“Edinburgh’s quite a safe city and most people that live here work nine to five then come home to watch Eastenders – there’s not a lot of grit to it, “ explains born and bred Leither Lucy Ross, also known as electro-chanteuse Dollskabeat. “When there’s a bit of poverty and it’s not so clean and tidy you get more interesting sounds from a city... I’m not sure how long I can put up with the boredom.”
This restlessness is indicative of Ross’s foray into the music world. Having migrated to London in 2006 to work a desk-bound role in the industry, she soon fatigued of the daily grind and embarked on a yearlong sojourn to Japan. It was there, in the land of Eastern promise, where Ross decided music was her calling: “Just being away and hearing all these weird things, as you do in Japan, filters into your subconscious.”
Since returning to these shores, Ross has sculpted a sonic iceberg of permafrost synth and glaciated vocals under the Dollskabeat tagline. Steadfast in her vision, she’s devoted months to learning the production process; writing, recording and executing every note herself. “Trying to do it your first time is absolutely hilarious because you don’t know what you’re doing,” she says. “But being able to create something that is all yours and you know that it’s yours is the best thing. “
Dollskabeat’s debut single, Zodiac Rising, is testament to this ambition. A grandiose slab of atmospheric electronica, the track’s submissive groove is unapologetically retrograde while Ross’s crisp mew maintains a twinge of contemporary cleft. “A lot of people say it sounds like early 80s and that’s it but I’d like them to go a little bit deeper than that,” she says. “I suppose that because I grew up in the 80s it might have an influence on the melodies but it’s not intentional – it’s just happened.”
Coincidence it may be, but Dollskabeat has arrived at a time when Lady GaGa, La Roux and Little Boots sit high on the hipster radar. Unsurprisingly, Ross is eager to distance herself from this decrepit clique: “The only similarity is that we’re all female,” she reasons. “I hope people don’t see my music as some kind of flash in the pan. I’ve done it myself and Optimo [much vaunted Glasgow underground label] are behind me so people will hopefully realise there’s no major label telling me what to do.”
A classically trained pianist and now studio whizz-kid, Ross’s pinkie-finger possesses more ability than her limelight hogging contemporaries. Yet, despite her flair for translucent melodies, she’s tentative about her prospects: “I’ll always make music for the rest of my life,” Ross says. “Whether or not I can sustain a career out of it, I don’t know.”
Strange thing is, in these uncertain times, a rosy future for Dollskabeat is the one thing we should all be banking on.
First published in The Stool Pigeon