Turns out I really (really) want to be friends with Låpsley

Words by Eliza Sholly

You’ve heard her voice attached to one of music’s catchiest hooks, but Låpsley’s more than just a singer-songwriter – she’s also one of Liverpool’s most alluring personalities.

Holly Fletcher loves the word shit. She uses it a lot actually; dropping it ever-so-casually throughout our conversation, the word’s impact only heightened by her strong Liverpudlian accent. It’s part of her charm – her ability to level out the power dynamics of a conversation. It’s not an interview, it’s just two people chatting, well, shit. 

The 23-year-old – more commonly known by her musical moniker Låpsley – is the singer, songwriter, performer and producer behind one of this decade’s biggest dancefloor pullers. But more on that later.

Since the release of her debut album, Long Way Home, Holly has positioned herself as one of the most exciting voices in the UK music scene – all while being very much herself. Who taught her that skill, I wonder? Perhaps it was her glacially paced childhood in the small seaside enclave of Southport, hidden in England’s north-east. In the ’90s, the town was reaping the benefits of a lucrative shrimp fishing industry, something that occurred in the periphery of her otherwise simple childhood.

At age 14, Holly – a “self-proclaimed teacher’s pet” – would pull the old ‘pretend she was sleeping at a friend’s house’ manoeuvre, all-the-while catching the bus to indulge in the big-city music scene. “I used to make friends with the bouncers and shit, which is pretty dodgy when I look back on it. I was pretty much the height I am now with the same tits so I was never asked for ID. My parents didn’t know either, so that was pretty naughty.”

Channelling the love of music she acquired in the back-lit, bass-ridden, sticky-floored basements of Liverpool, Holly took to Soundcloud to upload a string of downbeat, self-produced electronic ballads. These bedroom beats evolved into the androgynously-sung, unconventionally produced Long Way Home, released when she was still only nineteen.

The project was well-received. It also went on to spawn one of the biggest club hits in recent years – ‘Operator’. Or, perhaps more accurately, one of the biggest remixes. You’ve probably heard it: “He doesn’t call me, so put me through, operator”. German music producer DJ Koze heard it too and was quick to get his hands on the hypnotising vocals.

He released his own version, spinning the narrative of the self-produced, self-written and self-recorded track away from its original owner. I ask if it bothers her that a song which first appeared on her album was popularised by someone else – and a man, at that.

“Not massively,” she replies with a laugh. “It is interesting that people just assume that DJ Koze wrote it and that it’s a cover when I sing it. I do have to remind them that they’re my words, and it’s mine.

“In saying that,” she adds, “his remix has taken the song to a place it never was before and almost given it a special status. I’ll hear it at a rave and literally remember playing the chords on the keyboard, recording those words, so it’s just super funny to me.”

But the success and relentless touring that followed led to feelings of burnout. After moving to Manchester for a year to recoup (and train as a doula), inspiration flickered once more. The catalyst? “I guess I just wanted to talk more about shit that was on my mind – climate change, the way I see myself in the world, relationships, but it was less like one moment and more a collection of feelings.”

To mark the beginning of her sea change, she released an EP, These Elements, in late 2019. ‘My Love Was Like The Rain’, the clear standout track, used drum & bass sounds to foreshadow the kind of maturity that reconnecting with yourself can bring.

So that brings us to now. A new decade, and a new album.

Through Water – recorded while listening to “lots of WizKid, Drake, Robyn, Ryuichi Sakamoto” – is a culmination of all these experiences, cemented into a sophomore project that reflects resounding ease and confidence. “I’m a bit older than I was on the first record, so I was more seeking to be honest with myself, and push myself creatively.”

The album’s title, Through Water, is woven throughout the album. Her father is a leader in sustainable development around the world, and the album opens to a monologue of her reciting one of his speeches. “The majority of impacts will be felt through water / This is followed by the failure of mitigation and adaptation”.

She says it was more symbolic than anything, “I have an affinity to water, but it was more to do [with] water as a metaphor. The record is about the duality of life, the highs and the lows. Water kind of encapsulates that. It can be somewhere that is dangerous, and dark, but it’s also beautiful and calming. To be ‘through water’ is to really be suspended in it.” 

It’s no coincidence that ‘Womxn’ was the first single released. Over glowing production and futuristic synths, Fletcher sings to a future version of herself.

Despite being female passing, Fletcher’s androgyny has long been a topic of fascination for critics and listeners, something that brings her much amusement: “I inherited my deep voice, there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s the same as having a massive round head.”

Born out of protest against the etymology of the word, the spelling of ‘Womxn’ seeks to explicitly include non-cisgender people in the narrative. The song’s lyrics (“I look, I breathe, I feel like a woman”) challenge societal pressures and broadcast a message of self-acceptance. 

I ask her if there’s any reason she chose to spell it like that. She pauses.

“I’m not someone who is necessarily super feminine,” she eventually replies. “The kind of woman that I am isn’t the same as the person next to me, or how society perceives a woman to be. I made the distinction because I don’t want anyone to compare themselves and think that they aren’t feminine enough to be a woman.”

Låpsley’s new album ‘Through Water’ will be released on March 20, meaning you’ll have to wait a tiny bit longer to uncover the excellence for yourself. But you know, shit happens, I guess.

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