As she takes the stage with a glass of beer, a cocktail dress and cowgirl fringe heels, the audience doesn’t really know what to expect from Holly Conlan. She’s playing The Satellite in Silver Lake. There’s a dance floor in front of the stage and it’s an unusual venue for her. She’s got a lot on her mind.
“I’m trying to be more free, and not glued to the piano, and move around a bit more,” she says. “And somehow let it be visually interesting as opposed to just musically.”
Lately, Conlan’s been inspired by mainstream pop music, a category she, in the past, has tended to avoid. The decision to embrace it actually had a positive effect. She’s loosened up, inching out from behind the piano. That mindset is on display as she runs through a set list of new material.
“I wanted to step outside the singer-songwriter realm a little more,” she says of her new album, The Sirens. “I did this whole album, and basically when it came time to, ‘We should play this stuff,’ it was like, ‘How the hell are we going to play this stuff live?’”
The Sirens, scheduled for an October 22nd release date, will follow up a previous LP and EP, but it marks the first time she has served as a producer.
Discovering her new, more layered sound required a lot of 3 a.m. writing sessions (“Inspiration seems to hit late at night,” she says), learning new programs, overcoming her perfectionist tendencies with vocals, and toying around with synths. The result of which can already be heard on the first single “Stay and Play,” available today on iTunes.
The process turned out to be an empowering one, both creatively and from a business stance. Conlan funded the album via Kickstarter, which she describes as both “stressful” and “inspiring.”
All “cool sounds” aside, thematically, it’s still coming from the place of someone needing to tell a story.
“It’s about love. … The hard sides of love and the fun sides of love and all the stuff in between,” she says, then laughs. “My mom did point out the fact that I use fire and guns a lot in these songs.”
The album gets its name from the sirens of a firehouse near Conlan’s home. Writing it, she says she felt like she was in a constant “state of emergency,” of someone wanting to be saved.
In addition to the album's release, Conlan is prepping for an October residency at Hotel Café, a venue she’s played many times in the past. She’s also hoping to tour with the album, once it drops. As for her opinion on the current state of pop music, she’s still a little torn.
“There is better pop music out now. I mean, there’s still the sucky stuff,” she says. “You’ve got to have a balance.”