Meet Tilly VW, whose new single is a must-listen for fans of crushing indie-pop
The Melbourne-based musician's debut single, Young Lovers Do, is tongue-in-cheek but deep on intimacy and emotions.
There's a certain power possessed in a class of musicians that have blossomed over the last few years, these musicians - always women, often Australian - taking the more subtle foundations of music (often just a guitar, some stripped-back percussion and their vocals) and turning them into powerful, intimate bursts of rich potency that always manages to tug at your heart strings. We're talking about acts like Julia Jacklin, Stella Donnelly and Angie McMahon in Australia and those like Soccer Mommy and Phoebe Bridgers overseas, musicians that really understand the power of songwriting as a tool for emotional reflection that's mirrored into the vulnerability of their work.
With just one listen of her debut single Young Lovers Do, it's clear that Melbourne-based musician Tilly VW understands this too. As someone whose playlists are littered with these musicians - as well as those like Jorja Smith and Ms. Lauryn Hill - Tilly's sound is naturally informed by them, the end result being this subtle-sounding, yet incredibly potent four-minutes that really pulls on every emotion you have, making you come out the other side not just a little more familiar with Tilly's stories or the craft that she uses to tell them, but also - hopefully - on your internal thoughts too, and the reflection that needs to be happening in your life.
Young Lovers Do is a little tongue-in-cheek and relaxed in a way that offers a sense of relief from it being too heavy, and that's perfect as it balances on the fine line between making a song that's devastating with its intimacy (so much so that it's something you don't want to listen to while you're feeling happy), and one that has that slight breeze in it that actually makes you want to revisit it, or just loop it on repeat as your immerse yourself in her storytelling.
"Young Lovers Do was written at a point in my life where I was between two significant relationships that shaped me immensely," she says on the single. "I had just experienced a ridiculously earnest relationship, where the other person was a lot more invested than me. But the writing of the song was intensely prophetic of a relationship that was about to crash unexpectedly into my life. Suddenly, I had become the narrator I had created: painfully earnest and dramatic."
There's also a video clip too, directed by Nick McKinley and pieced together in a way that seems to double down on the single's comfort and warmth while further exploring the themes of teenage love at the song's heart. "We wanted to capture real-life relationships and dynamics in a bit of a fly on the wall way, which I think lead to a very present and real footage," she continues. "The Super 8 added an element of mystery and hyper-reality, which gave us the ability to capture some really intimate moments.
"Grace and Ebbon (the young couple) told us stories, played music, shared a meal. Billy and Goldie (the kids) led us on a whimsical walk along the Elwood canal, stopping every few steps to collect flowers, investigate something they found interesting, climb and play. The kids and their mum Jess told us stories and jokes."
It's a brilliant, show-stopping introduction to an artist we're sure to be seeing a lot more of in the year ahead, and you can take a dive into it below, while also better introducing yourself to the person behind the crushingly beautiful sounds.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m a 20-year-old-girl from Melbourne, a university student studying politics and anthropology which is more of a background in my life to time spent on music.
Since around 15/16, music has really been in the foreground of my life and time in a serious way. Studying arts at uni was a decision that I hoped would naturally influence my songwriting. I also write my best material when I’m procrastinating so my genuine thought-process leaving year 12 was that I would enrol myself in another institution that I could then procrastinate with. A bit counter-intuitive but it seems to be working so far!
In 2016, I released some music on Soundcloud, basically just iPhone recordings of little songs and musings recorded in my bedroom or in the music rooms at school. This was really the beginning of me realising I had something to say through music, because people I wouldn’t expect to connect with certain songs or themes or ideas would approach me. I realised music is a beautiful connecting medium and I fell in love with it. These songs on Soundcloud also led me to meet some people in the industry, where I began to do co-writing sessions with writer-producers in Melbourne and Sydney. This was a wonderful time where I experienced the process of production and writing under pressure for the first time.
My first year out of school (2019) I decided I wanted to focus on writing my own music; I think I wanted to be independent and have control over my own song writing, seeing as for so many years writing had been an introspective outlet, and that connected with people. 2019 was a year that I began to experience Melbourne’s adult music scene as an audience member and musician. I was in a band that played at the classic Melbourne venues: the Workers Club, the Gaso, Revs etc.
What’s the ‘vibe’ music-wise?
Young Lovers Do just feels like a wistful summery anthem. In terms of my other music, I’d say it tends to be quite ethereal and intimate but juxtaposed with conversational lyrics. I think there’s also a bit of attitude in my music. The stuff I’m working on now is really leaning into 90s triphop, taking inspiration from Portishead, Groove Armada, Moby, that allows for more experimentation and I think suits my natural vocal range and writing style really interestingly.
What are your production and writing processes usually like?
A lot of my songs are accidental, and come unforced. My best songs begin as poetry never intended for song, and later just seem to fall into a melody or chord progression that feels made for it. That’s what happened with Young Lovers Do. As I’m not a producer, the production process for my music has been all about collaborating these past couple of years in order to “find my sound”. Young Lovers Do, for example, existed in many different skins. It’s probably been produced and experimented with in six or seven different formats. None of the versions ever felt right to me, and I kept going back to the acoustic version.
The final version of the song was recorded with Dylan Nash in Sydney. We recorded it slowly, over a number of days, and experimented, went down all the rabbit holes. I think time is the greatest asset to the production process, giving yourselves the space to create the living organism of the song, and doing justice to the vision in your mind.
Can you tell us a bit about this new single, Young Lovers Do?
To me, this song is very tongue-in-cheek, interlaced with real feelings. The whole point of this song was poking fun at myself, and how ridiculous young people can be. This is done while also resigning to the fact that as a young person, we have to be ridiculous, because that’s all we can be.
It’s about having the self-awareness that everything will end, that everything we are doing is dramatic and ridiculous and we will look back and laugh at ourselves, but at the same time, the truth is that it’s all very real. Does that make sense?
What do you have planned for the rest of 2020 and 2021?
For the rest of 2020, I will be enjoying the emergence from isolation (hibernation?) and the end of exams back into the Melbourne music scene & nightlife. I’m currently already working on producing the next songs with Dean Tuza, an amazing producer based in Prahran. We will be working on an entire conceptual project over the summer. You might see me hanging out at St Kilda Botanical Gardens watching the musicians playing on Sunday afternoon.
What do you want people to take away from the project?
In a completely utopian vision, my music would be something that just grows on people. I’m not fussed if at a first listen, it doesn’t instantly become someone’s favourite song. Some of my favourite music, I despised, was indifferent about or misunderstood the first time I listened to it. I hope that the more people listen, the more is revealed. I feel like lyrically, I always attempt to be oblique and cryptic enough to not give it all away, and allow room for thought if the listener wants to engage with the material in that way. I don’t want to make music that just superficially pleases people, because I think that’s numbing and disposable. As a listener, you want and deserve more than that. I want to create a space that a listener can step into, can embody, something that can become a soundtrack to their own life, and take on a completely new life with.
The music that has had the most influence on my life, whether it be the work of Jeff Buckley, Amy Winehouse, Alice Phoebe Lou, Lauryn Hill, Florence, Stella Donnelly or someone else, have all done this for me. So in an ideal world, that would be a dream to do for somebody else.
Where can we find more of your music?
I won’t be releasing new music until early next year, but if you’re really curious you can look at my Soundcloud, in particular at underwater anthem and this is living. Keep in mind, they are pretty scrappy recordings from a few years ago. You’ve been warned! Otherwise, you can follow my instagram because I will be posting parts of the recording process over this summer on my story, as well as posting some live stuff, particularly if gigs aren’t allowed to happen for a while.