Music as a Source for Self-Healing: An Interview with LVRA about ‘soft like steel’

by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Minsett Hein

Brian Hioe spoke with LVRA about their new EP, ‘soft like steel,’ which is out today, via e-mail interview. ‘soft like steel’ is a release on Eastern Margins, and positions itself on the margins of both club and pop music.  

Brian Hioe:  Could you first introduce yourself for readers that might not know you?

LVRA:  Hi! I’m Rachel aka. LVRA and I’m a 23-year-old artist, producer and DJ based in London but originally born in Scotland. I make hard-hitting pop that carries the animalistic energy of club music, combining my love for alt-pop and hyper pop with bass, breaks, and techno.

BH:  How do you see soft like steel as fitting in with past work of yours? How does it differ?

LVRA:  soft like steel really is my first proper, conscious attempt at a concept project. Music has, and always will be, a source for my own self-healing, but I really wanted this record to revolve around discussions that didn’t necessarily have to refer back to my own experience, perhaps like my previous records did. It is also a much more ambitious project in its attempts to create an immersive world via. the short film and live shows that are to come. The more dimensions the listener can interact with, the more they can experience liberation from the oppressiveness of reality and find greater inspiration and freedom in experiencing the weird and wonderful.

Photo credit: Minsett Hein

BH:  Could you talk a bit about your collaborators for the production this time? Who are you working with?

LVRA:  It was great to collaborate with some friends for this project; venom was probably the most collaborative track and was co-produced and written by Taahliah, Spent and myself last year. Alexis (Soda Plains) really brought the title track soft like steel to life, and I was super excited to get him on the record having been obsessed with his last EP Living with Elvis. Karl Ziegler, whose production I’ve admired for a long time, co-produced rising with me, helping to really bring the EP to a cinematic close.

Full length film for soft like steel

BH:  In particular, the MVs for soft like steel frame the album as a larger saga. A lot of the themes of soft like steel revolve around struggling between multiple selves. Could you talk a bit about it?

LVRA:  I like to play different characters in my song. It helps me to play both perspectives in a situation, kind of like the ‘devil’ AND ‘angel’ on your shoulder. soft like steel is a story that depicts an internal struggle toward freedom, and in this world, freedom involves several stages of realisation; firstly it is to accept the vast limitations of our perceptions of reality, as our sensory and intellectual capacities as human beings are limited. Once this is realised, it is then about going through your belief system and understanding how they have been impacted by this; your moral beliefs, your self-worth, relationship with money, your religious beliefs and ideas of beauty for example. The mere fact that so much of our identity is dictated by where we are born and who are parents are is enough proof that without conscious action, we have little control over what we become. So the final step is to open these beliefs to criticism—to learn, absorb and consider new ideas, that allows you to make the most informed decisions in your life. Of course this final step is most difficult, and in the videos its the protagonist’s past self, habits, beliefs, comforts, that she is really fighting to reach true freedom.

Photo credit: Jeff Hahn

BH:  Could you talk a bit about your collaborators with the MVs?

LVRA:  The music video was a close collaboration between my partner Oscar McNab and I. He out of all people can understand where I’m coming from best, so it felt very right that we worked on this project together and he helped turn a lot of my philosophical drab into something beautiful and sensitive. Aoi Nakamura, the main actor and protagonist in the film, was incredible—we needed someone multidisciplinary who could fight, dance and act, and who connect with the character’s struggle. There were so many other amazing collaborators, too many to list, who I am incredibly grateful for their contributions to the project.

Photo credit: Jeff Hahn

BH:  What do you hope listeners/viewers take away from soft like steel?

LVRA:  To live life actively—to understand the power of each individual decision you make when you wake up each day, and to control the narrative of your own life in a way that ultimately leaves you fulfilled and energised. soft like steel is really about digging beyond surface-level understanding of the ideas and people in our lives; to challenge our own preconceived ideas so we can find beauty and passion in new things. The steel of a sword might look sharp, cold, dangerous to touch, but it is also smooth and shiny, moving delicately and precisely in motion: all our ideas of things are, as such, multidimensional.

BH:  In closing, anything you would like to say to viewers/listeners directly?

LVRA:  Huge thank you for listening to my project and all the support I’ve received over the last few years <3