Steve Lacy has done a lot considering his age: he’s 18 and helped co-produce a Grammy nominated album called Ego Death and produced for many contemporary singers/rappers, including Kali Uchis, Isaiah Rashad and TWENTY88. He’s the the guitarist and vocalist for The Internet, whose members all have solid foundations, together and separately: last month Syd dropped her smouldering and sexually liberated debut album Fin while Matt Martians held our hands with his quixotic and riveting The Drum Chord Theory. There’s no competition within The Internet, all of them can easily isolate themselves and then unite together without reprimand or intimidation. Lacy uses this to his advantage and establishes a DIY culture in Steve Lacy’s Demo, even coining his carefully selected six songs as a “song series” rather than an EP, where each song paints a different picture but each sound creates an intertwined relationship between each song.
Seeing screenshots of his iTunes library posted on his Instagram being unceremoniously praised with a heart emoji, we see Lacy’s wide breadth of musical influences – from the utopian funk collective Parliament and 90’s avant pop band Stereolab – his keen ear for music isn’t encumbered by genre or time. As a result, Steve Lacy’s Demo boils up as an elixir of different musical influences. ‘Looks’ kicks off the song series with smooth bass licks and swift guitar strums, with Lacy’s silky voice swaying across the track. But Lacy doesn’t let go of his bedroom-producer roots, which was a vital part of what made Steve Lacy who he is: a nascent teenager who found his sound and skyrocketed towards a successful music career, all before he even left high school. ‘Ryd’ draws the high road that Lacy speeds on with breezy instrumentation and lyrics that are carefree and starry-eyed.
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‘Thangs’ subscribes to deep, heated bass strums blended with hints of white noise and then swoops us off with Lacy singing: “Baby girl, we can do all the things you want to do.” His lyrics simmer with infatuation and we can see that Lacy openly explores abstracts – such as love and infatuation – and rekindle its parameters. Lacy shows the extreme notions of angst and throes, not just with his bittersweet lyrics in ‘Haterlovin’ but through sonics as well, where his voice isn’t sweet nor is his guitar the locus in this song. He speaks into the microphone, his voice brash and fighting against the distorted drum loops repeating over. Paranoia, self-deprecation and the darkness within love become the impetus in ‘Dark Red’ which starts off small with only a drum loop repeating in the offset, building texture by adding guitar strums and backing vocals, the song gradually starts to embrace Lacy’s cynical viewpoint on love.
Conversely, with the closing track ‘Some’ it’s revealed that Lacy doesn’t succumb to those explorations – he’s still the aroused teenager with a guitar who just wants to drive his girl around in his car, cruising down the highway. He knows how love can make one squirm and find flaws within themselves but he also acknowledges the intrinsic charm of love, that your body will always follow what the hearts wants. Even if that means getting thrown into the boot of a sparkling white Pontiac LeMans convertible or getting hit by a car after failing to confess your love in a Lloyd Dobler style, as seen in the videos ‘Ryd/Dark Red’ and ‘Some’ respectively.
The interesting aspect of this song series is in its flat-footed attitude; these aren’t throwaways or songs not worthy enough to be on his debut album. Lacy himself defines these six songs as perfect and if these six songs are perfect, then all we can do now is sit back, listen and wait for him to reach his peak.
Words by Ethan Herlock Laird