• About A Band: Empress Of

    Empress Of is defining her own tour look.

    “I’m really super, super into those rice masks—the ones that look like they’re cloth and you put them on your face and you look like a serial killer,” she tells us.

    Lorely Rodriguez, as she’s known offstage, just wrapped up an impressive fall tour where, for the first time, she was the main attraction. This time, the artist—who's opened for Purity Ring and Jamie xx—had fans singing her songs, coming up to her after the shows, liking her posts on Instagram. An explanation on the latter: Lorely has this ritual where, in every city she plays, she’ll find the most recognizable landmark and strike her signature pose for a photo. Photo after photo of Lorely crouched on one knee, fist under her chin, in front of monuments from the Eiffel Tower to the Washington Monument. It’s an excuse to get her out and exploring. 

    “That’s usually what I do whenever I have time off in the city,” she says. “I’ll find the iconic place, make the pose and be too scared to find anything else to do.”

    Her geographic journey parallels her sonic one. Despite being admittedly shy, she's managed to make the jump from sparse, ethereal anonymity to pop phenomenon in a few short years. In 2012, Lorely posted a series of 15 minute bewitching, synth-laden song fragments, appropriately dubbed “Colorminutes” to YouTube. The project was laced with intrigue and obscurity. With a sound reminiscent of Briana Marela and Lia Ices—hook-filled, experimental and airy—listeners were instantly curious about the artist behind the project. 

    With this year's full-length debut, Me, Rodriguez turns the magnifying glass on herself, her emotions, and her own insecurities. Rather than hide behind walls of sound, as her previous projects allowed her to do, she invites listeners into her own world through intriguing pop mechanisms, like warbling synths, swaggering beats and her pure vocals.

    So, the fact that she masks her face (beauty calls, right?) serves as a poetic mirror to her own career trajectory. 

    The search for identity with Me doesn’t only apply to the album’s songs. The official video for “Icon,” which we’re premiering today as a part of our UO Music Video Series, sees Lorely front and center in true cinematic fashion. Dazzling in both city and nature, she puts timidness aside to come into her own in front of the camera. 
    Photos by Mitchell Wojcik, words by Allie Volpe

    Tell us a little about the idea behind "Colorminutes." What made you decide to start your career essentially without your own identity?
    All I had when I first started making music were demos. They were starting points, they weren’t blocked out or mixed or mastered or anything. I tried to figure out what kind of music I wanted to make. I just felt like I wanted to reveal the music and not really reveal too much about myself because I wanted people to focus on hearing the tracks and hearing the demos. 

    How did you come up with the name Empress Of?
    I came up with it from a tarot card reading. My friend pulled out the empress card, that was the first card he pulled out. I liked the empress card because it was fertility and femininity and it felt powerful, but in a really graceful [way]. I fell in love with this card. Then I just decided to call myself Empress Of because I’m not too cocky and I don’t want to be Empress of something, or just Empress. I can’t call myself empress, it sounds like a death metal band!

    What's the biggest difference between "Colormines" and the way you present your music as Empress Of? 
    The way I present my music now, it really has to do with the record, because the record is called Me and it is so personal. So that is just naturally how the record came about. With a different record, I probably would present myself a little differently. 

    So Me is more of you putting yourself out there?
    Yeah, this is a more refined thing that I did. Every single note and every single word and every sound, it has so much intention behind it. It comes from a place that I can fully defend. The demos come from this really naïve, it’s like anyone just starting to do something for the first time. There’s spontaneity, there’s all caution out the door. I took all the risks, I was making any kind of music I wanted to make. But with this, it was so thought out.

    What kind of feedback have you received from your fans with this record?
    I’ve heard a lot of people that have come up to me and they’re like, “You know, I don’t know you at all, but I feel like I do know you just from watching you perform your set or listening to your record.” They feel the need to tell me how they relate to my record. I think it’s because exposing things people all experience, but don’t necessarily talk about or don’t openly talk about. I experience the same things everyone else experiences. I get jealous, I get upset, I get insecure, I get catcalled on the street, I get envious of people with privilege and way more money than me who have it easier—maybe things that other people experience. They just come up to me and tell me how their record is Me, how their record is themselves. 

    That makes sense. If somebody’s singing a happy pop song, it’s kind of harder to relate to that, versus a song about insecurity or knowing how being sad feels.
    It kind of takes something negative and turns it into a positive affect on their life. I feel like that’s a huge thing with art and music, it comes out of people turning their hardships into something they’ve overcome. A lot of songs on my record are these—maybe they’re moments that are hard for me—but they’re also moments of triumph because I’m on the other side of it, like Adele: “Hello from the other side!”

    Will the next record tackle the same feelings and situational emotions? 
    I like saying something with a record and I think the reason I can talk about this record so much and perform it every night and still love it and listen to it, it’s just because I really feel like I’m saying something with it, and saying something about myself and about the way that a lot of other people feel about certain things. Whether I repeat the same process or not, I don’t know. Whether I say the same thing again in the next record, I don’t know, but I don’t want to make a record about the same thing. 

    Watch UO Music Video Series: Empress Of 
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