TĀLĀ’s glorious debut EP, The Duchess, is out today—three strong tracks all rooted in dance music production, but bound together with a bright pop sheen. Influenced by her Iranian father, her “cheesy pop” loving mother, UK underground dance music, and lots more, TĀLĀ has already carved out her own niche in an increasingly busy electronic pop landscape.
The London-based singer, songwriter, and producer is one the most exciting new artists to have emerged this year, combining genuine accessibility with hard-hitting beats and bright melodies into a uniquely modern package. With a bright future ahead of her, we spoke to TĀLĀ about her Iranian background, traveling the world, and escapism through music.
How long have you been working on The Duchess EP?
It kind of started out—initially it wasn’t supposed to be an EP. Initially I was going to make a little beat tape and put it on SoundCloud, not through a label—just put it out there for fun. But then it kind of turned into an EP over the course of… I guess I spent a good couple of months just working on ideas on my own at home. Then it turned into an EP and we’re putting it out through AESOP. But it was a bit of a natural progression. It wasn’t a planned sort of thing.
When did you start producing and making music?
As far as production, it’s weird. I started playing piano when I was seven, so that was my first intro into music. Then, one of my really close friends used to make beats for fun and he gave me a copy of Reason so I was like, “Cool I can do everything on this.”
It was the most amazing thing when I discovered I could put my ideas down. I must’ve been about 13 or something. Then I just played around with that, and obviously I was making really awful beats. Then in the last few years, I guess I tried to find a sound I liked, a sound that fit me. I’ve just been experimenting and improving.
Your first release was as the vocalist on T. Williams’ “On My Own” about 10 months ago, how long have you been focusing on music full-time?
I’ve always known even at a young age that I wanted to do something in music. But I guess I always just thought a career wasn’t possible, I’d just make music for fun and see what happened. But probably in the last two years it’s been more—not even career orientated—I think I just had, not vision, but an idea at least of what I wanted to make. I’ve been focusing more on developing that sound.
I guess it’s been that process in the last year and a half or two years—working on those ideas so it all comes together in a natural way. It’s great that certain opportunities have come about that have made it possible for me to think maybe I can have a career in this. That’s a blessing.
I’m a bit weird. I’ll collect random sounds—things that I’ve found on YouTube, weird animal sounds, or random Iranian tunes that I’ve found.
How would you describe your sound?
I’m really bad at this stuff. I think it’s like—generally when I’m making ideas, there are just too many ideas to all fit. So it’s usually a lot of different influences. It’s obviously in that electronic area but it’s also got elements that have a bit of a live feel as well. I think that probably comes about because I’m playing keys myself. A lot of my ideas I’ll make usually just when I’m jamming and recording it all.
But at the same time, I’m a bit weird. I’ll collect random sounds—things that I’ve found on YouTube, weird animal sounds, or random Iranian tunes that I’ve found. I collect these things and I guess when I’m making a song I usually have a sort of visual for it and I pull in all the things I’ve collected over the past year. It’s usually a combination of all those little sounds and the visuals that actually create the whole song.
What the concept behind the “Serbia” video and what was it like to shoot?
The girl I worked with, Katia Danfield, and I initially spoke about a few ideas and we had a very limited budget. We thought about what we could do with the budget and sort of push the creative boundaries with very limited resources. We just thought let’s just go somewhere and capture our experience in that country, basically just film our adventure. We wanted to simply have an experience and capture it, and we’d both thought about Morocco.
I’d never been before and there was something about the colors of the Moroccan landscape that would work perfectly for what we wanted. We had three days, and to see Morocco, to really capture it, is very difficult to do in three days when you’re travelling around. So we were literally on the tightest budget, staying at three pound a night hostels, getting no sleep, I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got back. We went there basically with a couple of cameras and wanted to capture our whole adventure and the experiences we had.
It was weird, when we were out there it felt like—I had a bit of a mad experience when I was there. The smallest things were so amazing. I remember waking up at 5am, we’d been talking all night on a roof top and the sunset was coming up and it was a really surreal moment. Just sitting there thinking, “we’re on a rooftop in Morocco.” It was like the whole world was at a stand still.
I just felt I wanted to capture the beauty of the culture, both the simple things and the most amazing things, and try to put that in the video.
With the music itself, there’s all these sounds and influences. Are you trying to transport people to another place? Do you have a reason for why you make music, more than just enjoying it?
It’s escapism for the listener, but for me as well. When I’m making a tune, I go into my own little world. It’s just me and this place I created. It’s like what you said, I guess it’s the idea of being able to take someone away for three minutes. To go somewhere else, that’s kind of crazy. You can do so much with three minutes. [laughs]
It’s escapism for the listener, but for me as well. When I’m making a tune, I go into my own little world.
Is travel important to you and how does it influence your music?
I love it! The traveling I’ve done in the last few years has been so inspiring, throwing myself into different cultures. I feel very drawn to the Middle Eastern stuff with my father being Iranian and having family from Qatar and spread out around all over the Middle East. There’s something that draws me to that part of the world, I’m always inspired by the sound, the colors, the people—I like that.
Also my first visit to Asia last year I went to Thailand and Singapore. I’d never been to Asia so I didn’t know what to expect. I was so inspired by the two weeks that I spent there, which wasn’t enough. It was incredible. The sounds you hear at the beginning of “On My Own In Hua Hin” are from that trip. I filmed some really awful footage on my iPhone at this Thai wedding. It was a procession and they had the drummers and stuff, it was all very traditional. They must have thought I was a real weirdo. But when I got back I was like, “I’ve got to make something happen with this”
It was just a proper moment where we were in Hua Hin, right by the sea and it was this amazing Thai band. So I made another version of “On My Own,” chopped up and with these sounds from Thailand
Did you live in Iran or were you born in England?
I was born in England actually. I actually haven’t visited Iran. My dad’s Iranian and my mum is English.
What influence does your Iranian background have on your music?
I think growing up with mixed cultures definitely influenced it. Growing up in that environment, with my mum and dad’s different musical tastes, and having a complete fusion of sounds all the time. You’d be in my house and there’s Arabic music playing in one room and then my mom would have some cheesy pop music playing. Always having the merging of various sounds, it definitely affected me growing up. I think those things have such a massive influence on the sound you make.
You’d be in my house and there’s Arabic music playing in one room and then my mom would have some cheesy pop music playing.
Are you planning to do live shows? What will the setup be like?
Actually I’m working on that at the moment. That’s something I’m really looking forward to, getting out there and doing live stuff. I want the visual experience to really be strongly incorporated with music. Like we said earlier, I want to be able to take people somewhere.
It’ll probably be me and maybe one or two other people. I think I’d want to keep it quite small. I kind of want it to be like—take “The Duchess” for example, I want to just remake that in the live performance. I’d have my keyboards, effects pedals and stuff like that. So I could like make “The Duchess” a little bit from the beginning.
It seems there’s a new wave of electronic music that’s very closely entwined with pop, producers like SOPHIE for example. Do you feel part of any scene or movement?
I don’t think I’ve intentionally set out to do anything like that, but if there’s been comparison that’s fine. It’s just a wave that’s coming through. I just want to make good music! Whatever people want to categorize it, that’s fine, as long as the music is good.
People have wider range of influences now.
Exactly. There are so many more resources now, I know what you’re saying. With me, I’ll go through moments. I’m into a large variety of stuff—old stuff, new stuff. It kind of just depends what I’m into that month, maybe it’ll inspire me to make something. I get obsessed with things for a bit then move on. I might be on blogs for three days procrastinating but then for a month I don’t know what’s going on in the world of music.
Listen to a mix TALA recently curated for Yours Truly which teases two new songs from her.