Lava La Rue

is Starface... Live on Earth

Event Dates

Wednesday, 6 Nov

Bush Hall, London

Lava La Rue makes ambition look easy. While the multi-talented artist worked on richly layered EPs Butter-Fly (2021) and Hi-Fidelity (2022), they quietly paved the path to STARFACE, their innovative, long-awaited debut concept album (out in June 2024 on Dirty Hit). It’s an expansive indie album, where Lava brings in international features, blends genres and co-directs an entire universe of visuals. “Making this album felt like making a movie,” they say. “It felt like I’d assembled a team that I’d wanted to assemble for ages.” STARFACE is not only a concept album but a reintroduction to Lava as an artist. All roads have led them here.

 

Since debuting, Lava has racked up more than 500m total streams, multiple Radio 1 Hottest Record and Chillest Record spots, and several 6Music playlist adds while being touted as a rising talent by the likes of NME, Dazed, Evening Standard and Forbes’ 30 Under 30. But their impact goes beyond industry accolades, and into community. They’ve connected to their peers and audience by throwing parties as a co-founder of NiNE8 Collective, designing apparel and being the keen directorial eye behind a BRIT Awards performance and music video for indie stars Wet Leg. On STARFACE, they’re offering up both an immersive storyline you can follow and stunning tracks that can stand alone.

 

The album charts an alien’s arrival on Earth, as they peer at human relationships and culture with fresh eyes. “I was definitely inspired by the idea of making a lesbian version of Ziggy Stardust,” Lava begins, smiling. “The idea of this alien who falls to Earth. And it meant that I could speak about very real experiences, very human experiences, from the perspective of a third person.” A sci-fi theme threads throughout the album, making nods to everything from Funkadelic and Prince to Melody’s Echo Chamber and Beck’s Hyperspace.

 

It all starts with single Push N Shuv, a deceptively sunny take on an imbalanced romantic connection. A flute rings out like an alarm at the song’s start, soon joined by warm bass, soft vocal harmonies and syncopated percussion. After writing the track with Karma Kid, Lava played it to a few people, but shelved it – they could tell it wasn’t the right time to put it out. Later, after the pandemic peak had flattened, they saw the song for what it was: the anchor of an album.

 

“I realised, ‘this is what I want my album to sound like’,” they say now. Using Push N Shuv as a launching pad, they’ve storyboarded the album’s 17 tracks (including two interludes). More than once, they liken the process to directing a film, or sketching out a graphic novel. Each song feels like a chapter in a book, they say, growing from the relationship schism on Push N Shuv. “When I started to conceptualise the storyline, all the songs started to form around it. Asking: ‘Wait, what happened before that? What happens after? What happens when I crash-land on Earth? When I meet my first human?”

 

The concept is a useful creative tool, sure, but Lava’s clear that the narrative never overshadows or compromises the music. “Even if someone didn’t get the storyline, I wanted to make sure every individual song would pull you in as well – that was the challenge I gave myself.” They also want to make something cinematic with STARFACE, reeling off inspirations from Jackie Brown and Edgar Wright films to anime classic Akira. Lava is a polymath and visual thinker, and their film references shine across the album’s music videos, which they’re co-directing and creative-directing.

 

On the album, a song like Poison Cookie featuring Korean-American artist Audrey Nuna exemplifies Starface as a multi-genre, multi-sensory experience – it blooms from a wash of reverbed vocals and the galactic twinkle of synths to driving breakbeats, sounding poised for a fight scene. Lava and Audrey “knew we wanted it to sound like it could’ve been on the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World soundtrack,” they explain. Elsewhere falsetto vocals flit over horns, hand claps and crisp live drums on Better, featuring Mexican-American musician Cuco, as it transports you back in time towards the 1970s. Lava reframes the idea of what an alternative album can be. “I approached it in the way I learned through coming up in NiNE8: making it feature-heavy,” they say. “I’ve gone out of my way to get a featured artist that is a part of every continent or culture that’s influenced my music taste, from alt K-pop in Korea, to psychedelic Chicano music, to the Irish music scene, to my London family.”

 

Lava sees STARFACE as a group effort. “The whole project is such a labour of love, even if that sounds corny,” they say, grinning. “Everyone got to indulge in their biggest musical fantasies.” They joke that they scouted musicians for STARFACE “the way you would in a heist movie”, moulding it into shape in studios across south London, west London and LA. The album sees Lava express themselves with more confidence than ever, beautifully deploying the cross-genre references that make STARFACE so vivid.

 

An album also gives Lava the space to stretch beyond the confines of being pigeonholed within one genre, and soar. “The conversation in 2019 about making guitar music, and being Black and queer wasn’t what it is now,” Lava says. “I really feel like the conversation that’s happened over the past five years has been huge.” That led Lava to another realisation, and they laugh as they spell it out. “I feel like I’m a 2020s artist and not a 2010s artist. When I say that I mean that throughout the 2010s there were so many alternative Black artists but they had to be the people to open the door.” With doors kicked down by earlier arrivals – and they shout out Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke – Lava feels that now other Black, queer alternative voices “can actually thrive”.

 

STARFACE could only have come from Lava, a one-of-a-kind artist with little interest in retreading familiar ground. “The thing about debuting young is that I’ve gone through puberty publicly,” they reflect. “I feel like now I’m debuting my actual career. With albums, the conversation’s different.” They’re setting out a true statement of intent. Creatively, they’re thinking ahead, too. “I’m just pushing everything,” they say, plainly. There’s always the impulse to try, to strive. There’s always the plan. “I don’t know what the reason to life is, but all I know is that in this time I want to learn as much as possible and live as many lives as possible. And maybe this album can help me do that.”

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