“I felt like I was Moses in Exodus, going through a desert without water and a suitcase, all alone looking for the promised land”
Meet Merry Lamb Lamb, the London-based Hong Kong-born artist behind the recently released EP, Exodus. Sharing a journey of self-discovery and spiritual exploration, Exodus symbolises a fresh chapter in her artistic evolution, marked by a shift towards a more club-oriented (yet somehow holistic) sound. Opening up about the themes explored in key tracks like Tranquility, Empathy, and Romantic, Merry Lamb Lamb offers us a glimpse into the emotions and experiences that shaped her latest music alongside her dedication to visual synergy even in times of profound self-exploration.
Congratulations on the release of your new EP, Exodus! Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind the project?
During the creation of Exodus, I was in a healthier stage…mainly because I was willing to accept the confusion surrounding my identity crisis, and began belonging more truthfully. Within this, the EP became a continuous journey from where my first album, Genesis, left off. While I was writing Exodus, there were moments when I felt extremely vulnerable because I was home a lot in quarantine and had too much alone time questioning life: where I’m living right now, and who I am as a whole. But most importantly, I always asked God: praying and wondering. “What is next, God? Where is the next step or dream that you wanted me to achieve in life, and where is it?” All these questions always popped out of nowhere. I knew deep down they were not random thoughts that came out of nowhere; these were questions I’d been longing for, and I wanted an answer to them. And one day, it came out of the blue. A vision came into my head: the biblical story of Exodus as a concrete image of Moses bringing everyone from Egypt to Israel to search for their new home and utopian dream. It then became clear and destined that I wanted to have Exodus as a theme and the name for my new EP.
Within this, then, how does Exodus represent a powerful and fresh chapter in your artistic journey?
I was searching during that time for my life purpose and where my ultimate dream was. So yes, to me Exodus represents a fresh chapter in my artistic journey. Within the EP I could adapt to a new music-writing approach and conquer my weaknesses. I wasn’t only physically moving to somewhere new but also being able to accept how complex I am, without knowing what would happen through the haze, to have courage, and to move forward every step honestly and faithfully. It was very praiseworthy to see and achieve as a whole.
Alongside these spiritual and faithful revelations, the EP also marks a shift towards a more club-oriented sound. How did this transition into the bold and dynamic tracks on Exodus occur?
I listened to much more club-oriented music during the pandemic — especially 2-step and techno music. I was constantly trapped inside my house, and listening to more dancey music made me feel more empowered and less fearful about the future. During the three-year buffer period, I shifted my way of making music. My partner Lung, my art director, also performs with me. We started to do many jamming sessions at our home studio, making drum loops on my TR-8S drum machine and finding remarkable bass and synth lines to form the base of a song. Most of the songs from the EP, such as Tranquility, FOREVER, and Empathy, were formed based on loops we did back then during jamming sections. It is also where I started to become aware that I wanted my music to be able to ‘perform live’ and interact with it instantly on site. How dance music is structured is an open gate for me to experiment using a new view to produce music. Making Exodus made me realise that I’m capable of capturing the more surging yet vulnerable feeling that I always wanted, rather than what I used to convey, especially in my first album which represented a more mellow and melancholic side of my past.
You mentioned the singles Tranquillity and Empathy, which both served as the first taste of the new EP. Tell me about the themes were you exploring through these songs.
I always asked myself who I was, where I was from, my identity, my tribe, and where I belonged as a child because I often moved from country to country. This feeling of longing, searching for that “ultimate dream” equates to looking for what home is to me. It has become almost an urge for me to explore these sectors daily (even though it is like a never-ending open question). In Tranquility, I rooted back to where I was born in Hong Kong, which felt distant and weary. I left home when I was 14 and was forced to study abroad. After being so far apart for almost ten years, I returned home to form Merry Lamb Lamb. But surprisingly I felt distant from Hong Kong, I was also seen differently by others, culture-wise and personality-wise. The fear of belonging and inadequate adjustment therefore intensified as I lived in the city. There was a turning point when I started living in the most crowded area in Hong Kong, Shum Shui Po. I felt stressed and manipulated by the people around me. I almost felt like people were following me back home because the city was that opposed and breathless to me. The city — and the world — have been so corrupted these past few years that I almost felt helpless and deranged. All these clouded emotions made me want to let my ego out and bounce back to my misfit and unsatisfied accusations about home.
… And in Empathy? This track, though still musically upbeat feels lyrically more pleading.
Empathy continues the journey to self-affirmation and belonging I spoke about earlier. It was almost a complaint to God about my whole life, with my knees bowed down, but I feared accusing him because he is God. In my past life, I was constantly drifting, and not being able to settle was hurtful. Alongside this, the encounters that I had as a child being bullied at high school brought me to realise that I have the habit of forming a fence unconsciously between the outer world and stoning my heart like a rotten egg. I became easy on myself and felt every encounter in life was meant for a loss. Sometimes, when I think about it deeply, all I want from God is to be merciful and give me a hug or a shoulder to cry on when I’m weak. I felt like I was never asking much, yet empathy seemed so far away and out of reach to me all the time.
The track Romantic has led to you being compared to Enya (a compliment always). Can you delve into the emotions and experiences that inspired this particular song?
Long walks on the streets and soliloquized acts were my daily habit in Hong Kong while writing Romantic. Whenever I felt stressed about going to the edge of my tipping point, I would let myself have long walks to look through familiar streets and shops to zone myself out. Although I didn’t have experience walking in a desert before, it almost felt like a desert walk to me. I was very hard on myself to strive for an answer about where I should go next in life because I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere I’d already been. The road seems broad and conquered without a piece of me. Like the title of the album; I felt like I was Moses in Exodus, going through a desert without water and a suitcase, all alone looking for the promised land.
“Where is the way?
Through the promised lands
And through the desert islands
I couldn’t find my way.” — Romantic
Within this, the title feels somewhat oxymoronic; why Romantic?
Picking Romantic as a title for me is uncanny because I find solitude sometimes fearful, but it could be romantic at the same time. Being in the process of feeling afraid about the future and fantasising about it is complex but romantic.
Your music transitions between three languages — English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. Is it important for you to express yourself through the differing powers of multiple languages?
I relate to Billy from the book The Minds of Billy Milligan, because that’s how I split my brain when processing things daily. I never force myself to stick with one language because I fear I might take the sparks away from creating songs. I love to take advantage of all three languages to convey different sides of myself more complexly. For example, when writing Empathy, I wanted to convey my calmness and a more genuine side of me. There is an open-your-heart emotion to it, which I felt the most comfortable writing in English because English is my native language. I could be free and become as personal as possible while speaking English. Writing in Cantonese, however, almost feels like a second home to me. It felt like a familiar home but with unfamiliar distant relatives living inside my house. And the way that Cantonese is formed as a language is complex and challenging to learn. You cannot put daily conversations and slang into songs because it will sound weird and unpoetic. Cantonese sounds more like a poem, which adds morals and an underlying double meaning to things. When I speak Cantonese on Who Am I, I’m more implicit and shy, conveying my confusion to my roots. Meanwhile, for Mandarin, there’s a bold and manly guy inside me; straightforward and on point. I can speak my mind without hesitation and don’t hold back. I love it so much because I don’t usually reveal this side of me. In Tranquility, I showcase my inner feisty and angry side, where I can fight like a warrior without doubt and fear. Being able to switch languages doesn’t mean I’m hiding from another personality; it’s not that, it reveals my most truthful side and my state of mind while writing that song. It is so important to express yourself authentically. To me, there’s no other thing that is more important than that.
You have a distinctive visual and fashion identity which too transitions, complementing the themes in your music. For you, how do these aesthetics envelop the overall audience experience of Merry Lamb Lamb?
In my visual representation, I gravitate towards how I wanted Merry Lamb Lamb to appear as a whole: an anime-like and out-of-this-world creature. I want it to become almost utopian-like, allowing my audience to be in the clouds. As Merry Lamb Lamb, I want to experiment with a new style for her whenever she has a different persona to present. For this EP, I needed to experiment with new things, primarily since most of my music revolves around vulnerability and breakthroughs. Visually, I want her to try them all, just like how I wanted to convey myself in my piece: very bold and honest. I never consider my visual and musical identities separately, they were always in sync. To me, visuals and music are inseparable and exist fluidly like water because they’re both the first impression of your identity. And the visual aspect of it adds a profound layer to your music.
What’s next for Merry Lamb Lamb? Are there any future projects or collaborations on the horizon that your fans can look forward to?
I’ve been making new music lately with my partner, Lung. It was my first winter here in London, and I don’t want to waste any of those winter blues to spark my creation. I’ve been inspired by Crystal Palace lately; that’s where I live. There’s a beautiful lake near my home, and I always go there for a stroll when I need a break. I think my new music will relate to themes of being close to Mother Nature. I can’t wait to see how it will turn out. And for future projects, an interesting one will come up with my girlfriends Miso Extra and Aimei媚. It will be a collaboration song coming out next January 2024. It is a song about being fully empowered after an unforgettable breakup. It was also my first time collaborating with more than one artist, and it was fun and surprisingly enjoyable. I can’t wait for you guys to listen to it.