[Q&A] Empress Of discusses her colorminutes and our short attention spans // + stream "Don't Tell Me"

Lorely Rodriguez is a former Allstonian who now lives in Brooklyn and sings with experimental pop group Celestial Shore. Most recently, she has also started a solo recording project, EMPRESS OF, posting 1-minute YouTube videos she calls “colorminutes” -- snippets of her gorgeous, ethereal pop songs set to different color screens. Rodriguez's project is an intriguing approach to recording and releasing music; a rare instance where the manipulation of social media feels like a refined element of the artistic process, rather than just an easy mode of self-promotion.

"Colorminutes" are only teasers of forthcoming tracks. The song below, "Don't Tell Me", is the first complete 3-minute Empress Of single; its slow-building, atmospheric refrain is captivating. (There's a matching "colorminute" demo version, too.)  Since hearing this song a couple of weeks ago, I've found myself on more than one occassion listening to it on repeat for hours. I wanted to learn more about this entire project, so I asked Rodriguez a few questions about it -- read on for our interview, and to stream some of her excellent sound-bites.

 Can you tell me about what inspired the "colorminutes" you've been posting online? It seems like an interesting way to capture listeners in our culture of short attention spans. Did that factor in to the idea for colorminutes at all?

Well, first off, I'm a victim of never wanting to commit myself to anything longer than a couple minutes at a time, so that was part of the motivation behind this project. The musical process was more of an exercise though. I gave myself a format: 1 minute of musical content and a deadline, usually 1-2 days to finish writing, recording and mixing. It really was so so so much fun! Plus, I drove myself insane. The end result was a collection of intimate demos that I decided to share with every one. I feel like artists today feel so determined to present a "polished" product and I just wanted to let people in to my personal process as a creator.

Is the visual element important to you, or was it just easier to post things on YouTube?

I don't know, it wasn't really that easy to do surprisingly. At least for someone like me who overthinks things too much. Committing to a color to be the only representative piece of information for a song is hard. A lot of subjective opinion going on. "This song isn't really a ... yellow..." Haha. But other than that, I think it's a beautiful, simple collage of ideas and ultimately I'm happy that I decided to release the music like this.

Are there plans for each color-minute to be developed into a full song or are those separate from any album you might release? Where/how are you recording?

There are about 30 of these colorminutes just hanging out on my hard drive. I have my favorites. I've already turned a handful of them into fully fleshed recordings like "Don't tell me", a song I put out last week. It would be awesome to put the remainder of them on a cassette tape if anyone out there wants to make that dream come true.

You're also in Celestial Shore, yeah? How has playing with that band influenced your songwriting for Empress Of? Are you involved in any other projects at the moment?

The Celestial Shore guys and I have been making music with each other even before the space beach days. I feel like we're all kind of inspired by each other. I've never had my own solo project before though so I feel like Empress Of is very much my own sound. I've kind of strayed from the shreddy, psychedelic path for a brief moment and decided to write some very feminine and sensual sounds that are still complicated enough to grab my own attention.

Is there any music or media in particular you've been listening to or looking at that's informing/inspiring this project?

I am hugely inspired by the Cocteau Twins. Mostly the vocals. Elizabeth Fraser's approach to singing doesn't conform to a genre. It's really confusing and intriguing, which is my favorite combination. There's also this German electronic band from the 70's called Harmonia that I've been obsessed with. A lot of film/tv music like Angelo Badalamenti or Tangerine Dream as well.

The first Empress Of release is forthcoming via No Recordings.
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