A Lisbon native now living in London, the electronic-pop artist Ana De Llor fuses her dark and brooding melodies with tantalising lyrics. We had a chance to speak with this fascinating female about her new single ‘Penelope’, staying motivated and much more!
Why did you decide to enter the music industry?
That can be very hard to explain because at this moment in life I cannot really see myself doing anything else. Maybe by trying to summarise my path up to today it will make it easier?
I ave always been the “artistic” kid while growing up and music was always present around me. I would spend my life creating and I absolutely loved being on stage as a child. I’ve spent my life studying arts, drawing and painting, and it eventually led to photography. While the passion for music kept growing, I would write songs and sing a lot on my own. At the same time, I started doing photography for musicians.
Nothing else made me feel like music does and nothing had the same level of spotlight on my dreams. I realised I needed to put everything else on standby to focus solely on my music and I’ve been doing it ever since. To be honest, nothing else would make sense.
Can you tell us about your release ‘Penelope’?
I’ve been using and taking a lot of inspiration from my Portuguese roots and putting it into my music. So in this song, the beat that you hear was made by using a traditional Portuguese frame drum called adufe. All my melodies and beats have a reference to my roots – the melody I sing on ‘Penelope’ was inspired by folk melodies I grew up listening to during my summers in the villages where my family is from. It comes naturally to me, and I try to blend them with the kind of modern and dark production I’m using.
Agon Branza, who produced ‘Penelope’ and with whom I co-wrote it, is also
Portuguese. So the process made a lot of sense to both of us and we bounced ideas from each other to make sure it would be as faithful as possible to such a beautiful and meaningful reference.
I’m about to release an extended version of ‘Penelope’ on the 10th July which includes a Portuguese intro. This was actually the bit of the song that came first lyric-wise. You can also listen to it on the music video that was just released.
What was the recording and writing process like?
Funny enough, this song started after a night out. Me and my friend (and producer Agon Branza) decided to make a beat and very quickly a melody line came to my mind – the synth that doubles the voice melody throughout the song.
We’ve been working on it slowly while I finished other songs, and when I was finally available to work on it full-on it was amazing. It’s a great feeling when you are working on your true sound which may sound weird, but it is something that takes time and growth. ‘Penelope’ really reflects the type of sound and influences I want to have on my music.
Me and Agon work very well together and we kind of read each other’s mind when it comes to sounds because we do have very similar tastes. So all the process was just very exciting.
Does the single have any significant meaning for you?
‘Penelope’ is a song about grieving a relationship and about the process of growing through it by self-discovery and sexual liberation. I wrote this song with the intent of talking about it as a metaphor. The idea that a memory of someone can become a stain and you want to have it removed from you and to hit refresh on your life. In ‘Penelope’, I talk about getting rid of that stain by washing it away with other people’s sweat and in the music video I refer to it in the imagery.
Being a sexual person, to feel good about expressing your sexuality, or even to use it as a way to heal yourself, is still many times seen as unbecoming when it comes from a woman. Men are typically encouraged and glorified when they express their own. So this song is both an affirmation and a rebellion against these double standards that are held upon us all our lives.
The name ‘Penelope’ was inspired by the Odyssey where she was expected to turn down any suitors that came onto her while her husband was away on an indefinite journey that amounted to 20 years in the end. On this journey, he was with all sorts of goddesses, nymphs and women. Penelope just waits.
Penelope usually represents patience and fidelity, and I honestly am tired of all these female characters we grew up with being represented as a one-sided person. Always devoting themselves to others and not ever putting themselves first. So I imagined a world where she would do the opposite and prioritise herself.
What do you hope people take from your music?
I hope people take a lot of power from it honestly. Mainly women. I think it has been a few very important years for us and for our position in the world and for equality. Unfortunately, the conversation still needs to keep going, and we are not taking enough space just yet. How many times are we still made to feel smaller just for the fact that we exist and that we are human? I want us to have the strength to take all the space we need.
What is more challenging for you – melody or lyrics?
I think it depends, to be honest, but melodies definitely tend to come to me the easiest. I also have the habit of noting down thoughts, so sometimes I will use that first instead.
For me, lyrics can either be very easy or very challenging. I think it depends on the subject or on how complex or fresh the subject is and how much I want to reveal. Although writing lyrics can also reveal itself to be very therapeutic and they just come to me and end up making lots of sense. Like all these themes I’ve been talking about related to being a woman. At the end of the day, it’s all about trauma and overcoming these normalised ideas of what it is to be one.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
I think I’ve always had a need to create, but sometimes I need time to re-focus and to take care of myself. The creative process can be a kind of love-hate relationship because you might hit so many walls on the way, and sometimes you just need to stop and come back to it the next day.
Conversations keep me motivated. As well as friends, fresh air and seeing other people’s work and journey. Of course, seeing how some of my work is received makes me so happy and it ends up being a total boost of energy.
How would you describe your sound?
Definitely dark. I would be lying if I excluded this. I would say my sound is quite synaesthetic, full of texture with a big avant-pop influence – bassy and melodramatic.
What do you think is the best way to discover new music?
By following and supporting artists on all the major music platforms. Going to gigs where you don’t know all the artists. Research music you heard and liked while watching a show and to actively take time in your life just to listen to music the same way you’d sit to watch a TV show. Also, friends. Someone said that a friend that shows you good music is a good friend and they were right.
What does the future hold for Ana De Llor?
I’m recording my EP working alongside my two producers, Agon Branza and Nathalie Dal Farra.
Do you have a message for our readers?
I would say that if you’re creative use the resources you have. Don’t get stuck to the idea of what others expect you to be and the idea that you need a lot of money to start your journey. As lame as it sounds, be yourself. Don’t chase something you’re not and that’s what will always make you unique.
Also, collaborate! There’s nothing more fruitful and exciting as artists collaborating with each other.