Juliette Commagere is a fairly new but increasingly familiar name on the British music scene as of late. Despite being based in the United States, from the off, she’s gained a fine following and a pleasant reaction from media and listeners alike.
Coming from the decidedly more rock and roll roots of Hello Stranger, Juliette, whom was best known for vocals and guitar in the talented, albeit somewhat infamous group, is now, instead, a master of the electronic.
Really, it’s of little question as to why – Juliette has a bewitching, beautiful voice and a strong grasp on any instrument we’ve heard her pick up. With the release of her new LP, Human, she’s exposed a dark, brooding side to her music, her elegant, composed vocals being joined by dark, industrial electronic beats that bring to mind towering synthesizers and turntable decks merged into a huge, pulsating, living, breathing backing track.
The music is precise, but organic, chock full of grandeur and that echoed, smooth, uncluttered landscape we’ve all seen in dreams millions of times in the past. It’s gentle, smooth and pleasant – music for meditation. Music for silence. Music for those moments when you just want to escape in even the most peaceful of surroundings.
When Juliette came over to the United Kingdom for an exclusive show on BBC Live London Radio, we were informed, and we simply had to have her make an appearance on our little ‘zine. She was kind enough to give us the time of day!
COTW: Hi there, Juliette. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! How are you today?
Juliette Commagere: I’m great! Thanks for asking!
COTW: Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
JC: My name is Juliette Commagere, and I’m a musician from Los Angeles.
COTW: You’ve been very busy lately, crossing the pond from your home of LA to the United Kingdom, where you’ve always made quite the impact! Did you expect such a positive reception from ‘the off?’
JC: Well, I try my hardest never to have any expectations in life, but between you and me…you guys are way cooler than Americans, so, I’ll admit, I had my hopes!
COTW: How do you find the UK in comparison to your home roost? We’re not exactly Los Angeles…
JC: No you’re not, and that is so refreshing! I love my home, I was born there and I grew up there, but, to be honest, I think I’d be happier in a colder and older place. I hate the sun and the heat. I know people think that’s ridiculous, but it’s true!
And I love how in a city like London or New York you’re forced to leave the house more and you’re immediately interacting with people on the street. I absolutely love the UK! Since I have a lot of English blood from my father’s side, I like to get in touch with those roots, get cozy in a pub, have some fish and chips and smashed peas, along with a pint…
I think about how my ancestors lived here for generations, and in the 1600s had the courage to move so far away to America. I love history, and I find how old all the buildings and streets are to be unbelievably fascinating. It just feels unreal to me. Once, my husband and brother and I spent a week in Hampshire after a tour, and we rode bikes along the canal passing under medieval looking bridges – and then, at dusk, all these bats came out and flew beside us. I was shouting “Led Zeppelin–I understand you!!” …It was magical!
I also find the cold weather and grey skies very creatively inspiring. At home, it’s always a beautiful day, so if you’re locked in a room all day working on music, you feel really bad, like you should be outside or something. But being out here, it makes me want to hunker down, light a fire, drink some tea and write something beautiful.
COTW: How did you first get into music? Do you have any specific inspirations, not just in music, but in film, television, media..?
JC: I started taking piano lessons when I was five. My father is a classical record producer who also plays the piano, so, there was a lot of classical music in my house growing up. My mother is from Mexico, so there was also a lot of Mexican music being played. It was a very different atmosphere than my friends’ homes whose parents were playing Simon and Garfunkel records.
But, ultimately, I think I’m inspired most by non musical things – definitely film and landscapes as well. The desert and the ocean are huge sources of inspiration for me. I love the stark wilderness – you know…that epic melancholia you get, looking out over the desert for miles and miles…it’s something I try to recreate with sounds.
You can feel your existence out there. I also grew up watching a lot of foreign films. That has stayed with me as well. Antonioni, Fellini, Bergman – I prefer films that explore more of the complexity of the human spirit rather than the simple triumph of the human spirit. In Hollywood, everyone triumphs. At least, in the movies. But if there’s a Sandy B movie on TV, I will watch it until the end. The bitter, bitter end!
COTW: You did of course make a name for yourself as part of Hello Stranger. What inspired the decision to try a solo effort?
JC: Well… hmmm! Um, let’s just say when you’ve been in a band for a long time, sometimes there can be some…uh… ‘friction’. Actually, I just intended to make a solo record and then go right back to the band, but things had already dissolved at that point, and it became sort of clear to me that there wasn’t really anything to go back to. Really, I was just curious to see what would happen; what it would sound like if I made a record on my own. It felt like a challenge. Making my first solo record was a really pivotal point in my life and a classic ‘one door closing and another one opening’ kinda thing.
COTW: And how have you enjoyed it so far?!
JC: It turns out I love having all the control, never having to compromise, and being able to dream up whatever I want and put it into action. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that. There are some things about having a band that I miss, though. The camaraderie, the feeling of everyone being united on this great adventure, and with this great purpose – I suppose one has to move on. Although, truthfully, none of this is truly a solo venture. My husband Joachim is also my other musical half, and I feel like my records represent the two of us so well. And my friend, Martin Pradler, who I’ve worked with since Hello Stranger. I couldn’t have done any of this without him.
COTW: Collide, your latest single, is a lovely bit of work, if we may say so…is it about anything in particular?
JC: It’s about living in this beautiful, dreamy city with the person you love, but feeling like you’re the only ones in the world. It’s that feeling I assume all Angeleno’s (residents of Los Angeles, for the particularly British among us! – Ed) get when you’ve been driving around all day and the sun starts to go down and there’s this pink sky behind silhouetted palm trees and power lines, and you’re still a half hour from home…and you just feel wistful and kind of lonely. Sometimes, I feel like Joachim and I are the only people in the world, because days go by, and he’s the only person I see. So, I combined those emotions with this dirty little beat, and it makes me think of a good cruising song. You can ride around in your El Camino and blast it like it was 1994!
COTW: Do you try to add a story telling element to your songs, or do you prefer to simply delve into your own emotion?
JC: Both! Sometimes I try to tell a story but more often I try to abstractly explain the way I feel and just write what the music is telling me to.
COTW: Your next LP, Human, is now available…what can we expect?
JC: Expect to have your mind blown! Hopefully you can listen to it when you feel like being quiet, when you aren’t thinking about a million things that you have to do. It’s not music for the treadmill, it’s more for after you get home, or maybe for a long drive through the desert or up the coast. I’ve also been told it’s great night driving music. Think Blade Runner with a little Steel Pulse thrown in!
COTW: Juliette, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. We wish you all the best and hope you had a safe journey home!
JC: Thank you so much! I appreciate it!
Juliette’s latest single, Collide, has a lovely music video that has only just been released, and can be viewed below!