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band crush: lana del rey

meet the girl everyone's talking about.

by: liza darwin

October 03 2011

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Unless you've been living under a rock (or maybe without internet access), chances are you're already familiar with Lana Del Rey. In just a few short weeks this sultry New York musician has singlehandedly wedged her way into the blogosphere with her smoky voice, retro bombshell good looks, and self-made music videos for singles "Video Games" and "Blue Jeans", which alternate between spliced YouTube clips and Del Rey crooning sexily into the camera.

But turns out she's not new at all. In fact, the 24-year-old has been playing local shows under her real name, Lizzy Grant, for years. It wasn't until a recent reinvention (she's now billed as "the gangster Nancy Sinatra") that Del Rey's become one of the most hotly-debated new artists we've seen in a while (she's so divisive, in fact, that Pitchfork praised her as "Rising" in August and then just a month later ran this 1,600 word piece picking apart her videos, her appearance, and "what the music lacks").

Internet controversy aside, it's obvious that Del Rey is getting people talking- which is a lot to say for someone who hasn't even "officially" released her EP yet (it comes out next week). About a month after first meeting her at Fashion Week, Lana Del Rey called us from Scotland to fill us in on her viral songs, the story behind the videos, and why she's still a little surprised at her success.

Did you expect "Video Games" to be such a big hit? I have to say, I didn't expect what's going on right now. The thing is, the song isn't a humungous change from what I've been singing for years! It's a 5-minute song, and it's a ballad...I didn't have high ambitions to get it recognized. It was just my favorite.

You've been playing music for a while, though, right? I started singing in Brooklyn when I was 18 and doing open mic nights. I opened for folk singers for a few years. I don't think my sound has changed a lot;  it's sort of progressed, but stylistically it's the same.

What type of music do you like? I have music I like to listen to, but I don't really use it to shape my sound. I like the Scarface score and the American Beauty soundtrack, so in terms of references I like to use those. I also like to listen to Jeff Buckley, Frank Sinatra, Nirvana. 

How would you describe your style? I go between wearing t-shirts and jeans and party dresses on stage, depending on where I'm performing. I do my hair really big, though. I love going to vintage stores and finding dresses from the '30s, '40s and '50s.

What's the story behind the YouTube clips in your videos? I put up video montages as scenery. I do it all myself, and I do everything from YouTube. If in my mind I have a vision of a wild mustang stallion rising in the sunset, that's what I'll look for. For "Video Games" I did it all the way through; it took three days straight.

Will your next video follow the same pattern? Well, I enjoy doing it, but I was also just doing what I could with what I had at the time, which was nothing [laughing]. The editing is super personal and sometimes I feel sort of ridiculous doing it and putting it out there. But luckily I found a director for my next video, so it will be something different.

What's the coolest thing that's happened to you since "Video Games" was released? At the Prabal Gurung show during Fashion Week he played "Video Games." I went because he had asked me to come and hear it, and it was so beautiful and different than anything that's happened to me.

You're about to head out on tour. What are most important things you're going to bring? I have a diamond and sapphire cross I always wear, which I'm going to bring. I'm also taking my computer, my phone, and a good luck charm from my grandmother. Oh, and red lipstick.

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