INTERVIEW: Late Girl | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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When Laura Stutter García was selected alongside Ceitidh Mac, Kerrin Tatman and Anna Hughes as one of Sage Gateshead’s ‘22/’23 Artists in Residence, she knew instinctively that her own project would take an alternate path: “The application prompted you to focus on a topic based on climate change which you felt was locally relevant – figure that one out, right?” She recalls. “I didn’t want to make an album about how shit our climate is because of us. It’s been done over and over, tells us nothing new or useful and makes me feel more useless and morose.”

A stalwart electronic experimentalist who performs under the pseudonym Late Girl, Laura instead took a broader view of this framework, homing in on an issue that’s both prevalent and close to home – yet unlike floods, heatwaves and melting icecaps is oftentimes consigned to the shadows, shunned from the spotlight of mainstream conversation.

“I find loneliness a particularly poignant topic. It’s often overlooked as circumstantial – which, by the way, only furthers the issue – but sits in a larger context, and is as much an environmental problem as a social one. The boundaries of both are and should be seen as blurry. The pandemic is an example: we tend to view them as two different things – one cultural, the other natural – and what an epic-fail approach that is. We know that social isolation and loneliness gravitate around deprived areas, have a profound effect on people’s health and vice versa, affect young and old, and many of our social technologies actually make it worse. Essentially, it was about having a conversation that should be happening at all levels of society, but I only see it happening briefly in some. I wanted to see how much I could find out, what I could do, how I could have a creative output that reflected on it without defaulting to musical tropes.”

I find loneliness a particularly poignant topic. It’s often overlooked as circumstantial but sits in a larger context, and is as much an environmental problem as a social one

In fairness, conformity is hardly a charge one could throw at Late Girl’s creations to date, yet No Antonym for Loneliness promises to take an exploratory philosophy to ever bolder realms. Debuting at her Sage Gateshead Artist in Residence show on Friday 23rd June, the project stemmed from a series of recorded workshops and conversations with communities around Newcastle. Paying homage to their experiences, Laura has assembled “a processed choir of lonely people,” using extra musical material to devise fresh production techniques – from looping feedback sets to jittery, saturated vocal samples – which convey the nuances of our collective psyche.

“I wanted to be thoughtful of the technologies I was using,” she continues. “I’ve met lots of people with no access to digital technologies, or who struggle with their effects, so it felt important to check how I interacted with those I use to make music. I didn’t want to take them for granted.” Naturally, this added further complications to what was already a complex sonic patchwork: “For a large part of it I’ve been sitting on my laptop with many tabs open, many Zoom calls, notes, recordings, softwares, digital versions of things and people… How to make the concept explicit in the music was the key point – and a hard one to figure out. I wanted to have a heavy focus on vocal samples, and knew through gut instinct that this was somehow important – to have a digitalised human vocal presence in the music. I wanted to make it sound remote, processed, alien, and yet make sure the people I’d met were part of it.”

While the Sage residency has offered a range of financial and networking opportunities, Laura is open about the challenges she faced adapting to an unfamiliar mode of creating. “I’m used to working at my own pace, which the residency is very much the opposite of. You’re given time-phases, blocks of budget and the final performance at the end – but to me that feels like starting at the end and having to figure out the beginning, while telling people that you already know how and what you’re doing! I don’t work to regular patterns, at all, so next time, I’ll take that into account.” Nevertheless, the benefits of the scheme have been many, and stretch far beyond her completed piece. “It’s definitely given me the chance to get out of my own self-referencing box a little, and made me meet people from the area I don’t think I’d have approached otherwise, nor known how to. I want to take this further, and possibly release some music to do with the residency themes. I’ve no idea how to do that yet, nor the best way to go about it, but I think I’ll start by taking a bit more time over it!”

Late Girl performs No Antonym for Loneliness at Sage Gateshead on Friday 23rd June.

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