‘I wanna be able to do something political just by the way I act. I don’t want anyone’s advice because that’s their advice and I’m not them. I don’t mind some chaos. I don’t always want the safe path. People try and tell me a lot how I should perform, and even with my album they told me not to talk about what happened. Now look at where I am. I’m in London, I got out of Olympia.’
It’s early evening after a rare sunny day in June and Californian singer-songwriter Elizabeth le Fey – aka Globelamp – has just played an acoustic show at Rough Trade West in Notting Hill. Elizabeth’s tour manager does her best to avoid road rage as we traverse London’s traffic from West to East where their hotel is. Elizabeth does her best to poke fun at her tour manager by parroting her English accent at various intervals during the drive ‘I’ve been practicing my accent, people say I sound English when I sing sometimes’.
Globelamp’s vocal delivery is a special thing to hear live. Accent, tone and tempo are all toyed with giving the impression at times that one is hearing more than one person singing ‘if I just sang in the same way the whole time, I wouldn’t get the message across’ she explains. For le Fey, vocals should be wielded in the same way as any other instrument ‘I have ADD, so maybe that’s why, but I need some kind of change or theatrics’. She demonstrates the difference by singing a lyric with and without emphasis. Her tour manager sees an opportunity for revenge and joins in.
Though on record Globelamp employs a full range of instruments, le Fey mostly plays live solo ‘I do want to get a live band together eventually but it’s difficult finding musicians who can play along to my style of song writing as there are a lot of changes in tempo’ she explains. ‘A lot of people tell me I should get a full band but playing solo has allowed me to travel in a way I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise’. Playing solo also allows le Fey to change things up spontaneously. Yesterday she headlined at Dalston’s Servant Jazz Quarters where she decided to ditch her guitar and use the on-stage piano for the opening of her set, treating the audience to a unique rendition of some of her songs.
Le Fey remains defiant in her look as well as her approach to music. Her striking fashion sense draws on a mixture of mysticism, glam rock and her favourite childhood cartoons such as Rainbow Brite; ‘I think a good performer is able to have an image as well as a sound. I’m really influenced by Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust period. Even if you don’t like his music, you don’t forget the look.’
Le Fey’s stage moniker, Globelamp, in fact derives from the magical-realist series Dangerous Angels by author Francesca Lia Block. Le Fey and Lia Block are fans of each other’s work and have even collaborated. ‘She put out a tweet asking for models for T-shirts based on her books. I went and met her and we’ve been friends since’.
The magical-realist influences are certainly present on Globelamp’s debut album on Wichita, ‘The Orange Glow’. The production is haunting and the arrangements often take unexpected turns, seemingly guided by intuition rather than rigid structural constraints. The result is a ghostly record that treads softly and marches forward in equal measure, giving the sense of a person who has lost their way on a walk but is still determined to reach their destination.
Underpinning the album are two very personal events: the sudden death of one of her closest friends, Maia Hisomoto, and the turbulent and somewhat public break-up with Foxygen lead singer, Sam France. ‘People told me not to talk about what happened but I felt like I had to. I wasn’t going to pretend that I didn’t feel anything’. Much of the details of the breakup have already been addressed online but Globelamp is quick to stress that this is not all the album is about ‘’The Orange Glow’ really refers to a mirage, any situation that turns out not to be what you wanted it to be’ she explains.
Le Fey places a strong emphasis on the lyrics she writes and ‘The Orange Glow’ draws on a mixture of fairytales and personal experiences. More particularly, a big influence on Le Fey’s writing is the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche whose misanthropic outlook le Fey often shares ‘I have a bit more faith in human beings than he did, but some of the lyrics I’ve written document a feeling of mistrust that I think a lot of people go through after they feel fucked over’. She stops short of labeling herself a pessimist however ’I definitely wouldn’t want to put myself through those things again, for sure, but I think there is a sense of empowerment to having gone through it and written about it’.
It makes sense then that Le Fey counts Nietzsche as someone that has influenced her outlooks. One of the central themes in his writing is the importance in choosing for oneself rather than relying on received prescriptions. Le Fey’s approach to both her music and her life in general seems to embody this idea and it is perhaps the kind of thing Nietzsche had in mind when he asked his readers: “This is my way; where is yours?”