“I began seriously writing songs just after I turned 15”, says Sydney singer-songwriter Imogen Jones, better known as Lupa J. “It was the beginning of a period of upheaval, the dismantling of a set of deeply ingrained values about femininity, my body, my identity; the destruction of a self imposed prison.”
This cathartic process that is documented on Jones’ debut EP My Right Name. The seven-track release is presented as somewhat of a before-and-after, featuring a mix of her older songs — “Numb”, “Game”, “Broken Mirrors” — slightly re-worked, alongside a collection of newer tracks that she wrote during her recently completed final year of high school.
“Through all of it, I was learning to make music”, Jones explains, adding that as she slowly pieced together the release — “song after song, one by one” — the EP’s centrical aim surfaced: “a string of evolving emotions and attitudes [and] to create something more coherent and reflective.”
This diary-entry perspective reveals throughout My Right Name, as Lupa J’s haunting vocals untangle from the attempts of the dark-edged industrial-wasteland clatter to suffocate the 18-year-old’s displays of vulnerability. However, despite these distracting intentions, rarely is her songwriting prowess truly challenged, even seemingly rising in self-assurance as the EP progresses, with closing pair — the title-track and “Teeth and Loud Talk” — both matching their inflated levels of pop-grandiose with an unshakable vocal centrepiece.
My Right Name is successful in its clear attempts in documenting artistic and personal evolution and, as such, is far more engaging than the average introductory short-player. While set to be released independently on Friday, July 15th, the entire EP is available to stream below, accompanied also by an exclusive track-by-track breakdown of the release by Lupa J herself.
All words below by Imogen Jones (Lupa J).
“‘Numb’ was the second song I ever recorded. It’s since been through about 6 different versions, including an orchestral version I wrote for school, but this is the one I was finally happy with. The only thing that hasn’t changed are the lyrics. For me it represents the beginning of learning to grapple with difficult emotion; it’s about realising you’ve become numb to a problematic situation or way of thinking, that you’re in denial of something.”
“‘Game’ is another old track. I recorded the first version of it at the end of 2014, but I couldn’t get it quite right, so left it alone for a long time. After starting work on the EP I figured I should try remaking it. This is probably one of the most angry songs I have; I wrote it at a time when I was thinking a lot about how oppression tends to operate most effectively when it is internalised. It’s about growing up as a girl and learning to be complicit in the objectification of your own body; realising you’re fighting to win at a game that only hurts you.”
“I’d had loose ideas to remake ‘Broken Mirrors’, the first song I ever recorded, because the concept behind it was still so relevant to my life. While I was playing around with the chords to the song I found myself flooded with all the same emotion that I’d felt writing it as a 15 year old. I used those chords to make this instrumental track, and it was then that I realised I wanted to write an EP that explored the evolution of these patterns of thinking that I was trying to escape.”
“‘Broken Mirrors’ is more or less the centrepiece of this EP. I think it’s the track that most achieves what I set out to do in making My Right Name: it works together chords and lyrics I wrote when I was 15 with lyrics I wrote last year and still makes sense emotionally to me. It was also in making this track that I felt like I’d successfully created the sound world for the EP I’d had in my head. I was really getting into trip hop kinda stuff at the time, I was wanting to make beats that sounded a little like early Massive Attack and Portishead, blended with the kind of slidey, creepy string parts Jonny Greenwood writes for Radiohead.”
“This song is written for a really close friend of mine, a friend who I couldn’t have completed my last year of high school without. It’s the first of the three tracks in this EP that is entirely new, written late last year. I wanted it to sound really vulnerable, but also really terrifying, to match the anxiety of the lyrics. It’s about finding solace in someone who knows and understands what you are, because they too have suffered through the same emotions you have. I named it ‘Philomela’ after the Greek myth.”
“Teeth and Loud Talk”
“I went to a really small high school, a selective classical music school, and we were worked pretty hard, so by the end of last year everyone was going a bit nuts under the pressure. In such a tightly- knit environment it’s hard to escape from anyone. So I wrote this song about feeling trapped and panicked in a building that over the years has come to contain all your darkest memories, with all these people who don’t necessarily like you but know too much about you.”
“My Right Name”
“This was the last song I wrote for the EP. The lyrics were really key to this one, so I kept the production pretty minimal and sparse. It’s the end of an era: a moment of painful nostalgia, but also of clarity. It’s finally coming to understand who you are, no longer trying to change for people, yet still fruitlessly believing that those who hurt you will one day understand who you’ve become. It’s realising that what you went through will continue to affect you for the rest of your life.”
‘My Right Name’ is out Friday, July 15th, and set to be launched on July 29th at Brighton Up Bar in Sydney and in Melbourne on August 6th at The Workers Club.