When Yulia Song and Chloé Silva turned on their cameras for the Zoom call and saw each other, they both simultaneously jumped in awe, sheepishly covering their mouths and faces as they erupted in giggles. Though their collaboration song “No Rules” had been out for a week, this was the first time they saw each other in real-time. After communicating mainly through WhatsApp, the Ecuador-based singers combined their respective lo-fi R&B influences — which they consider rare in their country — and cooked up a soulful bedroom pop earworm.
The story of how “No Rules” came to be is one that not only reflects the very online world throughout the pandemic but also finding people in a niche scene you vibe with via the internet. Known for her R&B and Neo-Soul-inspired music, Silva had wanted to work on something with a faster tempo. So when Song — with her soulful, husky vocals and jazzy aesthetic — slid into her Instagram DMs, it was a no-brainer.
“This girl’s energy is incredible,” Silva tells REMEZCLA about Song, speaking from her pastel flower-wallpapered bedroom in Cuenca, Ecuador. The “Stuck On You” singer immediately wanted Song to be her friend when she first listened to her music. “She’s one of the most incredible people I’ve met in all the time I’ve been working.” The feeling was mutual for Song, who joined the call from her home studio some 200 miles away in Portoviejo. “I know that when we meet in person, we’re both going to be like –,” says Song, mimicking an overdramatization of surprise and glee. Silva laughed and added, “For sure, that’s how it’s gonna go.”
More than an interview, this Zoom call was an opportunity for Song and Silva to know one another’s stories. Silva looked wide-eyed as Song shared that she immigrated to Ecuador from South Korea with her grandparents when she was only 5-years-old. “I’ve lived my entire life in this country. I feel more Ecuadorian than Korean,” the 25-year-old shared with a shy laugh. Her grandfather used to host karaoke competitions, which she credits as her first impulse to pursue a music career.
As it turned out, Silva’s amazement was due to her somewhat similar background. Born in Ecuador, she spent her childhood in the U.S., then went to France, then Uruguay, and then back to Ecuador, where she said she plans on staying. The 22-year-old also grew up surrounded by music, with her parents initially meeting in a punk band. “So that’s where my passion came from… But my mom and dad weren’t cool enough to host karaoke competitions,” she said in jest, making Song burst out laughing again.
We caught up with Song and Silva to discuss how “No Rules” came into fruition, along with culture shocks, their solo works, and upcoming projects.
How did the collaboration come to be? Can you tell me the story?
Yulia: [Drofo and I] already had the instrumental in my home studio. He’s the producer; he made all the music, the sounds. I wrote the lyrics, but I felt like something was missing. I discovered Chloé’s music, and I said to myself, “What? Is she from here? From Ecuador?” So I had to write to her on Instagram. I loved her music from the first moment I listened to it, and I said to her, “We can do something pretty cool together.”
Chloé: It was incredible because, until that moment, all of my collaborations had been with men. I really wanted to collaborate with an amazing woman. Yulia is super talented; she even raps! And I felt very honored to work with people who are the foundation and the future of the female musician scene in Ecuador.
How would you describe the creative process behind “No Rules?”
Chloé: It was super dynamic. Yulia always gave me the opportunity to modify and arrange what I wanted. That was the most pleasant thing of collaborating with her: feeling that we both wanted to build this together.
I saw on Yulia’s Instagram account that this was your first time singing in Spanglish. How did that idea arise?
Yulia: Before her song with Biera, Chloé’s songs were all in English. So I wanted to create something that was very Chloé, where she didn’t have to change or try to be someone else, and she could be herself. So that’s why I decided to make it in Spanglish. We did it that way so we could both keep the essence of the music we’ve always done.
Chloé: And [Yulia] was also super open to singing in English. That’s what I loved the most. It was like, “Let’s do something that feels like we’re both mixing our influences and how we do things.” We clicked, and the result was a song that’s entirely ourselves.
I’m Mexican, and in Mexico, there’s still this stigma when it comes to Spanglish. Is it similar in Ecuador?
Chloé: I make all my music in English, so for me, a lot of people told me, “They’re going to tell you that you think you’re a gringa, that you make all your music in English but live in Ecuador.” And, really, I never received a comment like that once I put out my music. I delayed [releasing my music] just because of that. I think some musicians can sometimes have prejudices. And at the end, the audience doesn’t care that much. I have been told, “I wish you’d make a song in Spanish so I can sing with you and not struggle with the accent.” But I think those are only prejudices from other people.
Chloé, last year you released your debut EP. With you sharing that you used to think people in Ecuador wouldn’t like your music because it’s in English, can you talk about why you opt to sing in English?
Chloé: English is the first language I learned to speak fluently. I grew up listening to and speaking in English, and my music references were always from people who spoke English. It’s what makes me feel the most comfortable because it’s what I’m used to. Since I was younger, I’ve always written in English, so I felt like that’s what made the most sense.
Yulia, I know you said you feel more Ecuadorian than Korean sometimes, but I noticed that you don’t incorporate the Korean language into your songs. Is there a specific reason for that?
Yulia: I’m actually preparing some songs for my EP right now, and I’ve been thinking about mixing Korean, Spanish, and English. To be honest, I still don’t know how I’ll incorporate my mother tongue in my lyrics, but I think it’ll be rap. [I’m also] listening to a lot of songs from Blackpink and Red Velvet. I’m very open-minded and like to experiment with different genres. Although it may not seem that way because of my own music, I love BTS. I love old-school K-pop too, like SHINee. So I want to incorporate a little bit of what I listen to [in my EP].
You’ve both been immigrants at a point in your lives. And with diasporic communities, there’s often a sense of not feeling like you belong in either culture. How do you both navigate this intersection of living between two or more cultures?
Yulia: It’s a bit complicated to respond because there are lots of cultural clashes. I’ve been living in Ecuador for most of my life. I know the customs, what’s right and wrong. But two years ago I went back to Korea to visit family and, for example, I’m used to giving a hug and a kiss on the cheek to say hello. And when I did that in Korea unconsciously, [it wasn’t well received]. It was weird to feel that again. I think there’s always going to be a cultural clash no matter where I am, here or there. But living those experiences, I can say I can adapt well to both cultures.
I think there’s always going to be a cultural clash no matter where I am, here or there.
Chloé: I’ve always been confused when it comes to where I belong, given that even in the U.S., I moved a lot. I had to learn and unlearn many things often, which helped me detach myself from that kind of obsession with “who I am.” I realized my experiences make me who I am, and I don’t need someone to tell me that. I’m constantly changing and trying to be better because life drops bombs on you that you aren’t expecting. I can identify with all of my experiences and live somewhere in between in peace.
How have people received “No Rules?”
Chloé: A lot of people wrote to me to say, “It’s incredible that you’re doing this.” And there’s also this thing about not believing we’re from Ecuador. I hope one day that stops happening. “You’re from Ecuador? There’s talent in Ecuador?” Yeah, bro, there’s talent in Ecuador. Also, before I started making music, I felt a bit lost because I felt like I was the only one doing R&B with some Soul and Neo-Soul [in Ecuador]. And then Yulia was like, “I also do that.” And I was listening to Yulia’s music, and I said, “Why am I discovering her existence until now?” She had to write to me, and I said, “Wow, I can’t believe this is happening in Ecuador.” But yes, there’s a lot of talented people here that sometimes don’t get the recognition we really deserve.
“No Rules” talks about women supporting other women, working together as a team without competition, criticism, or prejudices. What does that message mean to you both personally?
Chloé: Society has always wanted to impose on us this feeling of being jealous and in constant comparison of each other. And though it happens with some male musicians, it’s more expected that women have a rivalry among us. That’s finally ending a bit. For me, it’s always been pretty incredible and encouraging to know that there are women in the music scene that are supportive. When I started my career, the people who gave me chances to sing with them, who already had careers themselves, were all women. They told me, “I know you haven’t released anything yet, but I love what you do, and I want you to sing at my concerts. I want you to work with me.” For me, that’s what it means — simply appreciating that women exist.
It’s more expected that women have a rivalry among us.
What can you share about your upcoming projects?
Yulia: Out of the 6-7 songs I’ve been working on for my next album, one of them is completely finished. It’s an imaginary mafia story, like a novella but in a song. And the other theme I also want to explore on this album is immigration because it’s something I’ve been through. Another theme is self-realization, not giving up. And then love. I don’t have a set date for the release, but maybe by the end of this year or at the beginning of the next.
Chloé: I have a concert at the Sánchez Aguilar de Guayaquil theatre on August 7. I’ll be performing after almost two years without playing, and I’m super excited. I’m also working on more music, and maybe there’ll be a music video soon.