First Look: Lilith Ai Serves Up The Ruckus With "Yeah Yeah" [Video Premiere + Exclusive Interview]
Lilith Ai is at the apex of London’s feminist underground. Or rather, a rising culture of young and mostly women musicians and artists who are bringing their brash style of feminism to London’s DIY scene. The Northeast London-born musician and illustrator is inciting riots with a guitar and a pen. Inspired by the ’90s Riot Grrrl movement, Ai and a group of friends founded Fight Like A Girl, a collective of female artists sparking revolution in London’s basements one Feminist Club Night at a time. She’s joined by fellow badass Londoners like Skinny Girl Diet.
A feminist illustrator, Ai’s drawings are inherently punk. They often come with bold statements about girl power, female solidarity and just generally not giving a fuck. One drawing perfectly sums it up: “We don’t care if we fit in your box.”
That same emboldened messaging carries over to Ai’s music. Lyrically, the singer-songwriter continues in the tradition of riot grrrls like Sleater Kinney and Kathleen Hanna. “I am your wayward daughter, your black-eyed son, I don’t know where I’m headed, but I know how to run. And my heart says riot, riot, revolution” she declares on her free-spirited anthem, “Riot.”
Sonically, Ai’s music has more in common with London’s alternative soul movement than 1994 Seattle. “Hang Tough,” Ai’s debut single, is a heartfelt reminder to keep your head up. “Yeah Yeah” is multi-layered in its feel-good call for self-assurance.
Ai’s music and art converge on her recent collection of songs, the Riot EP. Released in November on Lo Recordings, the four-track project was accompanied by a book Ai created with photographer and fashion model Georgia May Jagger. What was originally intended to be an eight-page ‘zine grew into nearly 150 pages of illustrations, song lyrics, poetry and photography known collectively as The Riot Notebook.
Today, Ai debuts a follow-up to the project in the form of the deluxe Riot EP. The new release includes an acoustic version of “Riot” as well as Ai’s own guitar-laden rendition of “U.N.I.T.Y.” by one of her heroes, Queen Latifah.
We caught up with Ai over Skype for this week’s installment of First Look Friday. Read on for our full conversation as well as OKP’s exclusive premiere of the animated “Yeah Yeah” music video. The Riot EP (Deluxe) is out today on Lo Recordings.
Okayplayer: For those who are unfamiliar, can you let them know just who is Lilith Ai?
Lilith Ai: I am a woman from London and I make music and art. I try and get by in my life, y’know, try and get through the day. I try to enjoy things as much as possible. I have a theory about life: You can aim to where you’re headed but you can’t guarantee exactly where you’re going to go. You can manifest things by really wanting them and really working towards them, but I still believe that you’re not the only thing in the universe. It [the universe] still has its own ways of doing stuff, so I believe that you should just live every day where you want to enjoy yourself as much as possible. By doing this, your journey through life is as happy and fun as possible. Also, try to make other people (and yourself) as much as you can, and you’ll have a really good journey in life. All in all, it doesn’t matter so much where you end up, as it does how you got there.
OKP: That philosophy is very interesting and I like that a lot, but how has it influenced your music and your art?
LA: No, I do not really worry about how other people are going to feel about it because I’m trying to enjoy it all as much as possible. When I do shows now, I make them as enjoyable for myself and hopefully that will encourage other people to love the feeling as well. When I write things or draw things I really want to connect with the people. In life, I feel lonely at times and I want my own music to hitch itself to those who love music. Once that happens, you feel connected in some really weird spiritual way [to music].
OKP: Growing up into yourself as an artist — what were you like in high school?
LA: I was very isolated and very insular. I spent most of my time in art class, block drawing ideas in my mind. I was one of those weird kids who owned a lot of comic books, so I would just draw things that I would see in them. In high school, I also wore a hood all the time and was just really to myself. Really, that was what I was like, weird, and people considered me really weird [laughs]. I did not enjoy high school, to be honest, as it was not a fun time. But by my late teens, I was really heavily into music and attempted to make music a full-time thing.
I got over the weird and socially awkward thing like a year or two-years-ago. I didn’t know what was going to happen with my life, but something clicked where I thought to myself, “Fuck it, I’ve got nothing to lose.” Why would I be worried at all about what other people think? After that there was this breakthrough with my music, which happened once I didn’t give a fuck anymore and I did whatever I wanted to do.
OKP: Did not giving a fuck inspire you to begin cultivating your latest EP? When did you start creating the music for The Riot EP?