Sometimes, instead of just cycling through another set of searches that bring up “Artists that sound like _______” and hearing much of the same, truly new artistry makes itself known and isn’t of the instantly comparable variety. This is the case for one sing-songwriter out of New York City.
A creative individual with passions for writing, questioning and connecting with others –among her musical endeavors– Lachi (pronounced LAH-chee) is one of those musicians who will most likely leave new fans wondering, “How have I not heard of this person until now?!” Mixing styles that breach urban, alternative, a touch of hip-hop, rock and R&B, Lachi’s music isn’t boxed easily and that’s what makes finding her sound among many other artists so exciting once you finally get the chance to hear her work.
If this seems a bit vague thus far, that’s because the quirky and fascinating details about who Lachi is, what her music is about and how she makes herself standout were all topics brought up in a recent conversation I had with Lachi –both as a “get to know you better” meeting and a chance to discuss her upcoming album and its first single, “Make Some Noise!,” which is set to drop this Tuesday, September 25 on iTunes. However! You can get a free download of it here! Click the “Read More” link to jump to the dialogue and snag the track for yourself!
Kira: So, I looked at all your outlets –your Facebook, your Twitter, all these things…to get people up to speed, for those that are just finding you for the first time, what is it that you do in terms of musicianship? Do you solely focus on singing? Play other instruments? Compose your own material?
Lachi: I am a singer-songwriter. Actually, I consider myself a writer, that happens to sing. But, I’m a singer-songwriter, I play the piano and then, I also have a band.
Kira: Cool. I was wondering if the piano I’ve heard on some tracks was you or not.
Lachi: Yep, that’s me. So I play the keyboards as well, but I definitely have the backing band to expand things.
Kira: The large group certainly adds options for writing, that’s for sure. …When you first started out, what did you use as your first ‘breakout’ method to get people to notice you? Were you an open mic person? Did you go around New York City? Did you…send tapes everywhere? Oh wait, nobody does that anymore.
Lachi: –Laughs– When I was in undergrad, I did a study abroad in England and while I was out there, I did a few shows at some clubs and I think that was really the first time I really starting doing shows…at clubs and bars. It was sort of open mic-esque…You know, I sort of just show up with an instrument and just sing and play to some occasionally drunk people. That kind of started my whole saying of “Hey, performing is kind of fun!” I did perform a few times in high school, for some plays and things like that but it really didn’t jump off until I came back from my study abroad. I was going to UNC Chapel Hill at the time and I started performing a lot when I got back to Chapel Hill and I was like, “ok, performing is really fun… This degree in economics isn’t really going to help with that…” and then I just moved to New York and kept things going from there.
Kira: Well, an economics degree will help when you’re rolling in millions of dollars and have to have people managing your many bank accounts!
Lachi: Yes! –laughs– So it will come in handy when that happens!
Kira: Because it will. I always just talk about things like, when I win the lotto, not if.
Lachi: Exactly! Think positive, cup half full!
Kira: This, is a bit after-the-fact but, I saw via your Facebook bio that you said you changed from having your artist identity from previously being just your name, Lachi, to Lachi and Meridian Gold and I was curious as to what that is about…
Lachi: Okay, so, the funny thing about it is, I’m actually changing it back to just “Lachi,” starting with this new album…
Kira: Wait, so, can we go with the whole timeline because I think I need some extra context…
Lachi: I started out as just “Lachi,” just me, hanging out, playing songs…and then I got a backing band. I still feel that I write my music for the band members that I have, so it just kind of all encompasses “Lachi.” It’s still all Lachi and basically what Lachi is, is my middle name. My middle name is Ulachi and Ulachi means “Ring of God.”
Lachi: I know, it’s pretty deep. My other…I have two middle names…
Kira: Me too!
Lachi: Really? Nice!
Kira: Well, mine aren’t nearly as overtly symbolic and deep meaning as yours but I’m a hyphenate.
Lachi: Ahh, cool! My other middle name is Ulama(sp?), which means “Ring of Gold.” So I’m “Ring of God” and “Ring of Gold” and kind of where “Meridian Gold” came in. It was also sort of an encompassment of kind of like a golden aura, a golden meridian around life and the world and things like that…but I am, as the timeline goes, switching back to “Lachi” and it’s not for anything other than just simplicity.
Kira: You did tell me you play the piano, so that answered my next question a little bit, but, what’s the full scope of your relationship with “traditional” classical music, fundamental theory, formal music education and all that?
Lachi: I didn’t really get educated, in terms of music, formally. I did take like a semester of voice but I did study music theory in general. I went up to music theory III, which is when [the information] just starts to get psychotic and it’s not as much music anymore [so much as it is] math.
In terms of formal piano training, I play mostly by ear and just do general chord charts and stuff like that because like I said, I’m not really a musician in terms of “Instrumentalist,.” I play the piano to help me write songs. I play the guitar to help me write songs.
Kira: The reason I asked about your relationship with theory and formal training, is because I was listening to this one song you have up on your site, “Sweet Agony,” and I spent the whole morning trying to figure out what this one interval was that you used every time you hit the word “agony” –that being a downer of a word. You repeatedly use minor intervals in the song and then have this one rather discordant interval that puts you in harmonic minor and I thought, “Oh man, that’s fantastic how well she matched up lyric content with the tonality of the song.” I think I did that with a song once, by accident, and I wondered, “Did she do that on purpose??”
Lachi: In terms of the chorus of “Sweet Agony, ” it’s kind of like, –starts singing– It’s kind of like, for [the words] “Beautiful sweet,” I try to have a major chord and then for “agony” I tried to have a minor chord [to match the aesthetic.] …It wasn’t an accident, I ‘ll tell you that! I had a lot of fun writing that song. The music to that song was partially inspired by Thom Yorke from Radiohead. That’s a song that’s going to be on the new album. I’m really excited about that song in particular because it has a message, and the message is kind of like, “Hey, laughter is not just something we do when we’re happy. It’s not [only] like, ‘Oh my God, funny joke!’ I find that it’s more of a defense mechanism, for when we just don’t really know how to react to something.
Kira: Awkward Dates, weddings, funerals…
Lachi: Exactly, you just kinda gotta like, laugh it off. It’s the one positive self-defense that we have. So that’s “Sweet Agony.”
Kira: I looked at your genres and you have this alt-urban, R&B and soul mix…I thought, “She’s a bit of each!” and I know that overall, you’re about positivity and motivation. I feel like there are a lot of other artists who also cross those types of genres…creating material that’s equally powerful but not in the same upfront, approachable way many of your songs are, even if some of your songs have a contrasting, underlying meaning. Do you feel artists in these genres are moving toward communicating messages in a more direct way akin to you?
Lachi: I feel like my genre…is my voice. It’s a little hard to explain. I have over 500 songs [I’ve written] and if you sit there and listen to them, you’ll think, “This is all the same genre!” even though all the genres are completely different and I think it’s because my voice is so weird –laughs– and strange and I take that and use it and run with it. …This is the voice I’m given, so let me just overdo it.
Kira: To me, it sounds like you’re just saying, “I’m so unique that I’m just…me.”
Lachi: Yeah! And I mean, I’m not trying to come off as, “Oh, I’m so unique” but, I can’t…if I sit there and do a straight up rock song or a straight up hip-hop song, at the end of the day, it still comes across as like, a “Lachi song.” In the sense of positivity, a lot of people say I have positive music and that I’m positive, which is true, but it’s not necessarily about positivity. It’s about inner strength and doing things like, forgiving people even though they’re crappy to you. Or it’s about doing things like standing up for yourself. In some cases, yes, that’s a very positive message but in some cases heart message. It’s a strong, powerful message that’s not necessarily positive.
For instance, “Bug Out” is a tune I have up [on my website] and it comes across very positive. But if you think about it, the message of the song is, “Look, you really brought me down. You really made me fall apart but I’m not gonna remain here. I’m gonna go out and have fun and bug out.” So yes, it’s positive but it’s more of a lesson, and there are other tunes like that. Let’s say for instance, “Make Some Noise!,” which is the single that’s going to be released, it’s about [communicating,]
“No one listens to us, no one listens to what we have to say, we all know that there’s a whole bunch of crap going down and we have so much to say and we’re just going to say it. We don’t even care if you guys are listening anymore because we’re going to take the responsibility of knowing that we said it!”
So sometimes it is rather “Rah! Rah! Rah!,” in your face, Riot Grrl-type stuff –and it’s not angry, it’s just, “Rah!”
Kira: That’s a really good way to define you. It just makes people think about you and not just comparing you to “A, B, C, D, E…”
That’s the essence of Lachi –real, honest and not defined by one facet of herself– neither as an artist nor a person altogether.
You can hear “Make Some Noise!” below and download it for free.
Lachi’s next show will be on November 9, 2012 at Webster Hall, a benefit concert for anti-bullying. You can follow Lachi through the channels listed here and look out for updates about her upcoming full album, scheduled for release in January 2013.