London artist Hope Tala has many talents. Turning down the opportunity to study for a Master’s degree in order to pursue music, her love of literature comes through in everything she touches, with songs that weave rich tales of life and love against a backdrop of punchy beats and seductive, cooler-than-you melodies. Her new EP, ‘Girl Eats Sun’ is a proper statement of intent for the coming months.
Hello! How are you doing? What have you been up to today?
What’s up! I’m doing okay, thank you. This morning I went to a cafe to get some work done, write a bit and read some short stories by Emma Cline I’m enjoying; then hung out at my friends’ house; then I saw a Bong Joon-ho movie from the early noughties at the cinema called ‘Memories of Murder’. It was on the dark side for my taste, but like all of Joon-ho’s movies I’ve seen, I really enjoyed it.
When did you first realise you wanted to create music?
I was doing music as an AS-Level at the time, and fell in love with the process of producing a song for the composition element of the grade. It really sparked a fire in me, so I started messing around with Logic at home and uploading demos on SoundCloud.
Have you always been drawn to your current style? At what point did you think, yes this is me?
I’ve always had a very clear sense of what my sound is. Of course, that will evolve and grow over time – it already has – but my sound and style have always been very innate and instinctual for me.
Do songs find you, or do you have to go searching for them?
I search for them in that I’ll go through the notes on my phone and scan any little poems or phrases I’ve written for lyrical fodder. But I think there has to be a sort of equilibrium of energy where the song is out in the universe for me to catch on that particular day, and I’m in the right frame of mind to take hold of it.
Does your love of literature inform your music at all?
The more I read, the better I write. I would never be writing music if I wasn’t a big reader. It’s rare that I consciously start writing a song based on a storyline I’ve read or tried to emulate a particular author or anything like that, but I think subconsciously, and indirectly, my lyrical style has been cultivated almost completely by what I’ve read.
Tell us about the creation of your new EP, was it put together during lockdown?
I wrote ‘Drugstore’ in lockdown, but I’d made the other songs previously in the second half of 2019. All of those songs I wrote from scratch in the studio, which marked a big change for my writing process – every song on my first two EPs (other than ‘Valentine’ from ‘Starry Ache’) I had written outside of the studio, then taken to a producer. I wrote ‘Anywhere’ from ‘Sensitive Soul’ in the library at uni.
It feels really assertive. Are you generally a bold person, or is that something music pulls out of you?
I’d say I’m a bold person. Definitely a very assertive person – I’ve always been that way. I don’t see any way of surviving and succeeding as a woman of colour that doesn’t involve being assertive – of course, assertion is often misunderstood as either bossiness or aggression, which has caused very harmful stereotypes for women – Black women in particular. You can’t really win in that respect. But assertion is a particularly useful trait to have in a studio environment, in terms of protecting my sound.
Are you creative in non-musical ways too?
I write a lot of poetry that I use for lyrics. I find a lot of pleasure in taking film photos of my friends with disposable cameras, but I have absolutely no talent at photography. I really wish I could draw, but I have always been pretty terrible at most things to do with visual arts. Does knitting count? I love knitting. Again I have no real talent at it, but I suppose that’s not the question.
You’re still based in London, right? Do you have any favourite places to hang out, or find inspiration?
I never go looking for inspiration – that for me would be a sure-fire way to get writer’s block. I have lots of favourite hang out spots though, such as the Southbank and anywhere there are bookshops. I’m quite extroverted, and bookshops are the only places I can think of off the top of my head where I can be alone for hours on end and not want company.
What’s next for you?
An album hopefully! And lots of live shows once they’re allowed again. Who knows when that’ll be.
Taken from the November issue of Dork. Hope Tala’s ‘Girl Eats Sun’ EP is out now.