Lana Lubany: "I don't think I could make music that's not fully me.”

Publié le

Monday, july 1st 2024

Palestinian-American, Lana Lubany defines herself as a blend of the Middle East and the West East. With lyrics mixing Arabic and English, the artist proudly carries her heritage in her music, with its vibrant ambience and multi-influenced soundscapes. Driven by social media, her single "The Snake" was a real hit, propelling the artist to the forefront of the music scene. Tonight, she is performing at the Hoxton for the “Fête de la Musique.”

Lana Lubany ©Ozzi Sanderson

The meeting is set a few hours before her show at the Hoxton (Paris IIe). Smiling and welcoming, Lana Lubany is excited at the prospect of performing on stage tonight. With sincerity and spontaneity, she talks about her origins, the success of her single "The Snake" and her artistic vision, translating her words into images.

You're playing at the Hoxton tonight for the “fête de la musique”, how do you feel? What song are you looking forward to performing on stage?

I feel really good ! A bit tired, because I woke up before 4 am today to get here, but I'm very happy to be here! The vibes are immaculate and I'm excited to play, I like doing acoustic shows. I don't get to do many acoustic shows, when I do, it's really fun because I get to play with my voice and stuff. And terms of what I'm excited to play, I love singing “Sold”, so much ! It's so much fun to say, so “Sold”!

You transcend musical genres, how do you define yourself as an artist?

I would like to think I have no borders. I feel like I have a world, and in this world, I can do whatever I want. That's the kind of artist I've always kind of leaned towards being and I've always wanted to do whatever the fuck I want in life in general. So, it makes sense ! [Laughs]

You grew up in Palestine, then moved to London to study music. I imagine you grew up with a wide range of musical influences...

For sure ! Growing up, there was no representation in the West for people like me, for Palestinians, for Arabs, for little Eastern people. Third culture kids no representation. So, growing up, I didn't really listen to Arabic music voluntarily, but it was always in the background. Whenever I would have a family gathering or go to a coffee shop, there would be really good Arabic music playing in the background. I love the classic Arabic music like Fayrouz, she's a really big artist, and they played Oum Kalthoum a lot, which is another legend in the Arab world. So, I would have that music all around while I personally was very much into pop music and whatever was popular back then. But also, my grandmother is American and she is into jazz music theater and folk music. I love folk and jazz music so much, I feel like I get that influence from her as well ! It's kind of a wide range of influences formed into one. I think that is what makes my music me, and that's what makes me, me.

“I don't think I could make music that's not fully me, and to be fully me, I have to immerse everything in my world and not leave anything out.”

You sing in two languages, English and Arabic. Is it important for you to convey your origins and identity in your music?

Again, because I didn't have this representation around me, I never thought that I could be the representation. But I think it's super important to have this representation for the next generation and just for the world to see that we come from a very beautiful culture. There's so many things to celebrate about everything about our culture, our language, and us, as human beings. Right now, especially, this is a very important thing. I think my story is pretty unique and interesting and always has been interesting. Whenever I meet someone I have to explain to them for like 10 minutes where I'm from, my story, everything. I think it's just something that I've always kind of “taken for granted.” It's just something that's been normal to me but I think my story is a bit unusual and I want to put out there to the world. I don't think I could make music that's not fully me, and to be fully me, I have to immerse everything in my world and not leave anything out. So yeah, it's very important.

Translating between English and Arabic can sometimes be difficult, as some words don't exist in both languages. Does singing in two different languages give you more freedom to write your lyrics, or is it a more complicated exercise?

In the beginning, it was hard. I had never written in Arabic but I tried and I told myself that I'm not going to sing in anybody else's dialect of Arabic - because in Arabic, there's many different dialects. So, I told myself, the condition of me singing in Arabic is : I have to do it in my dialect, it has to be true to me. Even the way I speak in Arabic is true to my upbringing, the way I am. I don't really translate from language to language. I speak Arabic fluently but I'm not a poet in Arabic, or maybe I am in my own way, but I'm not a traditional poet in Arabic, but I feel like I'm a poet in English. My English is a lot stronger, and because of my weaknesses in Arabic, my brain thinks in different ways. I come up with different things which is super interesting and I feel like I have been improving ! Ever since I wrote “The Snake”, my writing in Arabic has improved and I'm faster at it, so much faster. So, it's a matter of skill!

I discovered you with the song "The Snake" several years ago. You describe it as "the real first song that represents you". Is that still true today?

Yeah, the first real song to represent me 100%. It was the second song that I ever wrote in Arabic and in English. The first one was kind of light-hearted and it wasn't really full-on, but “The Snake”, it was the first. I think it changed my life and it gave me a career, it gave me a purpose and direction as well. Which is amazing because I didn't really have much direction before, I kind of had a path, but it wasn't lit up, and “The Snake” lit it up. It holds a very special place in my heart for sure, I think forever.

That song, "The Snake", went viral on Tiktok and many people discovered you through that success. What's your relationship with social media? How did you deal with the success of your single?

My relationship with social media is very complicated. I used to love it, but I don't think I love it anymore. I kind of hate it, but also like it. I think the internet can be a very negative and polarizing place, everything is so extreme. I feel like sometimes getting into it too much, it takes me out of the real world. And I think, in order for me to be an artist, in order for me to be creating all the time, I need to be in the real world and not online looking at comments and all of that. The energy of the internet imbalances mine. So, I'm working on my relationship with social media right now. I'm kind of trying not to get validation from it because that's something I definitely used to get. Even during “The Snake” time period, I would get really tired because I really wanted to respond to everybody who commented on my song, or sent me messages, and I still do respond to people, but I can't do that at the expense of my own mental health. So, it's really about finding the balance, posting and interacting with my community, but also living and creating outside of this world.

“So, I have been kind of finding myself visually and aesthetically, and I found my sound.”

I also wanted to talk to you about your artistic vision. You began with a "home-made" photo shoot for the cover of your single "The Snake", released in 2022. Since then, you've released a number of much more elaborate videos, reflecting your world, which blends origins and modernity. What's the creative process behind your artistic direction?

In the beginning, I didn't have a team, I didn't have any management labels, nothing at all. It was just me and my producer Ben Thomson who produced “The Snake” and everything else. I found ways to be creative, I found ways to convey the energy that I wanted in a video. I actually really like the lyric video that I made for “The Snake” because it was just me creating without any expectations, and I like that. I've had a long creative process to get to where I am now, with videos and visuals and everything, because sometimes, I set too many expectations on myself and I over complicate something that should be super simple. So, I have been kind of finding myself visually and aesthetically, and I found my sound. I have only recently realized that I need to just do whatever feels right to me, like wear the clothes that make me look good, you know? Now, the process is more, I’m living life, I have inspiration comes to me from everywhere, I write down the ideas or I make Pinterest boards. Things just come to me and it just starts making sense, and then, I piece the puzzles together. It's kind of like a mix and match situation. I work with the story of the song, essentially if there’s any lyrics that are interesting visually. I just get a creative team and we work on it together. Right now, I'm trying to take myself very seriously, I do believe that my ideas are very good. When I work with other people, I make sure that my vision is still present, because sometimes people see you in different ways, and I have to make sure that this is what I want. It is still a collaboration, where I take myself seriously, and I just don't let someone else do all the work.

Is there a project in the pipeline, an EP or an album?

I released an EP in 2023, “The Holy land”. That was my first project, it took me a year and a half since “The Snake” to release that. That was very much me figuring things out and slowly building my team as well, building behind the scenes, understanding the industry and how things work. I am a project artist so, I am definitely working on another project, which hopefully will come out soon ! There's definitely music coming, for sure !

Lana Lubany (Stanna Stills)

What's your latest musical discovery?

Can I see my phone? I always have to pull up my phone for this, I never remember ! [Laugh and check her phone] This song is really popular, but I've been obsessed with “Please Please Please” by Sabrina Carpenter. Such a good song ! Like it's so good, I wish I wrote it. You know what I mean? So good, and then I really like “Good luck, babe!” by Chappell Roan.

The artist you would most like to collaborate with?

I would love to actually do a song with Tamino, he would be very cool. Rosalía, always, would be insane ! Billie Eilish would be insane. Judeline, I really like her, she also could be a musical discovery, she is really cool ! Let's say, Tamino, Rosalía, and Judeline.

The media is named “S-quive”, which means like avoiding something in French. What do you think you should avoid in music?

Something that I need to avoid in music would be too much influence from other musicians and maybe comparing myself to other musicians. That’s something that is very easy to do on social media, but it’s not beneficial in any way, it's not productive, it's just bad.

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