Local producer Lucy Helyer has been dominating the playing field for Bristol’s best up-and-coming for the past few months, and it’s with very good reason.
Operating professionally as L U C Y, she occupies the same dark, atmospheric, spacey soundscapes that have been trademarked by other Bristol artists like Tricky and Kahn – adding her own energy to the mix to define her unique sound, which is a blend of grime, dubstep and shadowy bass music.
L U C Y occupies the same dark, atmospheric, spacey soundscapes that have been trademarked by other Bristol artists like Tricky and Kahn
At just 20 years old, there’s a palpable sense that she has entered the defining years of her career. While she’s been working at her craft since the age of 15, it seems that she’s now hit her stride as a producer – recently making it to the finals of Red Bull Music Academy’s Riddim Rally, after winning her regional heat against some pretty established local names: Sir Hiss, LTHL, Neffa-T, Lemzly Dale, Lington and Slugabed.
Her recently self-released Mixtape 01 feels like a fully coherent project, with 13 really strong tracks that come together to create a definably L U C Y sound. The follow-up release has already been snagged by London’s Trapdoor Records, and will hopefully be coming out in the next few months.
when I was 16, I got a job and I saved up for a Mac
‘When I was a teenager, I used to go to Basement’s free youth music sessions about three times a week. I wanted to learn how to DJ, but they taught me how to produce as well. It used to be at Unicorns, but when they moved to the Station it became quite difficult to get to the equipment. So when I was 16, I got a job and I saved up for a Mac.’
Lucy’s sound is unmistakably Bristol, so it’s not surprising to learn that it was the people making music in her hometown that first inspired her musically.
Kahn and Neek, especially, were the first people to inspire me – that certain vibe of their music
‘Kahn and Neek, especially, were the first people to inspire me – that certain vibe of their music. Then My Nu Leng and that kind of darker bass sound of Bristol. I was also inspired by going out to dub events from a young age, and just generally Bristol being such a mish mash of sounds – and I hope that comes out in my music.’
Lucy has made a point of trying to retain an element of elusiveness as an artist, which can be particularly difficult for a female operating in an industry where men far outweigh any other gender. This adds a certain exoticism to the idea of the female producer, making it hard to avoid the preyful eyes of the media looking at more than musical output alone.
I saw an article yesterday that was like “Top 20 Hottest Female DJs” – stuff like that makes me feel sick
‘I saw an article yesterday that was like “Top 20 Hottest Female DJs” – stuff like that makes me feel sick. Why can’t people just appreciate the music? People will judge a female artist’s face and appearance, then judge their music afterwards, which is something I didn’t want to happen.
‘I also hope it means – if I manage to do it correctly – that my music will have a certain longevity. My favourite artists have an air of mystery about them and I think it’s nice to have that, and not have everything out on social media, because it can build an atmosphere around the music.’
While she wants to avoid certain traps of being a female musician, there is an element of femininity to her work that is important. Rather than trying to fit into a mould shaped predominantly by male producers, she’s doing her own thing, which can only help lead the way for other female producers. One of these elements is the use of female vocals, which, on the whole, is not that common in instrumental grime tracks.
Rather than trying to fit into a mould shaped predominantly by male producers, she’s doing her own thing, which can only help lead the way for other female producers
‘It wasn’t particularly deliberate to use female vocals, but a lot of my female friends are singers. They also sit really nicely on the songs – a lot of male vocals are a bit too low to actually sit, and you can do a lot of cool stuff with female vocals.’
While she’s not actually on the label, Lucy could be considered a very good friend of Bristol’s all-female record label Saffron Records, who have been helping push her music over the last year. ‘Saffron Records have been so supportive of my music and spreading positivity – sharing my stuff and just supporting in general. It’s really, really been helpful.’
Saffron Records have been so supportive of my music and spreading positivity
Lucy has also been getting a lot of love from Bristol tastemakers The Blast, who initially booked her for Sequences Festival this year on their new Bristol Stage. As one of Bristol’s biggest bass music festivals, it would have seen her sharing a lineup with the likes of Chase & Status, Kahn and Neek, and Mefjus. Unfortunately it was a few days before her dissertation hand in, so she had to turn the opportunity down.
‘I couldn’t go because my mum was going to cuss me out too much. I would have failed my whole uni degree if I’d gone. Hopefully next year, if I keep it up, then I can play Sequences, because that would be amazing.
The support system for me in Bristol is mad
‘The support system for me in Bristol is mad. The guys from the Blast found me through my friend, who was bigging me up to them. They just became really supportive of what I was doing. I’m a big fan of The Blast and Motion and all these places, so I’m just happy to have their support and hopefully I can do them proud!’
Outside of Bristol, Lucy also has the attention of people like Radar Radio and Red Bull Music Academy. The weight of these institutions behind you is hard-earned and can really help make the difference of whether an up-and-coming artist gets to ride the wave of their ‘breakthrough’, or not.
Outside of Bristol, Lucy also has the attention of people like Radar Radio and Red Bull Music Academy
As well as being selected for (and winning) the regional heats of the Red Bull Music Academy Riddim Rally, they’ve also put her on the same lineups as the likes of Sir Spyro, as well as asking her to take part in the Bristol leg of their #NormalNotNovelty female-only workshops, where she led a production workshop.
‘I’m such a big fan of some of the people I was against in the Riddim Rally. I’ve never been so nervous in my whole life – especially because a couple of days before, I was looking for inspiration to practice war riddims, as such, and I found this song in a mix, and I was like, “This. I need to make something like this on the day.” Then I looked at it and it was a Limington song! I could have been against the guy that made it. It threw me off a bit and it made me even more nervous.
‘Red Bull have blessed me so much. I’m a big fan of Sir Spyro and meeting him was amazing. He’s a really humble guy, and he’s really talented and he’s really hard working. It’s nice to meet one of your idols, and them be nice and talk to you and take the time to explain certain production techniques – he went through how he gets his kick to sound the way it does. He’s a really sound guy.
when there are people actually voting for your songs in front of your face, it does give you that confidence boost like, “Okay, I am a producer now”
‘I gained a fair few followers from taking part in Riddim Rally, and generally speaking it gave me a lot more confidence in my production. Before that, when people would give me compliments about my music, I kind of wouldn’t believe them. But when there are people actually voting for your songs in front of your face, it does give you that confidence boost like, “Okay, I am a producer now.”
While we greedily await her new project on Trapdoor, we’ll be continuing to rinse her Mixtape 01, which is available on Spotify and Soundcloud (listen below). And you can catch L U C Y live this month at In:Motion on 6 October for The Blast’s TQD X Critical X Swing Ting event.
Photos: Dominika Scheibinger