Even before this Plymouth-born and raised rabbit packed up her few bags and followed the northern wind, from her adopted home of Raglan to Auckland city, Lucy Cioffi had garnered quite a name for herself within the local music scene and among the international hipster cognoscenti. A series of unassuming indie-pop singles, released under the name Little Lapin, had announced her arrival, both her voice and carefully-crafted lyrics drawing comparisons to a young Sinead O’Connor. NZM’s Anna Loveys caught up with the busy songstress over a ‘ruby murry’ (read ‘curry’) to discuss her current projects, including the debut album in the works, living in a van and plans to take her music overseas.
Over the last two years, U.K. born singer/songwriter Lucy Cioffi has released five singles (each with accompanying music videos) under her childhood nickname, Little Lapin.
Her debut six-track EP, which features singles Yellow Brick Road, Silent Tears and Waiting Room, was released online last Spring. May this year will find her performing back in her southern England homeland, just days after her debut album, ‘Remember The High’, is released here, in her new home country.
Sound of Summer, the first single from the upcoming album, was selected for the Christmas Gems 2013 playlist by BBC Radio 6 host Tom Robinson, adding to her driven enthusiasm to get herself and her music to both the U.K. and U.S.A later this year.
This new chapter in her musical story envisions some exciting new projects down the pipeline. First among them will the 10-track album that is currently in the works with Auckland producer, Ben King.
As part of her preparation Cioffi recently completed a 10-date solo acoustic tour, which stretched the length of the country and the last two weeks of January. Joining the free-spirited songstress on this entirely self-managed tour was 18-year old Auckland singer/songwriter, Eden.
“Doing the tour, I think I’d become a lot more confident in myself because I organised it, I did everything – I was the driver, the sound person, the door person. Eden and I would swap duties, as we didn’t have anyone else with us. And that’s when I realised that I don’t actually need anyone else doing this for me, reflects the diminutive but fiercely independent artist.
“After playing for 10 days straight my playing had improved, and I can play by myself now. I don’t need the band so much – a lot of the time you hide behind it and now I’ve thought, ‘Actually, I’m not going to hide’.”
Back home she is living comfortably, if still from her touring van – parked in a friend’s driveway, so giving her access to the necessary facilities, but avoiding the cost of room rental. Her attention is fully directed towards completing her debut album, and having the funds available to market it decently.
The release, set for mid-May, will be Cioffi’s second project with Ben King, best known from his Goldenhorse years, and she says, the start of many more in future. In the process of contract drafting when we talk, she explains why she thinks collaborating with King will be a forever thing.
“You have to be honest and upfront from the start, and we thought we may as well do it properly because it’s a partnership for life. We need to agree on certain terms because this is forever – a perpetual arrangement.”
King also plays electric guitar in Little Lapin’s live band, alongside Callum Galloway on synth and Aussie drummer Andy Keegan.
It has been interesting to observe the way that Cioffi’s (sorry, Little Lapin’s) songs take on new life once through the studio arrangement. The usual result of a fuller, electrified sound, is quite in contrast to her confidently intimate acoustic live presence. Building the instrumentation (guitar, drums, bass, keys) around the bones of the songs is a job King does with evidently perfect intuition and understanding for her songs.
“I’ll record vocals to a drum track, and lay down the acoustic guitar as a guide. Then Ben will sit with them for a while. It is about the vocals really – Ben is building around the vocals.
“There are a lot of ideas bouncing backwards and forwards between us, and I’ll suggest things. It is very much a partnership. Production-wise, Ben takes care of everything, from tracking the instruments to the overall sound, and we feedback off each other.”
Alongside the tour and production of ‘Remember The High’, Cioffi has been determinedly accumulating savings to fund the promotion of her music across the U.S. The plan, which is already in full swing, is to first promote the self-titled 2013 EP across 300 college radio stations. A bold and completely self-funded venture, she is optimistic about the future. She talks of potentially touring the States if the EP is received well, quite possibly another self-managed adventure.
“I’ve got no one else doing it for me – I don’t have a manager. It’s the Kiwi way actually – the ‘number 8 wire’ mentality!”
Almost as soon her new album is released here in NZ, Cioffi will be heading to England to play two festival slots at The Hub Festival in Cornwall late- May.
“A lot of my friends haven’t seen me perform because I wasn’t doing it back in the U.K – I was really shy. So they’re actually really excited to see me on the festival stage now.
Indeed the story goes that, just three years ago, she was altogether too shy to even perform in public. Little Lapin seems to have firmly broken through that cage. With a myriad of lively plans in execution for the coming months, you will be hearing and seeing a lot more of this infectiously enthusiastic small French/U.K./NZ rabbit.