Orla Gartland on FIZZ, making her solo return 'Little Chaos', and playing Live At Leeds In The Park

Festivals Orla Gartland: Chaos Rules

Ahead of her set at Live At Leeds In The Park this weekend, beloved indie-pop sensation Orla Gartland fills us in on what to expect from her much-anticipated upcoming new era.

Having had a frankly bonkers 2023 inhabiting the fantastical world of FIZZ – the passion project-slash-supergroup of dodie, Greta Isaac, Martin Luke Brown, and herself – Orla Gartland is now throwing herself back into the world of the OG solo project. And she’s learnt a thing or two since the days of debut album ‘Woman On The Internet’, too. 

Last year’s standalone single ‘Kiss Ur Face Forever’ (a sonic highlight of Netflix series Heartstopper’s second instalment) saw her embrace a more upbeat, unrestrained side to her sound, and now its follow up ‘Little Chaos’ proves that there’s plenty more where that came from for LP2. Ahead of her turn playing DIY’s very own stage at Live At Leeds: In The Park, we catch up with Orla about FIZZ, festi season, and ditching ‘nice’ in her next chapter. 

Hey Orla! It looks like it’s been a very busy twelve months for you - not least because you introduced the world to FIZZ. What was it like to work on a project with three of your best friends? 

Learning to be in a band was a totally different experience for me! I feel like the whole thing was an absolute masterclass in communication. Coming out the other side of that campaign, my communication style in all areas of my life has been completely refined. Basically, I’m more blunt now. I think I have a tendency to be a little bit of a ‘no worries if not’ girly, which started to work against me as we navigated the band workload - I was padding everything with all this extra fluff. Whereas now, I’m really noticing that I’m just more explicit and to the point, which I’m really grateful for. 

And props to the others - it's amazing to me that we've come out the other side of it closer than ever. I'm so grateful for the experience; it was very wholesome. 

How did you find the process of making and touring [FIZZ’s debut album] ‘The Secret To Life’ compared with your solo work?

Completely different - I made ‘Woman On The Internet’ in lockdown, so it was very careful and slow and controlled as a process. It was a very solo endeavour; I was in my little studio just tinkering constantly, going down a lot of rabbit holes (in quite a fun way). I’m very involved in the production of my music, so it allowed me loads of time and space to become better at that. I was just completely following my own nose the whole time, which I really enjoyed.

Whereas with FIZZ, the process of actually making the music was very quick - we wrote and recorded the final versions of the songs pretty much at the same time. There was no separation between demoing and recording; the vocals you hear on ‘The Secret To Life’ are something like the third time we’ve sung the song, ever. With other people, if you don’t know where to take a song, you can sort of pass it around like a hot potato, and there’s enough collective energy to see it through really fast. 

Making the album that I’m about to put out was almost like a perfect middle ground. I tried to learn from the FIZZ process to not tinker too much, or to know when to use the first version of the vocal, because sometimes there’s just something a bit magic about the naivety of how you sing [a track] the first time. So yeah, I tried to overthink a little bit less. 

Tell us about your year so far - have you been shifting out of FIZZ mode, and into OG Album Two mode?

Exactly! We did the FIZZ tour in February and March, then I jumped straight back into getting my album finished and mastered. I’ve just been learning to make my own decisions again; I’m so used to everything going to a vote or a discussion, there were a few times when I was signing off the new mixes where I’d go ‘okay, this is good’ and look around to be like ‘what do you guys think?’. Then I’d realise ‘oookay, it’s just me! Let’s do it!’ So it’s just been a case of getting out of the habit of that constant dialogue, but I’ve also really enjoyed the control - that’s something I probably took for granted before FIZZ. 

“[Album two] feels a little bigger, a little braver, a little bandier… it’s just a bit less tucked in at the edges than some of my previous music.”

In the middle of all the FIZZ-related fun last year, you did tease fans with a standalone solo release. Is ‘Kiss Ur Face Forever’ a hint of what people can expect from your second album?

Yeah, definitely. ‘Kiss’ is on the album, and its release was basically me getting a bit impatient and putting some music out! We were chatting to the people behind Heartstopper and they were really kind and asked to hear some music. I had a lot of in-progress demos at the time and the one that I felt most confident in was ‘Kiss’, so I sent it to them before it was technically finished. They loved it and wanted to use the song, so I kind of rushed to get it done - it was a great problem to have! 

I do think that ‘Kiss’ represents a lot of the sound of the second album - it feels a little bigger, a little braver, a little bandier… it’s just a bit less tucked in at the edges than some of my previous music. A lot of it is about trying to celebrate being loud, which I find quite hard; as a woman, I feel like I definitely spend a lot of time rounding my edges off and trying to be polite and palatable. 

And that goes back to what you were saying earlier about being a ‘no worries if not’ sort of person.

Yeah! I think this album - but also my entire life’s quest - is trying to get rid of the ‘no worries if not’ and just take up space, basically. [Musically, that translates to] songs that are yelled or sung in that slightly-breaking-up part of your voice, or very angular guitar stuff that’s not super pretty. I will always have such a love for folky singer-songwriters and beautiful, atmospheric textures - and there’s definitely touches of that on the album - but I’ve tried to push myself a bit further in the quest to not just be nice, you know? 

I just think if a friend was talking about me to someone else and described me as ‘nice’, I would literally hate that. ‘Nice’, to me, is just so dull. If someone can't think of anything more interesting to say about me… I'd actually rather be disliked than be thought of as ‘nice’, in a weird way. So yeah, ‘Kiss Ur Face Forever’, ‘Little Chaos’, and some of the other music to come is me moving a little bit away from ‘nice’, and a bit more towards being quite unapologetically loud.

That philosophy of unashamedly taking up space aligns pretty perfectly with Heartstopper, which has been a bit of a landmark moment in queer pop culture. How have you found the experience of having ‘Why Am I Like This?’ and ‘Kiss Ur Face Forever’ featured on the show’s soundtrack?

I love the series; I think it’s so sweet. It's the kind of thing I would have absolutely killed to have watched as a 14 year old. When you agree to your song being in something, you don’t get any control over how they’ll use it - they don’t even let you see [the show] in advance. So I watched the whole thing and got really invested in the characters, and ‘Why Am I Like This?’ plays in the scene where he’s Googling ‘am I gay?’ or something. And I was just like ‘God, who the hell hasn’t fucking googled that at some point in their life!’ 

Alice [Oseman, creator of Heartstopper] messaged me afterwards to say that she wrote the scene around the song, and that’s why it was such a moment [in the series]. The song had been out for a couple of years before that too, so it was really, really cool. 

Orla Gartland on FIZZ, making her solo return 'Little Chaos', and playing Live At Leeds In The Park

“If a friend was talking about me to someone else and described me as ‘nice’, I would literally hate that.”

Speaking of cool… you’re running a competition where the prize is that you’ll write a song for the winner about whatever they want! But if you had a song written for you, who would write it and what would it be about? 

Oooh… I feel like MUNA does this really strong, powerful anthem thing - ‘Number One Fan’ gets me really pumped. So even though it would just be the most indulgent thing, I would want MUNA to write a synth-pop worship song about how great and powerful I am. Imagine that as my alarm tone - that would be INSANE.

You’re playing a handful of more intimate gigs in May before hitting a few festivals - including DIY’s own stage at Live at Leeds In The Park - this summer. How are you prepping for the return of the OG live show?

I did a huge rehearsal block a few days ago and I’ve got a new band member, which is very exciting! I’ve already rehearsed the second album, so I’ll probably play about five new songs at those underplay shows, as well as lots that people already know. I’ve learned so much in the last couple of years doing my solo shows, doing the FIZZ shows, and playing guitar for dodie, so I think all these experiences on stage have helped inform what I want my live show to be. 

I just want to wear, like, a fucking cape while there’s a massive industrial fan in front of me - it’s going to be so indulgent. If not on stage, then when? You can lean into the character of yourself so much more on stage to just be, like, 30% funnier and louder and more refined. I love that in other people - I’m obsessed with Chappell Roan, like everyone else is at the moment - and she’s such a great example of someone who takes a character and amps it up to become almost like a caricature. So I’m hoping to do that in my own context - to just make the show the biggest, boldest version that it can be. 

And that’s one of the best things about festivals - when you’re in the fields, anything goes! 

100% - that idea of being the boldest version of yourself applies even more at festivals. We’ll be doing three headline shows that week, then Live At Leeds: In The Park, so the challenge of that definitely excites me. And I love a festival lineup that makes sense! I’m a huge Declan McKenna fan, for example, and I’ve always thought our music lives in adjacent worlds. So I can imagine if a Declan fan came to my set at Live At Leeds: In The Park and they didn’t know me, they’d still probably click with it. 

Finally, what’s your number one festival survival tip? 

Baby wipes. Being in a tent is so humbling, but what’s good about baby wipes is that they work for all weathers and any eventuality. Muddy? Baby wipes. Too hot and need a festival shower? Baby wipes. That, and loo roll - don’t take any chances, just bring your own.

'Little Chaos' is out now. 

You can catch Orla Gartland play Live At Leeds In The Park on Saturday 25th May in Temple Newsam, Leeds.

Tags: Orla Gartland, Live at Leeds in the Park, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

As featured in the May 2024 issue of DIY, out now.

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