Empress Of talks collabs and playing live ahead of her UK tour

“I work with artists that I love and respect, and I like doing it.”

Lorely Rodriguez – better known as Empress Of – is queen of the dancefloor, and she’s bringing last year’s LP ‘Us’, and the rest of her introspective bops to the UK this month. We had a chat with her ahead of her visit.

What are you up to?

I’m in LA right now; I have some phone calls then I’m gonna start working on my live show.

How’s the tour prep coming along?

It’s coming really good, it’s lots of work on little tiny details, everywhere. There are details scattered everywhere that I feel like no one in the crowd’s gonna notice, but it’ll make me happy.

So it’s been a while since ‘Us’ dropped, how’s life been since then?

It’s been great. I’ve gotten more fans from this record, and more people have found out about me. Being open to collaborating and collaborating on other peoples’ records has contributed to that as well. I’m really happy because, it’s not like my goal to get more fans or engage with more listeners, it’s just that I’m just happy that it happened because I’m making more music that I wanna make.

It’s still on repeat!

Aww! It’s crazy with streaming, people just turnover records so fast because there’s so much stuff coming out. I’m still of the mind that I’ll listen to a record for like a year. I listen to like three records, and that’s it. I try not to catch everything.

There was that a day last year where your album dropped, then you were on Khalid’s ‘Suncity’ and MØ’s ‘Red Wine’, and obviously, the Perfume Genius cover just dropped. Do you want to do more collaborations in the future?

Yeah, it feels very natural to me. I work with artists that I love and respect, and I like doing it. I learn something from working with other people, whether its that I learned something about production that I didn’t know, or I learned that someone writes their songs like this, and I like that, and I’ll absorb that. It’s important for me growing as an artist to keep collaborating, ‘cos it just feels natural for me. I feel like all the collaborations I’ve done I’ve contributed something to the track.

You produce a lot of your own stuff, did you collaborate more on ‘Us’ to feel, uh, less lonely?
That’s definitely it. That’s the reason I worked with other people on this record. Y’know, I did my first record all by myself, and it was great, and I learned a lot of things I needed to learn, but I wanted to be in a room with other people, and I wanted to bounce ideas off of someone, and I wanted to see a reaction from someone. So yeah, it’s definitely about having another mind in the room.
I’m still like working on stuff and collaborating – I don’t know if it’s gonna come out – but it’s definitely part of my daily life, just working with other people. Especially living in LA, people come in and out of LA so much, it’s easy for someone to be like ‘so and so is in town and they’d like to work with you’, so I’m like ok let’s jam.

You were with Charli XCX recently – we’re like ‘please be Pop 3′!!!

Oh my gosh, yeah. It was cool; I’m such a fan of hers and how she’s made her career. Working with her was a great experience. Like I said, you learn a lot from these interactions, and it was cool to be in the studio with her and to write songs with her.

So, how’s the album gonna sound live? Is it a full band type thing?

So there’s me and another woman on stage, and we share roles in playing percussion, drums and keyboards, and we both sing – she’s a really good singer – but I really love dance music, and I’m very inspired by it. It’s how I learned how to produce, it’s a lot of the music I listen to, so I try to make my set feel like a DJ set. All of the songs intertwine, and it doesn’t stop for like fifty minutes.

It’s really interesting to see people who make all of their own music play it all live too. Like when Grimes is playing a show, and she’s all over the place setting music going and performing at the front.

Totally. I love watching her perform; she’s like a mad scientist. It’s so fun, and the dancers are so fun too.

I guess James Blake is like that, too.

That’s one of my favourite live shows I’ve ever seen. I love his new record – I can’t believe Pitchfork gave it like a six-point-whatever. I love that record; it’s so important for his growth as an artist.

So when does tour kick off?

I haven’t toured Europe in a while. We start in Copenhagen on 19th March. I’m just really excited and nervous, and I hope it goes well. I’ve played Manchester once in my life, I played London in September, so I’m excited to come back.

Are you coming over for any festivals?

I am, I don’t know about any festivals in the UK but I’m playing Primavera.

The line-up is sooooo good!

It’s my favourite festival. It’s so fun and so beautiful, and the line-up is always amazing.

And there are so many women on it!

Yeah! That’s what everyone’s been saying. Which is great, and I wish other festivals had that mentality.

Empress Of will play London’s Scala (26th March), Manchester’s YES (27th), and Dublin’s Whelan’s (28th).

Words: Abigail Firth

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