Interview: Madame Recamier, On the Move and In Reverse [MEX]

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We fell in love instantly with Madame Recamier last year when we were given the opportunity to debut her video for “Quiero.” The creative Michel-Gondry-esque video was a perfect match for the romantic indie-pop tune, of which there are many on her latest album, ImaGina.

Recamier (née Gina Recamier) held a one-off performance in Los Angeles last week when she performed with Ulises Hadjis and Emanuela Bellezza at the Levitt Pavilion in Pasadena. It was her first show in the U.S. since her 2010 tour for her debut album, Chocolate.

We caught up with her before the performance and she was kind enough to talk about her globe-trotting upbringing, her work with Chetes, and those silly haters that flagged her latest video on YouTube as being “age-inappropriate.”

You live in Mexico City. Where you born and raised there too?

I was born in D.F. but my family was living in Queretaro. My mom went to D.F. to be with her mom when I was born but I’ve been coming and going from Queretaro to D.F. and I lived in the U.S., in Houston, a few years. I lived in Milan when I was a little girl and, right now, I’ve been living in D.F. for about six years.

I read that you also lived in Paris for some time.

It was two years ago now. It was a lot of fun. We went to Sacred Heart [Basilica of Montmartre] and there was this guy playing the guitar and there [were] a lot of people there. I was like, “hey, can I play your guitar?” and I started playing my songs for them. I went two months for the summer. I took my guitar and I wrote a couple of songs over there because I had a scholarship and I had to be writing a song each month.

Was that scholarship for a specific university or college?

It wasn’t a school. It’s a scholarship in Mexico where they call in all the songwriters in Mexico and they send in two or three songs to el Auditorio Nacional and Alfredo Harp, which is the foundation that pays this scholarship, which is a really good payment and lets you dedicate one year of your life to writing songs. There are three or four mentors in the program and they give you tips. Every two months, there’s a meeting and we listen to a couple of songs from the songwriters so, it’s a lot of fun and it’s good work and you can realize if you want to be a songwriter or not. That was a really great year! Too bad it’s over.

I have to ask: why Houston out of every city in the US?

It was my dad’s job. He was stationed there. He works in finance and he was working with Shell so we always followed my dad wherever he worked. Also, Milan, we lived there because he was working for Kellogg’s. My mom was always really supportive [of] him.

I started listening to all these singers from Mexico and Latin America like Juan Gabriel and Armando Manzanero, artists that know their songwriting and know their arrangements.

Well, she got to travel too!

(laughs) Yeah, when he told my mom that we were going to Europe he was like, “I’m going to take you to a place you’ve always wanted to go but for three years,” and my mom was like “whaaaaat?!” So it was just us five, a Mexican family in Milan and I learned English there. I went to an American school and I learned English and Italian. There [were] all kinds of cultures in that school. It was filled with all kinds of people from all over the world whose parents had to work there.

On each of your albums, you have a song in English. Have you thought about recording an entire album of songs in English?

I would really love to do that but, I’m Mexican and I have to write songs in Spanish. My first band when I was 17 was called Triplips and most of the songs were in English. People just really didn’t get it. I really love to sing in English because I grew up listening to a lot of pop and rock music in English. All the bands that inspired me, most of them sing in English so it’s kind of hard to start writing songs in Spanish so I started listening to all these singers from Mexico and Latin America like Juan Gabriel and Armando Manzanero, artists that know their songwriting and know their arrangements. I also remember when I first heard Chetes, I was like, “Wow, he has really great songs. I have to work with him one day!” And it happened.

Did he produce both your albums?

Only the second one. The first [Chocolate], I did it. It was more like, “Okay, I’m gonna see what I can do by myself.” I had a lot of help from friends from different studios. I always do my demos at home. I still needed a lot of work on that album but I felt like I had to start playing. I wasn’t that patient as I was with ImaGina. It’s a lesson that you start learning: okay, I have to start being more patient, I have to spend more time on songwriting, and I have to listen to more music and I have to know about this computer and synthesizer and drum machines and knowing how to do a live set without any money. It’s not easy!

Who came up with the idea for the video “Luz Verde?” Yourself? The director?

Between him and me. I worked with him before on a video called “Ordinary Boy.” I really loved working with him. For this video, I told him I wanted to do a video in reverse and he was like, “oh…damn you!” (laughs). “How are we gonna do that?!” So we started studying all these videos in reverse and we saw this one from Metronomy. The video started at a point where it ended so it ended where it started.

So, he was like, “you’re going to have to learn this song in reverse” and I’m like “shit, well, that’s my fault because I wanted to do a video in reverse.” Then he says “also, there’s choreography.”

“Oh shit…”

When you see the video, you don’t see anyone but there was actually someone under the bed with a board. When I’m [at] the mirror, that person under the bed goes out behind me so I can read the lyrics to a part of the song that I didn’t remember. I was doing my stuff and as I’m taking things off and putting lipstick on, the girl who [did] the choreography starts shouting, “YOUR HAIR! YOUR HAND! YOUR EYES! YOUR NECK!” Then the song is playing in reverse at full volume and there’s fans and feathers all over. You hear all this noise and I’m trying to just be okay, cool. We did probably 10 shots of that and it was [a] 24-hour shoot for four days because we had to rehearse.

What about that little controversy with the video being age-restricted? Are you too sexy for YouTube?

I guess I’m sexier than Rihanna and Madonna (laughs). I think it was stupid but I also think that it caused it to get more views. I guess the person who flagged it probably hates me or something. I get a lot of haters!

I’m still trying to figure out why it’s age-inappropriate.

It’s probably because you see a little bit too much skin but you don’t see anything! Things like that are going to happen anyway. I’m not going to stop doing videos because I got flagged.

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