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NewTracks New Artist: Repulsive Woman

NewTracks New Artist: Repulsive Woman

Better known for her singing/guitaring roles in Dunedin indie bands Astro Children and Trick Mammoth, Millie Lovelock got some intrigued media attention for having written her thesis on UK boy band One Direction. Covering their songs online led to the genesis of her latest musical incarnation, Repulsive Woman. Stepping away from pop covers, for now, she released chest-baring single Rough Around The Edges (from upcoming album ‘Relief’) in late April, and promptly made it onto NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks Compilation in May.

What’s your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Millicent Lovelock, but much better known as Millie. I live in Dunedin and I play the guitar mostly, but I’ve also played the violin, the clarinet and the cello.

What high school or other music training was important to you?

I started learning the violin during weekends when I was five years old. High school music was a waste of time, as was my first year of university studying contemporary music. However, I’m now taking a class in composition just out of interest, and I’m finding it is really stretching my mind and forcing me to think about music in ways I haven’t before – one note at a time.

What other projects might we know you from?

Astro Children, which I started with my friend Isaac Hickey in 2010, and Trick Mammoth which started in 2013 – both have albums available.

What’s the background story of how Repulsive Woman as a project came to be? Why did you choose the name?

I started Repulsive Woman at the end of 2015 recording One Direction covers in my bedroom. It was sort of the meeting of two academic projects; my honours dissertation on Djuna Barnes’ novel Nightwood, and my Masters’ thesis on One Direction. There’s a collection of Barnes’ poetry called The Book Of Repulsive Women and I was struck by it. There’s a lot in the collection about exposure, and the covers I was recording were very exposed, very vulnerable, and that often makes me feel repellent. The name just made sense for the project. It’s also, of course, tongue in cheek, but for some reason, people think I’m not in on the joke…

How did your music evolve from your beginnings in songwriting to what it is right now?

Music has always been very fraught for me. I take myself very seriously because I don’t see why I shouldn’t – but growing up playing in bands from the age of 14, I’ve found that people often don’t take me the way I would like to be taken. As a woman, I have kicked against softness because I felt it was foisted upon me by men in the industry and I resented it. As a result, I’ve made some very confrontational music, music that I love writing and playing and that I am very proud of, but over the years I’ve become more comfortable with being tender. I’m in a place now where I can be both; I can make heavy music and I can drown in sweetness too, and it doesn’t say anything about my worth, my femininity, or how serious I am.

What made Rough Around The Edges stand out for you as a single?

It was the most difficult song on the album to get right. It is so much more buoyant than what I usually write. We (myself and Adelaide Dunn) worked so hard on the song in the studio and really nailed what I wanted it to be. It felt right to release it as a single, it’s bright, it’s vulnerable, it’s mournful; it’s representative of the album. 

What is the story behind Rough Around The Edges?

I’m interested in what it means to be observed, how being and performance are always in tension inside us, and often in such tension in the way we move through the world that we cease to actually exist as anything more than a failed synthesis to the people around us. I’m not soft or coarse, the reality is more complex but in the sort of ping-pong between the two, I get a little bit lost. 

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

The chorus I am really proud of. It feels so tender even though it’s almost a violent thing to say to someone, I like that duality. The violin solo also makes me want to cry, I love that part of the song.

Who did you record and produce the single with and where?

I recorded the track with Adelaide Dunn at the Albany Street studio in Dunedin. Olive Butler (who is also in my live band, as is Adelaide) came in to play the violin. Olive is an extremely talented player and managed to interpret Adelaide making a kazoo sound with her mouth to describe what we wanted the violin to do! The kazoo sound makes its way into every band practice now and Julie (my bass player, also in Mary Berry), mentioned that it makes her think of tiramisu, so we are collectively hysterical about Italian dessert.

Describe in one sentence what you want listeners to take away from this song.

I’d like people to feel they see themselves.

In general, how do you work out what would make a good single?

Honestly, I just get a feeling. When you’ve spent a long time writing and recording an album you are so familiar with all the songs, I don’t think there’s any way you couldn’t know which ones are the right ones.  

Are there other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

My album ‘Relief’ is out on June 24 and we will be touring it in July.

Can you please tell us three other local tunes that should be on a playlist alongside your song.

Lucy Hunter Flu

MilpoolAmbulance Driver

Opposite SexLong Dead Night

Have any of your previous applications not been funding or included on NewTracks? Got any advice for people out there? 

I’ve never applied for NewTracks before, but I’ve missed out on NZ On Air funding twice. I think you just need to keep going. Funding is a nightmare and truly, you’re only getting better with time. People will care when they care. And you’re still making music, regardless of whether you’re winning in funding rounds and that really is the main thing. 

Was there any NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? 

I don’t like selling myself, I hate it and I’m not interested in it so anything where I feel I have to convince people that I’m worth something I really struggle with. I just have to bite my tongue and shudder through the discomfort. 

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

Not particularly, if anyone has any tips I would love to hear them. Music finds its way to me by osmosis, but that’s an unreliable method. 

How can we find you on social media?

@_repulsivewoman on twitter, @repulsivewoman on Instagram. 

Any last words?

Thanks!