“I think I add a very outspoken, unafraid female voice, musically and socially. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so that inherently creates a dialogue,” says Lily Slay, 29, local musician and comic, on what she adds to the Charleston music scene. She is certainly unafraid, and has chosen to match her aesthetic to her actions: donning loud wigs, kick-ass outfits, and expressive makeup.
She comments “I love when whimsy, absurdity, and brightness in art are used as a veil over darkness and raw, visceral emotion, which is a common theme and a goal for me in my music.” Among her other talents, Ms. Slay is also a cartoonist, sketching a black and white strip called Sad Badger, which is a more contemporary version of Eeyore of Winnie the Pooh fame.
When it comes to working in Charleston, Lily does a little bit of everything—from delivering pizza for D’Allesandro’s to working the desk at Roses and Ruins Tattoo Downtown. Perhaps what she is most well known for is singing for local outfit The Royal Tinfoil. A bluesy/gypsy folk band, Tinfoil’s songs soar along with Slay’s alto in a smooth, but thought provoking progression. To put it simply: once you hear them, you can’t stop listening. Try them out—their entire album is available for purchase or streaming online at royaltinfoil.bandcamp.com
I myself stumbled upon Lily Slay at the Recovery Room on upper King St. She was playing a smaller set, trademark kazoo in hand. Once she finished, I knew I had to find out more about her, so I reached out for an interview. Along with being very talented, Lily is also quite friendly, willing to be frank and open about herself.
On her beginnings, Lily said she was always a musical kid, “but a lot of my flair for performing came from the theater in school. With my alto range and larger frame, however, I never landed big roles. I wasn’t a pretty, petite soprano. I think my longing to create my own character and sing my own music was born of the frustration of not having my vocal ability taken seriously by a lot of the adults in my life.”
As an adult, she has certainly created her own character–a wonderful and whimsical strong woman, unabashed of her own talents, with flawlessly applied eyeliner and a killer wit. On songwriting, she says, “I’m often fairly sarcastic, too, but I love a proverbial wink to the listener that says, ‘you’re in on the joke.”’ When asked to describe her style, she puts it this way: “I always say I’m ‘velcro, molasses, and cigarette ashes.’ It means I’m a little gritty, but still polished; a smidge romantic, but a bit cynical.”
She’s not planning on solely sticking to the same kind of music, either. “It’s important to evolve. I want to keep growing and challenging myself. Currently, I’m working on an electronic dance music project and possibly a du-wop garage rock outfit.” And who doesn’t want to hear what that sounds like?
If you’re interested in seeing Lily Slay, you can catch her at Recovery Room with her drummer, Kain Naylor, October 6th. If you want more consistent Lily, she and Mackie Boles, the original line-up for the Royal Tinfoil, will be doing a residency on the deck at Charleston Pour house on Tuesdays all through November, and she hints at the possibility of some special guests along the way.