WE ARE HEAR
SEPTEMBER 7, 2018
PAM NASHEL LETO // Publicist
TAYLOR HAUGHTON // Publicist
The first time Beth Lowen sang in public, a woman she didn’t know approached her. “You sound like you’ve smoked 20 cigarettes,” she told her, “and drunk a bottle of whisky.” Given that Beth was 10-years-old and thus, unsurprisingly, had done nothing of the sort, she started to cry. “I thought that was a bad thing,” she recalls, laughing. “And my parents were like, ‘No, no! That’s good!”
Nowadays, Lowen embraces the ferocious, Janis Joplin-esque rasp of her voice. In fact, it’s one of the reasons she chose to adopt the name Lion. “Someone said I sound like a lion,” she explains, “Also, everyone says I have lion hair, and ‘Löwen’ means lions in German.” Still, declaring herself deserving of such a fierce moniker wasn’t something that came easily. “I didn’t mention it to anybody for months,” she admits. “It’s a big statement, it’s pretty extreme. But I was looking at people like Lorde, and I was like, that’s fucking cool. And then I was like, fuck it. So now it’s Lion.” The stage name never feels more apt than it does when Lion performs live. Her husky but powerful voice, already so potent on record, is unleashed to its full, roaring potential, as she jitters a little behind the mic, bathed in red light.
Before Lowen became Lion though, she grew up in a small New Forest town called Ringwood. “It was a small town where everybody knew everybody,” she says fondly. “But that gets quite sickening after a while. So many of my friends from Ringwood are artists, and we’ve all come to the conclusion that we had nothing else to do.” Being naturally creative helped too. “I guess it was just in the blood and in the boredom,” she says. Creativity certainly runs in the family - she would go to gigs with her comedian father as a young teen, and her brother Sam is a multi-instrumentalist who now tours with her. ‘Home’, one of a handful of forthcoming singles, is a tribute of sorts to the town she loved and left – to the comforting, cloying familiarity of it all. She sings of faces she grew up with, teenage windows she looked out of onto the tiny world that was all she knew. “My home is always in my body,” she sings, “My home is always in my pride.” But still, she had to get out of there. A few days after she’d finished her A Levels, she left for Europe.
Lowen had planned to go to music college when she came back to England, but while working in France for a ski season, she fell in love and her plans were derailed. She followed her heart to Australia, where she stayed for two years. While there, she played gigs most night, playing up to three-hour-long sets on the gold coast. But Lowen, by now, was certain she needed to live in London to pursue a music career. When she left Australia with her boyfriend and returned to England, it became apparent that this wasn’t where he wanted to be. ‘Stay’ chronicles the incompatibility of their desires. “Stay if you want my love,” she implores over percussive claps, her voice dusky and cracking with defiant hurt, “Not because I need you.” But when his visa ran out, “there was nothing he wanted to do about it. So he left.”
She wrote the song with Linda Perry, who’s worked with the likes of Adele, Courtney Love and P!nk. “She’s a total force of nature,” says Lowen. “I don’t know how she does it, but somehow she just rips you in half and takes out everything that you have, and makes you put it in a song.” Perry was impressed by Lowen, and ended up using her song ‘Joyride’ on a soundtrack she curated for documentary Served Like A Girl.
‘Self Control’, which channels White Stripes and AM-era Arctic Monkeys via the ‘70s-inflected rock of Jefferson Airplane, is a little more playful and light-hearted than Lowen’s other offerings, acknowledging her own inability to deal with confrontation and offering a ‘sorry not sorry’ apology. ‘Wolf’, meanwhile, channels The xx at first, with its minimalist taps and spacey guitar riff – before its rebellious snarl of a chorus kicks in and blows that comparison out of the water.
Lowen doesn’t make music than can be easily compared or categorised. Each song differs from the next – though there’s one thing she hopes they all manage to achieve. “I hope people feel something,” she says, “like I do when I’m playing it. Take what you want from it, but feel. I want to make boys cry.”