Brooklyn-based musician, producer and visual artist VANDANA will release an EP, Nox Anima, on April 21st. Her distinctive brand of sultry noir-pop is infused with interesting electronic textures, from fierce drum pads to moody analog synth swells, and her expressive vocals call to mind similarly dark-minded acts like Portishead, PJ Harvey and Fever Ray.
We caught up with VANDANA to chat about the “nocturnal world” of her music, using design to inspire her songwriting and why she’s a fan of renegades in the industry…
To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?
I like to think that my music inhabits a nocturnal world, in which all creatures are moody and enigmatic. They move slowly and gracefully since they’re colossal and only eat plants and fruits.
You are a graphic artist as well as a musician. How you find that these two disciplines compliment each other, if at all?
They are completely intertwined, one informs the other, nurtures the other.
So are you able to find musical inspiration in graphic design, and vice versa?
Not necessarily graphic design, but design in general helps me visualise a scenario or a mood which gets embedded into my memory to draw on at a later stage as emotional material for a song. The real battle is being able to draw as quickly as I visualise images while I’m listening to music, not the other way round.
The word ‘noir’ is often used to describe your style… From where do you think this element of darkness found its way into your aesthetic?
India is a very spiritual and beautiful country, but it’s also shrouded in mystery. Ancient stories and fables, thoughts and rituals kept alive over centuries, some of its truths are very dark, the continual and repetitive objectification of women and abuse of women’s rights affected me deeply, even at a young age. But I think I had the hardest time with my shape and identity, I was a fairly large girl until the age of 16, or so I was told… which is the real tragedy, isn’t it? Sadly there wasn’t anybody helping me through my preoccupation with body shame and it interfered with living my life fully, by the age of 8 or 9 I had already started isolating myself from the outside world and finding comfort in music and art, and naturally of the melancholic kind. I’m generally attracted to cerebral, wistful and dark music. Music which grows on you, which you listen to two or three times and then you’re hooked. My journey out of my past, challenging the belief systems I grew up with, has probably informed the noir aspect to my overall aesthetic. I no longer have a stunted view of my most authentic self, of what’s possible for me.
What are the 5 albums that have influenced you the most?
Pink Floyd, Dark Side Of The Moon
Miles Davis, Bitches Brew
PJ Harvey, White Chalk and Let England Shake
Radiohead, Kid A
Some other artists you admire include Iris van Herpen, Jack White and threeASFOUR – all ‘renegades’ of some form or other. What inspires you about this kind of artist?
Artists who do not conform to predictable schools of thought, or ‘play safe’, are very energising and motivating to me. When you push boundaries of what’s acceptable and are unapologetic about your vision, the authenticity that comes through is pure and instantly attractive.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
Either a mountaineer or a tennis player, both on competitive levels.
How are you feeling about 2017? How do you think musicians will be affected by the political turmoil of the time, and how do you hope they’ll respond?
I am positive about 2017. We’re no longer in a dream state, people have awoken, we’re finally wanting and willing to contribute in deeper and meaningful ways to the political landscape. This is a very potent time for musicians and artists in general to respond, not by demonising an existent tyrannical behaviour, angry and disheartened but with practical solutions and a revitalized sense of hope for the times we live in.
Are there any key pieces of equipment that you are using to define your sound?
My Moog. And analog synths in general.
Finally… in a perfect world, where will Vandana be at this time next year?
On everybody’s listening devices! And opening shows for Radiohead, a band I admire over any other.
VANDANA’s new EP, Nox Anima, will be released on April 21st.