divas, mexico and debut albums with empress of
Lorely Rodriguez, better known as 'Empress Of’, has her debut album out on Terrible Records this summer and is currently playing alongside the likes of Dev Hynes, Jamie XX, Florence and The Machine and Jon Hopkins. As she embarks on a busy schedule of...
Tell me a bit about the album, how long did it take to make?
It took a year. I did the whole thing by myself. A lot of people do that but it was crazy for me because I hadn't written much music before. I wanted it to sound like my voice, so I took my sweet time with this record. I didn't want to write it in New York so I packed up my stuff, went to Mexico and wrote it there.
I was looking for somewhere to go and my friend said 'why don't you go to my house in Mexico' and I was like 'er yeah'. It was pretty scary going to a place by yourself and not having your familiar things around you, I felt pretty vulnerable.
Standard is probably my favourite track from the album. Tell me a bit about that one, is it about the standard of living, because that's what I hear when I listen to it.
Yeah, that's what it's about. It's me being pissed off about living in shitty apartments and the culture of New York.
I can totally relate to that. It's not quite as bad in London, because there's more space here than New York, but you can end up paying a fortune for a tiny flat and you think I'm twenty-something, is this where I'm at?
Yeah exactly. It's about being fed up with that and also living with differences - socially and economically too. I experience that a lot living in New York but it's everywhere, like in Mexico there are people in posh cars and then people selling wood for your fire on the street.
What comes first when you make music?
The way I work is I write a beat and then I put the microphone on and kind of dance around and come up with a melody that I would feel comfortable performing. It really helps to move and stand up and engage with the music. In Mexico, I set my monitors and computer by a big window facing a lake so it was pretty much just dancing in the living room, writing. It was so sick.
Who are your musical influences?
So, when I was writing this record I didn't have any internet so I only had the music that was on my iTunes and it was this mix that my ex-boyfriend had sent me for Christmas. It was like Aphex Twin, Chet Baker and Animal Collective - just a bunch of weird stuff I don't usually listen to.
In terms of artists generally, though, I think you sound a bit PJ Harvey-ish at times, but I've seen you been compared to Grimes and Bjork in the past. Who would you say has influenced you?
For this record, I was really inspired by incredible songwriters and producers. Whenever I doubt myself I just put the divas on, you know Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston. Also, I'm like so into Sia, she's the shit. She's such an inspiration to me. She's such a powerful woman.
Let's move away from music for a bit. How did you come up with the name Empress Of?
I had a tarot card reading with one of my friends and the first card he pulled out was the empress card and then based around that event I thought I'm going to call myself empress. Then I was like, wait a minute, I can't just walk around and be like 'hey, wassup I'm empress', that's just not my personality, so I started to say I'll be empress of this or empress of that and then I thought, fuck it, I'll just be empress of... blank. Whatever I feel like being at the moment.
Tarot readings are a big thing in New York, are you superstitious?
I can be. Recently I've talked to people who are really into it. For instance my drummer is from India and his family is super into fortune telling, and it's part of their culture. It's part of my family's culture too, as both my parents are from Honduras.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like eating ice cream cones and walking in the park.
If you could be really good at anything what would it be?
I'd like to be really good at cooking because I'm terrible at it. I don't eat out that much and so I just put up with my own mediocre cooking and it's a really sad existence.
What are you excited about at the moment?
I just got some plants and I've never had plants before and I'm excited about keeping them alive.
What are you wearing at your performances? Do you tend to work with a stylist?
Right now, I just wear whatever I want. I do like vintage stuff and if I see something i just cut it up. My favourite thing to wear at the moment is an old Armani jumper that I cut right down the front to make a cardigan. It's fun. On stage, I like to be comfortable but also feel confident so I like wearing sports oriented things.
Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
Making more music and being around the people I love. There's this John Waters quote that is my life motto, it's: "True success is figuring out your life and career so you never have to be around jerks." Hopefully, in ten years, I'll have accomplished that.
Text Tess Reidy