in a way feels less tenuous, I have to do the things I know will help the ideas generate. At the same time, there's a subconscious thing that's quite magical. When the ideas come, there's a very common trajectory, you'll get excited by it and then you might lose interest or say, 'This is shit.'

Then you go through that and you have to keep nurturing it. But the whole time, for me, if I try to make the song something it's not or I don't listen to the idea, then there's a battle. It's this interesting thing where even though it's your idea, once it's there, you have to listen to it and respect it almost like it's its own entity. Once you do that, it should be something that exists in its own way and you can kind of let it go. But that conversation has to happen and sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's a wall. [Laughs]

Analogue: I love the lyrics on this new album because so much of it reads like poetry. It made me curious about your own love of poetry or whether you enjoy reading or writing it?

Zoe: I remember in primary school being asked to write a poem for the first time as a class activity. I tried to write one and I thought, 'Oh that's terrible! I could never be a poet.' [Laughs] So it's ironic, isn't it? I definitely enjoy writing words. I don't study poetry more than I would say fiction, but I've definitely read some poetry especially as I've gotten into songwrting. I love Japanese poetry because I love the brevity. "Spring" on the latest record, Sculptor, is actually a poem by Lady Ise. So I'm definitely interested in poetry but I'd say I'm interested in writing in general.

Analogue: What does that mean for the cutting room floor?

Zoe: It's not too bad. [Laughs] It's usually pretty obvious when an idea has something to it. It can be a really long conversation. Some songs have taken me a year or more. That's happened, but other times they happen really quickly. Sometimes the very first draft, the first time I sing it, it will be done. That's weird beacuse you know it shouldn't be that quick, but that's partly because you do a lot of the work that goes into a song in the background. By the time you're writing a draft, it often comes out the way it needed to be.