(Music) CAMILA FUCHS
“That’s the way we feel! Yes!…Restless, a little confused but also oddly hopeful, constantly dreamy, like a spaced out teenager in love.”
Lisbon-based experimental electronic duo Camila Fuchs is comprised of Camila de Laborde (vocals, keys) and Daniel Hermann-Collini (synths, drums). In this interview, Camila de Laborde talks about how she and Daniel met, their work process, the subconscious ways their music reflects the zeitgeist, and the importance of visual aesthetics as a compliment to their sound.
Interview by Tyler Nesler
Camila, you are originally from Mexico, and Daniel is from Germany. How did you wind up meeting each other in London? Did you both decide to work together fairly quickly?
We met during our studies. We pretty much clicked on the first day of school and we have continued ever since. We never spoke about working together, there was never an “official” chat about the band and what our aims were until many years later. We both enjoyed working together and the music that was being created through the collaboration, so we continued. We never discussed how far we wanted to take the project, we just knew something special was going on, that it was worth following. We always found ourselves having the same level of commitment, which is crucial really, it clears out any doubts and keeps things going forward.
How does songwriting and production work between you two? What's the creative chemistry like and who tends to focus on what?
Until now, one of the main characteristics in the work process of Camila Fuchs is that we’re both always present; we’re both in the studio whenever a track is being worked on, which demands a huge level of dedication. It doesn’t matter if Daniel has his hands on it, or if I do, we’re both always listening, following the process, and being opinionated on the direction it’s going.
Since we’re both present whilst it develops, there’s a constant alternation between us. Initiatives from both sides on drum programming, synth melodies, arrangements, use of effects, etc.
If there is any division or separation to mark, I would say it’s found on the lyric writing/vocals, and any technical matters. Daniel is really good and faster with technology and I’m fully in charge of the vocals, so we complement each other on that really well! Daniel is also a keyboard player, so it’s more likely for him to do the recordings of melodies.
You recorded and mixed the songs live on your latest album Heart Pressed Between Stones. What was a surprising aspect of the process for you both? Was it ever a little scary or disorienting to take a less planned or structured approach?
Oh yes, it’s been a little disorienting from time to time. I personally never stop being surprised about the process, I try to understand it but I still haven’t managed. Right now we’re starting to work on our third album and it feels completely different to Heart Pressed Between Stones — everything seems to be ever-changing and ever-challenging.
Recording and mixing songs live on Heart Pressed Between Stones was a process of experimenting with sound, we had no idea if it was going to work out. For example, “Direct Truth” is a mix of stems from four different live concerts plus studio production elements. We spent a lot of time on figuring out how to put these elements together and blend them so you don’t realize it was originally a live concert. Studio recordings sound a lot clearer than live recordings usually…But who says it's mandatory to have a clearer recording? If the recording carries the right emotion — that’s what’s most important. If we hadn’t tried arranging the song from live recordings, “Direct Truth” probably would be a completely different track.
Same with mixing live on an analog desk and not arranging on a computer. A lot of elements were last minute additions, recorded through the mixing desk as final stereo mix. I think you plan a structure but it’s only for you to feel calmer, have a little guidance on your day-to-day. But at the very last minute you end up doing things and using material you couldn’t have planned and it’s tricky because they're usually your favorite parts on the record once it’s finished.
There are touches of Krautrock, dream pop, psych rock, and electronic effects everywhere in your work, but it's also blended and shaped into an idiosyncratic style of your own. With all of these influences at play, how much experimentation and trial and error goes into composing your songs before they feel complete?
We don’t think of our influences consciously when creating, they just happen and there is only experimentation, trial and error all the way through until we feel it’s complete. When we create we think of dreamlike narratives, imaginary landscapes that are a reflection or an abstraction of reality. The music visualizes the imagery of the lyrics and the lyrics “visualize” the music. When we manage or accomplish this, we see and hear a song as finished. In “Heatwave” for example we tried recreating a heatwave approaching in a musical way, the sound is building up slowly until it “arrives” and this is a parallel to the moment a panic attack hits you, how you see it coming and feel it intensifying and turn into heat. Or “Direct Truth,” which is based on and inspired by a dream, and the music intends to translate this dream state feeling.
There is a cut up and exploratory nature to much of your music, yet I also get a sense of a designed dramatic narrative and pacing. When composing, what is often the conceptual foundation for building the song? Do you ever begin with a clear story or message that you want to convey, or does that tend to form more spontaneously and unexpectedly during the process?
It tends to form more spontaneously and unexpectedly. Although the moment I assign lyrics to specific sounds or the beginning of a track, the aim becomes much clearer. We aim to have emotion in our music, if we don’t feel it, it feels wrong…I think the dramatic narrative and pacing you feel is totally valid and real. Creating music that you’re aiming to release is always gonna be whispering in your ear that you’re sharing it, and when I feel this or hear this in the back of my head, I get this odd awareness of delivering and the notion of presenting something to someone. The moment this happens, it takes on a theatrical twist. I don’t know exactly why, but I like it and let it form part of how the song is being delivered. “Welcome My Demon” from our first album has this very strongly, for example. I imagine this “Welcome ladies and gentlemen” vibe, I’m about to share this with you. It’s after all what we do, so it’s just a self awareness and somehow managing to own it.
Your lyrics are very emotionally raw, introspective, and observational. Do you feel that you are often exploring the tensions between wanting to push forward into breakthrough emotional territory, combined with a caution towards what may happen as a result? Or what other issues or states of mind inspire you lyrically?
I don’t try to break through emotional territory, I don’t try to challenge people, this is just the way my mind lives 24/7 and as emotional as I am, I don’t like to be cheesy, so the output is most likely to be very direct and raw. Human relations, awareness versus zero awareness, being sensitive and emotional versus purely business-oriented actions, the way we relate nowadays with social media in-between, our relation to nature and nature itself are topics which are constantly turning in my mind, so there’s a big output lyrically. I also feel quite solitary when thinking of all this. Expressing it through songs is a way of speaking it out, eventually reaching out and communicating with people who feel the same way, or for people who feel the same to realize it happens to others too.
There is something about your music which seems very immediate and contemporary to me. It feels like an apt soundtrack to our current very uneasy times: restless, a little confused, but also oddly hopeful. Do you think that you're more or less reacting to or commenting on the state of things today? If so, is it a conscious focus, or more like simply an atmosphere you're steeped in which edges into the music?
That’s the way we feel! Yes! haha. Restless, a little confused but also oddly hopeful, constantly dreamy, like a spaced out teenager in love. I think we’re doing both, reacting and commenting to our times, although I think reacting is more apt because what we do is touching on a very personal level. We don’t tell ourselves we want our music to be a reflection of our current times but it happens naturally and we’re aware that it does.
It is a constant dialogue with the world and our surroundings that influences our subconscious and then translates in the music. We start with a blank canvas when we create an album and only during the process we slowly become aware of the influences that led us into creating certain songs. Our last album slowly grew on us and made us realize certain reflections only towards the end when finished it. So in other words the conscious focus only came when we saw the whole picture of the album.
I view Camila Fuchs as not only a music act but a multimedia project incorporating performances with strong visuals and lighting aspects, along with striking music videos. Your recent video for the song "One on One" by Anton Tammi's Tiistai film collective is very dreamlike and surreal. Were there any particular videos or experimental films which influenced this work? How closely did you work with the collective to develop the overall concept?
So far Camila Fuchs has had a really strong focus on the visual side, and we’ll like this to be forever present, we think it complements the music very much so. In some concerts we consider it to be 50/50 of the show. We’ve collaborated mainly with my sister Manuela who is an experimental filmmaker and visual artist. The relationship we have and collaboration has always been on sync and goes way back before the start of Camila Fuchs. For our first show when our project didn’t even have a name, we already had visuals from Manu. She was actually the one with the initiative of finding a space in London and putting up a show together. It was through this that we continued the music as a separate entity.
The visual part was very much inspired by her and her work and made us realize how much we valued the visual side along with music. She’s done all our artworks actually, she’s awesome!
Collaborating with Anton for “One On One” was very exciting and new. Our music and the visuals always had a certain amount of abstraction and Anton’s works has that strongly too. We worked really closely on the overall concept, but in quite a peculiar way. We wanted everyone’s interpretation of the song to be part of the video and didn’t want to overstep the notion that each of us had. We thought this would be interesting and would lead to a diversity of interpretations to whomever watched it. So although we worked really closely and had long back and forth, we were very open and free for their input. The whole album is a journey of opposites — grounded and raw and as you said dreamlike and surreal. “One On One” is meant to emphasize this aspect of the record within one single music video. It’s difficult to put this into words, but there wasn’t a “concept” for this music video other than having everyone’s “concept” form part of it, intertwining with each other and all of this happening around the presence of the main character: a young girl dreaming at night and growing old as she does.
You also recently released a video for the song "Individuality," which is based on your noted 2017 live performance at Mutek Mexico. Are there any particular performers or theatrical theories which influence the audio visual nature of your live performances?
For recent performances, we never discussed specific performers or pinned out influences. We were mostly intrigued about making obscure references to different aesthetic expectations we might have of live performances, and also making sure there was a translation in mediums between the musical and visual. Both using analog and digital, both carrying the same source of inspiration, level of information, distortion translated into materials, glitches…
You are supporting Plaid at EartH Hackney on June 20. Are there any other performances or releases coming up in the near future that you would like people to know about?
Besides the London show we just confirmed two more support shows with Plaid, one in Norwich on the 21st and one in Manchester on the 22nd.
We’ve got remixes coming out soon. Camille Mandoki, Public Memory, Maria Minerva and Brain Machine. They’re awesome so we’re very excited to share them!
We are currently working on our third album for which Pete Kember of Spacemen 3 is going to join us in the production and mixing…very excited about this too and my heart’s pumping for this!