Caturday with Lou Hayter

Words: Donna Salek

Listen to the music of London native Lou Hayter and try to sit still. You can’t. Infectious and slinky, Hayter’s music effortlessly blends 80’s electronic pop, acid house, disco, and West Coast R&B to create a sound that oozes cool. Having risen to fame in the mid-noughties as keyboardist for the iconic electro-pop band New Young Pony Club, Hayter soon became one of the fashion industry’s favourite DJs, soundtracking events for the likes of Chanel, Miu Miu and Louis Vuitton. It comes as no surprise then that her visual artistry is as considered as her musical compositions. Accompanying her singles My Baby Just Cares For Me and Time Out of Mind are alluring, obscure artworks that reinforce Hayter’s captivating aesthetic, giving us a taste of what to expect visually from her debut album Private Sunshine, out in May this year. And sonically? Lou tells us a friend of hers likens the project’s smooth qualities to Galaxy chocolate – need we say more?

Donna Salek: Hey Lou! How are you, and how has this past year been for you?
Lou Hayter: Hey! I’m good thanks considering all the madness… The first lockdown I couldn’t be creative at all, a lot of my mates had that problem too ‘cause it was so stressful at the beginning. Towards the end of the year though it all came out and now I can’t stop writing music. 
DS: Where do you source inspiration for your music?
LH: Usually things just pop into my head – I’ll have the whole tune and I sing all the parts into my phone. I also get inspired by old music that I find really interesting and I often sample beats or loops out of them and write a song on top. 
DS: Can you recall the most significant moment of your career so far?
LH: Hm, I think maybe being nominated for the Mercury Prize with my old band New Young Pony Club, working with JB Dunckel from Air and now finishing my first solo album are the three highlights. 
DS: You have such a presence in the fashion industry, how are music and fashion linked to you?
LH: I kind of have two jobs – one is making my own music and the other is DJing and music consultancy, often in the fashion world which I love. I like to create a soundscape that goes with an aesthetic of a show or party and I love the glamour of the parties and the people I meet there. I’ve been blagging my way into fashion events since I was a teenager – like all the Visionaire parties, i-D, The Face, POP Mag – and it’s exciting to me that I get to provide the soundtrack for these kinds of events now. 
DS: The accompanying visuals to your music are so interesting, creating a real look and feel — how do you conceptualise the overall experience?
LH: Ah thank you! It’s down to the people I work with which have been Nova Dando, my close friend, and Alice Kunisue who just did the album sleeve and video. I work very closely with them and I know the aesthetic that I like which is inspired by Pop Art, Guy Bourdin, Helmut Newton and we try to bring that to the story. The benchmark for me is the Grace Jones, Jean-Paul Goude sleeves, and videos – I’m so inspired by both of them. I think it’s the peak of a visual/music collaboration. 
DS: What can we expect from a live show when it comes to performing the album?
LH: I don’t really know yet as I haven’t even been able to rehearse because of lockdown, but I’d like it to be a fun club show with lights, strobes, smoke machines, and loads of bass. 
DS: We can’t not talk about New Young Pony Club, is there anything you learnt or loved from your time in the band that you have carried forward into your solo music
LH: I think I learnt so much, including about sound on stage. I met loads of other musicians who are still my best friends to this day and I was able to travel the world. I’m very grateful for that experience and the way it helped me in my career. It was also so much fun and felt like summer camp all the time.
DS: Can you name some of your other musical influences? Anyone on the scene at the moment that particularly inspires you/ you would like to collaborate with?
LH: My biggest influence is Prince. I love producers like Jam and Lewis, Jellybean, Arif Mardin, and The Neptunes. In more modern music I love Frank Ocean, Tyler the Creator and i’m a massive fan of SOPHIE’s production so hearing of her passing really saddened me – she was one of the most forward-thinking musicians sonically and such an inspiration. I really like what AK Paul and the Paul Institute label, Thundercat and John Carroll Kirby are doing at the moment. 
DS: Finally, what can we expect from your upcoming debut solo album?
LH: My favourite description of my music has been from my mate Al, who said it sounds like Galaxy chocolate… I love that! But to be more specific, it’s lots of my influences like acid house, 80’s electronic pop, yacht rock, disco, West Coast R&B, with pop songs over the top. 

Click to check out Lou Hayter’s playlist