After years spent touring and recording music in alternative bands around the UK, Lucy Sheehan is venturing into fresh sonic territory under their new moniker O Hell. Influenced by a love of eclectic, brooding soundscapes and aspirations for pure self-autonomy, their debut single ‘Down’ is an “exercise in refusing compromise” brimming with Sheehan’s distinctive vocals and jagged electronics.
We caught up with O Hell to talk about what inspired their new sound, the context behind the accompanying video for ‘Down’ and the music that initially inspired the project…
Hello Lucy! We’re big fans of your new single ‘Down’. You said you were inspired by the sounds of early 00s albums by Mark Lanegan, PJ Harvey & Radiohead when you started your new project O Hell. What is it about these artists that helped you to shape your sound?
I’d been thinking of doing an electronic project for a few years, because the idea of stripping writing back to a beat and a melody really appealed – that’s mostly what I care about in a song anyway – but I couldn’t really see my way into it sonically; how to get the things I love about sound, the kind of looseness and grit you get from humans playing and singing together, into it. I couldn’t hear what it would sound like.
I think when I heard ‘Methamphetamine Blues’ by Mark Lanegan and ‘My Beautiful Leah’ by PJ Harvey, where the arrangements are kind of as loose around the drum machines as they would be with a band, it felt like a way in. I also just hadn’t heard voices like PJ and Lanegan’s, two people with the most fucking raw, real voices on the planet, singing in that context before.
At the same time I got really inspired by Christine & the Queens’ recent EP, La Vita Nuova. it’s all bass, pads, doubled vocals and harmonies – no filling, just the strength of the beat and melody. That sound really informed how I wrote for a long time.
Talk to us about your debut single ‘Down’. What inspired the lyrics, how did you put the track together?
I wrote ‘Down’ a couple of years ago, it was the first song I wrote for the project and it came out almost fully formed, start to finish, in one session on my computer. I kind of thought, I’m gonna kick this around the studio ’til it sounds like something I want to release. Which is what I did basically, I kicked it around with a bunch of mates – all brilliant musicians, engineers and producers – until it was everything I wanted.
Lyrically, ‘Down’ is a reminder for me that as bad as things get, I’m still going where I want to, even if it feels like I’m running with a broken leg. In that sense it’s a song for me. That’s something I really care about for this project, that the music is totally for me first. I love collaborating and I love being in a band and moving something forward together in a big evolving mass, where everyone get’s to go “that’s awesome” or “that’s awful kill it,” that’s exciting. But this is about not questioning what comes out and letting the music be what it is, I want to be a bit punk about it and be like “that’s what came up today, take it or leave it.”
That’s a great way to approach things. Talk me through the concept behind the accompanying video for ‘Down’ which were shot by Avacado Baby.
I wanted to veer between bare monochrome and total excess, between that feeling of disengaging, of slipping into yourself and looking less and less at the world and that ecstatic adoration for life and survival. ‘Down’ is about experiencing both and trying to hold on to the latter. The video had to echo that I think.
Are you planning to play any O Hell live shows in the future?
Yes, but I want them to be an experience, sonically and visually. I want the project to inhabit a particular reality for as long as possible – so, don’t expect to see it down the pub basically!
I’ve got an amazing crew of mates – brilliant musicians and artists – who are helping me create the live spectacle. Very lucky to be surrounded by such talented folk.
Finally, are there any bands or artists who you recommend we listen to?
I am one of those terrible people that will get into one album and not surface for two months – I’ve never been one for the New Music Friday thing sadly. I wish I was.
At the moment I’m circling The Breeders album Title TK, PJ Harvey’s Stories from the City, a really cool band called KLAMP, St Vincent, Mark Lanegan (listen to ‘Lexington Slow Down’), Megan Thee Stallion, John Frusciante’s Niandras Lades and this sick band called Demonstrations who are from Brighton. I listen to their song ‘Evening Run’ most days, the bassist has worked absolute magic all over it and I am hoping she’ll join me on stage one day. I also live with Annie from CLT DRP, so I’ve also been privy to their new stuff which is incredible, I can’t describe how exciting it is, there’s nothing else like it.
Thanks to Lucy for answering our questions. Watch the video for ‘Down’ below.