Bklava | 5 Minutes With

“I love having complete autonomy over my music and future,” Bklava tells Noctis about their record label, Spin Suga. Lara Sweeney, known as Bklava, is a London-based producer, DJ, and vocalist who works to reduce the gender gap in dance music and give a new platform to rising talent.

On their forthcoming mixtape ‘c u l8r’ Bklava will emerge as more than a singer, with a fusion of light and dark sounds, previously only heard at their DJ sets. Out on June 7th, ‘c u l8r’ will embody the true essence of Bklava, as an artist, producer, DJ, and vocalist. It will also be the first project released on their newly launched label.

Packaged in anthemic piano-house atmospherics, Bkalva shares a new snippet of ‘c u l8r’,’ a new single, ‘Free.’ Centered around the feeling of euphoria and invincibles, ‘Free’ adds to their evolution since the days of the 2020 ‘Bklava’ EP, inspired mainly by the 2010-2015 deep house era.

On top of sharing their background and recalling significant career steps, Bklava shares their list of essentials for a raver starter pack, their secret hangover cure, and the reasons for their inarguable passion for dance music.

What is the mantra you’re currently trying to live by?

Today it’s: Do things at your own pace! I’m hoping that reminding myself of this constantly will just ‘click’ one of these days!

What are your essentials for your rave starter pack?

Spiced rum and diet coke (the dc addiction is v real), sweet treats and plenty of water – wanna wake up with some kind of fresh face in the morn. Bops all night long and I wanna see FLINTAs behind the decks only! Bring all the vibes to the front of the crowd and keep that energy running all the way to the back. It’s not a lot to ask for but it’s not always there.

Hangover cure: dioralyte before you go to sleep- thank me later x

Could you give us your top three club songs that are timeless and will never disappoint on the dance floor?

Hmmm this is tricky as I mainly play a lot of new tracks but there’s defo old tracks that still fill a room now: Tessela – Hackney Parrot; Double 99 – Ripgroove; and Mosca – Bax, to name a fewwwww. The new-ish releases that get a crowd bouncing for me right now are: Pangaea – Installation; POLO LILLI – LMSYD; Saliah – Habibi Riddim.

What series of emotions do you go through on a night out?

Wow. Honestly every emotion imaginable. Depends if it’s from my perspective as a raver or a DJ but I think the best nights are always the spontaneous ones with people you weren’t expecting to connect with. I’ve had many nights of tears and joy – sometimes the tears come from the joy and other times it’s from anxiety or one too many g&ts (gin is now off the rider). 

Some of my greatest memories are from raving and I think it’s telling how powerful music and dance is. I’ve always found myself unable to switch off when my mind’s constantly racing. Dancing is one of those things that can channel my focus. Music is something that can take my pain or stress and turn it into something creative. So yeah in a way a night out can cause many emotions but I always benefit from a still mind amongst all the chaos.

Could you tell us more about your background and how it influenced your sound?

I was brought up in an Irish-Lebanese household and have always been connected to the music and the food. I don’t know if any of that has transpired into my music now but it’s definitely a connection to those roots that continue to inspire me. 

My dad is musical and my mums always had an affinity with dance. This definitely rubbed off on my sisters and I who all enjoy music, dance and are keen on musical theatre too.

I’ve been writing songs since I was 10 on my guitar and was into a lot of folk, emo, indie, and singer songwriter stuff in my teens but I have always been a little theatre kid too so a lot of my love was shared between being dreaming of being a full time musician and pursuing a career in theatre. This is still a huge dream of mine!!

My time at college is probably what pushed me to lean into my love of dance music. I was surrounded by musical talented individuals and a lot of the circles I gravitated too were into the same sounds of dubstep, house and disco. I would listen to Rinse FM weekly and listen to mixes and read publications on XLR8R, Mixmag and Fader. It wasn’t until I started learning how to DJ at Uni when I thought about combining my vocals and mixes and thinking about myself as a dance artist!

Could you name specific records that you instantly connected to?

Gosh I could probably name 100s but there was a track that kick started my record collection (I didn’t even own turntables at the time, I knew I just had to have this record) : It’s gotta be one of my absolute favourite Garage house records from the US classic house sound. It’s 95 North Remix of Groove Committee & Laura Alford – If You Want It Come And Get It (North Dub Mix). I’ve never jumped up to buy a record so fast!

What drove you to take on Bklava as your stage name?

The name is a nod to my roots as Baklava was something I’d eaten loads over the years being very close to my Teta and Jeddo (nan and grandad) and eating lots of Levantine and Armenian food. I have a huge sweet tooth so I just wanted to combine heritage and dessert and I ended up with Bklava. 

You’re based in London, how does your usual day-to-day around London look like?

Definitely depends on the season! Doing this full time means my days are never the same or boring! At the moment, it’s a healthy rotation of studio, admin and lots of travelling about. In the first part of the year I always plan in more studio time and also socialise away from work. From summertime, we’ll have festival season so lots of gigs and more travelling – hopefully sun too plz! My vitamin D levels are screaming. 

What was the inspiration behind your new single ‘Free’?

Ah I just absolutely fucking love piano house with big joyous vocals and I really wanted to create a version of that from my own tastes. Got into the studio with my pals TCTS and Tom Demac and drew on our love of 2010-2015 era of deep house. There were loads of powerhouse vocals in this era so I wanted this song to emulate that with some gorgeous piano stabs!

Your new mixtape ‘c u l8r’ is due to be released on June 7th, what can you tell us about the project’s messaging and overall vibe?

It’s darker than a lot of my previous releases for sure – this is something I’m really excited about because it’s something you wouldn’t have seen from my previous releases despite my DJ sets being a mix of the light and darker sounds! I think people have previously seen me as a singer, but I really want people to understand me as a writer and producer too. There’s tracks on there with no vocals at all so if that doesn’t make it obvious, i danno what will! It’s a true embodiment of all my club influences and dance fusions I’ve been brought up by and inspired by from my teens to now.

How does it compare to your debut EP ‘Bklava’ released in 2020?

My debut EP came out during lockdown and we were still without our beloved nightlife communities so everything I wrote in that time came from a perspective of solitude and it was a very emotive EP. In this era, it definitely shone a light on my vocals and lyrics as opposed to my stance as a DJ and producer. I think it’s taken me some time to get the balance of everything so I really believe my new mixtape brings that.

Spin Suga is your own record label, what made you want to launch it?

Spin Suga originally started off in the pandemic as a network for women and minority genders to come together and showcase their talent through live streams and production workshops. I really wanted to reduce the gender gap in dance music, and this was my way of giving a platform to more incredibly talented artists to help them on their journey. 

I’ve always wanted to grow it into a record label, and have more control of my own releases whilst having the opportunity to support more producers. So here it is, my own label, and I’m loving having complete autonomy of my music and future. The mixtape feels like the perfect project to launch it with. 

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Photographer: Gray Brame
Styling: Phoebe Butterworth
Words: Karolina Kramplova