Faith in Chaos: A Journey through Emotion, Synesthesia, and Musical Expression with LAVAGXRL

By Zoe Blakeman

The D.C. born LAVAGXRL, who now lives in Boston, is the creator of the genre-bending masterpiece album titled, “Faith in Chaos.” This introspective artist navigates the emotional labyrinth of their debut album, delving into themes of melancholy, trauma, and the profound journey toward self-acceptance. Through the embrace of vulnerability through emotions, traumas, and their unique experiences of synesthesia, LAVAGXRL crafts a sonic narrative that invites you to explore the intricate tracks and the transformative beauty within life’s chaos.

Check out the exclusive interview with LAVAGXRL Below!

ZB: What sparked the transition from using music as a coping mechanism to amplifying emotions like melancholy in your work?

LG: Music has always been a huge source of comfort for me during tough times. I have always listened to music that kind of reflects whatever emotions I’m feeling at that time. I don’t know why I didn’t start writing music sooner in my life, but I think it just took a really bad depressive episode to kind of pull it out of me. It seemed to capture these feelings that I couldn’t express in words, and it felt like the only beacon of hope for me in that moment.

Playing guitar and writing lyrics are very comforting ways for me to externalize my emotions. I’ve always had a little bit of trouble introspecting as I’m pretty high energy – and I’m a Sagittarius so that doesn’t help. I like to be super busy and try a bunch of different things at once, but eventually, you need time to process everything. That’s something that I didn’t learn until I was an adult.

I feel like that’s when music came through as a new dimension of my personal expression. I mean I started out just doing noise music, there were no words to it really, so then when I transitioned to LAVAGXRL as my music alias, that’s when I started singing and rapping and I felt it was an authentic expression of myself that I hadn’t really accessed.

ZB: Very cool. Was accessing that part of you, like sitting down and processing all of those emotions and getting it out, a hard thing to do?

LG: I am a very sensitive person so yeah, it was pretty tough sometimes. I would repress that side of myself because I felt in the moment it was easier to not feel the bad feelings. Something I’ve learned as I’ve grown up is you have to work through things as they come and that’s a lot better for you in the long run. I’m just lucky that I found music as a really good way for me to process stuff and, hopefully, capture the feelings that I’m going through.

I want people to feel that they’re not alone, and also for me to look back later and see how far I’ve come in my career and life. It’s funny because a lot of the songs on the album are about depression and trauma and things like that, and now I’m in so much of a better place than I was when I wrote those songs. It’s like a nice little time capsule of a period of my life that seems far away now. So it’s kind of fun to look back on like that too.

ZB: Can you elaborate on the inspiration behind specific tracks like “Incantation” and “Blood Moon?” How did those emotions and experiences manifest in your creative process?

LG: “Incantation” is one of the first songs I wrote from this album, I think in late 2019. It was about feeling isolated because of depression and trauma and I’ve struggled with being very dissociative. Just being overwhelmed by emotions makes me feel not really present in the world. I think a lot of my songs touched on this theme of feeling distant from the world or even alienated. The thing that really pulled me out of that is a spiritual practice. It makes me feel less isolated believing in a higher power that helps guide me through the dark times. It reminds me that there is hope.

I feel like my expression of depression through my music, it can get kind of metaphorical. And to me, sometimes, the feeling of being like an alien in this world or like you’re not living in the real world like there’s something beyond what you’re experiencing. That has been something that kind of was a struggle for me when I was feeling down and depressed.

But I think the thing that really pulled me out of that is a spiritual practice. That makes me feel less isolated and gives me hope. It makes me feel a lot more at home in the world. Music has been a huge source of hope and inspiration for me throughout my life, and then I found it as a way to navigate my own shifting tides of motion.

ZB: Your album seems to address the struggle of sharing negative emotions while desiring connection. How do you balance expressing these emotions without feeling like you’re bringing others down?

LG: I feel super relatable for people who struggle with depression or any kind of mental illness. Feeling like your struggles are a burden to the people around you and feeling like you need to put up a front is too relatable these days. There’s so much stigma around mental illness and mental health. It’s super hard, but very necessary, for people to openly express what they’re going through. It’s ok to not feel ok.

I feel like people who are openly expressing that they’re going through things I feel like that is super hard to do. So many people struggle with that and have been through things that are hard to talk about. For me, music was one way to find language for that and I hope that by touching on these themes, people feel inspired to speak up about their experiences, whether it’s through art or any other means. That will make it completely worth it to me.

ZB: Awesome. I just love that. Your experience in improvisational performance seems to have influenced the creation of “Faith in Chaos.” How did this background affect the album’s creative process and the way you approached songwriting?

LG: In a really big way. In the first live sets that I played, a lot of them incorporated improv, on synthesizers or guitar, or just random noise making, creating textural sounds in a nonlinear way. Coming from that background encouraged me to experiment a lot with the structure of my songs and the instrumentation. I love putting different contrasting sounds together, trying to stretch the limits of my imagination.

You mentioned “Blood Moon,” which is my favorite song on the album. I made the beat separately, then had lyrics that I wrote without any kind of melody, and ended up bringing them together. I remember when I was working on the beat I was trying to incorporate some really gritty bass and then trying to see how I could expand the sound for something more light and airy.

The contrast between the synth and the bass for that song was super fun for me. This might be a good time to mention I have synesthesia! I see music in colors. There is a heavy visual component in making music that’s kind of like painting the sound colors of each song.

ZB: That’s so cool! Can you explain more about your synesthesia and how that plays a role in your music?

LG: I’ve had it for as long as I can remember! I guess I only started to notice it in elementary school when I would ask other people, what color is this number for you? I have it with numbers and then I have it with music notes. Any song that is in C major is going to be largely red. My songs “Disappear” and “Prom Queen” are both in B minor. They have kind of a similar world in terms of color.

“333” is in F and it’s a much warmer group of colors for me. I think it’s kind of funny because a lot of the lyrics are about feeling cold. I think when creating that song, I was trying to weave a warm blanket to hold myself on a cold, lonely night. In terms of the visuals that I paired with the music when I was planning the music video for “Disappear,” I was thinking about the color scheme of the song, which is kind of green, blue, light purple, and lighter pastels.

ZB: Your album “Faith in Chaos” appears to embrace the acceptance of life’s lack of control and finding beauty in small moments. How did this philosophy shape the overall tone and themes of the album?

LG: A lot of the songs were written after I had already found that hope and that drive, and accepted the lack of control. The songs reflect on trying to capture feelings of hopelessness before you fall into your purpose. It’s about questioning your faith in yourself, and in the world, and taking the dark and the light together. Although a lot of the songs on their surface level might feel sad, the overall purpose of the album is to come to a point of hope and belief in yourself and a better future.

If anything, chaos works on a couple of levels, it’s like finding faith in expressing myself and finding faith in my own creative process. When finishing off the album, I had to come to a point of faith in myself and the process that the album was going to be good. There are going to be some peaks and valleys along the way, but it’s all an upward trend. There are some twists and turns sonically on the album, but coming from a background of making noise music, I couldn’t abandon all of these glitchy impulses.

ZB: But could you talk more about the role of fluidity and acceptance of emotions in faith and chaos? And how do you create a space where these elements are celebrated in your music?

LG: I think it all starts in my creative process. A big part of leaning into that acceptance was not trying to force a song to be something that it wasn’t. Trying to force myself into a pop structure for a song that wasn’t asking for it. Sometimes short and sweet is exactly where it wants to go. There’s this kind of ethereal agency that has a hand in the creation of my music.

Sometimes I feel like the song is like writing itself or like I’m discovering it rather than creating it. Trusting in the process will always lead me to a result that I can be proud of. I have to accept that perfectionism isn’t a reality, especially in the lyric writing process. I also think if you hold these bad feelings inside of you, they’re just going to hurt you. If you shy away from those feelings, you’re doing a disservice as a person and as an artist.

ZB: I love that music is, for most people, a very emotional process. I think a lot of people can recognize that and not necessarily sympathize with that, but relate to it and how it’s a very emotional process.

LG: Exactly. I’ve always been a person who does that for sure. So I feel that music is both extremely personal and universal. And I think it’s crazy how it does both. Not a lot of things can do that. But, I hope that my music does that for people. It’s my ultimate goal as an artist.

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