Dahlia Sleeps are a London-based four-piece who make wrought and impassioned music that harnesses the power of human connection. In their new mini-album, Love, Lost (out today), they have put together a collection of tracks that are fearlessly confidential in their lyricism, while pushing these usually-hidden emotions upwards and outwards with wide-angled production and arrangements.

The collective is twin-spearheaded by lead vocalist Lucy Hill and producer Luke Hester, who were kind enough to answer some questions from us about Dahlia Sleeps' development and process. They record in Hester's South London basement studio, which is where I thought I'd start the conversation.

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It’s hard to imagine such open-armed and expansive music being recorded in a South London basement; tell us about the recording process for Love, Lost.

Luke: Open-armed and expansive...I like that, will be for sure stealing it for future descriptions.

It usually starts with Lucy sat at her piano at home or from some instrumental component that just feels good - whether that be drums or guitar or something completely abstract. To be honest that's probably about as far as I can go in regards to a process, especially with this record. Things happened very naturally, we have a start point, however that comes to exist, and then we just flow with what we think sounds right.

We really started branching out with the equipment we used: lots of old analog synthesisers and outboard FX. It’s great to have tactile pieces of gear to use when writing to keep things as outside of the computer as possible. 

Lucy: This is the studio in Luke’s basement in SE London that Love, Lost was written and recorded in. Luke’s girlfriend Ruby Brown (who directed the videos for 'Storm' and 'Settle Down' alongside Leo Taylor) took the photo.

The covers of your releases up to and including Love, Lost have seemed like a series, is the continuity important to the project?

Lucy: We definitely wanted to start using consistent imagery in our artwork and with intimacy - in its many forms - being a key theme in our music, soft nudity made sense for us. The artwork for the previous EP was inspired by a very raw self-portrait by Ana Cuba, this next one followed a similar theme but features the subject of one of the songs. So it all very much ties together with the music.

In your press pictures, the Love, Lost cover, and in the lyrics, physical intimacy is a continual theme; is it a key inspiration for you?

Lucy: For sure - all of the songs on Love, Lost are about intimacy in some form. Physical closeness paired with emotional distance, unresolved feelings, the challenges we face at trying to open up – across all types of relationships. It’s probably our biggest drive to write. I’m really glad that theme comes across in all of the imagery too.

Emotional intimacy sometimes seems less easy; ‘Storm’ and ‘Love, Lost’ both deal with people who find it hard to express their true feelings – is this something you’ve had to overcome? 

Lucy: Haha - well spotted. It is so very human to feel trapped inside your emotions - either because you don’t know how speak on them, or because the situation simply doesn’t allow for it. Not all of these songs are autobiographical but it is certainly true that it’s a daily challenge - which I suppose is why we write!

Lucy: This is Luke after a particularly long studio session. He dragged his mattress outside and passed out in the garden in the sun. We spent a lot of time in that garden writing lyrics, working on songs with an acoustic guitar before taking them back downstairs. It was the summer of dreams.

Do you sometimes find it easier to express a deeply felt emotion in a song than in talking?

Lucy: Absolutely. There are things that I think we both struggle to communicate - even to each other - that all comes out when we’re writing. Sometimes it won’t be until I’m sat at the piano that I know what it is that’s creating these tangles.

Luke: So much so, I'm useless at talking...I'm a real Ostrich. So I can say things in songs, and the beauty of it is everybody has their own interpretations of what you are saying - hide in the ambiguity.

How do you present such intimate and personal songs to the rest of the band? Is it ever scary?

Luke: You know it's kind of got to the stage that this is a form of therapy. Getting it all out onto a page and then hearing Lucy sing it back at me...is beyond cathartic.

Lucy: Luke and I have been handing our books of lyrics over to each other for a long time now. We are so used to existing in each other’s minds in that way. It stops being scary. It is quite an overpowering thing though - I would never let anybody but the boys pick up one of those books and I feel a lot of gratitude for what Luke is able to share with me.

What do you hope that listeners will feel or take away from listening to Love, Lost?

Luke: When I connect to music I just get so lost, I can go for hours and hours and easily just do nothing but listen and remove myself from everything else that’s going on. Nothing else can do it. If our music instils even a fraction of that I’d be so happy. And emotion wise I hope people will interpret it in their own way and possibly find some comfort in relating to it - as long as it stirs something.

Lucy: The intro track and interlude (loving you still) were both written and recorded on this piano. Both Luke and I had written a couple of verses of something very pure and we wanted these songs to exist in their un-grown form. They're probably my favourite on the record.

Sonically and emotionally I’m reminded of acts like The xx and Cigarettes After Sex; how do you feel about these comparisons?

Lucy: Very happy! Both these bands are built on pure emotion which is all we want to do in the end.

Luke: Yup, likewise, The xx and especially Jamie's production was and still continues to be a source of influence.

Are there any books, music or films that had an impact on Dahlia Sleeps that you’d like to recommend?

Luke: Musically, I am really drawn to the dark and emotive side of things. Artists that have impacted my production could be: Sorrow, Apparat (Especially the War and Peace Scores), William Basinski, Jon Hopkins, Mssingno, Couros, Lorn, Khushi…to name a few.

Lucy: Picking up poetry books by Nayyirah Waheed, Mary Oliver, Danez Smith, Yrsa Daley Ward, Audre Lorde, Kate Tempest massively fed into the writing process - I would always recommend these. Some of these writers are utterly fearless in their revelations, they say so much with so few words.

Lucy: ‘To The Water’ is about a camping trip to the lake that I took with a friend and this is a photo from that trip. We spent a lot of time by a fire the night before talking about some tricky things and then the next day we cleansed it all here.

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Dahlia Sleeps’ new mini-album Love, Lost is out today on all platforms.