Alice Gee | 17/05/2021
I catch up with the wonderful L Devine over zoom to get the inside scoop on the past year, what we should keep an eye out for, and her new single “Girls Like Sex”.
Hi, how you doing?
I’m good. How are you? Doing good?
Good. Good. Are you up north?
Yeah, I’m just outside of Newcastle down by the coast in this place called North Shields. I don’t know if you know it, but it’s lovely.
Have you been there for the whole pandemic?
Yeah, I was in London before that, I’ve lived there for like four years and just before the pandemic, I thought I’ll just dump my stuff at my Mum’s house, and then obviously all of this happened. So luckily, I did get out of London just before. But then I ended up falling back in love with Newcastle and I ended up staying and getting a place of my own.
I mean, London has not been great, I kind of fell out of love with it a little bit in the pandemic. I thought, do my move back because I grew up in the countryside. But now I’ve fallen back in love with it again.
Yeah, exactly. During the pandemic, I was so glad I’m here. But now things are open. And I’m like, gosh, I just want to be with all my mates in London. Enjoying the two degrees warmer than it is up in Newcastle.
Where did the progression of music come from? Has it been since you were a little kid?
I got into music, really young. When I was probably about seven years old, I got a guitar for Christmas. I had this best friend called Niall who was cool and into punk music and played instruments, but he was really shy and I was a confident kid, so I just did all the things he did but shouted about it. So I kind of owe it all to him. We started a little band when we were seven called Safety Pins. Then I completely dropped music as soon as I got to high school, I just did that typical thing where anything that could be deemed uncool I thought, okay, not touching this. In primary school, I would be burning CDs and handing out all my music, if that followed me at high school, it probably would have been even worse than it already was. Then, when it came to deciding what I wanted to do when I leave school, I thought, okay, that is really what has always been in you, so I picked it back up, thank God.
I think that’s quite a normal progression, when I got to around my second year of uni, other things sort of took over, I just think it’s time has got to be right. I think it’s natural to leave it and come back to it, that’s quite healthy.
Yeah, it takes a lot of confidence to do it, so, you have got to make sure you’re ready.
So you’ve just released a brand new single (Girls Like Sex”). I would imagine it’s been in the works for a while with COVID?
Well, I was always planning to release stuff, but, it was a huge change in plans for everyone. I’ve been working on the songs for the body of work that’s coming after the single, for quite some time. It’s been around three years since I last released a body of work which is pretty crazy, you forget how much you miss people telling you that you’re good. I know that sounds vain, but it does kind of take a toll, for example when nothing is out and you don’t have people saying ‘I like this song’, I feel like ‘Is any of this good?’ So It is so nice to announce it and get reassured that people are still excited to hear the music. I made that tune; Girls Like Sex”, over a year ago, just before the pandemic. Then in February, I managed to squeeze in a little trip to LA.
I think that’s part of not feeling relevant, especially with social media, maybe that is because I am getting older, but I feel like everything moves at such a fast pace. If you’re not putting things out, or even posting images or whatever you may feel like, you feel that people just aren’t interested.
Yeah, totally. You’re either not posting feel irrelevant, or you are posting too much and feel like, am I bombarding people? Yeah, it’s a storm.
Do you record often in LA?
When we were allowed to travel, I was going probably every two months. I managed to just get a two-week trip in right before the pandemic, I love working out there because it can feel as though I’m on holiday. I think when you work away, It feels like a work trip, so I have to get my head down. That’s what I like about living in Newcastle and travelling to London to go to the studio.
It must be exciting as well. The new track plays as a homage to the 80s. But we still have the same gender stereotypes around sex that existed back then, which is something the song touches on.
Yeah, totally. It’s all about just reclaiming my sexuality. It’s been a lot of fun to delve into the visual side of things. We have done little vignettes that aim to all take the piss out of sexuality tropes and reclaim those, then we did one that was a pillow fight, to mock those really cliché, nineties pillow fights with all the sexy girls. Then at the end, the camera pans down and I’m suffocating this bloke, I really just wanted to do some funny shit like that. Also, as a queer artist, I feel it is really important to have songs about sex as well. I think that’s still a taboo for some people, and I think queer artists and queer icons have always been the type of artists that have never been afraid to talk about sex in a liberating way, and they get rid of a lot of the shame around it. And also, it is just a fun tune, so it does the best of both.
I think you are right there with the taboo and I think that is why both straight and Queer artists write tracks that can be very heteronormative with regards to pronouns etc.
With regards to that, I’ve actually only got around three or four songs where I explicitly refer to female pronouns, when I am referring to a love interest. I feel that’s just because I’ve just recently, in the past couple of years, got to the point where I’m comfortable enough to do that. Now, you know, I don’t give a shit if it’s going to hinder how people perceive the music and see me as an artist, because that’s my truth. That’s what I’m going to write about. I’m writing about girls when I’m talking about love. For a while, I tried to just not touch the pronouns and leave them ambiguous, so people can relate to them. But, I think that makes it less relatable because it feels untrue.
Personally, I don’t think that it should make it unrelatable. I never listen to a song and find it unrelatable because they use same sex pronouns?
I agree, but I don’t understand straight people! I think, growing up looking at pop artists and the music that they make, I wondered when I was younger if I was going to have to pretend that I’m at least bisexual, so I can still appeal to men. Those were genuine thoughts that went through my head when I was around the age of 15. I’d look at pop stars around me and I’d think to myself, okay, none of these women are gay. So there was always a kind of fear in the back of my head, but as I’ve grown up, I’ve become way more comfortable and now realise the importance of portraying and showing my sexuality through my music and how much that means to other people as well.
As you said, like you at the age of 14 probably could have done artists like yourself being around. I think this new wave of young artists are representing something that makes it easier for someone to be a bit more open with themselves. So I think that’s a great way to go. And you’ve done some collaborations with Tinie Tempah?
Yeah, I did. So I jumped on a track with Tiny and a DJ called Torren Foot, and that was cool. It was so fun to do. I’ve never jumped on a track before and been a feature, so it was a great time to do it because I was busy finishing off my project and I hadn’t released music for a while, and yeah, it was just nice to delve into something different. I’m a fan of all music, and I’ve never really shown that I like dance music. And so it was cool. I mean, he’s a legend as well. I grew up with him on the radio.
He’s definitely a legend. I mean, he’s one of those artists that just doesn’t age musically.
Yeah, so sick. Well, it’s funny though, because, on the video that we did together, they had him in prosthetics that made him look really old. So that was probably the oldest we’ll ever see him I don’t think he’ll even look like that when he’s a granddad. When he’s actually old.
So you’ve got this body of work coming out in two parts. I guess there is probably your own reason to split it. When is the plan to release the second part? I’m not rushing you but do you know what’s the plan with it yet?
It’s all ready to go, so the plan is we’ll just keep rolling out the songs and keep putting new music out. I’ve got the tour in September so I definitely want all the music to be out before then so fans can learn the songs and I can perform the old songs too. It’s really exciting as I haven’t released this many songs ever. I think the fans have guessed that there’s an EP coming, but they don’t know there’s a second part. So, I’m really excited for when they finally find out about that.
Are you able to share your experience with Mental Health and your opinions around it?
Where do I even begin? It is hard to talk about because I think it’s hard to talk about things in hindsight when you’re also actively going through them. I haven’t talked that much about mental health on social media ever, and, it’s not because I don’t want to or I don’t care about it. It’s because a lot of the time I feel like a hypocrite, I don’t want to come on my phone and tell people it’s okay not to be okay, when 10 minutes later I may be chucking my phone across the room because I don’t want to go on any of the apps. After all, they are sometimes what make me have poor mental health. Over the past 18 months especially, in lockdown, the amount of time that I think young people have spent on their phones is worrying, these things can become a cesspool of comparing yourself to people which can get dangerous as I think you don’t realise it’s happening. I can only speak from my perspective in the music industry, and so I guess people will go through loads of different troubles depending on where they work, but there’s definitely an element where artists sometimes self-sabotage to get art, which can be really sick and twisted. There is a danger that you will let yourself get to really vulnerable places, just so that you can write about it. And being a young woman in the music industry, particularly being 19 when I signed my record deal and being totally naive to like how things work you can be even more vulnerable to that. In hindsight, I wish that there was more support. I hope there’s more support for girls that age, well, anyone all who’s getting signed to a major record label now and all the trials and tribulations that come with that. There must be some sort of mentorship or therapy or, in a sense, life coaching that’s offered to these people in the music industry. I do worry about girls getting signed at that age and going through some of the things that I went through. There definitely needs to be some sort of support offered if there isn’t already.
It’s funny you say that because it is a really vulnerable age. I know from my own experience, that was kind of where I was heading, I wasn’t in a good place around that age and my dad felt like, this is a disaster waiting to happen, pull back from it, because there wasn’t and, as far as I am aware, still isn’t much support there.
Yeah, I had a conversation with someone I work with at the label about it the other day and he said there is help you can get. So I said, I should have been told about that then because as an artist, I know for a fact, I would never go to the label and say; ‘This is something that should be offered to all artists.’ It shouldn’t have to get to the point where you hold your hands up and say; “I need help”. The help should be there before you even need it.
I’m not surprised, these people are the ones who put these contracts together who can also terminate them at any time. Besides, if you don’t fit that idea of productivity, and making money for them, I am not surprised people don’t want to go up to them and say they aren’t well.
I think there is also a shame and embarrassment that you carry with it, I wouldn’t want the people that I want to champion me and help me with my career ever know that I’m not in a good space and not on the ball and not ready to work. You feel you have so much to prove to these people and you put all this pressure on yourself, so it adds to the pressure where I don’t want anyone to see me slip up or think that I can’t do it anymore. But, if you don’t get the help and reach out, you will likely get to the point where you aren’t able to carry on because you have been suffering in silence.
There’s a big difference between your job and how you’re feeling. You know, just because you’re not feeling well, that does not mean you aren’t good at your job. Over the years I found when I feel I’m unwell or generally just struggling it means that I’m not good at what I do when that is not the case. We briefly went over this earlier, that you’re a big champion when it comes to being truly you, your sexuality and your music. Now, when you talk about it in your personal life, which can’t be easy when it comes to the world we live in, how have you found that fits in with your mental health?
One hundred per cent and it’s weird, because I went to therapy a few years ago, and I really brushed over it. I think I went in and had other things that I wanted to sort out. Coming out was fine but it’s only in the past couple of years that I realized the shame that I carried with my sexuality when I was younger. Even though in some regard I had a pleasant experience coming out, my family were amazing with me, so when you think of really horrible coming out stories, I can’t even compare what I went through to stuff that other people go through. Some people are living in really unsafe homes and have to hide who they are, and I didn’t go through any of that. So in a way, I was kind of like: “Ah, I had it really good”. Now I realise the way I act around people and the way I am in relationships has a lot to do with the shame I carried around my sexuality when I was younger. If I had a crush on my friend, it wouldn’t just be: “I’ve got a crush on my friend”. It’s like: “oh my god, I’ve got a crush on my friend. I’m such a creep. They’ll think I’m so weird. I’m disgusting”. And you think you’ve let that go but deep down inside there is still that part of me in there, in any relationship. There’s a lot of stuff still to unpack. And even if you think something’s hasn’t affected you, I think it almost always probably has, and you should definitely go and just talk through it all with someone. Having perspective and self-awareness has really helped me to take the blame off myself and the pressure off myself regarding how I act in certain situations, not to point fingers at people but I think it does. It gives you a bit of ease when you can say: “oh, this is why I’m like that, you know?”
One hundred per cent I think you’re right when it comes to brushing over things. It’s quite common to just be like: “oh, that was fine. It doesn’t really matter”. In hindsight, you’re like: “oh sh*t”.
That’s what trauma is, though! When trauma happens you don’t notice that it happens. And then it’s 10 years later you only just realise it. I found an email I sent to my school a few years ago, I wrote this song called ‘Daughter’ about a situation I was in with a girlfriend and a mum who didn’t approve of our relationship, and I found an email that I’d written to the school asking them for help. They didn’t reply, I’m glad things like that have really changed now.
Just throwing that in there. But it is ironic, because I’ve done talks on sexuality for the school now, and I didn’t even remember that had happened. And I found that was a bit hypocritical and it is a bit sh*t. But yeah [laughs].
I think that you’re doing the right thing. It’s bittersweet. With my bipolar, I’ve been in so many situations where now I can be like: “well, that’s double standards there”. I guess the only thing you’ve got to do is be pleased that your kids won’t have to go through that. It’s awful people have to go through these things, but if we can prevent this for other people in the future that’s the thing to take solace in.
You’re so right, you’re so right.
Do you want to talk about your podcast before we jump off.
Yeah, I haven’t done it in a while, I wrapped the second series last year but as soon as all this music out I’m going to get it back onto the world. It’s called Growing Pains, all my songs are written about coming of age I’m really fascinated by that period of life. I find other people’s stories of adult transition, and adolescence really interesting as well, so I just grab friends and family and we talk about all their experiences. And then in the next series, I got other musicians and influencers and people that I think are just genuinely cool. It’s surprising how therapeutic it is, it is almost like a therapy session. You go in and you talk about your childhood and all the fucked up shit that happened to you and why it makes you who you all are now and that’s essentially what it is. So, yeah, pretty relevant. I mean, people look at high school and be like: “oh, I remember the carefree days”. And I’m like, I remember it being a living fucking hell.
I absolutely love that. Thank you so much for talking to us.
L - Thank you so much for chatting with me. It’s been lovely.
’Girls Like Sex” is out now
Words: Alice Gee
Write up: Eden Hurley
Photography: Hayley Louisa Brown