Lou Hayter has been a recognisable face on the London music scene since the mid-noughties, when she rose to prominence as part of the ludicrously stylish Mercury nominated electro-pop band, New Young Pony Club. Since then, she has maintained a presence at the always-evolving intersection between music and fashion, building a reputation as a DJ as comfortable at peak-time in the basement of XOYO as at the launches of some of the world’s most desirable brands (Chanel, Miu Miu, Chloe and Paul Smith all have Hayter on their books).
Since departing NYPC at the beginning of the decade, Hayter’s musical endeavours have rarely slowed down. As well as a three year stint as Musical Director for the London Fashion Awards, she has formed band partnerships with Nick Phillips and JB Dunckel of Air, as The New Sins and Tomorrow’s World, while continuing her all-vinyl residency at London’s Chiltern Firehouse.
In anticipation of a debut solo LP in 2021, Hayter has been dripping singles like honey across the past few years, earning radio play on 6Music and Radio 1 alike. A third, ‘Private Sunshine’, has just mercifully emerged mid-winter, following ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ and ‘Cherry On Top’, blissful earworms of glorious off-kilter pop music, timeless but forward-thinking at once.
Lou Hayter’s contribution to the #PHANTASYMIX series weaves similarly singular gems against a steady thread of disco and deep house, featuring music from Moodymann, Maria Minerva and Dream 2 Science.
Hi Lou. So, as is always the first question, please tell us about the mix?
Thanks for having me do the mix, it was really fun. I kinda tried to make something that's in keeping with your label so there's a lot of stripped-back acid, old and new. It was fun to do cause I've mainly been listening to Steely Dan and jazz at home so it was good to get back into club music. There are some remixes of my own tracks in there and Detroit techno which I'm really back into at the moment, I used to collect it in the late 90's, and some emotional electronic stuff like the Morgan Geist track at the end and Dream 2 Science.
Your debut album is on the horizon… Having been a part of NYPC, Tomorrow’s World and The New Sins, how has the experience of striking out solo been? (Congratulations on two absolute earworm singles.)
Ah thank you! It's been great to just have total artistic freedom. Although I also like doing collaborative stuff too but yeah it's really fun to do anything you want and not have to make any compromises for anyone else's taste. It's just a different thing doing it yourself but both are great in different ways.
What can we expect from the upcoming LP on Skint? I understand your influences range from Bowie to Can, Stereolab to Arthur Russell. Your music is a kind of ‘future-pop’ and I wonder, especially approaching from your knowledgeable perspective as a DJ, how you honour those influences without delving into pure pastiche?
Hmm.. it's hard to describe music in words but I would say that my album is a combination of a lot of my influences in the backing tracks; there's 70's yacht rock and West coast influences, acid house, disco, 80's Jelly bean-style pop, balearic influences in there, and then it's all tied together with me singing over the top of them. I write a lot of it from scratch but there is definitely a magpie element to what I do. I think I avoid pastiche by listening to so much music and cherry-picking things I like that aren't too obvious. For instance, I found a few samples for some of the tracks and they were records that really interested me sonically and that I hadn't heard before and to my knowledge hadn't been sampled before. Also if ever I hit on an idea that's too much like something else I run away from it. I usually find that whatever I try to emulate goes through me like a processor and comes out as something completely different anyway so that's a good way to start a record sometimes. For instance I've started about 5 songs by singing Billie Jean over them and none of them sound anything like it... haha. I wish!
Your other creative pursuit is that of a Musical Director, working with various brands including Alexander McQueen, Chanel and Adidas, for whom you produced an original composition last year. The meeting point between music and fashion is always evolving. I’ve previously seen you described as “a reluctant Jane Birkin”, but I was wondering who are some of your historical or contemporary influences at that particular intersection?
Yeah it's quite different, at an event you're there to make people happy and create an ambience which fits the brand and type of event whereas in a club you're booked as an artist so you have to make people dance but also push it a bit more artistically and usually the music goes more underground. Also in a club you have a massive soundsystem so you can really bang it out. I like both.
Do you think there is greater innovation in fashion or music in 2020?
Yeah I think there's definitely been an evolution in ideas in terms of the restrictions we've all been placed under with covid. So it's been interesting to see how artists from all industries have adapted to that. Creatives are hustlers. We have to find ways to make stuff under loads of different conditions always so we just find new ways to do it. There's been some amazing online content and musically there's been so much to keep on top of, it's been really lovely to have new music to help us through this which is why I believe that artists should be supported by the government.
The video for ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ is pretty striking, and wonderfully ‘GIF-able’ from our very online perspective. I wondered what other music videos inspired you? Were you an MTV2 or a VH1 youth? I think I first saw you on the former…
Thank you, it's by Alice Kunisue who is a director from Paris, she does a lot of the Ed Banger videos and I love her style. I grew up with the Chart show and Top of the Pops when I was little, then moved on to MTV but we didn't have cable so I think it was a bit later on that I watched that. Was MTV2 the indie one? Yeah I think NYPC used to be on there, it was cute. I was obsessed with pop as a kid and was always watching Madonna and Kylie videos and Dee-lite, I still watch them now tbh, they're classics. Grace Jones and all her Jean Paul Goude collaborations are a huge influence. I find it hard to think of a more perfect pairing of music and visuals. I usually look at something more like Helmut Newton / Guy Bourdin when I'm looking at video inspo for myself but I do adore big pop videos like Hype Williams / Spike Jonze and Thriller and stuff, I grew up on them. My fave new videos are usually from Tyler the Creator, he blows my mind.
John Loveless, November 2020.