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DOWN cover - by Annie Dorret

BN1 Chats With: O HELL

O Hell is the new solo project of PROJECTOR’s Lucy Sheehan, an electronic exploration into alt-pop, experimentalism, and dark soundscapes. O Hell’s influences, including Radiohead’s Kid A, PJ Harvey’s Is This Desire, and Christine & the Queens, provide a window into a project that treads a line between raw expression, a fascination with the 90s underground, and explorative sonic detail. The songs are conceived and produced from her bedroom, and as O Hell says, are an exercise in ‘refusing compromise.’ We discussed her debut single DOWN, songwriting, and trusting your gut. 

As I understand, you’ve come from a separate project called PROJECTOR? What was the biggest shift for you doing a new solo project? 

I started O Hell because around 2020 during lockdown I found myself writing with drum machines and samples, and I kind of loved the challenge of writing with very few instruments. When you’re writing and rehearsing with a band you’re screaming to be heard over the noise – which is wicked, that’s where the energy comes from – but I also loved writing these dark breathy melodies over weird beats, kind of pretending I was Kid A era Thom Yorke. There’s some PJ Harvey and Mark Lanegan material that also transgresses into more minimal electronica, but retains its darkness – so realising you could be aggressive when you weren’t screaming your lungs out over guitars was the moment O Hell started to make sense.  

How are you feeling about the progress of your last single release and video DOWN?

I’m super proud of DOWN. It’s the first song I wrote for this project – it literally just turned up in my head and was done in 20 minutes from the moment I sat down at Logic. That doesn’t often happen, so I put my faith in it as a tune I really meant. There’s been a lot of nice feedback about the video. I wanted it to be aesthetically explosive and minimal by turn to present a visual up/down mood. We threw everything at it – cars, horses, smoke flares – I wanted it to be as emotionally extreme as the song. 

What’s it been like creating a new aesthetic? Is there anything that’s inspired you? From new artists to people you work with behind the scenes? 

I’m really inspired by solo artists like David Bowie and PJ Harvey who just inhabit a character for a period of time. I’m interested in the extreme characters they create. That’s why I’m O Hell, not Lucy, I want the people who hear this music to step into a world with me. 

I often work with a stylist called Abi Rigby who I love because she pushes me to be out of my comfort zone. She knows that day to day given the chance I’d wear all black, so she’ll cover me in chains and yellow sheer, layered over a wedding dress and take my eyebrows. Having someone like her who can take the insane vision in my head and make it bloom is amazing. 

Can you talk us through the process of DOWN? From what I know and have heard, there were quite a few changes surrounding this single but you stuck with your gut and released it as it was intended? How’d you know it was the right sound? 

I had what musicians call demoitis with DOWN. I kind of knew that the song had been born pretty much fully formed, but having been in bands for years, where you really pre-produce everything hard, I felt like I should explore the ‘sonic landscape’ available to me with different producer friends. I’m glad we did that, and I love how it eventually came out, but the process taught me conviction in myself, to trust my gut. That’s the joy and horror of being a solo artist, the final decision is yours so you better believe in it. 

I love the song CAPRI SUN you wrote for the AA Sessions compilation album. Can you give us an insight into the song and its creation? 

I loved making Capri Sun. AA Sessions is a collective run out of Agricultural Audio studios by my pal and producer Ben Hampson. The idea is you go there and make a song in a day with whoever else turns up. You’re not allowed to be precious and you often don’t end up playing your first instrument. We put out our second record this year with Jazz Life and it’s full of weird bangers. 

That day it was just Ben and I, and I wanted to make a song as O Hell. We played around in the live room, found a drum loop that was really odd, transposed it onto a horrible drum machine and fleshed it out with loads of noisy samples. It’s not a conventional guitar/bass/drums/keys thing. I think I’d just heard Crack Cloud and I loved the huge sonic variety that borders on erratic, especially with the vocals. Hence the spoken word that suddenly switches to this sweet melodic chorus and then into total unhinged screaming. One of those sessions where you go ‘what have we done?!’ 

Listen to O HELL here

Instagram: @ohellx

Facebook: @ohellmusic

O HELL – Annie Dorrett

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