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The Art of Collaboration With Empress Of

Ahead of her appearance at Sound + Vision with the design studio Nonotak, we catch up with the Brooklyn songwriter to find out how she feels about working with others.
January 19, 2016, 2:58am

It would be easy to mistake Lorely Rodriguez, the 25-year-old who records as Empress Of, as a creative loner.

The Brooklyn-based experimental pop artist called her startling debut album Me and wrote, recorded, and produced it herself over a 10 month period—most of which was spent alone in a big house in Mexico.

But although she possesses a single-mindedness when it comes to her music and career, Rodriguez is open to collaboration and in her only Sydney show will team up with Paris-based design studio Nonotak, as part of Samsung Sound + Vision, a one-night showcase of music, art, and, technology at the Sydney Opera House.


Nonotak are no strangers to collaboration. Their work is essentially one ongoing collaboration between illustrator Noemi Schipfer and architect Takami Nakamoto who started in late 2011, to create a mural in a Paris building’s lobby. In early 2013 the duo started experimenting with light and sound, presenting their first audiovisual installation in May 2013 at Mapping Festival in Geneva.

Sound + Vision will also feature Banoffee, Oscar Key Sung, Charles Murdoch, Australian photo-surrealist Prue Stent and design duo Tin&Ed. Entry is free! Head here to RSVP.

Noisey: What are your thoughts on the phrase, “We should collab some time?” Do you get asked that much?
Lorely Rodriguez: I usually am really excited by the prospect because I work alone in my own music- producing and writing and singing so I like to experience other people's creative process when I have the chance. Can collaboration be taught or is it more natural negotiation and communication skills?
I grew up studying in conservatories since age 13. Part of that learning process is singing and making music with other kids. It's not only important socially from human to human but from student to student. I sort of forget how important that is when I get sucked in to my own world.

The cover of Me looks like you are thinking of a polite way to say no to a collaboration.
No, the cover of my album is about being nervous about exposing mysel. which is how I felt at the time of the shoot. I didn't know the photographer.

You co-directed the video for “Standard” with Zaiba Jabbar. Do you consider that a collaboration?
Yes it was very much a collaboration. I wrote the idea for the video and Zaiba and I talked about different shots that will really get the most out of this feeling of being held upside down by someone way stronger than you physically but maybe not necessarily mentally. Is visual art something that interests you? You recorded Me in Mexico. Are there Mexican or Latin American artists that interest you?
OMG yes. Frida Kahlo is a huge inspiration for me. I love her self-portrait work. I also love the Day of the Dead art and calaveras traditions. What are you most looking foreard to your collaboration with Nonotak?
I'm very curious how my music will inspire them. Is there anyone artist/musician/actor that you would really like to collaborate with?
I really love Cara Stricker. I think she is brilliant. I would love to work with her in every capacity, musically and visually.

Empress Of and Nonotak will be performing at Samsung Sound + Vision at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday 31 January.

The night will also include one-off collaborative performances by Banoffee and Oscar Key Sung and Prue Stent and Charles Murdoch with Tin&Ed.

Best of all, it's free. But make sure you RSVP to secure a spot.