Published Feb 20, 2010LoneLady is Manchester's Julie Campbell, a singer/guitarist/producer with a distinct vision bent on recapturing her city's shadowy post-punk years. Nerve Up is the sort of first impression that ranks up there with the debut albums of her most obvious progenitors: Orange Juice, A Certain Ratio, Young Marble Giants and Joy Division. Were this 30 years ago, Tony Wilson would be plugging her on So It Goes, Martin Hannett would have her singing from an elevator shaft and Tilda Swinton would have played her in 24 Hour Party People. By teaming up with engineer extraordinaire Guy Fixsen (Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine), Campbell not only built a provisional studio in a dilapidated mill to record her debut but also achieved the perfect mix of grey tones and resounding production to suit her minimal, insular pop songs. She has a voice that's as comely and intrepid as Sinead O'Connor, Siouxsie Sioux or Polly Harvey, which adds yet another alluring facet to the punk funk in the title track, a jittery, urgent rave-up like "Intuition" or sparse swansong "Fear No More." As undoubtedly rooted in the past as it is, there's an undeniable futurism to Nerve Up that indicates LoneLady is just getting warmed up.
What was it about Manchester that made you feel so strong about making the album there?
I think it's just about identity, really. It's not like I'm waving a banner for Manchester or anything, I just felt that this album should be recorded in a place that had some geographical significance to me and gave me some kind of meaning. I just wanted to continue the way I had been working, which was quite a private way.
Did building your own studio meet your expectations?
It did. I think it was an incredibly difficult project to undertake. We had a budget, so it's not as simple as it sounds to renovate a crumbling room. But I think it was a very atmospheric environment to record in. Some of the sounds are the natural reverb of the building, which is kind of nice.
The album title sounds almost like a motivational statement.
I think the title has a few different interpretations behind it. I think Nerve Up is about steeling yourself to do something. Nerves are also, in a way, a psychological antennae, being alert to what's around you. I think that describes a few strands that run through the record quite nicely: the psychological spaces, as well as that sort of restlessness that's in the album. (Warp)