With two recent releases and a growing following Shaefri is doing it for the girls who love house music. The London-born singer turns her ballads towards the dance floor with growing beats and an electronic pop sound.
We met up with the Irish-Egyptian beauty in Shoreditch to find out about her new single Rabbit Hole.
You just put out a new video for your single Rabbit Hole. Can you tell me about the single, the lyrics and what went into putting it together?
So I started writing this actually about 4 -5 years ago and before it was quite a slow piano ballad because I was doing everything acoustically. I worked with these two producers, these guys called J. Harvey Jones and they came in an energised it a lot more with these slick electronic beats. I loved what they did because they kept all of the emotion of the original song which for me it’s a very personal song. If you read the lyrics it’s very exposing, quite raw. It’s a really desperate song. Which isn’t to make it sound like “you’re so fucking desperate”, it’s really begging someone to love you. Everyone’s kind of felt like that- it was nice to bring a contemporary take to a ballad song.
I know you worked with someone really artistic on the video, can you tell me about them and how the idea for your really haunting visuals came about?
I worked with Dylan Thomas who’s an acclaimed photographer and has worked with Lord Snowden a lot and does really beautiful portrait and stills photography. And he showed me this series he did- I can’t say what it is as he tests people when he meets them and only one person has ever got it right the first time so I’ll ruin it if I talk about it – but it just looked so haunting and creepy and desolate so I thought if he could capture something like that he would be able to bring what I want into this video. We came up with this concept together with my manager and my stylist who looks after some of my aesthetic bits. So we wanted to start it really vulnerable and keep the whole video really exposed so that’s why I’m the only thing in the video. It’s pretty much centered on the emotional journey – I hate that phrase- the emotional journey through the song so it starts really vulnerable and then it becomes a bit more confrontational in the middle like “why won’t you love me why won’t you do this” and at the end it’s just complete desperation. We wanted to keep it very subtle so there’s nothing in the first one except just playing with lights and then there’s some play with mirrors and at the end, we went full on – let’s do strobes to make it atmospheric. And I think we pulled it off, I’m very happy with it and I think he is. I think the whole team’s really excited about it.
You’ve got a very electronic sound- is this something you’ll carry through to the rest of the music you make or will you be switching it up at all?
I think I’ve spent a long time honing the sound and settling on that electronic pop style which I love but I think it would be really interesting with my next piece of work to maybe push a few more boundaries do something a bit more eccentric but keep an electronic grounding. I think it works with the stuff that I write – but to explore a couple more energised avenues maybe.
So I know your EP is out soon, can you tell me when it’s out and what tracks are going to be on it?
It’s out on the 17th March which is St. Patrick’s day for all my Irish cohort and there are 5 songs on it. Pixelate and Rabbit Hole are the ones already out and then there are 3 more tracks. One’s called Monster, Caroline and Give It All.
Will there be videos?
There will. We shot Monster in an abandoned Mill in Cornwall a couple of weeks ago- which was very cold. And we’re shooting Caroline in about 2 weeks and Give It All is further down the line.
So you have these two singles that have come out in the past year but you’ve been doing music a lot longer than that. So can you tell me how you developed as an artist and got to this sound that you’re at now?
So I left school and decided to take a gap year and pursue music because that’s what I wanted to do. And without sounding really cliched it steamrolled from there and I ended up taking a couple of more years to do it. Not releasing anything because I wanted to get the next one right and make sure it’s what I wanted to represent, my sound and who I was. So I ended up working with loads of producers, the guys who did a lot of the Amy Winehouse stuff, I worked with Babyshambles as well which was interesting. I’ve worked with a lot of people at this point which is cool because it’s helped me to take stock of what I wanted this EP to sound like and who I wanted to work with. I’ve been honing my sound and I thought now would be a good time to launch.
And finally, Is Shaefri your real name?
Yes! My parents are Irish and Egyptian and there’s an Irish name Síofra. They argue about the origins of my name but there’s Síofra ( pronounced SHEE-fra) which means water fairy but the spelling is really quite difficult for English speakers to pronounce. So to make it easier they changed the spelling but I think they made it up because I’ve never found anyone else with the spelling or the name. So it’s my real name but it is made up.