INTERVIEW: Sera & Frankie Golding-Young of Unsung Lilly
Unsung Lilly takes its musical cues from Florence and The Machine and Birdy. The duo features partners Sera and Frankie Golding-Young. Originally, Unsung Lilly was part of a larger unit five-member band and now streamlining into a two-piece ensemble with a “new epic pop sound.” In 2016, Unsung Lilly released their first EP, “Walls” on their Bandcamp page and working away in the Southern California desert creating new materials, with a single due for release in September 2017. Sera and Frankie wrote all the new songs and self-produced all their latest tracks. Frankie, who is a multi-instrumentalist is responsible for playing on 90 percent of the instrumentation. Excited about their upcoming show at The Mint on September 9th, they spoke to SoCalMusicToday.com about how they came to be a two-piece unit and working on this new project, creating and crafting the materials on “Walls,” their musical inspirations and influences, working with mixer Chris Ballard in the studio, composing in L.A. and more.
Tell me how you went from a five-piece band to a two-piece unit? What brought that change and how did you come to that decision?
Sera: We were originally a five piece band for the first couple of years of Unsung Lilly coming together. We loved working with the boys, however being in a band started to be more and more time demanding and it got to a point where they had to make a big decision whether to carry on and commit more time and energy. Some of them had young families, and other projects that they were juggling, so they decided to call it a day. We were devastated at first, and it took a long time to figure out ‘who we were’ musically as a duo…. but it also felt strangely meant to be, as it coincided with only a month or so later the opportunity to come out to California and develop our music further out here (which we wouldn’t have been able to do, had we still been a five piece), and we know the boys are now up to all sorts of exciting things too and working with some great artistes. Its been interesting working as just the two of us together – our writing style has definitely evolved and its given us the chance to try all sorts of new things – like Frankie now playing drums in our live show, for example, and us self-producing the music.
So you both had a following already being another band? What has the response been from your fans to this new project?
Frankie: We had been afraid that we might have to start again building up new fans, because it’s taken us a while to develop this new sound, and also its very different to our old style, however we are seeing people get in touch who’ve been following us for five years or so, who are loving the new music, which is so great to hear! The response has been wonderful!
What was it like working on Walls and what did it represent for the both of you as a new duo? Would you say there was a central theme to Walls?
Frankie: There was a sense of urgency to ‘figure out’ what our new sound would be when we came to LA as a duo. However it took us a year of experimenting & being rather frustrated at not figuring it out, before we found the sound for ‘Walls’. It’s definitely a more mature vibe. We both settled into roles where Sera writes the lyrics and I write the music, which seemed to open up a much deeper level of expression and creativity.
Sera: We were excited about it because the minute we started creating these songs we just felt a big ‘YES’ within ourselves – this is what we are meant to sound like! Musically, there’s all sorts of layers, and delays, which creates a very epic energy, and lyrically we are exploring some expansive themes like the rising power of women, and LGBTQ+ issues. This EP felt like the beginning of something…and now that we are developing the album, it definitely was! It’s like we’re taking the energy from ‘Walls’ and stepping up a notch (or ten).
The upcoming album is going to be self-produced and you have Chris Ballard mixing it? How did that come about? What kind of input has he offered to you both creatively and arrangements wise?
Sera: Yes! Chris Ballard is such a great person to work with! We met him through a mutual friend. We’d been looking for the right person to mix our tracks, and were a little nervous about sending the songs off to anyone, as we’d been head-down inside a studio for months creating them and nobody had heard them yet. We have this tendency to hide away and become hermits when we are writing – sometimes we don’t speak to or see anyone for months, and then sharing our work is kinda nerve-wracking. However, there was nothing to be scared about because Chris is such a beautiful and encouraging person, and always gives us great feedback. The minute we heard the first mix he did for us, we knew this was going to be a long lasting relationship – he just totally ‘gets’ what we are trying to do with our sound, and amplifies it and polishes it and sends it back sounding exactly how we heard it in our heads.
Are Florence and The Machine and Birdy big influences on your songwriting and music?
Sera: Definitely. Florence’s last album definitely was an influence on us. It was a strange thing actually… we’d never really listened properly to her albums before, but for a while we were back in the UK and driving an old car with no mp3 connection…so we had to go ‘oldskool’ (haha) and buy a CD. We just saw the ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’ album on the shelf and decided to pick it up – and it was our only CD for a while, because we couldn’t get enough of it. Her production style and lyrics had a real effect on what we were writing. The Birdy album also is just so beautiful and we were really inspired by that too – such great songs!!
Who else inspires you and why?
Frankie: We are inspired by all sorts of things…. We have a real passion for vinyl and whenever we get a sec we love to have a good ‘winyl’ night (wine + vinyl) and get on the Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Dire Straits, Van Morrison, Carole King, Billy Joel…. And we’ve also recently been getting into Coldplay (I know, we’re a bit late!!
You both are from the U.K. but you’re writing the new album in L.A.? Is there any particular reason why?
Sera: We’ve actually been writing it and recording it out in the desert! The reason why has no logical answer other than I had a strange deep knowing feeling like we needed to be here, and my wife is amazing because she was happy to trust in that – so we followed the feeling and moved out to the desert for the past 6 months or so. We love being close to L.A., and feel really inspired by the space and energy in the desert… the light is incredible. We’ve set up a home studio which looks out upon a beautiful mountain which changes color every time you look at it… its very picturesque. It probably goes along with our tendency to hide away while we get creative – we tend to spend months on end in various sets of pajamas, forgetting what real life is like, so being out in the middle of nowhere seems fitting.
What can fans of your music expect at your upcoming performance at the Mint?
Sera: We are so excited about this show! This will be our first performance as our new and improved line-up – with Frankie playing drums! She’s always felt deep down that she’s a drummer at heart…so she’s going to be playing drums, singing and firing off samples, and I will be up front singing. We are going to be performing a lot of new material and a few older tracks of course that our fans will have heard before!
Have you both played live shows alot?
Frankie: We have played a lot of live shows – but we’ve actually taken a break for the past year or so, since we’ve been writing and recording, so it’s going to be great to get back to it!
Do you prefer working in the studio versus performing live and why?
Sera: It’s a very different experience. We love both. Recording and writing is such a transformational experience…going inward, getting creative…it can be frustrating if you’re not in the right head space, but then when the right mindset comes, it’s the best experience ever to create something and hear it back once it’s all mixed and mastered. Live playing we have always loved – and we are so excited to get back out and play again. Having a year off has been painful at times because there’s something very deeply innate about performing live… I remember once watching Adele perform live at Glastonbury last year (which was such an awesome performance), with some friends, and they kept questioning the pained look on my face…it was hard to explain why watching other people perform both inspires me and also creates this deep longing to get out there and do it too! I can’t wait to perform again!
What is next for Unsung Lilly?
Frankie: Our single ‘Hear Us Roar’ is due to be released early September. We’re just finishing off the album, and we’re hoping to tour towards the end of this year.
Sera: There’s lots to come, we can’t wait!
Get to know Unsung Lilly: