TV & Movies

5 Minutes with Singer Louise Burns: From Lillix to New-Wave Chic

FLARE chats with former Lillix pop-punker and new-wave singer Louise Burns about early fame, the youth-obsessed music industry and her swoony album, Young Mopes, out today

Singer Louise Burns plays guitar on her couch

Louise Burns has come a long way since becoming a professional musician at the age of 11. Growing up in small-town BC, where Burns says, “there wasn’t a whole lot to do aside from play hockey, or go hunting,” she started a pop-punk band with her friends called Tigerlilly, which then became Lillix. By age 15, Lillix had signed with Madonna’s Maverick Records and Burns got her first taste of fame. Lillix’s debut album, which featured hit singles “It’s About Time” and a cover of The Romantics‘ “What I Like About You” (featured on the official Freaky Friday soundtrack), scored them two 2004 Juno noms.

Fast-forward 20 years later, Burns is now 31, living in Vancouver and writing music that reflects her current state. Her new album Young Mopes (out today) is an ode to turning 30 and the raw moments that come along with it. Burns recalls a time when her fellow Lillix band mate had to lie about her age to appear younger and more desirable. She says that moment stuck with her, and she still occasionally struggles with that little voice telling her that youth is necessary for success. Young Mopes embraces this existential crisis and addresses them through beautiful, glittering new-wave. Here, Burns expands on the album and her influences.

Where did you get the idea to start a band at such a young age?
We were obsessed with The Beatles and Hanson and just decided to do it. It’s kind of crazy when I look back: I mean, I look at an 11 year old now and I think, What happened? How did I do that? But it just felt like what we were supposed to do.

Lillix then signed to Madonna’s Maverick Records when you were just 15. What was going through your mind at the time?
Honestly, because we were so young and we were such small-town girls, we didn’t really understand how big that was. We just thought, like, of course we just signed to Madonna’s label. We had just worked our asses off for the past five years. We all cried and were very excited. I went back to school the next week and was like, “I don’t give a shit about any of this anymore,” but, at the same time, when you’re that young, you don’t really have that perspective of the struggles of life.

The title of your new album Young Mopes was actually inspired by a critical Globe and Mail review back in 2013. They referred to you as a “young mope.” How much of an impact did that actually have on the album?
I know it’s so taboo to let reviews affect you—it’s so not cool for a musician to admit that. But when I read that phrase I just thought, OMG that’s exactly what I am! This guy just nailed it without ever meeting me before, and I just thought it was really brilliant. I took something that wasn’t the most negative thing in the world—but also not super-positive either—but just decided to use it because I just thought it was really smart and funny.

How do you think you’ve evolved since 2013?
After I released Midnight Mass, I broke my hipbone on stage, but I didn’t know for a about a year. I kept touring and pushing through, while being in unbelievable chronic pain. I just dealt with it. Then I learned I had broken it and that it had healed incorrectly. I changed my perspective on how I approach my physical life. I started taking care of myself a little bit better and I realized I have to in order to have the energy to go on tour and to keep doing this until I’m old. You don’t really realize these things can happen to you because you’re a musician and you’re young and in your twenties. You don’t care; you’ll go on two hours of sleep a night for two months and not even notice. But when something like that happens, where you’ve entirely f-cked your body up without intending to, you get a little introspective and question, Why am I doing this? Do I want to be doing this? 

I ended up going back to school for a while and getting into music journalism and taking some time to do other things in my life. Then, of course I was like, This is boring, I need to make a record [laughs]. I definitely reconnected with why I was making music, which is a very positive thing for me, because I have been doing it for a long time.

What was the hardest thing about turning 30?
When I was in Lillix, our youth was the focus of all marketing. “They’re only 15 and they’re playing their instruments!” One of our drummers, she had to lie about her age in order to become more desirable. So instead of being 25, she had to say she was 22 or 23, which is so ridiculous, so that is this little thing in the back of my head—youth equals success. And when I turned 30, I was like, Oh wait a minute, all the records that I love, all the people I admire: some are in their twenties, but a lot are in their thirties, forties and fifties. And then I got over that pretty quick.

What advice would you give someone who may be dealing with a similar crisis?
Just know that everyone feels the same way, generally, and everyone has that moment where you finally feel like you’re supposed to have your shit together. And then if you don’t, it’s not a big deal because, you know, you have to work at it. Turning 30 doesn’t mean your life is over: it means it’s just beginning. There’s a power to be living with yourself for so long and figuring out who you are. When it finally happens to you in your thirties, you feel more independent and in control. You feel more powerful.

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