It seems Francesca Lombardo goes where the music takes her. For her new LP Life of Leaf, this meant traveling from France to London, recording a 16-piece orchestra and even working with a string quartet. This classically trained artist returns to SXM Festival in Saint Martin next month for the third time, and we had the chance to learn more about her recommended eats on the Caribbean island, her new event series Upper Hour, and the process behind the new album.
Your new LP Life of Leaf is out now. What can fans expect?
My fans can expect a new sound that they’ve probably only heard in "Is it True," back in 2012, a track I wrote for my first Crosstown Rebels release. I have always loved to use my own vocals and “real” instruments in my songs, as I love a wide genre of electronic crossing over with classical music. I would not be able to give a name of the genre used in this album, but it will definitely be fresh to listeners, in comparison to what I have released in the past.
Life of Leaf brings your talents at vocals and live instrumentation to the forefront of your process. What was your production process like for it, and was it different than your process in the past?
As you can imagine, it takes more time and work to record vocals and live instruments, alongside synths and drum machines. I produced pretty much everything in my studios in London and France. I have recorded all my own vocals, processing them too. I recorded a 16 piece orchestra in London’s Milk Studios. I also recorded a string quartet plus double bass in London’s Snap Studios, with the help of some engineers. All other sounds come from my toys, synths and drum machines. As always, I used several effects on the sounds, alongside dynamics and preamps. The Eventide Ultra Harmoniser is probably one of the most used effects on this album.
The new LP draws from a diverse palette including your classical upbringing. What are some of your biggest non-electronic influences?
Max Richter is definitely one of my favorite contemporary classical composers. I love the reinterpretation of Vivaldi’s "The Four Seasons." I have always liked Mike Oldfield since I was a little girl, he is on the edge with electronic music but most of his tracks are not. One of my favorites has always been "Moonlight Shadow."
How long does it take you to make a track?
It all depends on the day, the creativity level, the moon, what I have eaten and of course my mood. Some tracks can take months, others can take as little as 2 hours. "Charlie’s Tapes" for instance was written in three hours during a full moon at night time. Others took much longer.
If you were an animal living in the wild, what animal would you be and why?
A spider. I have an obsession with them and I’m scared of them at the same time. I got one tattooed on my body when I was 18 as well. I like to face my fears and overcome them as they land in front of me, being one of them would make me stronger.
You're heading to St. Martin next month for SXM Festival. What are some musts for people heading to the island?
I would recommend Mezza Luna an Italian restaurant. I love food, and this one is definitely a must try!!!
This is your third time playing SXM Festival, and you've played both prior years. How has the event evolved over time and what makes the festival unique?
First of all, I love the number of smiles I get, everyone is really nice and happy to be there. You are not in the worst place in the world after all. The island is stunning from the beautiful beaches to the weather, the sea life and the vegetation.
Having been there since the beginning I have seen how it has grown, new venues have been added and more people are attending every year. I love the overall vibe and I am really happy to be back and extremely happy to see the island recovering.
You’re doing your own event series ‘Upper Hour’ at SXM, can you tell us some more about that? What can people expect from it?
Upper Hour is an event custom built for daytime, outdoor locations during the after-hour as one party flows into the next. SXM will be the perfect setting for this and I’ve got some incredible guests to join me for it. In the future, Upper Hour will see a lot of special B2B sets picked by me, hopefully setting the stage for DJs to feel completely free to explore and show their selection skills.
What emotion do you try to evoke in your live performance? Or is it not premeditated?
I am not really premeditating the emotions, I find it really hard to do that. I am just playing my music. I am the one who first gets into it when playing live. Since I am playing the piano and singing, as well as playing synths, you can imagine that the emotions come more from the instruments and my voice then my brain. I guess my music is melancholic but can also be energetic, so I think what I am trying to do is get to the point that everything flows and I cannot think about what I am doing.
What are some exciting things you have lined up this year and beyond?
Seeing how my live career develops is the most exciting thing for me this year. Also, continuing to release dancefloor music, whilst working on my labels. And of course, I have a lot of new music that I have finished and am finishing…