Charles is the musical baby of Los Angeles’ Charlotte Lindèn Ercoli Coe, and she made her name a few years ego with debut album That’s How Baby Learns, a record of synth-pop blurring into a fever dream. It’s one that stuck in our minds – we even recommended it again as late as last year. After that album, things went fairly quite, and it was unclear if That’s How Baby Learns would ever get a follow-up, but happily that follow-up is finally here, in the form of new album Let’s Start A Family Tonight (if nothing else, she’s really got a knack for great album titles).
Let’s Start A Family Tonight is instantly recognisable as a sibling of THBL, but steers Charles’ songwriting towards something poppier and more direct. Nowhere is that clearer than on Remember Blushing, the biggest thing she’s ever made, a grand, sky-scraping epic ballad, which sells its sadness with all force of the Titanic sinking. It, and Let’s Start A Family Tonight, are out now via Babe City, and we had a quick chat with Charles about the record.
This record has been a long time coming. You’ve put up bits of it, some songs, even the cover, online over the past few years in different formats and incarnations. So how did the album come together and the release eventually happen? Were you always writing these songs with the intention of them being the second album, or was it more that you decided to make a record and then collected together the material and ideas you had to hand from different periods?
Long time coming. I’ve had these songs under my belt for a long time and I felt very proud of them. I thought it would be kind of a shame to release it just on Soundcloud. When Babe City Records approached me to do vinyl I couldn’t have been more excited. I guess I was sort of waiting for something to come around.
It wasn’t really possible to pin That’s How Baby Learns into any genre, it sort of floated between lo-fi pop and sound collage, and carved out its own musical space that sounded like nothing else. Do you see Let’s Start A Family Tonight as occupying a similar space, or as something very different?
I’m not sure. I think it occupies a similar space to the extent I made it and no matter what I make it has my DNA all over it, whether I want it to or not. I can’t help but sound like myself. I do not put a lot of thought into ‘my sound’. All I put thought into is melody and what instrument tones I find pleasing. I would never want to be labelled as chill wave or lo-fi. I think it’s pop, or prog pop if anything. The lo-fi quality is just due to me still learning how to record and mix my own music. Hopefully people will stop calling me those things in the future.
Your musical style and aesthetic tends to mix together humour and sincerity, in I think a nice way – the irreverence means it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but there’s still real heart and soul and feelings in the songs, which stops it being smart aleck-y. Do you feel like having that mix is the way you like to write, to make it interesting for you? And is that something you also look for in the art or music you like yourself?
It’s hard to elaborate on this because you boiled it down so nicely. I think it’s true I am both humorous and painfully sincere. I can’t write an emotional song without mocking myself/everything at the same time. And mocking everything generally. If you were to have a conversation with me in real life it would go down the same way. Very present and sincere but I would be looking for the punchline. I grew up with lousy Borsht Belt comedians if that is any explanation. And yes, it is absolutely something I look for in the stuff I enjoy. I don’t like anything that takes anything seriously. I only want to laugh in life.
You work as a videographer, and your videos are a big part of your world as an artist, you grace a lot of Charles songs with a video. When you’re making these music videos, what’s your goal? To build on and add something to the world of the song, to have fun and play around with new ideas, both? Neither? Something else entirely?
It’s odd. The whole reason I started making music was for my own movies. I felt I couldn’t really say a movie was mine if I didn’t do every single thing myself. At this point I despise being in my music videos and being seen. It feels so self-absorbed and creepy. And none of my heroes would ever do anything like that. I had to for this record release though. I feel very uncomfortable with my female gender and being seen generally. I feel like I’ll never be taken seriously as a director if there are videos of me in silly music videos wearing cute dresses. So I feel this immense pressure and desire to be sexy while I am still quite young but it also makes me loathe myself and feel disgusted. Anyway. I hope to stay behind the camera in the future.
You’re also working on a film at the moment, what can you tell us about that?
The Misunderstanding. I thought this film was going to be my big break but that is not how it works. I have adapted it into a short that I am tackling as we speak. I work with almost exclusively non professional actors, some of which are homeless or have substance abuse problems. Things I did not know until we began shooting. It is extremely challenging but I know when we get through it it will benefit myself and them.
Finally, you said the positive response you’ve already gotten for Let’s Start A Family Tonight had helped relight your fire for making music. Do you think we’ll see more new work from you soon?
My computer AND 4 track broke, so it’s going to be a minute to get that sorted out. But yes. I am desperate to. When I would record everyday I would think “how could anyone live without this?”, and now I don’t at all. I can’t go another day though, thank you for reminding me. It’s the best therapy out there.
Interested in the best new music, handpicked by your favourite music blog? Awesome! Because every Monday we’re updating the 50-track-strong Listen AHEAD Playlist on Spotify, adding ten strong songs by sill relatively unknown artists at its beginning. This week’s new picks also include fresh songs from LUWTEN, Second Idol, Christin Nichols, Frogcodile . Follow the playlist right here on Spotify and give these new talents a chance.