Walk us through your creative process; you have all these layers of vocals and sounds—do they always come to you while for instance, while you are doing mundane everyday things? Or is there some ritual to get to you there, in that headspace?
“Yes, it can happen anywhere but I have noticed that a lot happens in the subway. Don’t really know why. I start to hear something and then either I record it (got a small recorder on me) or I write it down, or try to remember the main shape of the sound I hear. For some of the layers I recorded for Footprints for example, it came a lot from improvisation. So it just happens in the moment while I record the song at home.”
“I started to take classes with Gretchen Parlato in 2009 I think and I showed her my first recordings in solo voice. The first two songs I recorded were ”Omoo“ and ”Hello Léa.“ But that was really the beginning and I did not really imagine I would create an entire set of solo voice music. After listening, Gretchen told me that I should really focus on that solo project. That the songs were very special and interesting. It is really Gretchen who encouraged me to keep on doing that. The classes with her were always very inspiring. We worked a lot on arranging, lyrics writing and phrasing. Lasting impacts? Yes, she is always somewhere. When I have a show or when I record or compose, I always think of the people who inspires me.”
I hear that you perform live often by yourself with a looping system, do you loop more than vocals? Anything bizarre?
“Yes on stage I have a loop pedal, a sampler and a music box i made with a tomato can. For now I usually loop vocals and I have samples of soundscape that I recorded in different places, sometimes in the subway, or while I was sailing, or from the storm, or different natural elements… Those soundscapes are like sonic pictures. They represent a moment of my life and add a special meaning for each song.”
At what point do you feel like you’ve outdone yourself when you write music? For some artists it’s when they pull a riff out of the cosmos, or it’s when they write the perfect lyric—what is that tipping point for you when you say: “wow?”
“Yes I am from Lausanne in Switzerland. I first moved to Bushwick in 2008, off the Wilson Ave stop with the L train. On Decatur Street, Henry Miller’s ”street of early sorrows.“ It was a big clash, so different than Switzerland. I had a basement and would record there. Wilson Ave stop is a special one. You wait for your subway facing the cemetery lol. But those years were very productive musically and I met really nice people there. Then I moved to Lefferts Garden right in front of Prospect Park. I feel that in New York, the community in jazz and avant-garde is really strong and there is a lot of solidarity. Some very special people and amazingly talented artists such as Darius Jones or Sara Serpa helped me and supported me in my creative process. There are a lot of people who are working very hard to make things happen and to build this strong community of artists.”
You’re performing at Elevator9’s MMNY sponsored Houston Bowery show! Have you ever performed on a sidewalk before? Are you excited for June 21st?!
Lastly, I’ve noticed the pseudonym you use for your project is based on Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas which is Herman Melville’s novel about a whaling vessel which makes its way to Tahiti, after which there is a mutiny and the majority of the crew are imprisoned there. What impact did this have on you? Does it go as far as the under-current in your music (to use a water pun) or did you simply love the title. (Omoo (pronounced OH-moo) is indeed a great sounding word.)
“Yes, both. I love the sound of the word Omoo. In Herman Melville’s context, it means the island wanderer, which is someone who travels the sea with the eye of the thinker. I am very inspired by Herman Melville. He was a humanist, a lover of nature and always gave a voice to the outcasts of his time. I also grew up on sailing boats so his stories about sailors and the sea appeals me a lot. Omoo is a call for freedom and equity.” -Emilie Weibel
“Thank you so much for giving one of the best interviews I’ve had a chance to facilitate.” -Nadeem