She learned to play the piano at age six, the flute at age eight, and toured with a competitive children’s orchestra throughout her teens, so it might come as a shock that Lucy Taylor now produces love-infused, electro pop. Joining what she refers to as only “an indie band” in her early 20s opened the door to musical freedom. From there, she began playing keys for Kele Okereke of Bloc Party and worked with MGMT, occasionally adding flute to “Electric Feel” during live shows. Taylor, who now goes by the moniker Pawws (not to be confused with Scottish indie outfit Paws), released her debut EP last year and is now working on her first full-length studio album.
“I’ve written about 30 demos. I’m going to go into the studio when I get back and redo a lot of it and start deciding what I’m going to put on my record,” the musician told us while on holiday in Barbados. “I don’t know what it sounds like exactly yet, so I’m going to see what happens and then start getting quite serious about which songs to put on there.”
After making a name for herself with her EP, Taylor caught the attention of French label Kitsuné, who is including her in their New Faces II LP. Last year’s edition featured talents like Kilo Kish, Years & Years, and Superfood, and this year will be a strong follow-up, including Pawws and Marian Hill. Here we are pleased to introduce Taylor and exclusively stream “Turnaround,” the track from Pawws to be included in the upcoming compilation.
NAME: Lucy Taylor
BASED: North London
AGE: It was my birthday last week. I’m going to be 25 again. [laughs]
THE PROCESS: I normally write the music first—the chords and the melodies—and then I’ll think of the main point of the song, the theme of what the song’s going to be about, and then build outward from that. That’s normally how I do it, although while I’ve been on holiday, I’ve been trying to write lyrics with no music in mind as test to see if I can work that way. I know a lot of people do, but I find it quite difficult to do it like that because, for me, the music creates the mood and then I’ll get inspired by the sound and think of a concept. I think maybe it’s something that I’ve found difficult because I’ve come from a classically trained background. Lyrics and writing songs came quite later in my musical path. I feel my most comfortable when I’m writing the music. The lyrics are something I still want to nail. It’s a lot for me, being as honest and open as I can. I found that quite difficult at the beginning. Being classically trained, it’s quite a reserved environment, so it took me a while to be free and open.
CLASSICAL COMPOSITION: In our house when I was six there was a piano and I used to play it all the time. I loved it so much. I wanted to play the flute because I thought it looked really cool when I was, like, eight. I was tiny so I looked ridiculous when I played it. [laughs] You know, it looked like I was about to topple over. But I took to it straight away. I loved the sound of the flute. I naturally could just play it and that was always my main instrument. Piano, for me, I would have to work really hard and practice to get good at it. I’m not a natural piano player. Until recently I was playing both [piano and flute] in my live shows. I write on the piano, so I always play the piano. With the flute it’s a bit more limited when you’re playing pop songs because there’s not much you can really do, but I want to start doing interesting things with it, maybe start plugging it into mics and pedals. You can make it sound so cool if you experiment with the sound. That’s something I’m still working on.
AND CLASSICAL RESTRAINT: I think [Pawws] was a bit of retaliation. I grew up around regimented classical music and I found it quite stifling. I loved seeing indie bands because it was completely different. When I used to watch, I’d be like, “Oh god. I wish I could be in something like that instead.” [laughs] So I joined an indie band playing keyboard and that introduced me to that whole other world of performing. It’s so different. I started performing with that band and then I started playing with Kele Okereke from Bloc Party, playing keyboards for him. Then he put out a song and I was featured as a vocalist on it. So with the Pawws thing I wanted to do a different style of music. I wanted to not really use my own name. I wanted to detach myself from everything I had done in the past and start something new.
’80s MOVIES: I liked all the junky ones, Romancing the Stones, Labyrinth, Big, Cocktail, Back to the Future and Planes, Trains and Automobiles…all the sort of really cheesy, sentimental ones. I loved them all and they all use really similar instruments in the soundtracks. That’s why I use them all in my music, because they make me feel really nostalgic. They’re full of synths, electronic synths. They all have that sort of similar vibe. I’m a Goonie. [laughs]
OUTSIDE OF MUSIC: I go to galleries a lot. I find art quite inspiring. Most of my songs are about love and love gone wrong, so sometimes it’s nice to get out of that without sounding too contrived. I’ve gone to galleries and thought, “That would be nice in a song.” I actually have written a couple of songs based on paintings, but they don’t really go with what I’m doing at the moment. Maybe I’ll put them out later on because they’re quite dark. I’m trying not to be too dark at the moment. [laughs] But you can’t always write about your own things. Then it would get a bit boring.
STAGE FRIGHT: When I was about 11 I joined an orchestra, a local thing with all the young children from London. We did really big concerts and were all weirdly good at playing our instruments. They were always really terrifying, but also really exciting. But then my first band show was when I was in my first indie band when I was about 23, 22. It was terrifying. That was the first time I had ever performed completely outside of the classical environment and that was terrifying. [laughs] I don’t get it as badly now because I’ve done a lot of shows since then. But if I have too long a break in between shows, then I get quite nervous. I’ll practice and practice and practice. My two bandmates live in Denmark and they’re brothers. I’ll go to Denmark and we just rehearse really hard until we don’t feel nervous anymore. Then we’re fine and we do the show.
PATIENCE IS KEY: It’s difficult in the music industry for people to be brave enough to take you on board. There’s so many bands and so many artists. I’ve had so many meetings with labels and various people who are all very interested and constantly want to meet you and constantly want to find out what you’re doing, but it takes a lot for the first person to really invest into you. You have to be quite resilient to that because it happens all the time. I’ve learned to not get overly excited if something good happens until it’s really actually happening. I get really excitable and I get my hopes up quite a lot. I’ve learned to wait and take everything with a pinch of salt now, just not get too distracted with that and just focus on the actual songs and writing. I think as long as I do that everything else falls into place.
STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF: I have to write something that I really, really love and means something to me, otherwise I feel like I’m cheating myself. I’ve had experiences where I try to write something to please someone else or I’ll write something for someone else that I’m not really sure about. That always makes me feel a little bit like rubbish. So my thing is that I really have to genuinely love it and want to play it to myself. I listen to my songs all the time because if I ever listen to something that I’ve done and I think, “Oh I’m not sure,” then I won’t let anyone else hear it. I’ve met people that would write a song and not really care about it, but can tell that it will appeal to the mass audience and be happy about it because of that reason. I couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t. I would feel a little bit sick if I did that.
KITSUNÉ’S NEW FACES II WILL BE RELEASED NEXT MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON PAWWS, VISIT THE BAND’S FACEBOOK.