Here’s what you need to know about Stanley Penrose. He loves pizza, so much so that he has a big old slice tattooed on his arm. His spine is curved due to Scoliosis (“My music will never be as twisted as my spine!”), he’s well over six foot tall, from a sleepy town in Wales and now resides up t’North. Also, he crafts the most spectacular music. Think Whitney Houston playing to a Manchester house party.
For the last five years, he has been creating music under the alias of le-naSty, but there’s no bad blood between the two identities. “le-naSty is just me!” he breezily confirms, “I’m happy to be at a point where I am completely comfortable in the space I’ve made for myself since starting out on this project five years ago.”
There is very little distinction between the two identities, especially on stage where he tries to be as open and honest as possible, with the help of a few tinnies. “Thinking about it a bit though, I do think under the le-naSty name I feel more liberty in saying things which I would never usually say in conversation or if I was, say, releasing acoustic music under my own name.”
With a laugh, he references his early track, ‘Ride Wichu’. It’s a sultry number with a rhythm that slithers under the coolness of the bedsheets. The lyrics; ‘so damn sexual, don’t hold back babe I want it hard and true,’ wouldn’t be out of place in one of the Magic Mike movies. “It’s actually comical picturing those words coming out of my mouth! That being said, these are things that I want to write, so there is freedom and joy in being able to do so as le-naSty.”
Admittedly, being a hopeless romantic, an over thinker and all round sensitive guy, is not the best combination. Add to the mix a Philosophy degree and a musical streak, and you have le-naSty’s situation. “I do think that my brain being the way it is has helped me with both music and philosophy.” he says, “It definitely helps me find interesting ways to write lyrics and weird ways of phrasing things or putting things together. [My studies] also taught me how to put myself in the shoes of others and this is a good tool to have when you’re songwriting.”
His lyrics are frank analyses of the relationships he has and had, written with an urgency as though they were the first to have popped in to his mind. Beautiful similes compare his body to a garden that will soon be well enough to harvest flowers, and the touch of a loved one to medicine. The words are intimate, written like poems, but they cut like knives when you really listen.
He argues with himself, asking rhetorical questions before pleading and howling for answers from silence; “And how many sailors got wrecked on your rocks?” They sit unassuming and subtle, atop lines of funk and soul.
Most of the songs come from more of an emotional place rather than being cognitive. Though we’re now in fear of over-analysing his over-analysing. A recent track of his, ‘This Anxiety (Dance It Off)’, is deliciously beat-driven with keys replicant of black tie dinner jazz piano player gone rogue. Whereas its sister, ‘Helen’ contradicts. It starts by barely keeping its head above water, creating a muffled vocal that fails to quieten a melancholic but reassuring twinkle that leads to a gospel chorus. Together, the two work harmoniously and paint a crystalline reflection that dares to show both sides of a person.
His debut album, 'Flowers Will Grow', emerged in 2017. Described as the result of an unashamed love for Mariah Carey and a delve into neo-soul, the tracks go through the phases of both his musical and his romantic history. A bittersweet innocence that comes with puppy love mixes with the vinyl spin romantic soul that filled a cosy childhome home in the countryside, the schoolboy indie naivety combines with the subtle sounds of the early 00s big hooks.
Then there’s the evolution to becoming a producer having acquired a love for hip-hop, sampling and rapping. As a teen he found a second family in a small town gang, who dared to feel every emotion with intensity. Leaving for the big city, Stan found his voice with le-naSty and his freedom and space in Sheffield to pull everything he had learnt together.
The album covers everything from uplifting euphoria to isolating loneliness. He is a shapeshifter. His music moulds and replicates his inner biology and feelings; from the rise and fall of a heartbeat, to the flow of blood through the veins and the rush of endorphins. Emotions were allowed to fully blossom.
His forthcoming record, 'The Line Between', was written during an aftermath. “A while ago a lot of really emotionally intense things were happening with me and I was just unable to put them music. I basically felt like I had a lot to say but just couldn’t formulate it or write about it. Then the dust kind of settled and this whole album came out of me in about a month,” he explains, “It’s like I needed space for everything to come forward.”
Describing the writing process as an “unhappening,” he replayed situations and learnt from them. “I felt like each song was a process of going back over everything that had happened, facing it, coming to terms with every part of it and then accepting it, letting go and moving on. That sounds like a cliche but it really was extremely therapeutic and redemptive!”
As a result the songwriting takes centre stage on the new record, with every word carefully chosen to tell a chapter of his most recent story. Usually these are that of their author, but there are tracks on the album where he embodies a fictional character. The cinematic, ‘Daughter,’ tells the story of a man who hopes for redemption from previous deeds by having a daughter. “I had this image in my head of him bathing his daughter in this river and it being like a baptism for them both.”
Stan starts: “It actually ends with him thinking he’s having a panic attack but actually having a heart attack and dying with his daughter by his side, reaching for the river. Which is pretty fucking dark now I’m thinking about it!”
Representing the liminality of relationships either between abstract things such as beauty, pain, love or lust, or between people, the album shows vulnerability in its rawest state from different perspectives. “It’s definitely my most mature work to date and I am unashamedly proud of it... it felt like the sound was just waiting for me, fully formed.”
The first single stripped from the new record is ‘Free Solo’. The opening half is bold. It’s a neon-wearing party goer living their best life, wearing a careless attitude with a hand up to romance. Then the tune changes and becomes far more melodic and calm. With this, the lyricism becomes apologetic, unravelling a defiance to fall for love again.
“The carelessness is just a front for the pain and heartache that comes after you separate from someone.” le-naSty explains. “I’d just become fascinated by Alex Honnold, the guy who climbed free solo without ropes up El Capitan, a huge 3000 foot cliff face in Yosemite. I thought that it was a fitting metaphor for turning away from any form of romance and going it alone, even if the act of going free solo is risky and dangerous, at least you are the only one who will let yourself down.”
Able to transform sadness into something new and beautiful, le-naSty is able to provide a little relief to sadness. His music allows a moment of solidarity with a trusting narrator, an opportunity to lay your cards on the table and break free from the restraints of heartbreak or anxiety and simply feel a movement through the body and lose yourself in the rhythm. His poignant lyrics touch nerve ends and make the hairs on your arms stand up. They send a shiver down your spine to meet a groove that touch your feet and urge you to dance. To throw your hands up and give in to what’s inside.
“Honesty is good! Openness is good! Sadness is not to be hidden and we shouldn’t run away from it, being human is about feeling all of it, all of the time - I guess I try and give every emotion it’s due.”
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Words: Tanyel Gumushan
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