Words by Tommy Johnson
From the very beginning of our conversation, it was clear that Genevieve Artadi was incapable of not being able to contain her happiness. The day included self-care, including a muay thai class and tacos from a nearby establishment. More importantly, rehearsals for Artadi’s upcoming show supporting the newly released album Forever Forever have been going smoothly. “A lot of the people rehearsing with me played on the album. So they got to learn it that way, very intimately,” Artadi informs me. “And then I have a couple of new people playing who just learned the crap out of the music. It’s just so smooth and they sound so good.”
Having been known for her time in acts such as KNOWER, Expensive Magnets, and her former band Pollyn, Artadi’s Forever Forever encompasses a truly kaleidoscopic range of influences. The LA-based singer-songwriter also found guidance within her spiritual teachings of Thích Nhất Hạnh – the Vietnamese Thiền Buddhist monk known as the “father of mindfulness,” Ram Dass (guru of modern yoga), Eckhart Tolle, and Jiddu Krishnamurti. With bandmates Louis Cole, Pedro Martins, Sam Gendel, Sam Wilkes, Jacob Mann, and Chiquita Magic locked step throughout the recording, Artadi looked deeply into expressing herself in the purest ways.
Off Shelf: I imagine you have been sitting on this new album for a bit. What has it been like for you to allow everyone to get into the tracks now?
Genevieve Artadi: Oh, my gosh, I’m very, very excited about it. Yeah, I’ve been anticipating this for a long time. I’m so psyched about it. With Dizzy Strange Summer I was excited to put it out but it was right in the middle of the pandemic. It was crazy to put an album out at that time.
OS: Was it also cathartic in a way? It allowed you to continue doing your normal routine even with everything happening.
GA: Yeah, it was good but it also felt so funny. While the world was burning down, here I was saying, ‘Hey, come check out my new album.’ [laughs]
OS: Did you find yourself being creative around that time more than you would usually have been?
GA: For the first part, I wasn’t. I was more like trying just to embrace the silence, so I meditated a lot. I played piano to learn piano pieces, and I played some drums.
OS: When reading about you, I discovered your parents were musicians. Did they ever try to push you to make music?
GA: I joined a band my senior year of high school, and I hated how much I sucked so I just wanted to learn more. I went to school to learn music and then as I was doing it I kept going with my band. Then I started another band and met Louis; it naturally evolved. It was very natural for me. I tried being like a film major and a photography major and stuff like that initially but I asked myself, “What am I doing? This is not where my skill set is.” so I just went for music.
OS: And the one genre that you were particularly interested in was music was jazz. What sparked you to dive more into it?
GA: I felt that whenever I heard it there was always another layer; it could just keep going deeper and deeper and deeper. So I think I loved that I could keep learning more and more but also I can hear a depth and I’ve felt it resonate within me emotionally. I like the specific combination that it has of the way it stimulated my brain and also my heart. It can be so exciting and people are nuts. I like that.
OS: I also saw that the combo Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole’s Unforgettable got you into jazz as well.
GA: Yeah, I was obsessed with that album when I was in seventh grade. I would listen to it over and over and sing along to it. I also really loved “L-O-V-E” and “Paper Moon” and brought Nat King Cole’s Christmas album into my class when I was in fifth grade. Everyone was like, ‘What is wrong with you?” My teacher liked it but no one else was into it.
OS: As far as incorporating jazz into your music today, is it essential to combine jazz with your interests?
GA: For Forever Forever, half of it came from an album I had to write with the Norrbotten Big Band as the composer. I was considering solos and the harmonies a lot. The way that I think about it is that I don’t try to write for any genre. I feel like I absorb all the stuff that I absorb and then whatever comes out comes out. I’m more trying to write about a feeling or a topic or create a vibe so I can use whatever I have at my disposal to get there. Sometimes it turns out entirely different from the original idea.
OS: When writing, do you ever feel songs will be great for specific projects you’re working on? Or would it be great for your solo work?
GA: Most of the stuff I write, I know specifically what it will be for and can tell pretty early on. If I’m writing something that feels very personal and strange, it usually goes into the Genevieve Artadi pile. If it’s poppy and very strong, I could maybe contribute it to Norrbotten, but then again, Norrbotten is a very specific process these days. Expensive Magnets is more like a free for all. Sometimes Pedro and I get together we’re like, ‘Okay, do we have any songs that might be cool for us to collaborate on?” I have this idea that I want to make an anime-rock type of album. That’s going to be just for me.
OS: Speaking of anime, I read some your favorite animes are Attack on Titan, Rurouni Kenshin, Hikaru No Go, and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. What themes strike your curiosity when diving into various anime shows?
GA: One thing that I love about anime is that there’s a lot of compassion for the bad guy. It’s not just like a good guy and a bad guy. The people who do really messed up stuff, you get to see how they develop to be the villain. And a lot of times they can even be converted, and then they become a good guy. You just never know what direction it’s gonna go. Instead of seeing this person as a bad guy, you see why they are the way they are you feel for them. And it kind of helps me feel more compassion towards people in general. Then there’s also the fun fighting aspect.
OS: In Forever Forever, did themes of where you wanted to explore organically come around? Or did the themes within the album always been there?
GA: For Dizzy Strange Summer I was… just a mess. I don’t know what’s going on. I was trying to be free and do all kinds of stupid stuff. And then I calmed down. I got through that phase and I decided to start being a little healthier. I met Pedro and then we got together. We were all lovey-dovey and I wanted to write great love songs; that was the goal. He showed me a lot of really beautiful Brazilian music that I had never heard before. I think that was a big influence on me, even though it’s not entirely just like me trying to replicate that sound.
OS: I think part of what’s beautiful about Forever Forever is that from everything we’ve talked about – anime, Brazilian music, jazz – you found some way to integrate that influence in almost every song in some way. It feels like it was effortless. Did you feel that way?
GA: The first half of it, as I said earlier, I had to write was music that I wrote for as a composer in residence. That was a ton of work because I had to be very, very particular about what parts I was going to give people because it was like sixteen to seventeen people in the band at that time. I had to write a lot of parts and give them something to do and pray that they weren’t like bored. I did have a lot of parts written by the time I got to the studio, and then I also got people who I trusted as also like producers and writers of their own on their music. They would understand my vision and how to contribute to it the best as possible.
OS: You recorded in Mexico. What was that experience like?
GA: It was so cool because I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna fly everyone to Mexico to record in this awesome studio that my friend Dennis posted on Instagram saying like, this place is beautiful.” I’m like, you know, do it! This would be my first time trying to do anything like this, having such a hi-fi sound recording legit studio for several days. I went for it and I’m so happy I did. The place was all made out of wood in the middle of the forest. It was beautiful. The engineers there were great. We stayed in a giant house and the rooms were all beautiful. They cooked our meals based on our dietary restrictions. They had a kitchen, and we could go there and eat and drink whatever we wanted. It felt like a week-long party, except halfway through everybody got COVID. Well, two of us tested positive for COVID. We stayed and then the rest flew home and got COVID a little bit later. We had to put the brakes on and then we came back and finished recording nine songs in three days. So we’re recording three parts at a time and everybody was like, “Come on, let’s go. Let’s go. No, I want to do another take for myself!” That was beautiful.
OS: After recording, did you ask yourself why you haven’t done what you did till now?
GA: I mean, for me, the budget was always a thing. My music to me had always been a side project because nowhere was Norrbotten has been my main deal. I’m happy it went the way that it did. I feel like the timing was right.
OS: You feel like your solo work is still a side project?
GA: No, not anymore. Now. I feel like it’s kind of side-by-side with Norrbotten. I mean I love that part of that project. It’s always going to be a part of me.