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In conversation with Romæo

Chatting to the siren of Sydney synthpop.

With lyrcs that dance the line between desire and obsession, a voice dripping with sugary venom, and an undeniably explosive stage presence, local Sydney musician and producer Romæo elevates synthpop to high art. A week after her sold-out show at Oxford Art Factory supporting Don West, we sat down to discuss the complexities of her work.

Talk me through Romæo. What’s the project about, how far divorced is it from you?

I want Romæo to embody the multiplicity in myself as an individual and artist. I think in pop music especially, women have to be strong and aggressive or soft and gentle. I don’t think that’s true, I think everyone is everything and nothing at once — Romaeo conveys that, lyrically, musically, conceptually.

A lot of my songs are quite conceptual and at the same time quite personal, so it’s hard to feel like Romæo isn’t me.

Your latest single, Open, was created with another Sydney producer, Kalo Lasso. How did you find the collaborative process?

It was a new one for me. I’ve spent a lot of time afraid of collaboration, but I’m trying to embrace it more because amazing music comes out of it. Just doing everything yourself and listening to that can drive you a bit insane (laughs), so I’m excited to be beginning my collaboration journey!

I found it challenging in the sense that I didn’t have full control and I couldn’t enact my perfectionism as much as I usually do – Kala Lasso would say ‘your vocals sound great here’, and I’m like ‘no, that’s not good enough, I could do better’ – I had to relinquish a bit of that control.

The final product does sound great. It’s been a freeing learning opportunity to realise that it’s cool to have those super high expectations, but there’s a point where they shouldn’t interfere with you. This song showed me that something could be easy and still be great — I make things more challenging for myself than they need to be — and it’s exciting for the potential of my future work.

How do your songs translate from your bedroom to the stage?

That process held me back for quite a while because I didn’t know how I wanted to perform this music. I still don’t know how I want to perform it — it’s ever-changing and I’m always experimenting, and I love that.

It’s kind of ironic —- I love and produce electronic music, but the live gear stresses me out! I don’t totally have faith in my abilities, which is something I intend to get over through recognising I was always unsure in how I wanted to perform Romæo. I could do it with a band but getting a good band is hard, man! We’ve had a few different line up changes with this act.

But it’s so rewarding to be able to enjoy performing  and sharing music that I’ve worked on entirely myself. Electronic production is kind of laborious — you spend hours staring at a computer screen, and you look up and it’s night — but with rehearsals, it just flies by and I feel so elated. It’s the highlight of my week.

It’s also super vulnerable performing a song live – when you just release it online, you don’t have to think about people listening and analysing the lyrics and your life. You’re just there, staring people in the eyes, singing songs about family members ghosting you. It’s very confronting, but people connecting to music is beautiful — which sounds super corny, because it is, but here we are.

What can we expect from you in the second half of the year?

I have a new single coming out, Mourning, about a time a family member ghosted me and I watched a Youtube therapist — which is super lame — but she was talking about how we feel a lot of upset when a family member, especially an older one, isn’t performing the role they should. You kind of have to be a parent or adult even if you don’t want to be. The therapist spoke about how we need to get over that because people won’t change; what you can do is mourn the relationship you wish you had with them. Only then can you work on bettering that relationship. 

Aside from that, we’re just gonna keep pumping out the gigs! We’ve got a great couple of them lined up. I’ve also just completed an awesome conceptual body of work that will hopefully make an appearance soon. I want to keep collaborating as well, I’ve been having some sessions with some cool up-and coming artists. I’m excited, I feel really optimistic. These are exciting times.

Romæo’s fourth single, ‘Mourning’, comes out on June 4th.