Brooklyn native and songstress Lorely Rodriguiez, has beautifully dovetailed electronic pop with her own unique brand of alternative vocal musings. FLATT editor Jay Wadley caught up with Lorely during her recent trip to Mexico where she is currently recording her first full length album.
JAY WADLEY: Thanks for talking with us. I’m very excited about your work and I think you’re going to do some amazing things this year. Tell us about your background in music. When did you start playing?
EMPRESS OF: I started singing when I was 13; I listened to jazz a lot. That’s kind of how I learned music: studying a lot of jazz compositions — learning them on piano and singing them.
JAY WADLEY: Was this on your own?
EMPRESS OF: Yeah, then I got to the point where I started studying with other people. At Berklee College of Music, I became interested in production and making my own sounds.
JAY WADLEY: And did you take composition at the same time or was songwriting something that just came naturally?
EMPRESS OF: I never took songwriting. I kinda feel like it’s bad to take classes on songwriting. I studied a lot of jazz and classical composition as a kid and a teenager, so I knew a lot of that already.
JAY WADLEY: Growing up in L.A., did you play any instruments when you were young?
EMPRESS OF: I never played any instruments. I just started playing guitar when I moved to New York to join my friend’s math rock band called Celestial Shore. So I just started playing recently, within the last three years.
JAY WADLEY: Where does the name “Empress Of” come from? Tell us a little about your EP, “Systems.” I love “Hat Trick” and “Tristeza” – any interesting back stories to the process or inspiration for the songs?
EMPRESS OF: “Systems” is a collection of songs I chose to flesh out from my “Colorminutes” demos. Each song is like a diary entry capturing a moment through music. “Hat Trick” is about a good friend giving me a tarot card reading. The first card he pulled was “The Empress” and that’s why I call myself Empress Of.
I wanted the B-side to be weird, and in Spanish. “Tristeza” is a song about letting go of sadness and finding new joy in a romantic moment.
JAY WADLEY: You’ve already put out a good amount of work since coming to New York. How did you come across your sound?
EMPRESS OF: I had 30 demos that I made in only a few months and it all started to sound the same because I wrote it in a really dense amount of time. I think this really helped me discover what I wanted to do with my songwriting and producing. Now, my sound has completely changed; I have different goals for what I want to make. As a musician and artist, I’m always progressing and I really like artists that put out albums that show progression and a shift in direction or style.
JAY WADLEY: Not static.
EMPRESS OF: Yeah, not putting out the same solo record three times. Like, record one is your metal record and record two is your disco record. I like when artists challenge themselves. I’m doing that right now.
JAY WADLEY: What were your influences initially and how has your songwriting evolved over time?
EMPRESS OF: A major influence is the Cocteau Twins. I still listen to them every other day. The song “Lorelei” is one of my favorites. I really like that Dawn of Midi record. It’s amazing. I’m really into music that utilizes a couple elements to their full potential. They make the craziest sounds out of these acoustic instruments. I also love Kanye. I think he is a genius. His song structure is all over the place and the arrangements are so ballsy. I am also obsessed with Kate Bush and Nine Inch Nails.
I listened to all this music and I wanted to imitate it but now I’m past the point where I want to copy something — I want to create something that’s more my own. I have that mentality where I’m always moving, always shifting.
JAY WADLEY: Tell me about working on the new album in Mexico.
EMPRESS OF: Some days, I feel like it’s my manifesto. Other days I just want to make girly dance beats. I have definitely been on a journey with this album, figuratively and literally. I started writing it in New York, wrote the second half in a lake house in Mexico, and now I’m going to finish it in Montreal. I don’t think I’ll forget this process. I am learning about my process as a composer, an artist, and producer every second of it.
JAY WADLEY: What are your experiences as a female on tour?
EMPRESS OF: My mom is a really traditional woman from Honduras. She grew up in a rural village and she thinks I’m the craziest person ever because I want to make electronic music. I saw this in Mexico, too. Being a woman and doing what I’m doing is still kinda strange to some people in Mexico; I felt that shift in gender equality.
It’s not overtly offensive in any way, but one time I was DJing at a club and a bunch of dudes came up to my set and laughed while walking away. I wasn’t taken seriously by them, but everyone else was dancing. Stuff like that offended me.
JAY WADLEY: What was the first album that you discovered and bought on your own?
EMPRESS OF: It was Ella Fitzgerald and Bjork. I watched a lot of pop culture TV, like MTV and VH1. Everyone was talking about Bjork in the swan dress. I was maybe eight and went on KaZaa and was downloading.