Mr. Silla’s new single is an unexpected pop banger. A far cry from the largely downtempo and emotional sound of her eponymous 2015 debut, “Naruto (say you wanna run away)” is three and a half minutes of unabashedly summery dance-pop. Its carefree and catchy central refrain seems both tongue in cheek—check out those Ibiza pan-pipe trills—and simultaneously completely earnest.
It’s Silla’s first solo release since 2015, and the first glimpse of her new album ‘Hands on Hands.’
“I think I went both ways with this,” she says, sipping a beer in the summer sun. “Some of the new album is way weirder than before and some of it is way poppier. The first record was such a specific moment—it was all about the same thing. And this is me exploring other things.”
All the way there
Silla seems to have avoided “difficult second album” syndrome. After sketching out some tracks in London, she went in for a studio session in her adopted hometown of Berlin with Sam Slater, an engineer who has worked with such luminaries as Jóhann Jóhannsson, Ben Frost and Hildur Guðnadóttir.
“It actually didn’t take long to make it,” she smiles. “We were going to do three or four songs for an EP, for fun. And before we knew it we’d made a whole record.”
The aesthetic swerve, says Silla, was spontaneous. “It was exploratory. I wanted to see where things would go, and then follow the ideas through. I wanted to take them all the way there.”
Building ‘Hands on Hands’ also involved creating fresh visual and lyrical worlds. “The title track is about how you fit your creative life into your everyday life,” says Silla. “Because it’s always supposed to be this moment. It’s like a self-help mantra in the studio, bumming out about writing lyrics. It became about that it’s hard, and what are the ways people get out of that trap. There’s advice from David Byrne and David Lynch—and me—repeated as a long chant.”
Another song is about the trans experience. “I was listening to a lot of interviews about being transgender, especially as a young person,” Silla continues. “I was thinking about the experience of not feeling seen by the people you love the most, and how you react to that in your relationships growing up. So there’s a song about that.”
Extreme makeup looks
The visuals around the album are another departure. During the crowdfunding campaign to create the album, Silla created “extreme makeup looks”—partially inspired by drag—with one persona for each song.
“It’s been growing alongside the music,” she says. “Some of these looks were super literal, but sometimes abstract. My favourite was the character that’s been in the sun too long and had too many vodka energy drinks, and got extremely sunburned.”
With her prefix of “Mister,” and her visual gender-play, there are a lot of queer vibes swirling around the new album. “I do identify as queer,” says Silla, “which might seem funny to say when you’re in a straight relationship. But [my husband] Tyler and I are both on that spectrum. He really enjoys traditionally feminine things, and people might see me as a more masculine woman. It’s a good fit.” She smiles, momentarily embodying the carefree spirit of her new single. “That’s just how life goes.”
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