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Welcome To Lala Lala Land

Chicago songwriter Lille West opens up about her musical beginnings.

by Rose Marel

Surrounded by a group of young skaters hooning around the park on a Friday in Chicago, Lille West, aka Lala Lala, is on the phone talking about her new album, I Want The Door To Open. The fresh collection of experimental indie pop songs is a concept album of sorts, focusing on the personal and universal human quest to discover one’s whole self. Fresh off a flight from England where she was visiting her parents, the songwriter is understandably jet lagged but talks intently as skateboards whizz past her in the background. “I really, really love it in a way that I haven’t before,” she says of her new album with conviction.

The theme of West’s latest creation is a sprawling one, both hugely intimate and universally relatable. Such a conceptual approach requires a strong vision, which she expertly pins with an impressive doggedness. “It was definitely intentional,” she says when asked about her vocal techniques. Using a distorted mic, Lala Lala works her voice over multiple takes, some “where I was just going one hundred per cent screaming,” finding an expressiveness that adds further potency to standout tracks on the album like “Diver.”

Crediting Jennifer Egan’s novel, Manhattan Beach, as influential in conceptualizing her album, West explains that she is “constantly reading,” and almost exclusively fiction. She has just finished reading The History of Luminous Motion, a novel she admits is “a little bit disturbing.” Written by Scott Bradfield, the premise involves a broken home, death, drugs, and paranormal activity. This is harnessed on tracks like “Bliss Now!” with lyrics like: “Today I’m 25 I bought myself a knife / I want to ooze like something sick / Another layer.” Dark and vulnerable, it’s a deep exploration of self, a fearless dive into the depths of our multifaceted psyche. Countering this are tracks like “Castle Life” with delicate vocals and pure instrumentation; and “Beautiful Directions,” an optimistic ribbon that wraps up the album succinctly. 

Chatty and thoughtful, West recalls falling into the DIY music scene in Chicago when she moved to the city seven years prior. The music, the vibe, the people — she simply wanted to be a part of it. “In my opinion it’s the best city in America. It’s just so supportive,” she says of Chicago’s indie music community that was quick to embrace her and lift her up. Having carved out a place for herself with a distinct and unique approach to songwriting, West’s Lala Lala is continuing to grow and open new doors as her songwriting evolves. 

I Want The Door To Open is out now via Hardly Art