Soft-spoken songstress, Lily Arminda‘s velvety voice pairs fiercely well with her lyrical poetry, and for those who haven’t yet heard her music, you’ll see just how easily Lily engulfs heartbreak, sadness, love, and joy into a captivating melody. With the recent release of her EP Neighborhood, the essence of transition is vocalized all throughout. In each song, you can hear the soft yet influential lyrics caress you into an embrace that will make you want to unearth your most profound thoughts and pick each one apart. Neighborhood is an anthology of sentiments, an ode to relationships that were short-lived. The comfort in her voice settles you into a gentle coma, all while the words sway in and around your mind like a couple of dazed stars. Arminda’s songs each have a different purpose, and I believe that’s for the listener to decide which serves them more. A simple email correspondence led me to speak with Arminda about her music, her love life, and her connection and love of poetry. Despite how callous the world can be, Arminda’s music transports you to a safe haven with her soft-spoken hymns. You can listen to Arminda’s EP Neighborhood on Apple Music and Spotify.
Listening to your music, I could hear the poetry of your lyrics come to life in song. When you write your songs, do you intentionally write them as poems or prose, or is it just something that happens to you naturally?
Lily Arminda: I’m really influenced by poetry so I think that’s why that comes across in my songs. I’m studying writing with a poetry focus at my college and taking poetry classes has been instrumental to my growth as a songwriter. My poetry influences my songwriting and vice versa.
Since moving to NYC from your hometown of Columbus, Ohio, how has the transition been for you and your music?
LA: Moving to New York was a much needed transition for me and my music. Every song I write is influenced by my surroundings. Most of the songs I wrote while living in Columbus didn’t have a sense of place whereas the songs I’ve written since moving to New York feel directly tied to where the memories connected to the songs occurred. On my EP Neighborhood, I mention the East Village and West 4th Street specifically but also all of the songs have unnamed places connected to them, even if it’s just my apartment. My favorite part about living in New York is that I’ve made so many amazing friends who inspire me with the art that they create and the art that they recommend to me. Every person who worked on my EP is a close friend of mine and I’m so thankful to have people surrounding me that care so deeply about me and my music.
What can you tell us about your newest EP, Neighborhood? What do you like most about it? How is it different from your previous?
LA: Neighborhood is a collection of songs about romantic encounters I have had in the Lower East Side, which is the neighborhood I live in. It differs from past music I’ve put out in terms of genre since this project is categorized as lo-fi alternative as opposed to my earlier folk-influenced work. I recorded this EP in my apartment last August to achieve this lo-fi sound and to immerse myself in the neighborhood that inspired all of the songs. I’m really proud of how the lyrics on this EP are all very true to my memories and emotions attached to certain relationships. On past projects, many songs started out based on experience and then took on a life of their own but the songs on this EP feel much more grounded in believing how I felt and relying on that being enough to compel an audience.
Who are your favorite musicians at the moment? And how do they inspire you in making your own?
LA: Some of the inspirations for this project were Field Medic, Lomelda, and Phoebe Bridgers. Field Medic’s music and Lomelda’s music is lo-fi so I took a lot of inspiration from the production of their songs for this EP while also putting my own spin on their sounds. Phoebe Bridgers is just other-worldly. The narrative and emotional drive of her music inspires me to write with that same force. Other artists I’m into at the moment are Big Thief, The Chi-Lites, Indigo De Souza, and Linda Ronstadt, to name a few. Friends have compared the sound of this EP to Julia Jacklin, Lucy Dacus, and Clairo even, which is all a huge compliment of course.
Do you have a specific process that picks you up when you’re not feeling as creative?
LA: I try to go for walks around the city whenever I can! Taking walks allows me to be introspective while also being observant of my surroundings. My songwriting professor always says that the best songwriters are observant so I try to practice that whenever I can. I also write down lyric ideas in my phone that I revisit whenever I’m stuck.
If you could collaborate with another musician, who would it be?
LA: Matt Maltese! That would be a dream come true. He’s truly one of the best lyricists of our time. Our writing styles and sounds are different but I would love to see what we could come up with together.
I can understand why you’ve given yourself the title of being a soft-spoken songstress. Your voice is velvety and paired with your lyrics; it’s like a dream. How has your musical journey been like growing up? Did you always want to be a musician? What helped kickstart your career?
LA: That’s such a sweet compliment, thank you! I’ve always wanted to be a musician. I’ve been singing and writing songs since I was really young just around my house and on the playground in elementary school but it wasn’t until early high school when I started playing guitar that I would say my songwriting really took off. Soon after I started being more intentional with my songwriting, my friend Halen Bouhadana (who also produced Neighborhood) asked if I would be interested in him producing an EP for me. We made my first EP, The Hourglass together and that opened doors for me to play shows in my hometown at local venues like The Basement and The Newport Music Hall opening for touring artists like Lucy Dacus and Benjamin Francis Leftwich. Playing these shows and encountering audience members that connected with my music made it even more clear to me that music is what I wanted to pursue.
Are there any places in NYC that inspire you or that you like since you’ve moved there?
LA: New York in general inspires me! I love how it’s always moving and how it gives me a feeling of looking forward to what’s next. I go to parks to write lyrics a lot, especially Washington Square. Museums and galleries are also helpful in my creative process. For example, the song “Charlie” on Neighborhood was made into the song it is now after a trip to the Guggenheim to see the Hilma af Klint exhibit with friends. I left that exhibit feeling so energized and it made me feel small in the most beautiful way. I also love walking along either of the rivers. There’s something about the water that’s very calming to me which puts me in a good place to write.
How would you describe your music to a stranger that’s never heard it before?
LA: I would say that it’s poetic lo-fi alternative (or folk, depending on what project you listen to) by a soft-spoken songstress. It’s the trusty companion to your heartbreak.
LA: Each of your songs is like a story; there’s heartbreak, love, and sadness, all in one. I’m sure it must be somewhat of a cathartic release to put your memories onto paper and later, into music. How has each memory influenced your way of vocalizing it creatively? More so, do you think individual thoughts or memories play a key role in songwriting?
LA: It is! Songwriting for me is about intentionally voicing emotions connected to memories which is an extremely cathartic process for me. My music is saturated by memory. Something that I struggled with writing this EP is trusting my own memory of experiences. Since all of the songs are about relationships, I was thinking about how two people can experience something together and can both have entirely different memories or feelings regarding that shared experience. I had to block out that sort of judgemental voice to give myself the space to make the music that you can hear now on Neighborhood.