London-based duo Dahlia Sleeps are back with their haunting electro-pop cut, “Divided”. Pulling on the skills of the band’s producer, Luke Hester, and vocalist, Lucy Hill, a candid discussion on the trials and tribulations of relationships ensues as glimmering production offers a solid foundation for the track. Accompanied by hazy visuals set against a dimly-lit warehouse and in which the human form becomes the focus, the raw and emotive nature of the track is only added to.
“I came into the studio, and Luke was playing the Moog bass line that starts the song. Immediately this monotoned quite aggressive melodic line came to mind, and I matched that melodic aggression with these quite angry words,” explains Lucy when speaking on the track’s meaning. “A lot was happening around that time with relationship breakdowns in my life that were still very raw and present. We wanted to counteract that darkness in the chorus so we went in with this light and dancey energy with these vocal layers gently swelling around you. It builds this free and smooth vibe that takes the edge of the anger of the verses. Because actually, stepping back from toxic interactions does take you to a place of freedom and peace.
Upon the release of “Divided”, the duo sat down with Wonderland to discuss how they met, the music video that accompanies their newest track, and what the future holds. Head below to read our interview with Dahlia Sleeps …
Hey guys, how are you? How has this year been for you so far?
Lucy: Hey! We are good! It has been some time since we’ve had a chance to put music out, so mainly just really excited and grateful that this day has come. This year has been a bit of a hustle as we’re releasing as an independent duo for the first time which has meant a lot of getting to grips with being our own label and management whilst also making the music the best we can. It’s really exciting though and we’re really enjoying the freedom of it.
With everything that happened last year, was your creativity affected?
Lucy: I think I probably speak for most creatives when I say creating art during this pandemic has been incredibly challenging. For a huge part of last year, Luke and I simply couldn’t be around each other. For us, the most exciting part of doing what we do is being in the studio together, surrounded by music-making machines, bouncing ideas off each other, noodling on guitars and synths – remove that and you’re left batting demos and ideas back and forth in mp3s and voice memos. It’s just not the same. We didn’t want this to impact the quality of what we release, which is why it’s all taken a little longer than we hoped to put this music out!
Luke: Yeah, honestly negatively. As well as not being able to be in the studio together, it also created this purgatory that was not at all inspiring. Hopefully, there are some that entered into their very own artistic renascence and truly embraced abundance of time. But that’s not how it worked for me! That being said, it very much had its moments. One day, in my frustration, I took all my gear down the road to a derelict warehouse and played Lucy’s vocals out through speakers to record the natural reverb before pressing them into a quarter-inch tape. The sound was just amazing, and it’s become a key technique for me now.
How did you guys start your musical journey? How did you meet? What sparked the interest?
Luke: We met through some mutual musical friends, we started to write a few bits and pieces together, and the rest is history! We just clicked and somehow shared the same core concept of emotion in music. Something that is probably quite rare to find. So I am very grateful for our friends taking the time to introduce us!
Lucy: Neither of us like being tied to blueprints – in the way we make music, or the way we release it. So, it’s really good to be on the same page with that. But, having access to Luke’s work and being able to form songs around it is a privilege. I knew as soon as I heard his production that we could make something good.
And you’re both from London which is a melting pot of music and culture, do you think being from London influenced your sound?
Luke: I’m actually from Oxford! But I’ve been in London for a decade now so I probably count. The biggest thing I value about being here is the community of musicians we’ve met. A number of our friends appear in our music – Mat Roberts (cello, bass, guitar), Jacob Welsh (drums), Edward Cross (piano). These guys have massively pushed our music to the next level – there is nothing like the sound of a cello going through a tape machinw. Plus, it means a lot to have our friends in our music!
You’ve just dropped your new single “Divided”, talk us through the production process?
Luke: I wanted to try and write an entire song with one instrument – obviously excluding vocals! In this case, it was a little Moog mono synth. Limiting yourself like that makes you dive deeper into an instrument and often allows you to find more unusual sounds within it. I like investing in weird methods because that’s how you find something new and start developing your musical personality.
Lucy: I came into the studio, and Luke was playing the Moog bass line that starts the song. Immediately this monotoned quite aggressive melodic line came to mind, and I matched that melodic aggression with these quite angry words. A lot was happening around that time with relationship breakdowns in my life that were still very raw and present. We wanted to counteract that darkness in the chorus so we went in with this light and dancey energy with these vocal layers gently swelling around you. It builds this free and smooth vibe that takes the edge of the anger of the verses. Because actually, stepping back from toxic interactions does take you to a place of freedom and peace.
It’s about relationships and acceptance, what was it like channelling these emotions into your music?
Lucy: I’m someone who struggles to truly connect with the emotions I’m feeling. I can talk about them intellectually, I can analyse them, I can order them, but actually emoting and expressing them is another matter. This is why writing music is such a blessing. It draws things out of me that I’m not expecting. You can just be humming a melody and words appear from nowhere that encompass what your subconscious has been trying to tell you. I find the process truly enlightening. In the case of Divided, I wasn’t aware of this real juxtaposition of anger and relief that was inside me until I started writing the song.
And the video is incredible! What was filming like?
Lucy: Thank you! That is all down to Flossie Catling – the Director, and her amazing team. It was a really fun day as we had all our pals down to be extras, and it was the first time since pre-Covid that any of us had really had the chance to all hang out together. It felt like a celebration!
Luke: I’m so glad you think so, we do too! Flossie was so dedicated from start to finish and went above and beyond to make her vision come to life, which shows in the result. We were so lucky with the space too as it’s an old warehouse that is due to be demolished which meant we could do whatever we wanted to it. So I GOT TO SMOTHER A WHOLE WAREHOUSE IN LUMINESCENT PAINT. It was so fun.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
Luke: I think if anything is taken away from it at all then I’m happy. As long as it can make people feel or think something it’s a success in my eyes. Hopefully positive.
Lucy: All we are really after is making connections through music – especially when it hits someone’s ears for the first time. I hope they can find something in there that means something to them.
Who would you cite as your influences?
Lucy: I really love that Luke and I come from quite different ends of the spectrum in terms of influences. I think it’s that combination that makes what we do special. Words are very important to me – so Kate Bush and Florence + the Machine are big influences for me. I read their lyrics like poetry. They are poetry.
Luke: I come from a dark ambient electronica background, pretty moody stuff! My main influences would be Autechre, Sorrow, Synkro, Apparat, Blanck Mass etc. I love the raw, unrefined and almost chaotic nature of the sound, you get totally lost in it.
Is there an album on the way? What’s next for you?
Lucy: We can’t quite reveal the details yet, but more is definitely coming 😉