Singer/songwriter/producer/DJ Lou Hayter has been busy been building her own sonic universe, which culminates in the release of her long-awaited debut solo album, “Private Sunshine”. Full to bursting with evocative electro-soul love letters to her home-town of London, alongside addictive disco torch ballads, it’s like early Madonna meeting Mr Fingers or Jam & Lewis producing Jane Birkin – something beautiful and melancholic yet sharply modern and new.
An inveterate music maven from an early age, Lou has worked for seminal labels like Tirk and Output, joined Mercury-nominated New Young Pony Club as their keyboardist, built a stellar reputation as a DJ to the stars (and beyond), hooked up with Air’s quiet genius Jean-Benoît Dunckel and formed the group Tomorrow’s World, and now all roads have led to this, her sparkling debut solo album.
When you examine Lou’s output, from her earliest days in the New Sins with the delightful ‘It Doesn’t Work Like That’, via releases on Tigersushi and the punchy ‘Lights Down’ on Defected, you can see a creative heat map of her development as a songwriter and (both literally and figuratively) as a singer. Her debut album feels like the creative culmination of her musical influences, inspirations and sonic focus.
From the woozy, lysergic harmonies of opener “Cherry on Top”, which sound like a beloved old cassette unravelling, to the fizzy, infectious “Cold Feet”, which calls to mind Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam at their most heartworn, to “What’s A Girl To Do” which could be the perfect halcyon 80’s Janet Jackson by way of Pet Shop Boys bop, it is a breath-taking ride. As well as her excellent bad boyfriend songs, there are also two covers on the album, the last single, a reworking of Steely Dan’s ‘Time Out Of Mind’, and ‘Pinball’, originally recorded by Brian Protheroe in 1974.
‘Private Sunshine’ is imbued with an acute pop sensibility, braided with candy-coated synth melodies, Ronseal rhythms and radio-friendly toplines. Time to dive in.
Lou Hayter In Conversation with Mickey Duke
Welcoming to 1BTN singer/songwriter, musician, DJ, model, musical director – and I think it’s fair to say – all round superstar, Lou Hayter. How are you Lou?
Hi! What an introduction, thank you! Having been stuck on the sofa for a year I don’t quite feel like all of those things but hopefully we’ll get there.
Yeh, it sounds like you have been productive despite the lockdown, have you been able to emerse yourself in the music?
Yeh, I have. It’s took me a while and I think a lot of people have said this, having a complete lack of concentration for the first maybe four to five Months. There was sort of fragments of ideas coming in, which I got down and then the start of this year it kind of came flooding out of me, so I’ve been back in the studio and the ideas I wrote down last year – which I didn’t think a lot of – have all turned into proper fully formed tunes now, which is really great. So, yeh i’m really enjoying being back in the studio and being creative and just having that as a sort of outlet to focus on.
Are you a trained pianist? I think I read that somewhere. I was going to ask if you had intentions of a career in music at any point while you were training
Yeh, not at all, I mean I just had lessons at home and did grades like everyone else did, but I never really thought…I was never in a careerist mindset I just kind of loved music and I wanted to make to make it my career but I didn’t know how. It kind of all fell into place in a serendipitous kind of way but not in any sort of calculated way actually, I was a bit of a late bloomer really.
So I understand that you went to Cambridge Uni, were you studying music there?
No, I was studying English Literature but I spent my whole degree like, Djing and running club nights, so I hardly did any work, so I was studying music but not in any formal way. I always found in school that the music didn’t really appeal to me, you know, they would be talking about Yellow Submarine for four weeks! I mean I love the Beatles but it just didn’t really interest me, so I just taught myself, I’m like a completely amateur musician.
Cool. So, from Cambridge to London to work for Trevor Jackson at Output Recordings. That sounds like a lot of fun!
Yeh, it was really fun and I met loads of amazing people. I then started working at Nuphonic from there and that led me to joining New Young Pony Club, so I was really lucky. I was really in the middle of everything at that time, you know.
You mentioned there about putting club night on in Cambridge, so you were Djing before you moved to London?
Yeh, I was Djing since I was at university basically, so yeh it was before that. I was going to clubs since I was like 15 or 16. We were going up to Metalheads at The Blue Note and Bar Rhumba and everything that was going on in central London and East London for years, so yeh I was fully emersed in club culture from quite a young age.
Aah, those heady days of 90s London, such an incredible scene going on then and so many iconic club nights. How did the transition from clubland to being involved with New Young Pony Club happen?
I was working at TIrk, which was part of Nuphonic and they released the first New Young Pony Club 7”, which was Ice Cream I think and, Sab, who ran the label asked me to call them as I had found them a drummer and then Andy from the band said “Oh, would you know anyone that could plays the keyboard for us?” and I was like “Me?!” and he was like “what can you play?” and I said “I’m grade 6 piano” and he said “Ok, you are over qualified!” so I went straight to his house and he was like “Yep, you’re in the band” so that was that.
So you travelled the World with a red hot band in addition to what you were already doing. Amazing. Again the UK live scene itself back then was red hot with the likes of the Klaxons, Friendly Fires, Test Icicles and so many others including your band New Young Pony Club
Yeh, absolutely, and all those lot are still my best friends to this day, so I made so many good friends in that time, so I’m really grateful for it.
You worked with Nick Phillips as well as part of New Sins, was that something you were working on aside from New Young Pony Club?
Yeh, Nick I had been working with all along actually whilst I was at Nuphonic I linked up with Nick. We were running that along side the band the whole time. Just because of touring schedules it was quite slow, you know, but we managed to put out a single every so often, so yeh that was going before that time.
Another interesting and lovely collaboration was between you and JB Dunkell from the French band Air, who you teamed up with to form Tomorrow’s World. How did that come about?
That was my friend Alex Thomas was the drummer for Air and JB was looking for a singer, so Alex suggested me and JB liked my voice, so he emailed me out of the blue, which was quite amazing. So then he came to my New Young Pony Club show in Paris with Jarvis Cocker, so I was terrified having those two watching me but they were both lovely, so we took it from there. We went into the studio and I think he anticipated only making a couple a couple of tunes with me but before we knew it we had the whole album and so that was a really amazing surprise. Yeh, we have actually written a second album, we just haven’t had a chance to put it out yet.
Oh, brilliant! So that’s forthcoming?
I’ll look forward to that. So record labels and bands aside, I understand that you curate the music for top fashion events too, is that right?
Yeh, well I used to when they still happened! Yeh, I think from Djing at fashion gigs a lot of people would just ask me if I wanted to do consultancy for them.
Living the dream, Lou!
You released Cherry On Top to the brilliant Be With Records in 2018, was it just the one off release to that label?
Yeh, I released it myself with Awal the digital distributor. Then Rob Butler, who Is a friend of mine picked up on it and asked if he could do the vinyl, which was like the first on his pop imprint because usually he does reissues, so yeh my song is the first Be With pop song that he’s released and then I signed to Skint, so now I’m with them.
Yeh, I was just about to come to Damian and Skint Records, another great marriage between the two of you, as they have had with Roisin Murphy. How did you come to sign to Skint
Well, Damian – Midfield General – who I’m sure you know, is an old friend of mine from back in the day. He heard Cherry On Top and asked me to send him the rest of the album, which I did. He then took me out for coffee and said he wanted to sign me, so yeh it was amazing.
He’s a real charmer that Midfield General isn’t he?
Yeh, great label. I received a promo for your debut single ‘My Baby Just cares for me’ last year and I tell you what it reminded me of, have you heard Natasha King’s AM-FM? It’s a lovely boogie/pop track from 1983
No, oh, i’ll have to find that
Yeh, It’s a cracker. Your track really reminded me of that 80’s Boogie/pop sound. I also had the follow up singles from the album, Private sunshine and Time Out Of Mind, which also have an 80s inspired theme about them – I have add that the remixes are wicked too – What inspired this album and what sounds did you draw from?
Just as you said really, I go for sounds that interest me. It is 80’s but it’s more like 80’s underground, oddball tunes, as I’ve sampled a few tunes on there, kind of like deep cuts that people wouldn’t necessarily know, so I was looking for the stuff that wasn’t too obvious and had a kind of quirkiness to it, you know. I think that was where I was coming from.
When can we see you on tour, Lou? Do you have any dates in the diary?
Yeh, I haven’t got any dates in place yet but I did do a live stream the other day for a Mexican festival. We got Andy the saxophonist, my friend Keira on keys, who’s amazing and it was really fun. I definitely have plans to take it on the road soon, we only did four sings, so we need to rehearse the whole album. Until recently we have been in complete lockdown, so we couldn’t even really rehearse anything but as soon as I do I guess it will be like September time we might start going on the road then
Ok, can we catch you out and about Djing anywhere in the interim?
I do a lot of members clubs in the West End and I have some stuff coming up at The Jazz Café, Secret Sundaze, Brixton Jam…Bigfoot Festival and stuff like that.
Should be a busy summer then, barring another spanner in the works of course!
Absolutely, there’s like a backlog of people’s parties that didn’t happen over the last year, so I think it’s going to be mad!
You’re not wrong. I think it’s fair to say that we have sat it out for long enough now. Lou I just want to say a big thank you for your time. I urge everyone to check it out the new album, it’s a proper beaut. Thanks again and good luck with everything and I hope we catch you out and about whether it’s DJing or on tour with the band soon
Aah, thanks for your support, I appreciate it and I’m sure our paths will cross again someday.
Lou Hayter – Private Sunshine is out now digitally via Skint Records with the vinyl album being released on September 24th. Support the artist, support the label, buy your music!
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