South-London-based duo, PELA, craft unique alt-pop tunes. We spoke to Hannah from PELA about their new single ‘South Of’, PELA’s origin story and more.
How have you found lockdown? Has it spurred your creativity at all?
Overall, this time has been valuable for me creatively but has definitely been up and down, which I think is pretty inevitable in the context of a global pandemic. Olly (the other half of PELA) and I have been in lockdown together so we have had the space to write, focus on our releases and plans for PELA. We released our first single ‘You Got Me’ in lockdown at the beginning of May and we’re so happy with the response to it. It felt weirdly special to release our debut single in such a bizarre situation.
I would say that the past few months have afforded the opportunity for a different kind of headspace and reflection on pretty much everything which has meant I’ve been writing more poetry and lyrics.
Your new single ‘South Of’ is out now. It’s a shimmery summer electronic tune that I can’t get enough of since I first listened. It’s what I’d want to listen to if I was able to have a summer evening bbq on the beach. How did the song come about?
The production and songwriting process work in tandem for us, so it all happened in the studio. We wrote it toward the end of Spring last year, so certainly in anticipation of Summer. It was the first song we fully wrote together so it set us up for everything we’ve written since. Olly came up with the chord sequence on piano and then after experimenting with reverses and tremolo it got to the sound patterns you hear now. I instantly connected with it and the melody came pretty instantly.
I really experimented with different parts of my voice on this one and the recording process for South Of definitely helped me develop as a vocalist. We also realised that we could look at songwriting / production in a new and less linear way (than what we were doing individually) and this shaped our identity and sound.
How long have you and your band mate Olly been working together as PELA and what made you want to start a band together?
Just over a year now! We met through the London Contemporary Voices community and our work together began as artist and producer. It was actually ‘South Of’ that made us decide to move forward as a duo as our songwriting process was so collaborative and we realised that there was an artistic fit and that really flowed. We listen to and love a lot of the same music and this is fundamental to the sort of shared sonic language we have.
All revenue from Bandcamp sales of ‘South Of’ will go towards Black Lives Matter UK and the Justice for Breonna Taylor fund. Two fantastic causes. What made you want to do this?
It is impossible to ignore the global uprising against racism and police murders that is happening right now. But the truth is White people have been ignoring it, for hundreds of years. White people are beginning to wake up to what Black people have known their whole lives. That White people benefit from a system that actively harms Black lives and positions White lives as more important. It is systemic, it is created, it is reproduced in our institutions and in every corner of society.
People that saw themselves as anti-racist and standing up for social justice have realised that their actions to date haven’t been enough. Social media has been a realtime illustration of this realisation and whilst it is encouraging to see this collective acknowledgment, this needs to turn into real, substantive action.
I am not claiming that us donating our Bandcamp revenue to anti-racism organisations even scratches the surface of the action we need to take, but a commitment to being actively anti-racist must permeate all parts of our lives – our careers, our homes, our institutions, our conversations. This work is long and I am committed to it. Let us be the generation that ends this heteronormative White supremacist patriarchy.
What plans have you got for PELA in the future?
We have a series of releases lined up that we’re excited about, spaced a month apart. It feels amazing to be getting our music out in the world.
Alongside music, I work for a women’s human rights charity and I feel so lucky to be working on two things that give me life – music and feminsim.
How would you describe PELA and your sound to someone who had never heard your music before?
Positive is a word I would use. We love textured beats and our sound is vocally driven, lyrically very reflective. Influenced by the sounds of the Cocteau Twins, KAYTRANADA, Bon Iver.
And lastly, a tough one, if you were going to be quarantined in a house with any musician, who would you pick and why?
I think it would have to be H.E.R. She is one of the most exciting artists right now and her voice and songwriting just floor me. She is powerful.
If you would like to purchase music from PELA’s Bandcamp account, you can do so by clicking here. All revenue the band makes will be donated to Black Lives Matter and The Justice For Breonna Taylor Fund.
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