Lola Coca on unlearning and re-learning, positive activism and dream dates

On the cusp of releasing new music, Lola Coca reminisces about her whirlwind year in which she released her debut album, gigged a lot and returned back to writing with a fresh outlook.

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Notion: What has been going on since the last time we spoke? Then you had not been back from LA for too long, you’d gone away and written loads of songs and you were about to release your album.
Lola: Since then I released my debut album in March. That got a lot of sync in the TV world, I did a lot of shows last year, and now I’m back into writing mode which is exciting. The major change which is that I have changed this year as well, I’ve had one of those years where – you heard of the seven-year cycle? I’m definitely feeling the seventh year of that seven-year cycle. I feel like I’m coming into my own. A lot of my album was written in spite of my situations whereas now I’m able to choose a better life for myself. I’m a bit more in touch with my centre and I’m not as reactive and more mindful. I haven’t even done yoga or anything – it’s just come naturally.

Have you fallen in love?
You could say that… but maybe not in the way you think! Amazingly, I read this book called The Wounded Woman and it just made me realise that the relationship with your father can not only effect your relationship with men but also the relationship you have with yourself. It blew my mind, it made me see things about myself that I’d never seen before. And now feel totally in my zone, I feel totally centred. I’ve always been an all guns blazing personality, but I think that has been a reaction to things I don’t like, instead I’m turning my attention to ‘Who are you without those things that you don’t like? If you take away all those things that you don’t like, what do you like?’ I feel in touch with myself in a way I haven’t been before.

Tell me about your new track, ‘Dream Date’.
Have you ever had this, where you have a dream about someone that maybe you haven’t seen in 10 years, perhaps you were in school with them and you have a really weird dream where, by the end of the dream, you’re in love with them? It happens all the time with me, has it not happened to you? [In the dream] you might sleep with someone and you think ‘Wait! Where does that even come from?’ I kind of like it in a really weird way. The subconscious mind is so crazy.

I’ve had something similar. I don’t think I’ve ever been in love with someone, dreams like that for me are more about guilt at not seeing my friends.
It’s the same kind of thing, you wake up with a longing of some sort, a feeling you need to address it. You think ‘what are they up to?’, maybe make a plan of some sort.

In terms of the sound, is there any change at all?
The sound is still me, I love what I love – old music, 50s, jazz, ska music, hip hop. I don’t think I could ever get rid of that. It is a development of that sound. I wrote it with two guys, they’re called Coast Modern, they’re on the 300 label – they are dope. It’s a really easy listen, you don’t even know it’s happening and that’s good sometimes. I think a lot of my music, it requires concentration but this one doesn’t which is cool.

As an artist, what do you think of the creative space here in London is a welcoming space?
In London, I think it’s really different space. I found it almost harder here than I did in LA because in LA I could hear myself for the first time, I heard myself in LA. So, the challenge has been, can I do that here as well. It’s been different. I think if you try and force it here it doesn’t happen, people are on the grind 24/7, it’s like New York, I think it can take away from what you want to say. I’ve taken a bit more of my time here. But equally, what has come out of the writing process here has been amazing, if not better. I think we are becoming a lot more unified as a generation. I know that sounds a bit much, but there’s so much shit going on in the world, that we’ve realised that it’s up to us to deal with it. I think we are all a bit more supportive of each other as we realise the odds are all against us. I think that’s kind of the role of artists in any medium – music, art, poetry, filmmaking – we’re all now going, ‘OK, it’s our turn’ to at least speak on the subject.

For me, it feels like we’re looking up to an older generation that are fucking things up.
Yeah, I feel like we are about to have the 70s again! Scary times as it’s kind of on us as well. I think even the need to challenge what’s going on is very much apparent, which is good, I’m definitely on side for that.
There’s a bit of critique around ‘oh, it’s cool now to be an activist’. I think it was always cool to be an activist. I think if we are too busy thinking about how we are being perceived instead of what people are fighting for, we miss the beauty of the situation.

I’ve looked through your recent Instagram posts and it’s clear that you are very open when it comes to supporting the causes dear to you. If you were, to sum up these, what would you say were behind?
There are so many things. One that I do identify most apparent with at the moment is having white people teach other white people how systematic racism works. I’m close to Munroe [Bergdorf] and I have been for a long time, and in the height of this L’Oreal thing just how many people didn’t understand what she was saying. [People] completely jumped against this idea that white people benefit from a system, built by us, pretty much for us. I wasn’t surprised that people reacted the way that they did but I was almost a bit, I don’t have the words to describe how unengaged people are with the whole conversation. I can understand maybe how people who don’t necessarily live amongst people of colour could have those opinions, but a lot of the things were coming from people under our noses which scared me more because I’m thinking you really should know what’s happening here. It’s not like you’re a million miles away and this doesn’t “apply” to you. This is happening on our doorstep. I think it’s important that people of colour shouldn’t have to constantly explain themselves to people that don’t get it – it’s the responsibility of [white people] to make people understand if we want to see actual change. Other things, LGBT rights, all across the board, I just want people to be good.

On your Instagram a little while ago you posted a backwards video to show ‘unlearning’, what were you unlearning?
The post in itself was kind of unlearning the ways in which we are systematically influenced to behave. We are unlearning certain expectations you have as a white person, certain privileges you have. You unlearn to demand these things, you recognise that people don’t have it the same, and until you can recognise that the whole playing field isn’t even you don’t realise the things you do which are racist if that makes sense? It’s about unlearning these passed down habits that are so small but are all a part of it. That was what that post was about, but equally it can extend to the unlearning of, it’s funny as I’m quite self-deprecating but only [so] that people can identify with me, that they do it to themselves too. But you can unlearn to not pick yourself apart. It’s about growing, unlearning the negative things about yourself, whether that’s racism or self-destructive behaviour, or whatever it is across the board

Photographer Ioannis Koussertari with BTS Talent
Styling Rhiannon Barry – Founder of Ninety Fly
Makeup & Hair by Theresa Davies with Carol Hayes Management using Mac Cosmetics
Art Direction Olivier Geraghty with O.G STUDIOS
All wardrobe sourced from the Ninety Fly archive
Find Lola Coca on Twitter. ‘Dream Date’ is out now.

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