Thanks to Repulsive Woman, Millie Lovelock for chatting with Heather McMillan!
Q: Hey Millie Congratulations on your first single from your debut album ‘Rough Around The Edges’. Listening to the raw tone of your voice against a violin was so melodic and easing.
How did you find your sound and ambience for this record?
A: I’m not sure it was something I was necessarily looking for, I tend to write what I write, but Adelaide (producer and engineer) and I certainly spent a lot of time talking and thinking about how we wanted this record to feel. That process started with me putting together a playlist—vaguely an “inspirations” playlist—and then we entered a back and forth of artists and production that fit into that spectrum: starting with PJ Harvey, Emma Ruth Rundle, and Aldous Harding and moving through Weyes Blood, Agnes Obel and Sibyll Baier. Adelaide has synaesthesia and I don’t, but we both think of music in terms of colour and texture. One of the first conversations we had about making the record was about colour, specifically how much of the work I’ve done in the past has been very deep greens and purples. I’d been amused that the portrait I had drawn for the Red Bull Music Academy was a sort of peach colour, when the direction I was feeling for Repulsive Woman was very much in that tonal area. Coincidentally, Adelaide revealed that the demos we’d been making were all yellows, reds, nectarines, purples. From the beginning we were on the same page, so blending the record was very natural throughout the entire process.
Q: The track itself is so soft in sound but speaks loudly on vulnerabilities. What has allowed your music in particular this new single to encapture so much emotion?
A: I think, if I might be a little bold, that my primary strength as a songwriter has always been catching and expressing a feeling. For a long time growing up I thought I was going to be an actress, and for me I think proper acting involves looking back on something you felt, even for a moment and recreating it. This is a skill I lean on quite heavily, because I also have a tendency to intellectualise to the extreme. Expressing myself clearly allows me to be vulnerable, it makes it less scary, and, conversely, allowing myself vulnerability on tape and on stage frees me from eating myself alive in my own head.
Q: Your solo project artist name Repulsive Woman really drew me to reflect on the role and expectation of women alongside feminism in the current climate in 2019. What led you to that name?
A: The name actually comes from a poetry collection, The Book of Repulsive Women, by one of my most beloved writers, Djuna Barnes. I wrote my honours dissertation on Barnes’ novel Nightwood, and I was absolutely swamped by not only the weight of her technical skill, but also her piercing vulnerability and the extent to which she was willing to lay herself on the page. There’s a line in one of her poems that ends “vivid and repulsive as the truth” and that has stayed with me. I’m not particularly married to womanhood, but I am married to being perceived one way or another as a result of my public womanhood. I think people often find something repellent in women being clever, but equally in their being overly emotional—and I don’t just mean other people, I’m perfectly capable of feeling this way about myself. But then I think you can’t escape being clever or emotional, so that’s the truth of it, and maybe it’s repulsive, but who cares?
Q: It’s NZ Music month we were wondering who your favourite local musicians are and what makes them stand out to you?
A: Milpool from Dunedin are one of my favourite New Zealand bands. I just happen to work with Adelaide, but outside of that I think she is one of the most talented musicians I’ve had the good luck to see on a stage. I cried the first time I saw Milpool live, they’re so powerful. I also love Mary Berry, another Dunedin band who I share a member with. Is New Zealand too small, you ask? Mary Berry have a palpable zing to them. I can’t wait for them to put out an album. Also, Lucy Hunter (Opposite Sex, Wet Specimen) has long been one of my favourite songwriters. She is releasing her first solo album and she is one of the most startling creatives I’ve seen in action. Her voice, her world, her presence: you get chills.
Q: Relief, your debut album is being released next month and I’ve seen it was recorded in Berlin at the Red Bull Music Academy. How was that experience and for local aspiring musicians what advice would you give for those seeking opportunities alike to this?
A: My album actually wasn’t recorded at the Academy, we recorded it in Dunedin in 2018 before I left for Berlin, but I did record another EP in collaboration with some of the artists I met at the Academy, and that will make its way into the world at some stage. RBMA was surreal. It’s hard to put into words, but I’ll never be able to recreate that magic. It was singular meeting the people I met and spending the time I spent with them. I felt like I was in a heavy dream the entire time. In terms of advice, there is none other than just keep doing what you’re doing, don’t worry about speed or trajectory or recognition. Everything outside of the act of doing it is a bonus. I had no expectations when I applied for RBMA but they gave some helpful advice when they sent out the acceptance letters: don’t question it, we chose you for a reason. Maybe that’s more helpful than anything I have to say!
Q: Leading on from that you’re currently doing a three city tour around New Zealand. How’s the response been thus far from performing this sound live?
A: At the time of writing, we have played one show in Auckland and we are about to play another in Wellington. The first show was wonderful. I am really enjoying every part of playing these songs with my band, and sharing it with a crowd is a treat. I can almost taste it! I can certainly feel an emotional slap back from the audience, which is rewarding.
Q: I’m also curious about what being on tour is like for you and what challenges you when performing live?
A: When you’re with good people, tour is great. I love being in transit so as long as I’m not pulling my weight and everyone else’s I really enjoy it. Historically, I’ve found playing live very easy. I don’t really let myself get nervous, but I will admit that I was nervous last week before the first show. My hands and legs were shaking, even, and that was new for me. The biggest challenge is usually getting completely out of my head—I like to be in a kind of flow state when I play live—and that can be dependent on so many variables. When I get there I really get there, but my major project is finding the most reliable route.
Q: Lastly I want to thank you for taking out time to answer my questions and wondered who you’re most inspired by at the moment in the world?
A: This is a difficult question because I can carry so much inspiration at once! I’m deeply inspired by the women in my band, I feel a real drive when I’m around them. If I had to narrow it down and push it out beyond my immediate circles though, the answer would be Patti Smith. Not to be insufferable, but I was lucky enough following a series of coincidences, to meet her very briefly in Paris last year. I was in a rough place and as soon as I laid eyes on her, or more accurately, as soon as she looked right through me, I felt calm and direction wash over me. I can feel it again every time I think about it! It’s such a blessing to have her on our timeline. She has such a gentle precision with words and so much of her work is truly tender; I really admire that.