Loui Lvndn is one of those artists who, when the genre critics come knocking, refuses to answer. A sonic whirlwind of rock ‘n roll, hip hop, soul, and indie rock among others, the Johannesburg based singer-songwriter and guitarist is also a writer, visual artist, and rapper who looks to be on a fast track to fame.
And for good reason too. His recent EP, Hikari is as much a personal narrative as it is an eight track collection of genre mashing, collaborative musical mastery. Featuring the likes of Petite Noir and Spoek Mathambo, the EP translates to ‘light’ and features a number of standout tracks, namely ‘Drugs’, ‘Keep it Together’ and ‘Degrees of Comparison’ – each one vastly different from the next.
In a time when South Africa’s rapidly growing music scene is re-inventing and rediscovering its place in the greater musical landscape, Loui cements himself as one of the trailblazers of a new brand of multidisciplinary, experimental and innovative music. We caught up with him for a quick discussion on the personal process of putting together Hikari and his thoughts on SA’s live music scene.
So you’re a singer-songwriter, rapper, visual artist, and a writer. How much of each skill informs the others and how do you avoid spreading yourself too thin?
I consider it all one skill, and in that way each discipline flows into the other. When I write, I naturally draw visuals in my head and that will build the colour, tone and composition of my lyrical progression. And similarly, with my visual art, I convert statements and stories into graphics.
My technique for avoiding thinness is quite simply paying attention to each aspect of my creative self. Caring. Retaining my childlike curiosity for craft. And most importantly, an aching hunger for mastery.
On a similar note, your music spans a variety of genres. What brought about this musical fusion?
There’s always fear when it comes to the challenge of expanding the parameters of what you know, but with the killing of fear you accept your unlimited possibility. My curiosity for what lies beyond the pines and the bravery to face it lead me to this place. My actual self mimics this notion I think. I haven’t come to the point where I know enough or am enough to feel as if I’m done. I probably will never experience that feeling. But I am content.
Tell us a bit about the naming of Hikari and the process of putting it together.
Light has been a theme for me, creatively and otherwise, for the longest time. Enlightenment. Discovery. Knowing. And the word has been haunting me forever, as if it were a calling of sorts.
I watch a lot of anime and in the series ‘Death Note’ I was naturally charmed by the character named Light Yagami. A few years before this though, I had gotten a Japanese symbol tattooed on my neck which I thought meant something else. It all came together years later when I was watching the series and Misa Amane, by using the shinigami eyes, saw Light Yagami’s name symbol and lifespan. I was startled when I realised that the symbol for the word ‘light’ was what I actually had tattooed on my neck years back. I was thoroughly creeped, but it felt like providence.
Hikari began after a turbulent period in my life. My emancipation from this took the form of the song ‘Funnily’. Funnily, ‘Funnily’ didn’t make it onto Hikari (I’m saving that one for something special). My commentary on this time though can be seen in the songs ‘Drugs’, ‘Degrees of Comparison’ and ‘Religion’. Writing Hikari was super therapeutic and it came together quite easily. What took the longest time to get through were brick walls that came in the form of politics and logistics. I was super determined to complete and get the EP out there though. So I decided after quite the battle to create a website and give my music to the people for free.
What are your thoughts on the state of live music in South Africa? As music increasingly exists online and electronically, are local artists doing enough performance wise?
Well, I personally don’t think there is a big enough live scene in general. In terms of venues that give a fuck about their sound, venues that give a fuck about paying the artist, venues that are anywhere near the same scale as we see overseas. There are some gems though and awesome bands that have inspired my own live set. But some of my favourite bands in SA arent even bands anymore. And that wasn’t because those local artists weren’t doing enough for live performance, it was because live performance wasn’t doing enough for them. But I feel as though you’ve really got to be after the art to cope with what we as artists go through in real world. Short term goal. Long term goal. Enriching and inspiring the industry is one of my main objectives.
Seeing as your musical church is a broad one, who are a few of your most significant musical influences, both local and international?
Simphiwe Dana, N.E.R.D, Jimmy Hendrix, Jay Buchanan, Alex Turner, Lupe Fiasco and James Brown.
What lies ahead for Loui Lvndn? Anything in the near future you’re particularly excited about?
More music! I’m already halfway into my next project. More visuals. More art. More live shows. Everything else is residual, but that is what I will be focusing on.
All photos by Brian Malepo.