Interview: Raissa on HEROGIRL, Mark Ronson and sci-fi

When Mark Ronson‘s taking you out for macarons and tea while begging you to join his label, you know you’re onto a winning recipe. That’s exactly the story for Raissa (pronounced “rye-sah”), your newfound sci-fi pop fantasy and Zelig Record’s recent newcomer who’s touted to be the next King Princess.

Growing up in London, Beijing, Sydney and Kuala Lumpur; and born to French and Spanish parents, Raissa is a rising star of the world. Now currently LA-based, she’s working under elite tutelage that will manifest in her newly released EP, HEROGIRL.

“HEROGIRL is about rising up above negative forces; it’s about adventure and bravery and not feeling stupid for having really big feelings and a lot of love and a lot of hope,” Raissa has said of the work, speaking to the inner boss b***h in all of us.

I got the chance to catch her mid-rehearsal to talk about the body of work and beyond, as well as her obsession for fantasy and wearing sunglasses at night.

Raissa, where are you right now?

I’m in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. And this is the rehearsal room. It’s a little room, got the switchboard and everything there, it’s nice.

What are you rehearsing for specifically?

Honestly, nothing specifically because there aren’t any shows happening obviously, but my manager and I were just like may as well just rehearse and get things like super, super tight so that when the time does come, even if it’s just digitally. But it’s just really good and I feel really confident and comfortable, and getting to know the people like the MD [music director] and the engineer and my drummer and guitar player and everything. I think is really important that you all get a new groove and feel each other out as opposed to like, “Oh, well now we have to do something, and we have to shoot it in a week or we have to perform in a week.” Do you know what I mean?

It’s just like having a little family, you’ve got to rely on them.

One hundred per cent. And it’s honestly really nice because apart from going to the studio, I’ve just been at home. So, it’s a nice change.

How long have you known your band for?

I met them yesterday for the first time so we started rehearsing yesterday for the first time.

That’s crazy. How’d you find them?

I worked with my MD once for a digital thing. His name’s Asaf Rodeh, and he basically was like, I have an idea of I think the type of people who they would get your music right live and I think that you would get along with, and that like fit your vibe. So he sent me a little list of people and I looked at the videos and their Instagrams and stuff and I settled on the two that I have now. Everyone’s super sweet, everyone’s super nice. That’s kind of how the process went. I guess, because things have closed, I don’t know how people would usually do it, if you do auditions or not. I don’t know. I think that might be a bit of a dated way to find people, but yeah, that’s how it was pretty much how that went.

Congrats on, “SHADES ON” – that song really makes me feel like a boss.

Thank you! I’m so glad it does. That’s exactly like what the song is like. It’s really not… I mean, I take my work really seriously, but it’s not a very serious song in, in terms of like, it’s not meant to be taken as anything more than just like being kind of braggadocious and feeling good about yourself and kind of telling anyone who tries to bring you down to fuck off. And sometimes that’s all you want out of a song, that’s all you need. And I think that there’s power to that. So, I’m really glad that people responded to it and felt good listening to that song. At the end of the day, that’s what pop music is. It’s meant to make you feel good or at least understood.

I don’t know if you ever do this on nights out with your mates, but with my friendship group, we pack a pair of sunglasses and then in the middle of the night on the dancefloor, you just put your shades on in a group of people and you instantly feel awesome.

That was literally the joke! I was in LA and then I flew back to London. This is literally the day before the whole world shut down, like the day before. And I was at my best friend Diako’s house who produced the song and he produced two other songs on the EP. Um, and I was at his place ‘cause he lived at the time not too far from me in London. And we like joking, like my shades on his car, and he was just making fun of me and so was his girlfriend.  And yeah, it came from that joke. Also, I really like the song “I Wear My Sunglasses At Night” by Corey Hart. So we were playing that in the car as a joke ‘cause I had my sunglasses on and then I was like, “In the club with my shades on, near the sun with my shades on.” And then we got to Diako’s and started playing on his keyboard and I was just saying “Loop that, loop that!” and I just kind of freestyled the whole song.

Wow, does that normally happen for you?

It doesn’t happen that often. It kinda just happened, I think, cause I wasn’t really taking myself that seriously. It just kind of was easy to just go with the flow. And then I just did all the harmonies and melodies on top of that to fill it out. So I’m glad people love it. It was such a fun song to make, Diako and I had a really good time making it together.

Let’s talk about HEROGIRL, your EP. Is HEROGIRL a bit of an alter ego?

Oh yeah, one hundred percent. HEROGIRL is definitely a better, bigger braver, better-dressed version of me, you know what I mean? I would say HEROGIRL kind of represents my favourite parts of myself. There are like times where you do really feel like yourself, where you feel really empowered or you feel very comfortable in your own skin and HEROGIRL definitely is that. I’m also a really big fan of sci-fi and fantasy, and it’s a massive influence in my music and my visuals. HEROGIRL is like a sci-fi/fantasy heroine. She’s the hero of the story that the EP and the album that I’m working on, it’s all meant to follow a hero’s journey and give you a story that we can all see ourselves in and learn something from. Which is what Star Wars is, Don Quixote, like so many stories and folklore, or even big franchises like Lord of the Rings follow a hero’s journey. It’s kind of this default setting that we have as human beings, when we storytellers have a tendency to tell things in the format of a hero’s journey.

Main character complex.

Yeah, basically. And Joseph Campbell who coined the term ‘hero journey’ noticed that pattern. It’s not as though people try and recreate that pattern, it’s just something that we naturally do. And so that was really interesting. And how sci-fi and fantasy follow that pattern. So yeah, she’s a hero. She’s HEROGIRL, I’m a girl and I’m the hero of my own story. And I think that she’s my alter ego just as much as she’s an archetype and a state of mind.

And I think anyone can be a herogirl or a heroboy, hero they/them, whatever type of hero you want to be, you know, you can be that. And sometimes HEROGIRL has serious moments, emotional moments, and then sometimes she just wants to put some shades on and feel cool, you know? We’re all like nuanced people, we’re not just one thing.

That’s the beauty of a herogirl. It’s like that TikTok that people stitch together saying, “Hey confident girls, where do you get your confidence from?” I imagine HEROGIRL would be your answer to that.

Oh yeah, one hundred per cent. I think we all create little stories in our heads and like who that character is, I think it sometimes is the person we really want to be, you know? And I think that that’s entirely achievable.

You are your mindset. If you want to be that person, you can just transform yourself.

We were talking about it earlier that you’re a French-Spanish, ex-Londoner, now Los Angelean. Would any French or Spanish appear in your upcoming works?

Not in the EP, but in the album. There’s a bunch of French and Spanish music.

Okay wait, tell me about the album!

So I’ve been working on it since everything shut down with COVID, like people were doing zoom sessions and I just really didn’t want to do them. But then this producer Don Moyer, who I’ve become really close to and he’s become a friend of mine.  I met him last December and we sent stuff back and forth and then I could feel I was making the best music I’d ever made and that there was something really special to us.

I was like, okay, I want to make my album with you. So ever since I’ve moved [to Los Angeles], I’ve seen him almost every day of the week, every week and we work. We’re kind of just stacking music and it’s going to be the next thing after the EP. It’s all meant to be consumed as one continuous stream of visuals and music, as opposed to two separate things. Like they’re not two separate things. I love being a fan of sci-fi fantasy. I love Volume One, Volume Two, Volume Three… I mean give me the whole Genesis, I need the whole full law of the story. So I’ve been working on that. There isn’t a date or anything. I’m really focused on the EP and getting it to as many peoples’ ears and eyes as possible. But yeah, I’ve been working nonstop pretty much.

Do you think it’ll be like a 2021 release?

I genuinely don’t know. It just depends. Honestly, especially with COVID and the way the world is functioning right now, it’s so hard to plan for the future. So, I try not to put down goals that are kind of dependent on a lot of things. It’s dependent on so many different logistical factors.

It’ll come when it comes.

When she’s ready. She’ll blossom you know, just don’t rush her.

Good things take time! I want to ask you about Zelig Records, Mark Ronson’s label. How did they discover you?

So, Harley Wertheimer who’s my A&R at Zelig, he ran into my manager at a supermarket. And he asked “Oh, you like working on anything lately?” They’re getting juice at a Wholefoods type place. And then my manager was like, “Yeah!” And my manager had only just started managing me a month or two ago and showed him these videos I was making that went out and Harley immediately said, “You have to bring her to us! Please! When does she come in?” And then I came and he was just super into it. And then when I came to LA last Christmas, I met Harley and I really liked him, but I wasn’t necessarily looking to sign or anything like that. If anything, I was a bit anti-that. And then yeah, you know, no pressure, I just got to know him and played him some music.

And then right before I left LA, Harley texted my manager being like, “Oh, Mark [Ronson] really wants to meet her.” And I was like, “What?” But I was like, “Be calm, he’s just a person. We’re all just people!” And I went to Sound Factory, which is actually where I work all the time. Just a really historic studio in LA.

I met Mark, played him some stuff. He was so lovely. I mean, he’s Mark Ronson. I thought “Oh, that was really cool, I got to play my music for Mark Ronson. He seemed to really like it, seemed really nice.” I went back to London, Mark was in London, texted me. He took me to Ladurée, he took me to get macarons. I was like, “This man wants something… Take me for tea and macarons?”

I was like, “Whatever it is, it’s working.” Yeah, again, saw him, hung out a bit. We talked about some music that I’d sent him ‘cause he asked me to send him some. And then around April – so I saw him in like February/March, then everything shut down – and then in April, they were basically like, can we please just do this together? And it honestly felt right because it’s such a small little family and I have full creative control and everyone’s super supportive and loving about my work.

It’s been honestly the most positive label experience I think anyone can have. There’s always talk in the industry, especially from artists being like “labels are horrible, labels are super abusive, labels of this and that.” And it’s like often very true. I don’t want to act like it isn’t because it is, it is very common. Getting lost in this massive system can be really scary, but Zelig is different. Zelig is about creating a safe space that you have a lot of the services of a major label like Columbia right behind it, but they’re like this protective barrier that will absolutely ensure that you’re doing what you want to do, how you want to do it. And no one’s going to kind of get in the way of that. So I’m really happy. It’s a really nice home.

Far out, that’s amazing.

Final question, before I let you go. If you were to score one already existing Studio Ghibli film, which one would it be and why?

Okay, so my gut reaction was Howl’s Moving Castle because that’s my favourite movie, but I think the one that would be the funnest [sic] to score would probably be… Princess Mononoke. Out of all of them, that one has the coolest, most interesting story – you’ll love it.

Raissa

HEROGIRL is OUT NOW.

Follow Raissa on Instagram, YouTube and Spotify.

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