Introducing: Empress Of
“Introducing” showcases artists, labels, collectives, and beyond, on the rise.
We here at PORTALS are becoming increasingly enamored with the unique pop sounds of Empress Of. She appeared, as if out of thin air, making appearances on various publications. And her intense watermelon eating tendencies officially landed her on our radar, just over a week ago. But we had to know more, so we reached out to the mind behind Empress Of, to see if we could get some answers.
Let’s get the basics out of the way, who are you? Where are you from? And what have you been up to today?
I’m Lorely Rodriguez, or Empress Of. I’m originally from Los Angeles, Ca. and now I live in Brooklyn, NY. Today…I woke up at my friend’s house in Williamsburg after playing music in his living room until 4am, drank a lot of coffee and walked around listening to my obsession at the moment, Shuggie Otis! I did some really heavy metal emailing too, haha.
How long have you been making music? What came before Empress Of?
I’ve been making music ever since I got my first computer at 17. I didn’t really know how to use the programs so all of the music was really quirky and hard to digest. I still like retaining a bit of that naiveté in my music today…kind of like putting on a blindfold while composing and seeing what comes of it.
I’ve played in a number of bands in the past years, as a support member whether on guitar or keys or just singing, but Empress Of is the first time I’ve released my own music. I’ve always fantasized about it, especially after completing most of those colorminutes, so it’s nice to finally have my own musical identity and start playing my own shows as well.
You have to tell us more about these colorminutes! How did that idea come about? What are they? Snippets of an upcoming album?!
Oh man…so much to say about the colorminutes. It started out as a writing exercise. I was feeling frustrated about not creating any of my own music and I decided to make some sort of structure. The guidelines were to write, record, and mix a one minute song within 1-2 days. I ended up writing about 30 of them! The recordings in this collection, at least to me, sound very different from each other. The days where I was influenced by Julee Cruise or the Cocteau Twins, sound way different from the days where I was listening to a band like Deerhoof or Os Mutantes.
Some of these demos/ideas I’ve already turned into fully fleshed songs like “Don’t tell me” or “Champagne“…which means there’s definitely more music on the way! The coolest thing to me, about the colorminutes was that, most artists today are so concerned with releasing a product that’s flawless and perfect. I wanted to let whoever was curious enough to listen, into my personal process as a creator. I want someone to feel as if they were sitting in my room with me, making this music.
Something a really good friend of mine said once as he was going through every snippet before I put them out was, “It’s like being inside the head of a crazy person,” and that made me really happy.
The visual aspect manifested organically. I didn’t want any information about the project out yet, because I wanted people to form their own opinions about the music first. So I decided to just put a color swatch and no title, no information. The color, to me, kind of acted as the title of the song, so I was very careful in making sure a color represented a song justly…but that’s subjective anyways. Yellow to me might feel like a blue to anyone else.
Ultimately, I’m happy I put out the music like this. It’s an intimate collage of color and sound.
It definitely ended up being an intimate and intriguing way to learn about your music. Has the visual aspect of music always interested you?
Well I feel it’s very important to incorporate visual elements into any form of music in general. So much information about what your listening to is fed by the album art, music video, live performance and overall aesthetic of the music. This is why I’ve taken detail to every aspect of how my music is experienced. From the website to the footage I choose to shoot for my videos, I want it to be a discovery of intrigue and confusion.
Your website is awesome! And totally intriguing and confusing, did you build it yourself?
Well, I came up with the idea while looking for a guitar amp on Craigslist. The idea struck me as hilarious. Craigslist is such a widely recognized website and an integral part of culture, at least in the US. Most of the time, people are on Craiglist searching for things they want or need like apartments, cars, jobs, etc. So I thought it would be fantastic to take the whole appearance and format of Craigslist, but as you’re searching the site, you find things that Empress Of has to offer ie; music, images and things that I think are interesting and can relate to.
With some technical help from Brian, who put out the “Champagne” 7″ and runs No Recordings, we managed to do just that.
I’m glad you thought the site was cool. The part I had the most fun with is finding those images and coming up with titles for them that are completely irrelevant. I think one of my favorite things to click on the site is “tears of carlos“.
The “I love you mom” one got me pretty good too! You played at Gorilla vs Bear, Yours Truly, and Forest Family’s CMJ show last month, was that your first show? How’d that come together, and how’d it go?
When I got asked to play the show, I didn’t even have a band or any concept of how I was going to translate this live. I had just recorded all the music myself in my apartment. My friends were really supportive though and really wanted to help me out. So I got together a trio of synths, drums, and samples and we rehearsed for hours and hours!
The actual show itself was awesome! I was really happy with the performance and thought it went great. It was also great to meet some of the other acts like Diana, ForteBowie, and TOPS! They were so sick!
That’s so great! Yeah we have a pretty substantial crush on TOPS! That’s amazing that you recorded all your music yourself, what’s that process look like? How many instruments do you play?
I mostly play guitar, bass and keyboard. I’ve been learning how to sample over the past year so that’s also been a fun new way to think about writing music. The recording/producing process plays a big part in my songwriting. Sometimes an idea for a song wont really come to life until I’ve chosen the right sounds, or I’ve experimented with some weird vocal harmonies. I love to reference other artists or songs I like when I’m writing as well, mostly because I feel like I’m learning more about myself and my music with every song I write. For example, colorminute 4 is me, in my room checking out Lizzy Mercier Descloux, and trying to reproduce something in that style. I love Lizzy!
Can you tell us anything about the future of Empress Of? What are you most excited about?
Plans for Empress Of. Well I’m going to put out that colorminute cassette tape which will be such a cool experience for me! And in a really cool country too (I won’t reveal the origin yet!). I’m also day dreaming about another release in a couple of months on a larger scale…maybe an EP?
Live shows are something I’m really looking forward to as well! I’ve never really traveled anywhere and the possibility of Empress Of playing outside of NY is becoming a little more of a realization each day.
Curated by Smoke Don’t Smoke.