Composer Uèle Lamore Fans the Flames of Mass Appeal with “Breathe” Video

Photo Credit: Antoine Vincens de Tapol

On her full-length debut LOOM, Franco-American producer/composer Uèle Lamore tells a story that is actually as old as time; in eleven tracks, she charts a loose history of the primordial beginnings of life on Earth. Echoey percussion, enigmatic synth and spidery guitar kick things off on previous single “The Dark,” while spoken word by Parisian poet Gracy Hopkins narrates the potential evolution of humanity over aching strings on “The First Tree.” While the album, set for a January 28th release via experimental Sony Music imprint XXIM Records, is certainly cinematic, it’s never too dense or arcane.

“I just wanted to put together a record that I thought would be super fun to play live with an electro-rock band, with guitars and bass. And also I thought that it would be good to try to make a record that everybody understands but offers something different to everybody,” Lamore tells Audiofemme. “If you come from hip hop there are things you understand, but you discover some elements that come more from electronic; if you prefer neoclassical or ambient there are some tracks you’re going to like and I’m going to show you stuff that comes from rock. I wanted to craft sounds that would be interesting but accessible and enjoyable for most people. It’s a record for people that like music, basically.”

In fact, Lamore’s next single, “Breathe,” was directly inspired by skateboarding and indie pop icons like Phoenix and Air. “I was near a skate spot in Paris, doing some field recording – I do my own field recordings to insert into tracks,” Lamore says. “When I was recording them I was like, man, it would be so cool to do this track with guitars and everything. I was really thinking about Phoenix; I really wanted to be super ‘French touch’ about it. I only had the backbone of the track and I composed it thinking about that and putting the sounds of the skaters inside it. I just wanted something really fun and upbeat to contrast with other tracks on the record.”

The video, directed by Yannick Demaison and Alexis Magand of Biscuit Productions, takes these seeds of inspiration and sets fire to them – literally. Premiering today via Audiofemme, the black and white clip compiles stirring images of a girl gang of skaters (played by Camille Fleurence, Océane Pasquet, Joana Dumoulin, Tiffaine Voisin, Emmy Jardoux, and Elissa Karami) kick-flipping across a skatepark with their decks consumed by flames.

Lamore says she used to skate herself, but another hobby took precedence: music. Picking up an acoustic when she was only nine, she quickly moved on to electric guitar and then, via YouTube videos and how-to magazines, began teaching herself production techniques and how to make beats in middle and high school. She left France to study guitar at Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, then earned a degree in composition and conducting from Berklee College of Music in 2016, and since 2019 has been an associate conductor, orchestrator and arranger with the London Contemporary Orchestra. Her debut EP TRACKS, released in 2020, was inspired by train travel across Europe and Japan, some of the songs even named for specific locations, all of them imbued with a sense of romance and movement.

Forward momentum is intrinsic to the way Lamore builds her compositions. “I need to know where the song is going, from Point A to Point Z. So I sketch out the whole melody from the beginning to the end basically,” she says of the process. “Then I pay a lot of attention to sound design – that’s an aspect that’s often overlooked in production, all these little sounds that don’t have any importance but really add a universe to your song.” That’s where her field recordings – of skaters, birds, church bells, crowds, and more – come into play, adding richness and context into each of the songs.

With such dramatic world-building, it’s not surprising that Lamore also composes music for film (she just finished working on the soundtrack for a forthcoming British movie about young cannibal women with discerning tastes). But whether she’s composing for films or for her own albums, Lamore says she always has a visual in mind.

“One of the most vivid memories that I have, that made me want to do music, is that I was lucky to experience MTV when they still played a lot of these crazy music videos in the 2000s, where the budget was probably insane, with helicopters and real stories happening,” she explains. “That’s how I digested music at first, so I think that for me it has always been connected with the idea of telling a story and the very visual aspects of that, because I discovered music through music videos. For me, it’s super important to tell a story, and try to paint something, with sound. I don’t think I can do it any other way basically – it’s kind of hard for me to do super abstract stuff.”

Still, LOOM started out with an entirely different concept behind it, and a lofty one at that. Upon returning to Europe after college, Lamore said she had time on her hands and wanted to make a succession of “super nerdy” songs about “complex stuff… ecosystems and molecules and bacterias.” There was no plan to release it as an album, really. In the meantime, she made connections and collaborated with musicians like Moor Mother, Alfa Mist, Max Cooper, Etienne Daho, Silly Boy Blue, Drum & Lace, Yan Wagner, and more. But after signing her record deal, she revisited those demos.

“I was like, waaaahhh man, I hate this! It sucks so bad!” she recalls with a laugh. Lamore didn’t despair or start from scratch; she began re-working the material track by track without trying to communicate the scientific narrative, but kept things in the same order for continuity’s sake.

“The title of each track became kind of like a metaphor. ‘The Dark’ can be something that happened in your life and ‘Breathe’ can be a kind of feeling that you can have. They all become mirrors that everybody can relate to,” Lamore explains. “I purposefully didn’t want to give a true symbolic [meaning] to everything because I want it to become everybody’s personal object and interpret it the way they want.”

To make the songs even more accessible, Lamore took a cue from landmark 1998 Massive Attack album Mezzanine, which featured guest vocalists Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins, Horace Andy, and Sarah Jay. “There needed to be vocal tracks [on LOOM] because it’s the easiest way for most people to digest music,” she says simply. “I had this list of people that I knew from different projects or from word of mouth or I had seen them perform live, and I always kept in the beck of my mind that I would love to do something with them.” Besides Hopkins, these include the honeyed vocals of UK singer Cherise on hypnotic cut “Pollen,” a wistful Ana Benabdelkarim (a.k.a. Silly Boy Blue) on atmospheric album closer “Warmblood,” and her own manipulated vocal on “Currents.”

With the band she’s assembled, Lamore should have no trouble translating these kinetic, mesmerizing tracks on tour, even if they have to get creative with vocal features and samples. It’s how she originally envisioned sharing them, after all. Japanese video and performance artist Akiko Nakayama, who directed “The Dark” video, has created visuals for the show.

While LOOM positions Uèle Lamore as a genre-defying producer well worth keeping an eye on, she still has humbling moments. Recently, she attempted to show a young skateboarder some of her old tricks. “I had forgotten that I hadn’t skated in like ten years right? So I go, ‘Yeah kiddo, this is how you do this, let me show you,’ and I took his board… and I just like completely fall,” she laughs. “Him and his little friends started making fun of me and my friends. My ego just fell in the toilet.”

Follow Uèle Lamore on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Khari Unleashes Institutionalized Sequel to This Is How We Feel EP Series

Photo Credit: Noir Media

Khari continues his hard-hitting three-part EP series This Is How We Feel with Act 2 (Institutionalized). Picking up where Act 1 (Trapped) left off, the Cincinnati native continues to balance harrowing lyricism with thoughtful ruminations about racism, the criminal justice system, mental health and more. Production is handled by Courtney Kemper, G1, AvAtor Hughes, Nick Burke and Maaster Matt, with features from Kamiylah Faatin and Paris.

This year, Khari also launched his own record label, Be The Best (BTB) Records, through which Act 2 (Institutionalized) was released. 

“I really wanted to… take back control over my art instead of just giving it out to streaming right away,” he tells Audiofemme

Here, Khari talks about his new project, when Act 3 will be released, upcoming visuals and more. Listen to This Is How We Feel: Act 2 (Institutionalized) and read his full interview below. 

AF: What does that phrase institutionalized mean to you as it relates to this project? 

This whole EP series has been a process of me taking the listener through what it means to be mentally in a prison, or even physically in a prison, because I’ve got a lot of family and friends locked up. So, looking at the similarities between those two, even in your day-to-day life, we can be institutionalized. We can be programmed. We can be conditioned to think a certain way. Whether it’s school – I’ve been institutionalized by that – there’s a number of things that line means, but that’s really like the main thing I was trying to get across to people.

AF: “Numb” is a super powerful song to start the EP with. That song, and a lot of these records, is very personal; what headspace were you in when you were writing and recording it?

I really wanted to be vulnerable and honest this time around, just give people more of me. And “Numb,” I wrote around the time when George Floyd had just got murdered. Everything was happening in the country, just a whole bunch of turmoil, and I was just feeling like super numb to it all because, mind you, this stuff been happening forever. I was at a point where I was like, I don’t even know how to feel about anything anymore. I’ve been through so much stuff in my personal life, and then also the plight of my people, it’s all weighed down on me. So, I tried my best to convey that on that record. 

AF: “Eve” is another important song. How did you and Kamiylah Faatin get linked up?

She’s actually the first R&B singer [to be signed] to my record label, BTB Records. She’s super talented.

AF: Having her on the track took it to another level, for sure. 

Oh yeah. That song was for Black women, so I really wanted her voice on there. She just really gave it that energy, so I was just extremely, extremely blessed to have her on the track. 

AF: On Act 2, you talk about taking back ownership of your craft, and you’re releasing the project on Bandcamp and through your record label for one week before streaming services. What made you want to do it that way?

That was a big thing for me this time around. I really wanted to, like you said, take back control over my art instead of just giving it out to streaming right away. Because we only get half a penny for every stream. It’s like all this work just to build up a certain number of streams and hope people listen to it on these platforms, when there’s people that are willing to support what we’re doing out here. I just wanted to take it back to when I was a young kid, 15 years old, selling my mixtapes at my school. Just put it out there and allow people to support it this way and see what we can bring in. Especially now with the label, trying to build that up. 

AF: It’s super dope that you launched your own label here because you’re keeping the talent and revenue in Cincinnati. Like, you can keep building it up and become a pioneer in the city.

It’s funny you say that, because that’s always been a big goal on my list. To really be a staple in Cincinnati. I think what we’re missing is the revenue and the attention. We can bring that in. We can make it so these talented artists here can start really living off this music. 

AF: I also saw your “Sha’Carri (Amari Freestyle)” on Instagram where you rap about Sha’Carri Richardson being suspended from competing in the Tokyo Olympics. What made you want to write a song about that?

It’s funny how that came about, because I told myself I was not gonna rap until the album came out. Like, no one’s gonna hear me rap until the album. But I just had to put that out, because that really is some bullshit. You know I’m saying? And that there are people locked up for [marijuana] right now. Why? When these big white corporations are eating off marijuana? I already was touching on some of these topics in the project, and then I just felt like I had to drop something because it’s a stupid situation.

AF: Absolutely. “Tin Man” is another song that stood out on the project. What was making that track like?

That was a fun song to record because that was my first time using auto-tune. With this project, I was trying to step outside my comfort zone and not be so locked into being this guy that’s only doing one type of sound. So, I wanted to do the auto-tune, I wanted to have more trap sounds, more modern sounds, but still give the substance and the content.

AF: You’re gearing up to drop a video for that song next; any release date in mind for Act 3 yet?

Well, I said Act 2 was gonna come out in January [laughs], but I do want to get Act 3 out soon, maybe at the top of next year, because I’m already working on some newer things that’ll be, like, the next phase of my career past This Is How We Feel. I’m excited about that. 

AF: Who have you been listening to/inspired by lately?

I really like the new J. Cole album, that’s really inspired me a lot. Tyler, the Creator’s album is probably my favorite right now. And H.E.R., I’ve been really tapped in with R&B lately and her new project, too. But, I like what these more lyrical guys are doing right now, you know, stepping outside their comfort zone. I’m trying to do the same thing right now, so that’s given me a confirmation about what I’m doing.

AF: What else have you got planned coming up?

Visuals, visuals, visuals. I want to do a visual for every song on the project. And I want to do a tour, since we can do shows now. I’m definitely trying to tour in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky – do like a little tri-state tour. So, that’s getting set up for probably the fall.

Follow Khari on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

ONLY NOISE: Songs From Abroad

The plan was as simple as it was unprepared; utilize my two-week vacation in Paris and the UK to discover new music, catch some live shows, and, well…write about it. It would be a piece of cake (or, as the French say, a piece de cake). What I didn’t expect was that my innate aversion to planning anything while on vacation – even so much as Googling what concert to attend that night – was far stronger than my desire to potentially write off my entire trip (hiiiii IRS).

You see, I’m a big fan of the “stumble-upon;” those situations you find yourself in by complete accident. Like that time in 2013, when I somehow managed to wind up at a makeshift punk concert. In a cemetery. Attended by patients of a nearby psychiatric hospital and their families. You just can’t plan this stuff.

I like to think I have a particular knack for “stumbling-upon,” in part because I am a nosy journalist who is perpetually eavesdropping and looking for leads. The other part being my inability to read maps or best any skill related to cardinal directions. You’d be amazed at the things you can find when it’s taken you nine years to realize that Seventh Avenue turns into Varick Street, for instance.

Instead of making a thorough agenda to catch live local music, I would let the music find me. I would leave the details of this vacation up to fate – a concept I absolutely do not believe in, but often pretend I do for romantic purposes. Like Baudelaire’s flâneur, I would “walk the city in order to experience it;” though conceivably in less chic duds than the French poet, who rocked a cravat with the best of ‘em.

Despite my brief and faux dependence on “fate,” I did not magically stumble upon a small and dingy jazz club in the 18th arrondissement, or a searing disco dancehall in Belleville. I didn’t even see one accordion the whole time I was in Paris. What le fuck? Was the music angle of my trip stamped out for good? Not exactly…

There was one thing I hadn’t considered while embarking on my journey: music is unavoidable. It’s actually impossible to go anywhere without hearing something – a car radio blaring, a subway busker, a woman singing on the balcony next door. Or, in my case, a variety of mundane and accidental situations that perhaps don’t have the headline power of “In-patient Punks at Graveyard,” but are memorable nonetheless.

So here are my travel scraps; my sonic sampling platter that may seem unremarkable, but will always signify those two lovely weeks spent alone and abroad. The first notable event was a result of my traveling trademark: getting horribly lost. For like, five hours. During this unintentional excursion I somehow managed to wind up smack dab in the Paris Gay Pride Parade. Twice. Two times, separated by two hours, I turned a corner, and was wedged in a river of half-naked bodies covered in glitter and sweat. Not so bad, you say…unless you’re claustrophobic, such as myself.

Naturally music was blaring from every parade float, and there were moments when the mass of limbs felt like one big, mobile dance party. The playlist? Tous Américains. There was a strange call-and-response adaptation of Del Shannon’s 1961 number, “My Little Runaway,” a healthy dose of Riri, and 4 Non Blondes’ only hit, “What’s Up,” shouted by a throng of women holding hand-painted signs. My personal favorite parade song, however, was the Adele vs. Eurythmics mash-up that blared down Rue de Rivoli. The smash-hit hybrid expertly entwined Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” and Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This.” (According to the Internet, this version is called “Rolling In Sweet Dreams.”) The mash-up was oddly stirring, and admittedly gave me chills considering the context. The mash-up was empowering – which is a sentence I thought I’d never write.

Because I often experience music in a public sphere (concerts, clubs, and now parades), it is easy to forget that some of my most prized musical discoveries transpired in a private setting. So many songs and artists have come to my attention at small house parties, in the passenger seat of a car, or in this case, sitting in my French friend Mathieu’s petit apartment the day after the accidental parade attendance, playing that age-old game of “what should we listen to?”

This was tricky – Mathieu and I have diametrically opposing tastes in music. He makes beats and loves chart-topping rap. We also barely speak each other’s language. Fortunately, sharing and enjoying music has no linguistic boundary. The most polarizing aspect in this is exchange was the taste barrier; there’s something about playing music for someone with a different sonic palate that suddenly makes you question all of the songs you love. Perhaps it is a flaw of the over-empathetic, but I begin to hear my beloved music through their ears, predicting all of the things they might dislike about it. I squirmed while playing him Suicide (super accessible), Pavement, and Maribou State, and Mathieu seemed…politely disinterested. “Ok,” I said (which is fortunately the same in French), “your turn.”

Mathieu’s offering was the Belgian Congolese rapper Damso, who’s 2017 LP Ipséité struck me with its equal propensity for darkness and melody. Naturally I have no fucking clue what Damso is rapping about (though Mathieu assures me he is one of the few “self-deprecating” rappers), I can enjoy his music without the burden of words. Ipséité has been on heavy rotation ever since I left Europe.

Thinking back a few years, I realize that every time I visit Paris Mathieu manages to turn me on to at least one intriguing rap artist. In 2013 it was the oddball South African Okmalumkoolkat, and now, it’s Damso. I’d like to think that I’ve enlightened my friend to some more guitar-based tunes in turn – but I highly doubt it.

If Paris taught me I could be tenderized by a Top 40 mash-up and moved by a rapper I can’t understand, the UK would reveal far darker truths. Namely: my disturbing and newfound affection for DNCE’s “Cake By The Ocean.” DNCE is the dance-rock, Jonas Brothers’ spinoff group formed by Joe Jonas, drummer Jack Lawless, Cole Whittle, and JinJoo Lee in 2015.

Jonas was ostensibly the group’s sole namesake, just as 2015’s “Cake By The Ocean” was their only single verging on, dare I say, a quality tune. The song, or, as I like to call it, assault weapon, is terminally catchy. If Katy Perry’s “Chained To The Rhythm” is an earworm, “Cake” is an ear viper, wiping out every other song in your brain with its venom. The glittering, cross-genre (disco, Broadway musical… calypso?) hit has plagued me for the past five days.  FIVE DAYS of non-stop, constant rotation. I’m beginning to worry I have brain damage as a result, as repeating “Ya ya ya ya ya ya” too many times must surely stunt cellular growth. Should my cognitive abilities be compromised – should I suddenly manifest a secret adoration for Joe Jonas – I will know whom to blame: British Top 40 radio.

“Cake By The Ocean” bombarded every bus, convenience store, and cab I was in. It was following me (like a malicious viper!), slowly poisoning my eardrums, trying to dismantle my precious collection of “good music.” Jonas and Co. threatened to undo years of “good taste” with one insanely catchy song that on paper, I would hate. Those bastards.

They say when you travel alone, you “learn about yourself.” While this may be true, it doesn’t account for the kinds of things you learn. Sure, I learned that I can in fact read maps, sleep anywhere, and have half-assed conversations with my high school-level French. But I also learned that deep inside me, there is a dark, shameful little place that loves, and I mean LOVES the song “Cake By The Ocean.” And that is something I can’t unlearn.