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Thursday 12 March 2020

Interview: Brighton-Bound Lilla Vargen Talks Songwriting With A Social Conscience & Initial Scepticism & Confusion @ Chosen Career Path

In the current climate empathy for others feels like a sadly rare characteristic. For Northern Irish singer-songwriter Lilla Vargen, it shines through in her music and highlights the importance of human connection.

Although her music is deeply personal, Lilla has a desire to highlight the universal issues that she cares most about. 

In her video for Why Wait, a tender, gossamer-like song about leaving a toxic relationship, she portrays the ongoing housing crisis in Ireland – a subject close to her heart. 

"My family worked with the council helping put together packs for people who were sleeping rough," she recalls. 

"You see things that are quite hard, but you also learn the most amazing things just from talking to people, and they're so glad to have these conversations. 

"It's difficult to imagine how hard it must be sitting there on the streets day by day, with everyone avoiding you." 

Lilla grew up just outside of Ballymena, County Antrim – where her school friends were a bike ride away and her dreams of pursuing a career in music were met with scepticism and confusion. 

While her memories of home – a house in the middle of country fields and a community where "everybody knows everybody" – are fond ones, she's glad she took the plunge and left for London. 

"People think you're crazy for pursuing something like music," she explains. 

"It's the fear of the unknown. And if you are passionate about something that isn't getting a job and having a family, it's hard to understand. 

"My family thinks I'm insane," she adds with a laugh. "But really I'm just focused."
Despite this, Lilla – the youngest of four children – has plenty of childhood memories involving music. 

Her parents sent her to piano lessons when she was three years old, although they didn"t last very long. 

"I was a strange child and one day I just announced I wasn't doing it anymore," she admits. 

With three older siblings, she grew up listening to everything from Mariah Carey to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, while her parents were massive fans of Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys. 

"My dad's a good singer," she says, "he'd always sing Elvis Presley songs around the house." 

One day, a family friend left an old guitar at their house. Lilla picked it up, and began to teach herself how to play. 

While she clearly has a natural gift for both piano and the guitar, Lilla's real quality is her songwriting – she pens stark and raw, emotive songs that have attracted millions of streams online, even before the release of her new EP, We Were Thunder. 

Songs from this project were influenced by a past relationship that Lilla realised "wasn't healthy", even though it was difficult to acknowledge at the time. 

"I put up with a lot because when you care about somebody you can become completely oblivious," she says. 

"I think that's one of my biggest flaws but it"s also a strength, because I care so deeply for my friends and for my family. 

"That's why the EP is called 'We Were Thunder'... you can get completely lost in it and it feels magic, but that can go away very quickly." 

Now she's just trying to "be conscious and not take anything for granted". 

"At one point in everyone's life, they want to be in a certain place," Lilla says. 

"If I'd known a couple of years ago that this is where I'd be... it's amazing, because this is all I've ever wanted, and now I'm working hard to make sure I get to the next step. 

"Because what are you going to regret more, at the end of the day? Probably the things you didn't do." 

Lilla, has recently released a hard-hitting video for her current release, Cold, which depicts a young woman trapped in a controlling and abusive relationship, struggling with the conflicting emotions that come with this situation .. Read more about the song and accompanying video HERE.

Lilla Vargen plays Komedia Brighton on Tuesday 14th April 2020. CLICK HERE for tickets. For anyone who needs more information about domestic abuse please visit

by: Mike Cobley


Whats on in Brighton today

Whilst under lockdown two Brighton-based footballers have used their permitted daily exercise allowance to raise over seven thousand pounds for Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS charitable funds because they want to show gratitude for the NHS workers.

At nineteen years old, Icelandic singer-songwriter Axel Flóvent moved into his first apartment in Amsterdam and “felt so isolated. I was supposed to be in a music mecca, but I never left the apartment.” 

With the world now in isolation, we need to ensure those who are already isolated, lonely, and vulnerable are not forgotten, nor are they allowed to languish in the difficult weeks ahead.  
Credit Laura Meek

After the darkened soul surrealism of their debut single Dripn Angel, Scottish trio Check Masses explore the duality of the protest song and the love ballad on their follow-up Lonesome Little Paradise, a left-field 'roots and culture' freedom chant.

Later this year in Brighton, renowned artist Gary Hodges will host an exclusive exhibition and auction of his embellished wildlife prints to raise vital funds for international wildlife charity Born Free.

One of Wales's biggest trad-folk bands will, ahead of a rearranged date in Sussex, premier their new album from one of the world's smallest stages... the front room of a semi in Cwmbran.
Credit Phoebe Fox

We increasingly hear from musicians that music should be an escape these days - that there's enough suffering in the world, enough misery on the news, without writings songs about it too. New album A Billion Heartbeats by Mystery Jets makes all that sound like a bit of a cop-out. 

"We're from the days when a number 14 bus and a supermarket trolley got us around." Soul II Soul mainman Jazzie B remembers the lengths he and a school friend used to go to play dances with their first sound system when they were just thirteen years old.

Fast becoming a master of the avant-garde, dark-pop sound she's become synonymous with, Belgian songwriter Blanche returns next month with her new album Empire.

“This is, in a lot of ways, is the first lyrically uplifting record we've made,” Larkin Poe's Megan Lovell says. “People can go through terrible things. People can weather immeasurable sorrow and hard times, and yet we can still come out on the other side, pull ourselves together, and thrive. This record reflects some of the joy and positivity that we ourselves feel and appreciate.”
Credit Steve Gullick

Best known as the lead singer and co-writer of UK band Savages (whose first gig was as support to British Sea Power in Brighton), Jehnny Beth has spent the band's down time recording her solo album, To Love Is To Live.

Wendy James, one-time fearless front woman of chart-topping alt-rockers Transvision Vamp,  returns with her new album Queen High Straight, and a show at Concorde 2, Brighton, in September. 
Credit Daniel Brereton

For the last two years The Lovely Eggs have sat back and watched England and the rest of the planet slowly eat itself.

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