By Jess Goulart
Photo courtesy of Little Lapin.
Under the moniker Little Lapin, Auckland-based singer/songwriter Lucy Cioffi dropped her first self-titled EP last July to great critical reception. Now, the artist is preparing to release a 10-track LP that continues her honest, graceful exploration of sound and word.
Cioffi’s compositions are an intriguing game of hide and seek, with elements often surprising each other from around unexpected corners. Her voice hops smoothly from note to note while melodies flow cleanly underfoot, infused with a gentle retro-pop. Catchy hooks draw us into a world of “Silent Tears” and “Friendships on Fire”, her talent for emotive storytelling irresistible in its universality.
BTR caught up with Cioffi to chat about her upcoming album and living on the road.
What is your background as a musician?
I’ve always enjoyed composing music and writing songs. As a child I played the flute and started out just playing by ear–English folk songs like Greensleeves. And mum was like ‘oh my god she can play that by ear!’ and opted to get me piano lessons. I spent a few years in high school composing piano pieces, but I was too shy to sing. I actually had a couple instances where I would sing for a music teacher, who I didn’t really like, and audition for some choirs and he was like laughing when I opened my mouth. So that put me off singing for a long time.
I know! It’s so funny how at that age your so susceptible to what people say. I basically was a very silent composer and would pretty much just play for my mum and good friends. But it changed when I went traveling to New Zealand five or six years ago. You know how when you leave a lot of things behind you, you can actually re-invent yourself because nobody knows you. So I said, right, now I’m gonna be this confident singer. And I did an open mic night at this bar in NZ and the support that I got after doing it was incredible and made me want to go on and on. So! Here I am four years after that open mic night going on tour and making music.
You’re touring currently?
Yeah I am, I’m in a van at the moment with my husband Alex who also plays guitar and we’v been doing some busking here in Queenstown. We did some busking last night in the cold, but we got a little bit of a crowd and got to sell some CDs.
What kind of music do you listen to and what are some of your major influences?
It’s interesting you ask that because I’ve always liked listening to other bands, but when I do my own music its always unique, like I never think I wanna sound like this or be like that. But I’ll tell you, the album that got me pumped for doing my own music was Arcade Fire’s Funeral, that really inspired me. Always LadyHawk, a Kiwi, she’s self-produced, and Bon Iver as well. All these artists are very genuine and honest with their strong writing. I just got amped on that.
You mentioned the word genuine, would you say that’s the vibe you’re going for on the Little Lapin EP?
Yes, totally, that’s exactly what I’m about. All my lyrics I’ve based on things that I’ve experienced and honest writing. Trying to get away from writing your typical pop-song, I want to write about people and conversations and experiences. It’s like opening up your diary to the world.
Any songs especially vulnerable or close to your heart?
Yeah, track one off my EP is called “Waiting Room.” I wrote it a couple of years ago now, and I was feeling very vulnerable because I was questioning life a lot and thinking how life feels like one big waiting room. You know when things stay the same and you feel like it’s Ground Hog Day and too monotonous, and you’re thinking I just want out of here! The only way I could get out of that state was by writing a song.
What is the writing process like for your music? Does it just happen organically?
I’ve been playing guitar now for about four years, so before that pretty much I’d write a poem and have a melody in my head, but I’d have to get someone else to play the guitar chords for me. My process was: I’d think about a notion or sentiment, then write about it in a poetic form, than sing along to it and get a band member to play guitar. But now it’s great because I saw that when I started to play guitar my songs took on a different form, where I would pay chords and then shape the melody around the chords. I think that’s how I do it now. I like the music and the lyrics to be intrinsic.
Album art for the Little Lapin EP.
What was the recording process like for the EP and your upcoming album?
Ben King produced them both. He is a fantastic producer, one of the top in New Zealand. I’ve always had the pleasure of having him play guitar in my band as well…he’s one of the best guitar players in NZ, too. So he played guitar and bass on the EP and basically I’ll come to him with a song that has lyrics and guitar and then he’ll put on the bass and drums from his home studio. For the EP, I would lay my vocals down and guitar track down and then he would arrange the other parts to it. For the upcoming alum it was a very different process because we decided we wanted it to be representative of my live sound, and when I play live I play acoustic guitar. So basically, no separate tracks, the guitar and vocals in one. A bit more, like, feeling the music instead of recording to set tracks.
What can we expect from the coming album? Was the EP just a little taste, or will the full LP have a different feel?
It’ll still be Little Lapin style, so a focus on melodies, catchy hooks, and honest song-writing. You’re still going to get that from me, but the sound is gonna be different. It’s going to be a ten-track album and literally we had to like, whittle down a lot more songs, because I have over sixty! It was really hard to decide which I wanted to have on the album. Ben King and I have chosen the songs together, and I hope they’re the best.
Do you have a release date yet?
We’re hoping for July or August this year!
Anything you’d like to say to fans as an ending note?
Thank you BTR for playing my music! It means so much to me and you’ve really honed in on what I’m about–that honest songwriting and honest music. “Music never lies,” as Jimi Hendrix once said, and I just want your listeners to know that music is in all of us. I thought I couldn’t sing when I was younger, and now I’m experiencing a whole different life. Hopefully listening to my music will inspire you to do what you want to do – whether its music or art or baking a cake.
Or check them out live:
July 6 2014- Wharehapuku Art Gallery- Christchurch, NZ
July 8 2014- Wunderbar- Christchurch, NZ
July 19 2014- Hilltop Tavern- Little River, NZ
August 14 2014- Darkroom- Christchurch, NZ
August 19 2014- Orange Studio- Christchurch, NZ