The video for Maya Lavelle’s fascinating new song “HOBO” comes with an eye-catching parenthetical: “picnic with a real bear”. That’s not something you see every day, especially not in an indie pop music video, so I watched and listened to see if it delivered the goods. I’m pleased to report that there is still some truth in advertising: this is not a picnic with a teddy bear, or a picnic with a large hairy man in leather from San Francisco, but a picnic with a real, actual bear. Granted, it’s an exceptionally patient bear with thorough training, but it takes gumption to feed it tea cakes from your mouth in a rococo-inspired music video.
Lavelle clearly has gumption to spare; this is, after all, the sort of artist who invents her own instrument (the Lavellius, which looks something like a percussionist Sputnik). The British singer-songwriter has established herself as a rising star in the indie world thanks to her quirky music videos and her unique, off-kilter take on pop. Her voice is languid, dreamy and decidedly Lana-esque, but she has a particular delivery that sets her apart from other singers. On “HOBO”, Lavelle lets her husky, accented voice linger behind the ethereal beat, gracefully weaving between drum hits without hurrying or worrying.
“HOBO” isn’t completely sui generis; as with a lot of indie pop, the influence of Lana, Lorde and Florence are never far away. But the song’s presentation, as well as the unique, restless mind behind it, are what really make it special. The point is not that the bear dances well, but that it dances at all; luckily, Maya Lavelle’s music dances beautifully.
I asked Maya Lavelle a few questions about the video, her instrument, and the story behind “HOBO”.
So, the question on everyone’s mind: what was it like shooting that video with the bear?
The shoot was extremely exhausting. All at once, having to strike a pose, act and think about how fragile my life was not easy. The bear quickly reassured us that he feels like part of our family (just as we treated him) and it all went according to plan.
Your vocals manage to sound similar to other indie pop artists while still being enticingly different. Who are your main vocal inspirations?
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bryan Ferry, Depeche Mode.
I’m given to understand that you’ve made your own instrument. How do you play it? Does it see much use?
Lavellius is played by pressing the tips, which produce different notes and by movements above the pipes, which can regulate various features of the sound including the expression and dynamics.
You’re poised for a breakout moment, but the current situation with the coronavirus has put a lot of things on hold. How have you been coping through quarantine?
It was a tough time for all of us, but the only reason to look back is to see how far we’ve come. The fact that we all fought together gives me hope and inspiration to create more because music is one powerful cure.
Where did “HOBO” come from?
HOBO is someone who once had everything and lost it all because he fought against the system. Now he lives on the streets. In my album of 11 tracks, HOBO is the only character who can travel through all the dimensions and he changes the light bulbs on the streets of the Universe.
What do you aspire to?
I hope to create ideas with music and my storytelling that can influence people to dream harder.