In the Studio with XL Recordings’ French-Cuban Duo
This week London-based label XL Recordings celebrates 25 years of turning next-big-things into global names—and following Prodigy, The White Stripes and The xx on the independent's illustrious roster is latest signing, Ibeyi. The 19-year-old French-Cuban twins Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Díaz are daughters of the late, Grammy-winning Buena Vista Social Club percussionist Anga Díaz. “We probably carry his love of mixing different musics and influences on in an unconscious way,” says Lisa, who recorded the debut album with her beat-making sister and the XL owner Richard Russell during a three-month period: “Recording with Richard has been a deep experience, we learned a lot about our music and about ourselves. He and John the engineer recorded everything that was happening in the studio. If one day you find one of our big twin fights on the internet, you know where it comes from.” Taking in Nina Simone, Meshell Ndegeocello and Reggaeton as influences, at the root of the pair’s music is the culture of ‘Yoruba,’ which was imported into Cuba from West Africa. “Yoruba's culture is part of our lives and our music; mixing ancient religious chants with other western influences is what came naturally to us when we started making songs,” says Lisa. “It traveled to Cuba with the slaves but is largely unknown, so it's important to us that people discover how profound it is.”
The Rap Game’s Next Big Star Takes Yours Truly to the Mississippi River
Lizzo is the multi-talented Minneapolis-based MC bringing hip-hop back to the future. The latest subject of our series with Yours Truly has been compared to Missy Elliot and André 3000—“If they wanna call me that, it’s cool with me!”—and is classically trained yet street savvy. At 20 she gave up the prospect of a career as a flautist to teach herself how to become a solo artist, armed with a Beyoncé-loaded iPod and her own obsessive will. Born Melissa Jefferson in Detroit and raised in Ms. Knowles’ own Houston before moving to her current home city three years ago, her musical epiphanies have been manifold, ranging from skipping school to catch Destiny’s Child perform at Walmart, to playing flute in her school band. “When we played ‘White Christmas’ in sixth grade I got goose-bumps,” says the 26-year-old, who also grew up on the gospel music of her family. “Music has always moved me in the same way, and I wanted to translate that into what I create.” Her debut album Lizzobangers is a fierce slice of balls-out hip-hop, fueled as much by her effervescent, polyphonic compositions as her uncompromising beats and lyrical flow. “The music that I make is a conversation with myself, where I let out my pent up emotion, whether it’s happiness, sadness or whatever,” she says. “Everyone pops up: family, friends, Anna Wintour. It’s weird rap!”
Lizzo plays Reading and Leeds festivals from Friday August 22 before touring the US from September 7.
The Celebrated Filmmaker and Designer Olympia Le-Tan Co-create a Tale to Pierce the Heart
Designer Olympia Le-Tan's embroidered clutch-bags spring to life in director Spike Jonze’s tragicomic stop-motion animation Mourir Auprès de Toi (To Die By Your Side). On a shelf in famed Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company, the star-crossed love story of a klutzy skeleton and his flame-haired amour plays out amidst Le-Tan’s illustrations of iconic first-edition book covers. "It's such a beautiful and romantic place,” offers Le-Tan of the antiquarian bookstore. "The perfect setting for our story!” The project started after Jonze asked for a Catcher in the Rye embroidery to put on his wall and the plucky Le-Tan asked for a film in return. Enlisting French filmmaker Simon Cahn to co-direct, the team wrote the script between Los Angeles and Paris over a six month period, before working night and day animating the 3,000 pieces of felt Le-Tan had cut by hand. “I love getting performances from, telling stories about and humanizing things that aren’t human,” said Jonze of working with Le-Tan’s characters. After spending five years adapting Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are, Jonze’s recent shorts include robot love story I’m Here and an inspired G.I. Joe-starring video for The Beastie Boys. “A short is like a sketch,” he says. “You can have an idea or a feeling and just go and do it.” Here the iconic director reveals his creative process to writer Maryam L'Ange.
How did the film come about?
I met Olympia in Paris through friends of mine. She was just starting to make the bags for her friends. She had a bunch of the scraps in her bag, all of the cut-out pieces of felt. I just loved it. I loved all the artwork she picked, the texture of it, the stitching of the felt. We joked about making a film and just went for it. It was this thing with no schedule, no pressure and no real reason to be—other than just that we thought it would be fun.
Did you write the story together?
Yeah we did. We would look at all the artwork over lunch whenever we would be in the same city, noting any ideas that would just make us smile. It was done like that, with no real plans.
What’s your creative process?
You just start with what the feeling is. For this one the feeling definitely started with the handmade aesthetic and charm of Olympia’s work. Instantly I had the idea of doing it in a bookstore after-hours, imagining the lights coming down and these guys off their books. Me and Olympia both wanted to make a love story, and it was fun to do it with these characters. It evolved naturally and it all just started with the feeling. From there you entertain yourself with ideas that excite you.
Do you go with your gut instinct?
If it cracks me up. We were talking about the skeleton coming off his book and the girl in the Dracula book waving at him. Olympia is someone who is just absurd, she’s used to just saying anything. She just started making the blowjob gesture as a joke to make us laugh but I was like, “We’ve got to do that.” It’s about taking things that could just be a joke while brainstorming and actually going for it and using it.
What inspires you?
People inspire me. Humberto Leon and Carol Lim [from Opening Ceremony] and the confidence and creativity in how they run their business. Pixar’s really inspiring, they make films in the best possible way. They’re always focused on story. I could list a million people that inspire me all the time. David Bowie’s music, Charlie Kauffman, David Russell. A lot of people that I work with too, just conversations I have with them about what we want to do.
To read an interview with Olympia Le-Tan about the making of the animation visit our Facebook page here.