In Conversation: Orla Gartland

In Conversation: Orla Gartland

"As a writer I've also just learned to be more direct, more literal with language..."

We learn a lot from the internet. For instance, a Pringles lid fits perfectly on top of a Gu pudding pot, and there’s a bear hidden in the Toblerone logo.

Whether we like it or not, and whether it’s true or false; a lot of what we learn day to day comes from the internet.

‘Woman On The Internet’, the debut album from Orla Gartland, dissects everything she has learned from the last ten years or so growing up, whilst also uploading music to the internet. The record is an unapologetic exposé of the anxieties that she has overcome, an ode to the lessons learned and those she ignored, and a pouring of adoration for people she has met along the way.

Its title refers to the faceless people we see online, flogging products and dishing out wellness advice, encouraging us to improve the way we live our lives despite being ultimately very disconnected from us.

This notion inspired a coming-of-age album that confronts and owns the loneliness we feel that encourages us to rely on these fabricated people we seek comfort from on the ‘gram. ‘Woman On The Internet’ is a treasure cove of eclectic influences from dizzying indie dream pop, hypnotic folklore and high-octane punk attitude. It really is the pick n mix you can’t help but greedily gobble in search for a sugar rush.

We spoke to Orla about the record and why now is the time for its advent.

- - -

- - -

Having released singles and EPs in the past, why is now the right time for a full album and how does ‘Woman On The Internet’ fit in the Orla Gartland catalogue?

It’s hard to describe but I just felt ready. When you know you know. A big thing for me over the past couple years was working away until I felt good enough at production to be self-sufficient in the demo-ing process. It’s really satisfying to have an idea and be able to execute it yourself.

This album feels connected to my EPs in that it’s my voice and my stories, but I think this collection of songs has a bolder, more confident feeling than before.

Like many people in your generation, you grew up on the internet, so the title of your new record seems appropriate! How would you say that the internet has affected both you personally, and then your music; and how do the two relate?  

Like a lot of people, I have a complicated relationship with the internet. I think a lot about how if I didn’t have music to promote that I would, as Lorde says, throw my ‘cellular device’ into the sea. The internet has given me so much but it’s such a fractured, toxic place to be and to put yourself or art out there. We have a long way to go in making online spaces safer and less anxiety-inducing for people.

Can you tell us a little more about the series of events or realisations that led to the writing of the record, and where you were physically and mentally?

Physically, I was feeling good. It was the beginning of 2020 - a simpler time - and I’d finished up a busy year full of touring, so I felt ready to put shows on the back burner and lean into writing for a few months.

Mentally, I was catching up with myself after all the moving about; touring is amazing, but it sort of freezes you at the point you were that before the tour started, so I often find I have to do some work between tours to really embrace growth. So, life was still, and I was pensive, working through ideas and figuring out what I wanted to say next.

Despite the upbeat sounds of the record, you explore some rather dark and pressing themes in the lyrics. For example, influencer culture, self-awareness, masculinity, and toxic relationships. Why do you think these themes were central to your writing and how have writing the songs helped you approach them?

I write songs about things I find it hard to talk about. Writing is almost a cop-out in that way. It’s a lot easier for me to process these ideas in a song than by talking to people in my real life! I’ve really been that way since I was a teenager. I guess it’s a strange way of working through things but it’s better than not uncovering those thoughts at all. There are some heavier themes on the record but as you say, they’re almost disguised in shiny, upbeat packages. As a writer I live for that juxtaposition.

I absolutely love the record and have been following your music since we were both teens. This wholly feels like a come-of-age record for today. You really confront all the familiar yet ridiculously complex feelings of being in your early 20s. The record was written during the pandemic, where many people our age mourned what society largely considers to be the last of the young years – do you think this influenced ‘Woman On The Internet’ at all?

That makes me so happy, thank you! I had to use a lot of imagination for the writing of these songs not to be affected by the pandemic, but for the most part I don’t think it is. I think naturally lockdown gave me more time than I would have otherwise had to give these songs hyper-focus, but this is a big life moment for me, my debut album. I wasn’t about to let a pandemic steal that for me, nor was I was about to write 12 songs about how hard it is to be stuck inside. Lockdown songs suck and I don’t think they’ll age well!

- - -

- - -

The songs are very playful, each bursting with personality, and you played a massive part in the production of it. Can you tell us a bit more about this process? Is there any part you’d like people to listen out for, that you’re particularly proud of?

I did some field recording last year with Nathan Cox who collaborated in the writing and production of some of the tracks. We recorded textures out and about and made a sample pack of percussion sounds; everything from dropping keys on the floor to whacking pieces of wood together. We cut it all up and made beats from the sounds and I liked the feeling of having a set of original sounds that were truly ours! The beats made from the tiny sounds on tracks like ‘Do You Mind?’ And ‘Bloodline/Difficult Things’ are some of my favourite moments on the album.

I also love how you and your friends create music almost in a collective; you, Greta Isaac, Dodie… a group who have always supported one another. How have your friends and family helped to shape this record in particular?

Community is everything. Friends like Greta and Dodie are my favourite in the world and it’s the more pure, most joyous thing when we get to collaborate with each other on our projects. Working with friends is sick because they intimately get you and unlike collaborating with strangers you can truly let your guard down. The artist experience is such a specific one and this industry is brutal, so it’s important to surround yourself with people you love and trust and who just get it.

I feel as though you have a superpower where you add drama to the mundane – you turn observations of every day into modern day folklore, and snippets of conversations we overhear every day into epic choruses. Your introspective insights provide listeners with a soundtrack to live their own come-of-age movie fantasies; for me it’s the chorus of ‘Codependency’. This is paired with the imaginative music videos you’ve released. How did you land on this imagery?

What a compliment! Dreamy. Greta Isaac, who we mentioned just now came on board to give creative direction across all of the album visuals. Her visual brain is incredible - the ideas it conjures up straight away when you play her a song are incredible. I think throughout the process we both grew to embrace the ideas we had and found ways to bring them out in each other. All of the music video ideas came from Gret and I having tea and just talking it all through.

‘Woman On The Internet’ is utterly unapologetic. What are you no longer apologising for, which before you used to?

I love that question. I was probably just apologising for existing! I can be the biggest people-pleaser (still am) so I’ve been working on allowing myself to take up more space, I guess. As a writer I’ve also just learned to be more direct, more literal with language. When I was younger, I liked hiding behind metaphors but now I have no problem with people knowing what I’m singing about.

What would you tell your five year old self, your 13 year old self and your 16 year old self?

Wow. Five year old self - learn the piano! 13 year old self - chill out, no one’s actually looking at you. 16 year old self - keep going! IT GETS BETTER!

- - -

Oh, and one final treat... We've nabbed this live clip of Orla Gartland performing her gorgeous song 'More Like You' - watch it now.

- - -

'Woman On The Internet' is out on August 20th.

Words: Tanyel Gumushan

- - -

Follow Clash

Buy Clash Magazine