Camella Lobo: Hey, I didn’t catch your name!
It’s Mich. Short for Michael in English. I guess it’s one of those fuzzy Dutch names that are hard to translate to another language.
I totally understand. My dad is from Brazil. He was an immigrant that came to the United States and got my mom pregnant right away. They gave me a Brazilian name.
How do I pronounce it correctly?
In Portuguese it’s Camélla. In the United States I say Ca-me-lla but a lot of people call me Camilla. Ehm… I usually just go by Cam but then people think I’m saying Pam, so then I get Pamela. Like I said, I totally understand.
Are you excited for your show at Het Bos?
Yeah, it’s the first time I’ll ever be in Antwerp. I think we’ve tried to go in the past a few times, but the shows just never worked out. So this is a first for us. In this European tour there’s a lot of firsts on the map. We’re really excited about that.
I read somewhere that you said electronic music is the new punk. Was this the starting point for you to make music?
I don’t ever think about the utility of music or how I’m making it. Neither do I think about it in a punk sense, like I am anti-establishment or something. It’s more about the accessibility of music itself. In the early 2000s you had all of these bedroom-bands that came out of the woodwork. It was really interesting because it democratized creativity. It was easier to put things out on the internet without having to be a guitar virtuoso or being hugely popular from the start. But a lot of people also began turning their noses up against it as well, because a few years later the world became flooded with all these people just making - for lack of a better word - shitty, electronic music. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to disrespect anyone because Tropic Of Cancer probably wouldn’t have happened and be where it is today without that kind of phase.
Did anything change over the years in terms of how you were making music in the past opposed to your recent work?
You know what, sadly, I haven’t really progressed when it comes to writing music. For me, time is always an issue. I haven’t really had the luxury to sit down and rework my whole approach. I’m kind of stuck with what I know and I have some core understandings of programs like Logic. This is pretty much just how I work. I have a corner in my house, so I might as well be a bedroom-band. For my last EP I had the luxury to work together with someone in a studio. I’m the most proud of certain elements of that album because I had the time to focus on writing instead of stressing about having to get something out right away. Which is wat happened earlier on with Tropic Cancer. It was this flurry of releases, touring and trying to make music in the middle of all that. It was not the best for me. If anything has changed, it’s the fact that I reprioritized everything when it comes to music and I don’t commit to things with short timelines.
There are many dark and gloomy synth-based bands out there. A lot of them feel kinda forced or deliberately weird. What’s the secret in keeping it natural and honest?
Don’t think too much about other people when you’re writing music or creating the landscape of your sound. What is equally stressful but also fortunate in my situation is that making music isn’t my only job. I have other jobs where I need to put a lot of energy in.
What is your day job?
I used to be an advertising writer and deliver content for websites. Now I work for a digital agency. I do technical content work, which is working closely with developers to build out and define features of content management systems and stuff like that. I’m really just sitting in front of spreadsheets all day and sitting in really long meetings. For me that’s comforting because it isn’t creative, so that I can save all my creative energy for writing music. I really like my job but it’s not easy to balance that lifestyle. When I talk to people at work about what I do they actually can’t believe it. They’re like, this doesn’t sound real, and I’m like, well it is. This is a thing and there is very rarely any crossover. I have some people at work that are super into it. They’re like “yeah you go girl!” And then there’s people that go “holy shit, I saw that you’re playing shows in Australia”. But yeah, it’s really fucking weird man.
Are you in any way inspired by Henry Miller’s novel Tropic of Cancer?
No, I actually hate that book. I didn’t realize how much I hated it until it was already the name of my band. When Juan Mendez and I used to make music together we were asked to play a show. We had just come back from Guatemala and we were looking at a map together with my late grandmother. She pointed out this area called ‘the Tropic of Cancer’. It was literally that day that we had to come up with a name, because the venue we were going to play was making a flyer and all of that stuff. “Just put Tropic of Cancer on the flyer. It’s a cool name, we’ll deal with it later.” Of course I knew about Henry Miller because I am a lit major, but I was never into his work. Little did I know the seriousness of that moment and the fact that shortly after we would be playing a lot more shows.
Well, there goes all my research…
I’m so sorry. It’s like a comedy of errors.
You live and work in Los Angeles. Do you connect to the LA scene?
I’m focusing on it a little more than I used to. I’ve had a lot of personal things going on in my life that kept me in the shadows a little bit. Focusing on healing and taking back my life, really. Now that I’ve emerged and my life is completely different, I’ve been able to build myself back up with the pieces of myself that I like. It’s giving me more confidence and less social anxiety. I feel very connected to the people in my immediate community who are also making music and reaching out. I also had a baby in the middle of all of this. It forced me to be a lot more serious with my time and the people I spend my time with. I’m very grateful for that.
Thanks for chatting with us Camella. We wish you all the luck in the world with your baby, your music, your day job…. All of it!
Thank you! Yeah, I need a lot of luck with my day job. It’s so fucking cliché but you only have one life to live.
We’ll sleep afterwards.
Interview door bos-medewerker Mich Segers
Tropic Of Cancer speelt op zondag 26 februari in Het Bos. → http://www.hetbos.be/agenda/2017/2/26/#1210