Sophie Nicole Ellison, better known by her moniker HUSSY, is a avant-dream-pop artist based in London. Sophie is also a freelance sound engineer. LOCK spoke to the talented artist about her project HUSSY, the new double A side single Slayer / Playtime, working in the music industry, and finding her sound.
What inspired you to create dream pop project, HUSSY?
I’ve always made music since I’ve been really young and written lyrics but it was always in secret. Then when I was studying, I played as a guitarist in various bands, but it was only since moving to London I started gaining the confidence to do my own music properly outside of my bedroom. I’d never sung in public! I’ve always done it, but its taken a while.
How would best describe HUSSY’s music?
I had someone describe it recently as Avant-garde Dream Pop which i think suits it well at this moment in time. Its not confining to one sound as I listen to so many different things stylistically. I feel like everything I have recorded at the minute has it’s own sound. I love pop music but also love really dissonant and weird stuff. I’m into the concept of merging conflicting sounds, abrasive and dreamy. I listen to a lot of Krautrock and weird Electronic stuff as well. But musically, it’s got lots of layered intertwining jangly guitars with some grungy and shoegazey moments. Abstract but direct, Deep thinking, Dreamy, Dissonant!
Slayer and Playtime conflict in the emotions they stir in the listener. Why did
you decide to release these two tracks alongside one another?
That is exactly the intent, I really want them to convey some weird conflicting headspaces because that’s how I was feeling at the time. I think sonically they fit together and have the same vibe going on production wise as well. The other songs I’ve got coming up feel like like they have their own sound individually, whereas these were done together so have a similar theme and headspace.
You explain how you want to take the listener through a journey when they hear your sound. Which journey in your life has been the most inspirational when it comes to song writing?
This could get deep haha! But music growing up was always a journey into another headspace beyond my surroundings, like as an escapism, so I’d probably say that contributes to it. I think about it alot, having come from a place growing up extremely isolated in the middle of nowhere, having no neighbours or people around. Making it to London for me feels like a journey in itself, then learning how to be social when you’ve grown up a hippie art kid. I think i’d probably say doing any kind of creative pursuit in London has a big effect on you and the pressure of feeling like you have to validate and fulfill your purpose of being in here. Everyday life is inspiring!
You play, record and layer all the band’s sound yourself. How did you get into making music?
I’ve always made music from an early age and would make my own home recorded cassettes. So the concept of layering sounds was apparent early on. Again I think it stems from my background, being isolated and having to create your own world of amusement so music was always the thing I was obsessed with. But also out there was not much around so if you wanted to do something, you did it yourself, made it etc so that definitely applied to making music.
There’s a self sufficiency that I clung onto and carried over to my approach to making music. I taught myself guitar and then bass and had a few drum lessons at school and thats essentially a band when you can record and layer that! I played as a guitarist in bands previous to this, but it was only since moving to London I started gaining the idea and building the confidence I could do my own music. I always wanted and knew I’d do it but its taken
a while to have that confidence.
You studied sound engineering for three years. Do you prefer working on a track
in the studio or performing live?
Yes I did! I studied Sound Technology at LIPA. I think of playing live and recording as completely different things, but both great! My favourite process is writing and recording. Creating the song in that initial stage is so exciting and then finishing it. Delving into sounds to convey an emotion. I have a home studio setup so my favourite thing is to just sit and work on ideas. Performing is super fun but can be hit and miss with sound issues. I find it hard to translate what I’m doing live sometimes.
Which instrument do you most enjoy playing? Which instrument did you learn to play first?
I love them all and again think of them as all having a purpose to fulfil the bigger picture. I learnt guitar first at home after having some keyboard lessons and not really connecting with it. I begged to have a guitar and that’s always been my main songwriting instrument. But if I’m playing drums then in that moment that’ll be my number one. I play as a drummer in a few projects outside of HUSSY as well so that gives me the chance to collaborate. I love them all.
You have started producing for other bands, such as Alpha Maid. Does this experience help when you’re creating sound for HUSSY or is it difficult to put your own stamp on someone else’s sound?
I think I do have my own stamp creatively but my main aim when working for someone else is to achieve what they want out of their song and their vision. I’ve been producing for a little while now but just casually amongst other things so it’s a slow build. I think me having my own project helps me working with other artists as I understand the need to fulfil a vision for yourself.
It’s not my ego trip, I just try and guide as much as I can and help them achieve what they want. I see my own project as a separate thing. Alpha Maid is amazing though and I am working on new stuff with her at the minute so that’s exciting.
Which musicians inspire you the most and why?
I really admire people who have their own thing going on, and have their own identity unique to them. Cate Le Bon really inspires me, she has her own identity completely, and her whole musical and visual approach is totally unique to her.
People like Tim Presley as well who writes as White Fence is also a a visual artist and creates art for his music and makes music all himself. I love that self sufficiency. But how he also collaborates with other artists and tours with friends in other projects – not just being a front person. The ultimate life haha! The same with Andrew Savage from ParquetCourts.
Being a very visual person, identity and visuals are so wrapped up in the whole picture for me and something I want to combine more in the future. Also Sadie Dupuis from Speedy Ortiz and Sad13 is an inspiration, she’s great.
What advice would you give people who are looking into sound engineering and producing
I think it depends what you want out of it. I started out thinking I wanted to work full-time in a commercial studio so went down the route of assisting in places for a while. Which is great but quite tricky to sustain financially for a long period of time and working 14hrs a day is a big time commitment.
I loved it but felt like I needed to pursue doing my own music which I hadn’t done at that point yet, having only played for other people. So now I work with people on a freelance basis with totally suits me and means I can do lots of different things. I’d say personally, do a good course or if not learn as much as possible so you can understand technically what your trying to achieve creatively.
Listen to Slayer/Playtime below.
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Interview by Samantha Humphrey
Featured Images by Chris Pawlusek