Wellington-based songwriter/producer Hybrid Rose has recently taken the leap to become a lead vocalist. Since then she has collaborated with Christchurch hip hop artist And$um on her latest single “Mr Spaceman.” We sat down with her via Skype to discuss her transition from being a producer to being a vocalist, her influences and an update on her anticipated new album.
Where did the initial idea for the character Hybrid Rose come from?
“Well, the original idea came from my obsession with social media and the internet and how people can create their internet persona in a sense. So, Hybrid Rose is an internet personality, it’s all digital, it’s all very internet influenced, Tumblr especially.”
Are you a fan of other musical projects that have been birthed in a similar mind-set like Gorillaz for example, are you influenced by people who are experimental in that sort of way as well?
“Absolutely, well I grew up listening to Gorillaz. I think their album “Plastic Beach” has probably been the most influential for me creatively and sonically and just that whole interactive experience which is cool. And of course the idea of the virtual band that’s very much how I kind of see my character being.”
So when you write music are you in character or are you writing it for the character of Hybrid Rose?
“I’d say I’m writing for Hybrid Rose. It’s like me saying to myself “here is my idea, interpret it” and then it starts to fully turn into a song. And it could even just be something like an instrumental or maybe there are lyrics or a visual idea, it’s just about taking something and turning it into whatever it becomes, some sort of self-interpretation I guess.”
So how long have you been producing music for?
“I want to say ten years? *laughs* I never leave the house.”
So did you learn an instrument first? Or did you always take to producing using music programmes like GarageBand?
“Well it started with GarageBand I would use their stock loops for practice. And then I started making my own music from scratch in maybe 2012 and then it just kind of went from there.”
You’ve described yourself as a bedroom producer so what’s your setup like now?
“So I have three Midi keyboards, an Impact Samson and an Akai MPK. Then I’ve got a mixer, an interface and a sampler. I use a combination of Ableton and Fruity Loops.”
Recently you’ve made the jump to being a vocalist, so what made you want to sing on a track as opposed to just producing one?
“I realised that some of the stuff I was writing I didn’t want other people signing for me because when I was working with vocalists on my song it was usually because the idea of the song was relatable in a mutual sense. It was a lot safer and I was a lot more comfortable sharing things that way. But, when I realised that I couldn’t do that all of the time, even if I did have something to say I was like “you know what? I’m just gonna do it.”
Dream Team was the first single you sang on was that tough? Was it your first time singing on a track?
“Technically speaking I have featured as a vocalist it was a collaboration that I did with Jahleel we made a song called “New York” on my album “Warhol” and I did a verse and a chorus on that but it wasn’t anything super serious or crazy because I haven’t been to New York. I was more experimenting with my voice and what it could do. And then “Dream Team” that was interesting because it was my first time being the main point in a song, it was okay I was quite nervous.”
Did you have any traditional vocal training or are you self taught?
“I had a little bit in high school. I was in the choir for two years and then I took vocal lessons for like a month and then I thought “Nah I’m good I’ll just stick to singing in the shower.” *laughs*
Fair enough! You have the new single out “Mr Spaceman” which is a good song and features And$um is this the first time you’ve worked with him?
“I’ve known him for a while, we hadn’t properly interacted until maybe Christmas. One day I posted on Instagram “Hey, looking for a rapper for this song” because at the time I thought this would be perfect, a rapper is what I need and I’ve never worked with a rapper so it was a nice experiment. He sent me a bunch of his music and I listened to it, we were talking while listening to his music just to get an idea of who he was as an artist and I was quite fascinated, so I was like “I’d like to see what you would do, I want to see what you can do with this beat.” This was around mid-January. Then maybe a week or two later I finished it.”
You’ve described the song as being Cyber-Pop fused with R&B which is quite an interesting mix of genres that works well, you must have a wide range of influences?
“Honestly, my influences while I’ve been working on “Mr Spaceman” around this time, none of them are Cyber-Pop or R&B. I had been jamming a shit ton of Charli XCX when her album came out last year. I was like “Okay, I’ll give it a listen” and then I fell in love with it. Then I started looking through the rest of her discography from 2015 onwards and she’s got some wild songs. So I’ve been listening to a lot of that and it’s kind of in the music but at the same time, it’s not. I don’t know it’s weird how my brain works when it comes to what I produce vs what I actually listen to.”
Did you set out to make a song within that niche? Or did it just happen when you were working on the producing side of things?
“It kind of happened I was experimenting with sound design a lot at the end of last year and manipulating my instrument one-shots and stuff like that and I made some cool low-fi sounding percussion. Then I made this slow jam beat to it and I kind of liked it. And then from that point, I had a chord progression that also happened to work and it just slowly went from that point. It wasn’t intentionally “I’m going to make this” and then “I’m going to make that.”
You put a few references to science fiction and David Bowie’s Space Odyssey would you say there are a lot of cinematic influences in your music as a whole?
“A lot of my influences in the context of soundscapes when it comes to the production as a whole are quite cinematic, I love things that paint a picture. You could almost be in a dark room and while you’re listening to a song all of these lights appear and it’s this wonderful area of where you feel like you’re at right now. So whether that’s space or your out in the garden or maybe you’re at the club it’s like a transcending moment and it’s not on drugs.”
You have an album in the works, how is that coming along?
“It’s coming, it’s coming along *laughs* My mindset and my mentality have been shifting constantly at the moment so it’s hard to stay on one certain idea or one certain concept. It used to be a lot slower for me like once an album was out I was already over it, I didn’t want to promote it, it was just like “you know what? Next album let’s do it.” But now I can’t even focus on just a project as a whole so I have all of these different things happening and I’m finding it interesting to string together an album filled with tracks of all kinds of eras that are playing out in my brain.”
Do you have a time frame you want to get the album out by?
“I’m just playing it by ear. I have some singles coming out within the next few months that are involved in compilations that will be involved with whatever I’m doing with my next record so hopefully, I’d say the end of this year. I can see something happening by September as a full project.”
Do you have any artists in mind that you want to work with?
“I have collaborated a lot in the past but like I was saying with wanting to sing on my own songs, some of the stuff I’ve been writing isn’t necessarily stuff I want to share with other musicians, or have other musicians sing or get involved with because it’s a little too personal. I do have a couple of collaborators in mind. And$um is on Spaceman so that’s a given and I do have someone else in mind but I think I’m just sticking to me this time.”
You can stream Hybrid Rose’s music here;