Say Lou Lou: On ‘Dust,’ Breakups & Swedish Melancholy (Interview)

The Swedish-Aussie twin sister act discuss their dreamy new project.

Say Lou Lou are here to stay…lou lou. (Sorry.)

It’s been over a decade since I first “Introduuced” twins Elektra and Miranda Kilbey, the (drop dead) gorgeous Swedish-Aussie twin sister duo armed with a signature sound hovering somewhere between dreamy and dreary, haunting melodies and a keen sense of style, modeling for campaigns for the likes of Gucci and Calvin Klein.

After their last studio album, 2018’s Immortelle, the two spent the most time they’ve ever spent apart working on creative projects: Elektra appeared as Lisa on Apple TV+’s Shantaram, while Miranda worked on creative directing and TV production.

Eventually, the siblings reunited to ruminate about relationships past, digging through personal poems and diary excerpts for the first time to chronicle the complete cycle of a breakup, Dust, Pt. 1, released on April 12.

Dust is a candid collection of songs that chronicle various steps of a break up; mourning, anger, remorse and forgiveness. Being in it, being out of it, being under someone else, being over it. This record is us going through the motions and realizing that love always looks clearer in the rear view mirror,” they explain of the collection’s mission statement.

I spoke with Say Lou Lou about their new EP, Swedish influences, spending time away from music, and returning to forge ahead as independent creatives.

I was looking back, and the first time I wrote about the two of you was in early 2013, covering your debut “Maybe You” – still so mesmerizing! – and “Julian.” You were touring with Hurts, getting coverage from sites like PopJustice, and long-listed on the BBC Sound of 2014. It was a very different time in music, but those tracks still hold up today – a testament to your music’s timelessness. Knowing what you know now, do you have any advice or insight you’d impart of the younger version of Say Lou Lou then? Did you learn anything in that time that you applied to the rest of your career?

Thank you. It was definitely such a different time in music, in culture in general. We would tell our younger selves not to rush, to stay indie and in control for much longer, keep the ethos and original spark protected from outer forces until we had thicker skin. But being pushed into the deep end has taught us how to find the surface and eventually, learn how to swim. The best lesson through all of it is that everything comes from you – the energy, the songs, the vision. And if you are unsure and unclear, it doesn’t matter who or what or how much is behind you, it’s not going to land.

Your music is defined by a gloomy gorgeousness. What do you attribute to your signature sound, and what visual or sonic influences do you draw from to achieve that aesthetic? Sometimes I feel like I hear certain Swedish influences, like The Cardigans.

Swedish nostalgia and darkness is inevitably a part of our sound. There’s always a melancholic ring to Swedish melodies – the hymns and nursery rhymes we grew up on are beautiful, melodic, but echo with longing and nostalgia. It’s hard to attribute our sound / aesthetic to one thing, rather it is the complete esoteric mishmash of influences and backgrounds that have made us who we are, which is true for most people. No one is original, you’re just an original mash-up of your influences haha :) But we did and do listen a lot to The Cardigans. Nina Persson is the epitome of cool.

It’s been five years since your last release, Immortelle. What’s changed about your approach to the music this time around, and your overall thoughts on the music landscape now?

We had to take a break and long to make music again in order to come back with the initial desire and energy that we lost over years of burnout and stress. So our approach now is to service the flow – finish the ideas while you’re still in the zone, don’t overthink and overcomplicate the production and release the music while you’re still loving it!

The music landscape has changed in the sense that we’re in an instant / more is more era, you have to keep churning out material in order to satisfy the pace at which things are being consumed. There’s just so so much content flooding the ether each day, it’s hard to feel that you can cut through the noise and reach your audience.

“Dust,” as opposed to the dreamy energy of a lot of your music, kicks the EP off some edge. It’s blunt too – “We were fucking in the shower, now we fight in the car.” Can you talk about the making of that song, and why it’s become the title track?

We wanted to practice saying things exactly how they are versus coming up with 100 ways to embellish the truth and disguise it in metaphors. The lyrics are about the tailend of a relationship gone sour, where both parties are too afraid to rip off the Band-Aid but are seething with resentments. The romance is gone, and with it the sex and sweetness. The only thing remaining is who you once were together, and letting go of the idea of what could’ve been feels so impossible.

The word “dust” threads itself through the EP, beyond the title track. What drew you to dust to dominate this release?

We felt like the word dust quite beautifully represents the disintegration of a relationship. It’s the remaining particles of what once was, what you swept under the rug for a long time, the layers of time that collects on top of things…

In the past five years, you two went your separate ways for over a month – more time than you ever have before! Elektra, you starred in 2022’s Apple TV+ series, Shantaram, while Miranda, you worked on creative endeavors like TV production and screenplay writing. How did that distance affect you both, and what did you learn you missed about each other?

The distance was much needed after living and working so closely together for almost a decade at that point, and it gave us a chance to miss each other and Say Lou Lou. We’d been so stressed for so many years and also pretty ungrateful. The space gave us a fresh perspective on what a privilege it is to make music for a living!

You used personal poems and diary excerpts to write the lyrics for this EP for the first time. Tell me about that process, and what you discovered about yourselves in doing so.

In the past we had issues with getting too personal as we wanted the music to represent us both (doesn’t make sense in hindsight, but alas), but this time around we felt more keen on being simple and literal in our lyrics. We wanted to write about our lived heartbreak experience, even if it seemed mundane and in dong that it freed us to flow much more, and there was zero writer’s block as a result of that.

This is an EP chronicling the stages of a break-up. How much time had passed until you decided to draw on such a personal experience to make the music, and what made you decide on that as the core theme of the record?

Neither of us have been heartbroken for three years now, but we weren’t making music then, so it was like we never processed it. Both of us did the classic thing of moving on very fast and kind of pretended it had never happened, so when we decided to start writing again, we decided to open the can of worms and suck every last drop of inspiration out of it!

Given that this is Dust, Pt. 1, can we deduce that there are more parts still on the way? Do you feel like your release strategy has changed with the way people consume music today?

Yes, there is a Dust, Pt. 2 being finished right now! We decided to make this album in two parts because we didn’t want to wait too long to release a consistent flow of singles and lose steam!

You’ve done some dreamy covers in the past. What’s another track you still want to tackle that might surprise us one day?

Shakespears Sister’s “Stay.” Or Liza Minelli’s “New York, New York.” Hehehhehee.

Social media and TikTok are now the way to break into the mainstream’s consciousness. What are your thoughts on approaching all of that? Do you care about “going viral” even?

We don’t know how we feel, honestly. Every day we change our minds about how we want to approach it. Some days, we accept the current state of affairs, and feel open to participating and being “content makers,” and some days we are like obstinate children who think the whole thing is completely ridiculous!

What are the personal goals you’re manifesting individually, and for Say Lou Lou, in 2024 and beyond?

We’re manifesting the ability to keep making music, to make movies, pottery and go for long walks with our dogs on the beach!

Dust, Pt. 1 was released on April 12.

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Photo credit: Angelina Mamoun-Bergenwal

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