“I’m perhaps the last generation who knew life without the internet” Prudence Rees-Lee
We are so blessed this week to be chatting to one of my favourite artists, Prudence Rees-Lee. We spoke about colour, categorisation and life since relocating to Los Angeles from Melbourne.
All images are courtesy of Barbara Doux, taken throughout the shooting of Prudence’s latest video, Fair Witness.
I’d only just realised that you’d relocated from Melbourne to L.A! How’s it going over there?
It’s great! The move was kinda serendipitous, I never would have thought I’d live in L.A but I love it here, I’ve been very lucky.
One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about your performances is how colourful they are, not only with those wonderful impressionist-tinged flourishing melodies, but also in your co-ordinated outfits (I actually scrolled back to March 2013 in my instagram to double check this!). This especially comes through on the new film clip as well. When you write music, do you have the visuals in mind? Or does this come after the music is complete?
Thank-you! I appreciate that this is something you noticed. I love using color. I’m finding more and more in my life that color is important. Color is light, and light is vibration so it makes sense to me that different types of music go with different colors.
When I write music I want to create a whole world. I have images and texts which influence the songwriting and arranging, and the kind of feeling I want to create, but I don’t think the specific visuals come to mind until I find the right collaborators.
On that note, what are some of the visual inspirations for the new video?
I was inspired by old broadcast performances and recent collections from Gucci and Valentino which are full of colours, clashing patterns and exuberance. I worked with Megan Boyd who is a visual artist in L.A. We talked a lot about the symbols in the song, such as fire, seeing and looking, action and inaction, and a few of the literary references (the Orpheus myth, Dante’s Inferno). We talked about tarot cards and utopias and goddesses, the heaven/hell that is LA. The process of putting this video together was so exciting.
Are you able to tell us a little bit more about Growing Closer?
Of course! I wrote most of it during an artist residency in Bolivia. My host was an incredible woman in her 60s who had a career as an architect and environmental artist and had a life long meditation practice. She said that she only liked three types of music; free jazz, Laurie Anderson and the sound of nature. I liked her alot. The phrase ‘growing closer’ is taken from the book Stranger in a Strange Land. In the book it’s basically a euphemism for sex, so I feel that I’m secretly just calling the album ‘SEX’!
Right now, I think we are living in a powerful moment in time, a new aquarian age, and I want this album to stand as a testament to music’s transformative and transcendental qualities. I’m perhaps the last generation who knew life without the internet which is so wild! Nature and technology, people and machines, people with each other, earth life and space life, it’s all growing closer, so close that I feel as though all these things are about to touch and totally change everything.
When you are active, growing closer to something is empowering, but if something is growing closer to you there’s this feeling of menace. We are constantly growing closer to the future we are creating right now. We have to choose if we are to have agency, to define this near future and make the right decisions to make it happen, or if this future is growing closer to us, if we will just stand by and watch it unfold. The album is more witchy, experimental and poppy all at once, my biggest hope is that it reflects this specific moment in time while drawing on timeless
It’s been said that your music is difficult to categorise. How do you feel about this idea? Do you feel we live in an age of over-categorisation?
Hmmm… I don’t think we are living in an age of over categorisation. I think categories and labels and genres are very useful. They provide frameworks in which you can either operate within or in opposition to. Our world is one which is increasingly driven by data, by sorting and retrieving it, so categories are necessary to navigate all the information which is available.
If people find my music difficult to categorise then I would take it as a compliment, although ‘difficult to categorise’ is a category in itself.
What have you got planned for the coming year?
I have three big things! The first is a collaboration with scientists from NASA, Caltech, Stanford and a world leading shadow artist Christine Marie as part of an experimental research studio I co-founded last year. We are partnering with Boundaries of Life, and will be producing a series of events and short film which explore questions around we define life, biological dark matter, the unseen and what is possible, as well as the connections between art and science. After that I’ll be joining Four Larks as part of a residency at the Getty Villa in Malibu, and hopefully after that I’ll be able to put finishing touches on Growing Closer and release it before sleeping for a hundred years.
Follow Prudence over here.