Interviewed by Amy Bell
Photographed by David Reiss
Styled by Steph Kelly
SUPA Model Management
Luca Manning is an individual - an exciting artist with a big voice and a story to tell. Shaped initially by the buzzing Glasgow music and arts scene, Luca now finds their heart stolen by all that East London has to offer. Stylistically androgynous in both their music and presentation, Luca continually blurs lines and questions rigidity at every opportunity. Luca’s journey so far has included collaborating with Glasgow nujazz collective corto.alto, performing at the EFG London Jazz Festival Opening Gala ‘Jazz Voice’ and collaborating with dancer, choreographer and all round icon Steph Burrell.
We spoke to Luca about his music and what the future holds for Luca Manning!
Hi Luca! Thanks for talking to ReVamp Magazine. Describe your sound in 3 words?
- Ooft, straight in with the big hitting questions haha! For me, I’d say : Raw, Vulnerable, Emotive.
- My favourite thing that has been written about me so far is this (written by someone afterattending my most recent show) : ‘Once in a very great while a performer comes along who is touched by greatness, who mixes a incredible, innate ability with insight, great wit and a knowledge of the great artists who have preceded them. Luca Manning is such an artist.’
What does this statement mean to you?
'Gender neutrality is not the death of fashion — it is the renaissance of fashion'. This is a beautiful quote from the ever inspiring Alok Vaid-Menon. Every time I hear Alok speak I just want to write everything down and recite it as a daily mantra. Their words have a way of tapping straight into my soul ; inspiring me to put on that bold lip or throw on the summer frock I was previously worried about wearing. They’ve also had a huge influence on my perception of queerness as an energy, an embodiment of going beyond the expected, heteronormative, mediocrity. This quote specifically refers to the archaic binaries that are still prevalent in the fashion world today. Gender neutrality/fluidity is nothing new (Alok is an incredible scholar on the history of Gender Non Conformity around the world) and I believe that by liberating ourselves from the current rigidity ; we will see truly authentic and meaningful art being made as well as a fashion world that represents the beautiful diversity of the human experience. This means real bodies, this means genderless garments, this means self expression, this means more fat people, this means more disabled bodies, this means more trans and non-binary bodies, this means more black and brown bodies, this means more body hair etc...
The fashion ‘industry’ is a world that was not always accessible to me. I grew up as a fat queer kid and despite my love for expression through clothes, I found it incredibly hard to exist with the aesthetic I wanted due to virtually all high street brands failing to cater to people of my size. On top of this, fashion was always rigidly gendered. I remember being so jealous of the variety of garments on offer in the ‘womenswear’ sections (meanwhile I'm stuck looking at the newest brand of spray on jeans (ugh..I mean..) on offer to me in the ‘menswear’ aisle) of the store but would often be too scared to try anything on. Gender neutrality is the way forward!!
You were shaped initially by the Glasgow music scene, why did Glasgow have a big impact on your music?
Glasgow had a big impact on my music because it’s my home city. I love Glasgow. It’s bold and brashy ; it’s gallus, It’s real. It’s the beauty in ordinary, everyday folk and at the same time, a reminder of the harsh realities faced by many struggling to stay afloat in a major city in the U.K today. The Glasgow music and arts scene is buzzing and you are always guaranteed a good night out. I started off playing angsty self-penned teenage tunes in sticky indie venues around the city and then got involved in the thriving Glasgow Jazz Scene. There used to be a weekly jam session at the legendary Dukes Bar in Glasgow’s west end that was packed every Thursday night. I’d go along to sing and meet folk on the scene and a lot of my early career was shaped by starting out there - it also meant that I’d rock up to school with a hangover every Friday morning...
You are now seeing what East London has to offer, how does the music scene from Glasgow and East London compare?
East London has won a wee bit of my heart, for now... There are a lot of similarities in the sense of lots of cool D.I.Y stuff happening and artsy/trendy folk kicking around.. But they also hold different spaces in my life so I try not to draw much of a comparison. Moving to London has offered me the opportunity to study, fulfilled my sense of adventure and provided access to see and meet so many mind blowing artists from the likes of Moses Sumney and the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall to all of the incredible Drag artists at queer venues like Dalston Superstore.
You have performed at a lot of shows, what has been your favourite show to perform at?
Every single show is unique in that it is of that moment and a cocktail of the energy created by me, whoever I’m sharing the stage with, the audience, the space etc. This means it is hard to choose a single ‘favourite’. I’d hope that my favourite is always yet to come and that’s what keeps me driving forward! But a few recent highlights are headlining London’s iconic Ronnie Scott’s back in June (partially because I got to wear a vintage Gaultier dress hehe...) and also playing Inntönne Festival in Austria at the beginning of this month, that was a special one!
You have a single out called ‘This Time’, what was the writing and recording process like?
Ah yeah this is a tune that was written, recorded and produced totally remotely during the last lockdown with my dear pals Bella and Cameron Ward. Me and Bella both grew up on the Glasgow music scene ; singing together at open mic’s and partying together at Nice N Sleazy. We had wanted to write something together for ages and planned a session which started off with me sending over a short voice memo of a hook idea I had. Within one evening, we had the song written. It was one of those processes where everything just felt super organic, exciting and had a real effortless flow to it. We all have remote home recording set ups so the fact that we couldn’t be in the same room together wasn’t a barrier to creating the track. We managed to get it together through a few back and forth zoom calls and thanks to Cam’s incredible productional skills we had a finished track very quickly!
What was the inspiration behind ‘This Time’?
I’d wanted to create a track in this sound world for some time after being inspired listening to artists like Tom Misch, Linden Jay and Noname. I knew that Bella was really inspired by this kinda music and I’m in love with her sound, so it felt right that I collaborated on this track with her and Cam. In terms of narrative, I think I was feeling a little lost during that winter lockdown. I was questioning a lot of aspects of my identity and my lifestyle and I wanted to write something cathartic that reminded me who I was and could inspire where I wanted to go next. So, we ended up writing a self proclaimed ‘summer bop to inspire finding your sense of self, remembering that you are one authentic, beautiful bad bish and * this time * you will only be defined by YOU.’
It was beautiful to do this collaboratively as me and Bella offer different perspectives in each of our verses and then come together in the overarching theme of the song.
What is next for you?
This feels like an incredibly exciting time for me as an artist because I don’t have an exact idea of what my next steps are going to be. It feels incredible to say that I am making art that I am genuinely proud of and can’t wait to share some new music with you all. The music I have been working on is far more adventurous and raw than anything I’ve released to date and feels as though it’s a somewhat symbolic embrace of all the change I’ve experienced in my life over the last 18 months or so. As well as new music, I’m currently working on curating and presenting a show for Jazz FM ‘Voices’ exploring the intersection between queerness and creativity that’ll be broadcast later in September which I’m really excited about. I’m also continuing to co-host the weekly podcast ‘How Not?!’ with my fellow gobby Scottish creative pal Kim Macari and can be found around the UK singing songs at various venues. Come say hi!