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Empress Of: Being Me

Written By Sam Murphy on 09/29/2015

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Everything about Lorely Rodriguez AKA Empress Of’s debut record screams confidence. She’s called it Me, it features a raw picture of herself on the cover and the record starts with her singing acapella briefly. Rodriguez has thrown herself into the process head-first proving best that if something doesn’t scare you it’s probably not going to excite yourself or anyone else for that matter.

Me is exciting. Recorded by herself in isolation in Mexico, it’s a record that explores personal freedom and the subsequent emotions that come with being yourself. On Need Myself, she sings “I just need myself, to love myself,” while on Threat and Icon she’s haunted by memories once she’s finally achieved that sense of freedom. Me throws up more questions than answers but it’s an honest depiction of human – flaws and all. As she tells me over the phone while travelling through Montana on a tour bus, “one’s life is all over the place.”

She’s currently in the middle of her first headline tour through North America, playing songs from the album to packed-out audiences. She doesn’t have a break until the middle of November but she took the time to walk us through her brilliant debut from the writing process in Mexico to over-thinking the album’s creative direction.

Where am I speaking to you from?
I’m driving through the mountains in Montana right now. I’m in a tour van, I’m driving to Vancouver.

So you’re in the midst of a tour?
Yeah I’m in the middle of a tour. I’m one week in.

How’s it going so far?
It’s going really great. At first I was like “oh my God I’m so tired,” but it’s been really really amazing. Now I’m settled in and like, “Ok, I’m doing this every single night.”

What was the first night like? Was it nerve-wracking to take these songs out of isolation and put them onto a live crowd?
Yeah. Well I’ve only been doing opening shows for most of Empress Of and the start of this tour was in New York. I knew the venue, I’ve played it a lot opening for tonnes of people. I was so happy.

For every artists there’s always that fear that you’ll walk on stage and there will be no one there.
That’s me every night. I’m like, “Oh my god.” But no, it’s really fun.

Will there ever be a point where you accept it and know people will be there?
Yeah, I don’t think so.

There’s a lot of confidence in some of the statements on your record but you’re quite shy. Is it hard for you to perform these songs live and take on a different persona?
I think the record is really dynamic so there are moments when there is a lot of confidence and then there are moments where I’m talking about something that I’m not comfortable talking about. I just go through those motions live. I play Water Water – something loud and bangy or How You Do It and it’s really, really loud and fun. Then there’s like Make Up. When I play that live I retreat back into this place of “Oh, I’m about to sing in front of people I don’t know at all.” But I think I’ve had good experiences with opening up to audiences and the record opens up to the listener.

How much does playing live inform what you write and record?
I was fortunate enough to make an EP and tour a bit and gauge the reaction of an audience. I know what I want to do when I perform live, I try to translate that into the record. I just want to make everything cohesive as much as I can musically which is why when I was making the record I made the demoes and then I went and played them with the live band and thought this needs a bit of this or this needs a bit of that. I was working on the record while simultaneously playing it live so there is a lot of that live energy.

How did you come to the decision that you needed to write the record in isolation?
I started to write the record in New York and it’s really hard to write a record in New York when all your best friends are a phone call away, when all your favourite artists are a guest list away. It’s just like, how are you supposed to have a quiet moment to know what you want to say on your debut record. So I was like, I don’t care where I go I just need to be alone. Fortunately enough my friend was like, “well, I have a house in Mexico that you can go and write your record in and I was like, “Ok.”

What I get from the record is this sense of you wanting freedom but then when you do get it, it eats away at you a bit. Is that correct?
Yeah, It’s just a wide range of emotions. It’s not a linear record. It’s not like in a relationship and then you break-up and then you’re by yourself. It’s just how one’s life is all over the place.

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Quote1
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Given that you recorded the album by yourself and had so much time in your own head were there points where you were second guessing everything?
Oh yeah, completely 100 per cent. Even the day I finished the record I was like almost sure I wasn’t done with it. There’s an email for the song To Get By where my manager is like “you need to fix this drum part” and I’m like, “I’ve been working on this song for two months and I’m not adding anything to it, I just need to finish it.” That was the last song I finished on the record. It’s hard to tell yourself when something is good enough. I hope I can always do better. When you’re making a record it’s hard to know when to stop. You almost feel like you’re force feeding.

Do you ever question whether doing it alone was the right thing to do?
There were moments when I was making the record when I thought I’m never going to do this again. I don’t know. It’s a lot of time by yourself. It’s a lot of having to be confident with the decisions you’re making and being like, “this is a good idea,” even if someone says it’s not a good idea. Or even if my roommate says it’s not a good idea. It’s hard to be confident with your decisions. I think it was an amazing way to make an album though.

Did you have to learn to heavily critique your work?
What I learned with this record was more importantly just to put my ideas first. When you do work with a record label there are lots of opinions involved. I had to constantly be like, “this is my record, I’m the boss.”

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Quote2
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When did you decide the record needed to be called Me?
I titled the record maybe like a month before I finished. It was after months and months of working on it. There were so many funny titles that I won’t share with you. I had this thing I would do, at like 3am I’d email my manager with subject being the title of the album and then “what do you think about that?” And then he’d write back, “Absolutely not.” I thought about the record and what it’s about. It’s not about purple sunsets or explosions. It’s pretty straight-forward and that’s why it’s called Me.

It’s interesting to compare the album cover featuring yourself to the ‘Colorminutes’ series that you did at the start of your career where you didn’t want to show yourself and wanted the music to be judged on its own merit. Do you just feel like you’re more comfortable giving your music a face now?
Yeah. Artists are allowed to change and evolve and do different things throughout their career. The reason I did that when I first started making music was because I didn’t want people to be like, “Who’s that girl from Brooklyn making electronic, weird music,” and automatically tag the seven other girls who make electronic music. I wanted it to be abstract and weird. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever done. With this record, I’m in a different place in my life now and ready to share things with people. I’m very happy with the release right now.

Do you read reviews?
If it’s a publication I’m like, “oh my God,” and I’ll read it. I’ll try not to read too many but everyone’s been so positive about it. It’s really, really nice. Like, the New York Times – I read about that one. I was like, “oh my God, the New York Times wrote about my record.” Or The Guardian. You open your phone and your heart stops a little bit because word is spreading or whatever.

I’ve read some great stuff about your Mum. Does she get excited reading all this press about you?
She’s reading about herself now. Everyone’s writing about her. It’s like, “hey, what about me? I’m the one who wrote the record.”

Getting worried she’s going to eclipse you?
Yeah, I mean, she’s quite a personality.

Moving away from your Mum, some of the visuals for the album have been amazing. Did you always want the album to have a really strong visual message?
I wanted to, yeah, of course. I went back and forth with the artwork for maybe six months. I did everything under the sun. I 3D printed my head, did three or four different photo shoots – anything you could imagine. And then the record cover was just one of my friends’ friends came over with a tiny point and shoot camera and a medium format camera and took 10 photos. That ended up being the album cover. I realise all the things with the visuals I get pretty stressed out trying to find things that are personal or I’m passionate about – they’re the things I’m proud of. The How Do You Do It video about touring – that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. I’m in a van, driving through Montana, talking to you. Standard – that’s an idea I came up with. It’s the first video treatment I ever wrote. I was like, “what would be cool to see while the song was playing?”

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What’s on for the next few months for you?
I’m going on tour with Purity Ring, opening for them in Europe and the UK. I’m touring straight almost everyday until 15th November. And then I’m really hoping I get a vacation. I’m producing and writing stuff for other people which is something I’ve always wanted to do. Also making more stuff for the record. I want to make another video.

Any plans to come to Australia?
I have been talking about it. I might go in January. I don’t know – we’re talking about it. I’m not playing Laneway obviously but I’ve heard it’s really cool.

Empress Of’s Me is out now via Remote Control Records.

Read our review of the record here.

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Everything about Lorely Rodriguez AKA Empress Of’s debut record screams confidence. She’s called it Me, it features a raw picture of herself on the cover and the record starts with her singing acapella briefly. Rodriguez has thrown herself into the process head-first proving best that if something doesn’t scare you it’s probably not going to excite yourself or anyone else for that matter.

Me is exciting. Recorded by herself in isolation in Mexico, it’s a record that explores personal freedom and the subsequent emotions that come with being yourself. On Need Myself, she sings “I just need myself, to love myself,” while on Threat and Icon she’s haunted by memories once she’s finally achieved that sense of freedom. Me throws up more questions than answers but it’s an honest depiction of human – flaws and all. As she tells me over the phone while travelling through Montana on a tour bus, “one’s life is all over the place.”

She’s currently in the middle of her first headline tour through America, playing songs from the album to packed-out audiences. She doesn’t have a break until the middle of November but she took the time to walk us through her brilliant debut from the writing process in Mexico to over-thinking the album’s creative direction.

Where am I speaking to you from?
I’m driving through the mountains in Montana right now. I’m in a tour van, I’m driving to Vancouver.

So you’re in the midst of a tour?
Yeah I’m in the middle of a tour. I’m one week in.

How’s it going so far?
It’s going really great. At first I was like “oh my God I’m so tired,” but it’s been really really amazing. Now I’m settled in and like, “Ok, I’m doing this every single night.”

What was the first night like? Was it nerve-wracking to take these songs out of isolation and put them onto a live crowd?
Yeah. Well I’ve only been doing opening shows for most of Empress Of and the start of this tour was in New York. I knew the venue, I’ve played it a lot opening for tonnes of people. I was so happy.

For every artists there’s always that fear that you’ll walk on stage and there will be no one there.
That’s me every night. I’m like, “Oh my god.” But no, it’s really fun.

Will there ever be a point where you accept it and know people will be there?
Yeah, I don’t think so.

There’s a lot of confidence in some of the statements on your record but you’re quite shy. Is it hard for you to perform these songs live and take on a different persona?
I think the record is really dynamic so there are moments when there is a lot of confidence and then there are moments where I’m talking about something that I’m not comfortable talking about. I just go through those motions live. I play Water Water – something loud and bangy or How You Do It and it’s really, really loud and fun. Then there’s like Make Up. When I play that live I retreat back into this place of “Oh, I’m about to sing in front of people I don’t know at all.” But I think I’ve had good experiences with opening up to audiences and the record opens up to the listener.

How much does playing live inform what you write and record?
I was fortunate enough to make an EP and tour a bit and gauge the reaction of an audience. I know what I want to do when I perform live, I try to translate that into the record. I just want to make everything cohesive as much as I can musically which is why when I was making the record I made the demoes and then I went and played them with the live band and thought this needs a bit of this or this needs a bit of that. I was working on the record while simultaneously playing it live so there is a lot of that live energy.

How did you come to the decision that you needed to write the record in isolation?
I started to write the record in New York and it’s really hard to write a record in New York when all your best friends are a phone call away, when all your favourite artists are a guest list away. It’s just like, how are you supposed to have a quiet moment to know what you want to say on your debut record. So I was like, I don’t care where I go I just need to be alone. Fortunately enough my friend was like, “well, I have a house in Mexico that you can go and write your record in and I was like, “Ok.”

What I get from the record is this sense of you wanting freedom but then when you do get it, it eats away at you a bit. Is that correct?
Yeah, It’s just a wide range of emotions. It’s not a linear record. It’s not like in a relationship and then you break-up and then you’re by yourself. It’s just how one’s life is all over the place.

Quote1

Given that you recorded the album by yourself and had so much time in your own head were there points where you were second guessing everything?
Oh yeah, completely 100 per cent. Even the day I finished the record I was like almost sure I wasn’t done with it. There’s an email for the song To Get By where my manager is like “you need to fix” this drum part and I’m like, “I’ve been working on this song for two months and I’m not adding anything to it, I just need to finish it.” That was the last song I finished on the record. It’s hard to tell yourself when something is good enough. I hope I can always do better. When you’re making a record it’s hard to know when to stop. You almost feel like you’re force feeding.

Do you ever question whether doing it alone was the right thing to do?
There were moments when I was making the record when I thought I’m never going to do this again. I don’t know. It’s a lot of time by yourself. It’s a lot of having to be confident with the decisions you’re making and being like, “this is a good idea,” even if someone says it’s not a good idea. Or even if my roommate says it’s not a good idea. It’s hard to be confident with your decisions. I think it was an amazing way to make an album though.

Did you have to learn to heavily critique your work?
What I learned with this record was more importantly just to put my ideas first. When you do work with a record label there are lots of opinions involved. I had to constantly be like, “this is my record, I’m the boss.”

Quote2

When did you decide the record needed to be called Me?
I titled the record maybe like a month before I finished. It was after months and months of working on it. There were so many funny titles that I won’t share with you. I had this thing I would do, at like 3am I’d email my manager with subject being the title of the album and then “what do you think about that?” And then he’d write back, “Absolutely not.” I thought about the record and what it’s about. It’s not about purple sunsets or explosions. It’s pretty straight-forward and that’s why it’s called Me.

It’s interesting to compare the album cover featuring yourself to the ‘Colorminutes’ series that you did at the start of your career where you didn’t want to show yourself and wanted the music to be judged on its own merit. Do you just feel like you’re more comfortable giving your music a face now?
Yeah. Artists are allowed to change and evolve and do different things throughout their career. The reason I did that when I first started making music was because I didn’t want people to be like, “Who’s that girl from Brooklyn making electronic, weird music,” and automatically tag the seven other girls who make electronic music. I wanted it to be abstract and weird. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever done. With this record, I’m in a different place in my life now and ready to share things with people. I’m very happy with the release right now.

Do you read reviews?
If it’s a publication I’m like, “oh my God,” and I’ll read it. I’ll try not to read too many but everyone’s been so positive about it. It’s really, really nice. Like, the New York Times – I read about that one. I was like, “oh my God, the New York Times wrote about my record.” Or The Guardian. You open your phone and your heart stops a little bit because word is spreading or whatever.

I’ve read some great stuff about your Mum. Does she get excited reading all this press about you?
She’s reading about herself now. Everyone’s writing about her. It’s like, “hey, what about me? I’m the one who wrote the record.”

Getting worried she’s going to eclipse you?
Yeah, I mean, she’s quite a personality.

Moving away from your Mum, some of the visuals for the album have been amazing. Did you always want the album to have a really strong visual message?
I wanted to, yeah, of course. I went back and forth with the artwork for maybe six months. I did everything under the sun. I 3D printed my head, did three or four different photo shoots – anything you could imagine. And then the record cover was just one of my friends’ friends came over with a tiny point and shoot camera and a medium format camera and took 10 photos. That ended up being the album cover. I realise all the things with the visuals I get pretty stressed out trying to find things that are personal or I’m passionate about – they’re the things I’m proud of. The How Do You Do It video about touring – that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. I’m in a van, driving through Montana, talking to you. Standard – that’s an idea I came up with. It’s the first video treatment I ever wrote. I was like, “what would be cool to see while the song was playing?”

What’s on for the next few months for you?
I’m going on tour with Purity Ring, opening for them in Europe and the UK. I’m touring straight almost everyday until 15th November. And then I’m really hoping I get a vacation. I’m producing and writing stuff for other people which is something I’ve always wanted to do. Also making more stuff for the record. I want to make another video.

Any plans to come to Australia?
I have been talking about it. I might go in January. I don’t know – we’re talking about it. I’m not playing Laneway obviously but I’ve heard it’s really cool.

Empress Of’s Me is out now via Remote Control Records.

Read our review of the record here.
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