Vanessa Fernandez a.k.a Vandetta is a Singaporean artist/musician. She became part of audio-visual collective, Syndicate, performing with veteran hip-hop producer/DJ, Kiat, at the opening day of the infamous Gilles Peterson Worldwide Festival 2011 in Sete, France. In September that same year, she performed with veteran producer Jason Tan at the Singapore leg of the Worldwide Festival. The duo, known as Octover, released their album on the Syndicate imprint in January 2013. Vandetta currently spends time between LA and Singapore. Her debut solo EP will be released on Syndicate in stores TODAY! Read below for the full interview…
You stated that you had to fight to be heard. What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome to get where you are today?
Vandetta: I could list a lot of pretty shocking things but the truth is, everyone has had crap in their life they’ve had to deal with. What I do want to bring attention to is the fight every musician trying to make original music in Singapore has to struggle with. We live in a society that discourages art and music as a career because people just do not see the value of it. It’s not entirely their fault but it makes me incredibly sad. Things are definitely changing in Singapore but we have a long way to go. The most important thing is to keep creating and evolving. When I moved to LA I was actually heartbroken, but I couldn’t let my voice just die. Instead I turned a struggle into something I think is beautiful. I consider the Vandetta EP a precious triumph.
Speaking of which, what was the creative process like for this EP?
Vandetta: I can’t read or play music but I hear things in my head. When I finally learned how to use Ableton two years ago I decided I would just use the only thing I could to make the EP – my voice. Bobby McFerrin and Bjork did it so I thought – why can’t I? I wrote most of the EP in LA and two of the songs in Singapore over the course of a year. Generally, I wait til a creative spark hits and then I maniacally complete a song in a few hours. I made twenty songs but the final five that went on the EP best articulate my journey of feeling like a caged bird yearning for freedom and finding joy in song.
After a decade of being in the business, why did you feel that now was the time to venture out on your own?
Vandetta: I think I always wanted to be on my own but I just wasn’t ready. It made sense to venture out on my own at the time when I finally learned how to be on my own. I also think I learned a lot just from collaborating and working with Jason Tan on Octover. He’s pretty much a genius and I wouldn’t have understood synthesis as much without him – https://soundcloud.com/dangervillage/octover-satisfy
The tones of electronic ambience are quite evident through your EP. What was the appeal of creating this sound?
Vandetta: I was influenced by the music I’d experienced as part of the Syndicate crew so everything from dub to beats and experimental bass. I love the low end because bass is the only sound that is tactile. You actually feel it and it makes you move. I love dancing and I also love hip-hop. So that also shaped the vibe of the EP.
What is the main difference trying to launch a career in Singapore versus the U.S. Why is it easier to make your music more accessible in L.A.?
Vandetta: The U.S. has been making music a lot longer than Singapore has, so the culture is more open to artists trying something new. Not that there aren’t people in Singapore who love what I’m doing, it’s just generally a lot harder to be different in such a young and small country. That being said I feel very blessed that while music community is small, it is very supportive. I am very grateful for that.
You are also no stranger to covers. From DJ Khaled to Kasabian, how do you go about selecting a song to cover. What elements need to be present in order to successfully make it your own?
Vandetta: It’s always an accident when this happens. I’ll sing a song randomly and if I can twist and turn it in my own way, play around with the tempo and melody, I just kind of go with it.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Vandetta: I’m actually a huge Studio Ghibli fan. Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Grave of Flies and Arriety are my favourites.
Tell us a bit about the video for ‘Fly’ and the creative process behind that. Did you want it to be a complex story unfolding or something simply to accompany the tune?
Vandetta: I had a really specific concept for the video and how it should visually represent the song. I knew I wanted to incorporate dance, which is why I asked Aye Hasagawa to be in the video, and that I wanted to shoot in the Salton Sea. Initially I put all my ideas into a brief which I gave to Kevin Ou, who directed the video. I completely trusted him and he has such an amazing eye, able to see beauty in the most unexpected places. We then hashed out how it would journey and what key motifs needed to be. A lot of it is symbolic. I don’t like anything to be too literal because I want to give you the freedom to make your own connections. It’s more meaningful that way.
What is Syndicate doing to help the music scene in Singapore?
Vandetta: The general ethos of Syndicate is that concept is key. I think when you approach art and music in that way it evolves from an idea into a purpose. To me Syndicate is also this safe space where a smaller group of people who like the same kind of music can kind of just, find and help each other. Sometimes when you see or hear or think something different you’re afraid that you are alone. But when you realize that there are other like-minded individuals around you who believe in the same things that you do, that fear disappears. That is what Syndicate contributes to the community. It seems simple but feeling safe and secure in expressing yourself is important if we want the music scene to grow in Singapore.
Can we expect any tour dates or a full LP in late 2013/2014?
Vandetta: I have a covers album that I’m recording in January next year with a vinyl-only label called Groove Note Records. They’ve released records from Singaporean jazz legend, Jacintha Abisheganaden. After that I’m going to spend some time working on a full album which will be the follow-up to the Vandetta EP. The best way to keep in touch with what I’m doing and upcoming shows is through my Facebook page.
Lastly, any advice for any singers who might be struggling to get their music out there?
Vandetta: Accept that there will always be a struggle and just keep creating. It’ll make you a better artist.
Want to stay up to date on Vandetta’s music? Follow her cookie crumb trail below: