Psycho Lilac, originally named Ramona Has A Pulse, is an up-and-coming artist from Northern Ireland. Tiarna Armstrong, aka Psycho Lilac, talks about her new project, her live shows, the Belfast music scene, and being a literal one man band.
Reporting, interview, and transcribing by Managing Editor Katie Carson.
Describe your sound?
“This is a tricky one. I would say it’s quite psychedelic, but, I listen to a lot of punk music, so there’s a little bit of punk in there. But, it’s also quite dream-poppy, sort of… It’s really hard to explain, because I try to incorporate so many different genres that it’s hard to exactly pinpoint what mine is.”
So, who would some of your influences be?
“I would say some of my main influences would be, like: DIIV, Warpaint, The XX. At the moment, I am obsessed with Grimes. I can’t get enough of Grimes; everything she does is immaculate, and I just adore her.”
That’s cool. OK, so. I was listening to your music, and Remnants (Demo 2) really stood out for me. I was wondering what the concept was behind this song and your other demos?
“Well, Remnants was the first song from this new project that I created. It was very simple, it started on that one simple riff; it was quite psychedelic. I didn’t want to do too much to it, I didn’t want to over-embellish it. All I did was put a synth behind it, and then, at the time, I was going to put it under my old project name, Ramona Has A Pulse, but, I wanted to create a new project and that’s what Remnants is about. It’s just sort of a new beginning. Starting from scratch.”
You were originally called Ramona Has A Pulse. Why did you change your name to Psycho Lilac? Is there a reason behind this, or did you just want to completely start over fresh?
“In a way, yeah, I wanted to start over, but, the music that I was creating for Psycho Lilac, I felt it didn’t fit in with Ramona Has A Pulse. So, I just put it under a different name. It started off so small, but, now it’s become this new big project. It’s not just about the music anymore, it’s visual arts, photography, it’s projections and paintings, just all rolled into one. It’s getting a lot bigger than Ramona Has A Pulse ever has been.”
Have you been doing a lot of collaborations with other people, on videos, or projections, or art?
“Well actually, I have this friend Katie [me], and she does these really cool projections for me. In September we filmed this music video, which we are hoping is going to be out in the next few months, so we are really looking forward to that.”
What is the music video like? What have we got to look forward to?
“Well, it’s very psychedelic. It’s mainly just my face and my massive afro in this like urban outfitters shirt, and I’m in a field at one point. It’s filmed on Super 8, which is really awesome, ‘cause it looks really old school, really vintage, but it’s not even mock vintage, it’s real vintage. Yeah, I’m really excited for it.”
In your live shows, will you be playing any Ramona Has A Pulse songs?
“Honestly, I didn’t have that many R.H.A.P songs, but, there was one that I really do love and it’s one of my favourite songs to play and favourite songs to hear. It’s called Love Song (I and Thou). The title is taken from a poem I studied at AS, I think, yeah, and it sort of just stuck with me. I vowed it was going to be the only love song I would ever write, hence the corny title. So yeah, I would really like to play that live as Psycho Lilac.”
Awesome. Have you got any gigs lined up at the minute? I know you were saying that you were hopefully going to try and do one live show, as a trial run at your house? Talk me through how you are going to be doing that?
“It’s taken so long to get to this point. I’ve been in my bedroom just creating the project, and my initial plan was to have a live gig in my house and invite a few people, a few friends and a few local artists as well. Yeah, just to make sure that all the equipment is working ‘cause I have a very complicated set up, and just to make sure that it all sounds OK, and that I can actually get out there and play live. Apart from that, I don’t have any upcoming gigs, but, I will be looking in the near future.”
So you were mentioning that you have quite a complicated set up. How do you plan to do your live shows just by yourself, because, it’s such a big sound. You’ve got a lot of instruments on your recordings.
“Yeah, that’s always been my problem. I have always been a literal one man band and I’ve always really needed a band and any demos would need a band to be played live, but, that’s why I created Psycho Lilac and I’ve been working for years to be able to develop the sound that I have, and it’s evolved so much, to a point were it can actually all work live. I will have my guitar, and then I can create loops, so I will have the loops going. I also have a synthesiser and I do cool things with vocals. But yeah, it’s a lot, and it is very tricky. It’s been a challenge, but I’m really looking forward to it, and hopefully I can pull it off.”
Sounds like it’s going to be fairly hard… For the people in LA, describe what your live show would be like?
“It would be quite chilled out, I think. A lot of the songs are quite psychedelic, but, I have this idea, I have this vision of me being in the crowd. I just, I like to break the barrier between artist and audience, because, there are so many artists who think they are above the audience, when they are not. Like we are all human. This is very deep… But, I would love to be able to just play on their level, and just get off the stage, and interact with the audience. I love audience interaction. I think that’s very important as a live artist, especially now, because we can’t really rely on buying music, because people don’t buy music anymore, so it’s all about the live shows and to be able to converse with these people who are coming to a show.”
What is your opinion of the Northern Ireland or Belfast music scene?
“The Belfast music scene is one of the best. I’m going to be biased, it’s one of the best in the world, because we are such a small tight-knit community. Everyone just works together. I find in the music industry there’s so so much competition between bands, and you’re always trying to be number one, but here in Belfast, it’s the total opposite. Everyone’s friends are in bands, and everyone’s just friends with each other, and if you need a support you can just go to one of your friends’ bands. There’s just so much love and so much… I can’t even put it into words. It’s just… I think unless you live here, you can’t truly see what the music scene is like. We are home to some of the most incredible bands in the world. I know that is biased, but, that is genuinely what I believe.”
What are your favourite places for gigs?
“Well, of course, there’s the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast. I actually come here with a group of young people and we put on our own gigs, so we work as promoters ourselves which is really good fun. Yeah… I think that would be the main one, because, it’s so versatile. The Oh Yeah isn’t just a venue, it’s a studio and a workspace, rehearsal rooms, and everything. You’ve got everything here. But, I would also go to The Queens University Student Union, like Mandela Hall, or The Speakeasy. I would say they are two of the best venues in Belfast.”
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
“In the future, firstly I want to be fluent in French, don’t ask why, but I do. Musically, there’s so much that I would like to have accomplished. I would like to be an established musician, I would like to have travelled the world. I would love to work here in Belfast with bands. I would love to be able to work with musicians, maybe manage them. Maybe even start a record label. There’s a big market for record labels here in Belfast because there is just so much talent everywhere.”