We don’t know about you, but the long haul of January is definitely plummeting us back into our sad-girl-winter feels. How to recover, you may wonder? Meet PENNY, an expert on talking through the dark and dismal through an utterly infectious and pop-driven beat. Debuting her EP, “My Secret Powers” today, the artist takes us through a six-track collection of loop-worthy dream-pop resulting from the artists reflections of her dreams, queerness and mental health journey.
Leading the EP release is brand new single, “Outside”, an ethereal indie ballad that gets to grips with the complexity of human jealousy — with a thought-provoking music video at its side. Swimming in her angelic uncut vocals, the track is an exemplar of producer Will Serfass’ ear for textural obscurities. At the beginning of the video, PENNY’s vocals tease the outer landscape, so that her listeners are unable to decipher where the sound is coming from. This coincides perfectly with her lyrics, which detail the deterioration of the artist’s mental health. Beginning with the scenic display of a graphic landscape, scaffolding and walls start to melt into one another, building a house deeper and deeper as the singer becomes further inside herself. Though the beat remains upbeat and dance-worthy throughout, PENNY’s lyrical production artfully uncovers the most challenging parts of the human psyche — a trope which runs through her entire EP list.
Speaking of the leading single, PENNY said: “It feels like so long ago since I wrote ‘Outside’, but usually, when I write something, it’s because I need to find a way to process my emotions – it’s kind of like therapy to me. The song is all about jealousy, and how I became borderline obsessed with my ex’s ex. I found myself wondering whether my jealousy towards her was actually lust – the whole ‘do I want to be you, or be with you?’ thing. However, in writing the song and looking at the situation through an ‘Outside’ perspective, I came to realise how ridiculous this was, and that I am really quite perfect just the way I am.”
With the EP releasing today via Empty Street Records/Because Music, the Huddersfield singer-songwriter sat with Wonderland to talk about her favourite songs of the EP, and what will be next for her. Scroll below for the full interview…
Hey Penny, how are you? How has this past year been for you?
Hey! I’m doing quite good, thanks for asking! The past year has been an absolute whirlwind. The highs have been high, and the lows have been low. I’ve laughed a lot, cried a lot, danced a lot, sung a lot, played a lot of rounders, and had a load of fun. 2021 was also the year that I started working with Empty Street Records, along with my producer Wassailer – so its been pretty dreamy to say the least.
The pandemic affected a lot of people in different ways, do you think it affected you in any way?
Yeah, I’d say it affected me in loads of ways, some bad and some good. I really missed seeing my family and friends as much as I would usually like to, and at times it felt really isolating. I was also diagnosed with a chronic illness whilst in the thick of the pandemic, so I feel like there’s been quite a lot to reflect on and come to terms with. Having said that though, I’ve had a lot of downtime with myself and feel like I know and love myself better than ever now. So I guess its all swings and roundabouts!
What sparked the interest in music?
I think I’ve always had quite a deep connection to music, which sounds kind of cliché , but I’m not sure how else to explain it! I grew up listening to a load of different genres, thanks to my amazing family, and was always encouraged to explore my musical talents. And as I started getting older, I realised I could write all my feelings down in the form of songs, which helped me out massively during some really tricky times. When I listen to a song that I can relate to, I just feel like I it somehow allows me to really feel my emotions, and I really love that about it.
You’re from Huddersfield, do you think the area inspired you in any way?
I think I mainly write my songs about people and experiences I’ve had, so I’m not too sure if it has inspired me to be honest. I really bloody love Huddersfield, and I feel a great sense of pride about being from HUD, but I’d say maybe its my friends here who inspire me the most. I also wrote quite a few of the songs from the EP whilst I was living in North Wales, and I think being there definitely inspired me, being surrounded by the sea and the mountains was really beautiful, and I’d never experienced a setting like it before.
And now you’re dropping your EP, talk us through your mindset approaching the project?
In all honesty, writing this EP has been like free therapy for me, but also really daunting as it’s also like I’m showing my session notes to the whole world. I guess my mindset going into writing ‘My Secret Powers’ was just that I wanted to say things through my songs that I wouldn’t dare say to someone in person, so my one main aim was to be really honest through all the lyrics. I wrote the first song for the EP back in 2014, and I know, at the time, it really resonated with where I was at in my life, but I feel like I’m completely different now, and its sometimes quite tricky when revisiting the older songs.
It is your debut EP, did you face any pressures going into it?
I wouldn’t say I faced any pressure, as all the people involved have made everything really laid back and easy to deal with. Aurélien from Empty Streets Records has been so accommodating and supportive, and obviously so has Will (WASSAILER). I’ve probably faced the most amount of pressure from myself really. If I’m completely honest, I find it hard to get motivated and I’m quite an unorganised person, so I think that’s probably been the biggest hurdle throughout all of this.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
I would love for people to listen to my music and to feel like they are not alone in their feelings. I think that’s one of the best ways in which music affects me, it makes me feel part of a community, whether I’m feeling happy and want to have a dance, or if I just need a good cry in the bath – there’s always a song to listen to for whatever way I’m feeling, and I’d love for one of my songs to be able to do that for somebody else.
What song on the project means the most to you?
Sad Puppy – for definite! It’s still a bait love song, but I think this song is more about myself than someone else. I wrote it a few summers ago, after moving back from uni, I was seeing a guy who was only giving me the crumbs, and not the whole cake. I felt so shit about it, but realised it was nothing to do with me, and I needed to stop blaming myself for other people’s actions (especially the actions of men) So I guess I could say Sad Puppy is a love song to myself and I feel so empowered and strong whenever I sing it.
Who would you say inspires you?
I’m inspired by loads of different things, I guess! I think one main inspiration throughout the more recent songs has been Florence Given – her words really encouraged me to write more about myself rather than about men, and ex boyfriends. I’m inspired a lot by my friends, and I try and make music that people might want to dance to on nights out, because that’s what we love to do. I could say I’m inspired musically by different artists, but I never really go into a song thinking that I want it to sound like someone else, I just kind of go with the flow when writing. But I guess my lyrics are the bits that are inspired by other people.
What are you most excited about in 2022?
I’m so, so, so excited to start gigging this year with the whole band – The Sweet Bisques. It’s been ages since I’ve sang with a full band, and there’s no feeling quite like it! I’ve been practicing with the bisques for a few months now, and we have a little headline tour coming up in early February. We’re playing Manchester, Leeds and London, and I can’t wait to share my songs with people in real life!