Since its mysteriously lowkey inception, avant-garde YouTube channel COLORS has been making waves due to its aptitude for plucking out and showcasing the most exciting upcoming music talent.
So nearly a year ago, when a relatively unknown artist from west London lit up a tangerine room with unmistakable natural flair and 90s-style soulful flow, we sat up straight.
Fast forward nearly 1.5 million views on her laidback performance of “Widdit,” Ladbroke Grove-hailed Lava La Rue – real name Ava Laurel – has just had her biggest summer of touring, with her second mixtape, “Stitches,” out last month.
We caught up with the artist and talked about her roots, her underground collective, and the “sweetest, sweatiest house party” she’s ever been to…
How did growing up in West London influence your sound?
West London – especially where I’m from in Ladbroke Grove – is definitely a hub of different cultures and communities from Caribbean, Spanish, Moroccan to working class Irish and eastern European.
Growing up both myself and most of my friends I chilled with, played with, got into trouble with and went to school with (like Biig Piig and other members of NiNE8) were raised by first generation migrants, yet experiencing teenhood trying to fit into an inner city London lifestyle.
Naturally this meant the way we talked, different homes you’d go back to for dinner, the slang we’d speak and the music we’d share would fuse as a product of this and create something that is unique to this side of town.
You can totally hear this sound developing from the underground music movements here like Elevation Meditation and NiNE8. You can see a sound coming from us here that is very west London. That’s a huge part of my identity which definitely comes out in my own sound and lyrics.
And how about your Jamaican identity?
I was raised by proud Jamaicans, where growing up, I’d wake up to my grandma blasting reggae and rocksteady downstairs, then my auntie would pick me up and be playing bashment or dancehall in the car. It was so funny when I started hitting 14/15 and all the other kids in my class started listening to that music too, getting gold teeth like yardies, eating jerk chicken and plantain during a night out and dressing like rastas because that was just normally what I’d see at family events. That element isn’t rebellion or a fashion statement to me it’s just part of my heritage.
You started underground DIY arts collective NiNE8 at college – what was its ultimate aim?
Just to have my own creative tribe of kids who may not have had all the resources to begin with, but being inspired by past UK rave/punk movements of collectives that would bring what they had to come together and throw parties/make underground music. I just wanted to do the same with my own crazy cheeky friends.
What music is coming up for you soon? Why are you excited about it?
I feel like with the mixtape I just dropped, “Stitches”, I showed how flexible I am with experimentation and genre. I’m definitely exploring that more and showing that I’m capable of spitting and singing on any kind of sound. Expect more of that and more collaborations.
Where do you get your main inspirations from?
The people around me. The city I live in. Past female icons from Grace Jones to Joan Jett. Past British sub-cultural movements – especially ones that thrived in the area I’m from in terms of sound system culture and dub movements.
Why do you think London has this energy that nowhere else has?
Because it’s literally so many different people from all around the world put together in a space where we have such a rich history in creating new sounds.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
Boomtown this year was pretty wild, so many people turned up to my set and were just going crazy and then we all got lit after. My “Stitches” tape launch party was incredible too, I recreated my bedroom that I wrote the tape in as a stage and my kitchen downstairs as a party installation room, and we had the sweetest, sweatiest house party vibe to celebrate the tape. Everyone also got mash-up.
What’s next for you and what else are you looking forward to this year?
I’m about to go on my first ever EU/UK headline tour. I’ve just edited up a cute little video to the closing song “Spiral” off my new tape and made a little tour diaries visual from all the highlights of my summer festival tour this year and it’s gotten me so so so excited for this October tour. Got a couple banging singles on the way too!