Touching new grounds
We had been in contact with Raül Refree many times, but never hit the right point where we could collaborate. Raül’s new project together with the emerging star Rosalía was something that caught our attention. We had only heard the demo of their upcoming release, Catalina, and yet already thrilled by the impact of the song. His companion Rosalía was still unfamiliar to us, though she had gained a younger audience through collaborations and features in the emerging trap scene. We quickly came to realise the importance and uniqueness of this flamenco duo. Our vision was to create a visual concept for their upcoming single and album. From music video, album artwork and promotional material, the brief was unlike anything we have done before. We couldn’t wait to get started.
Breaking the rules of the traditional flamenco
Raül and Rosalía are touching new grounds by breaking the rules of the traditional flamenco. Raül’s background as a both a musician and producer, with many big names in his repertoire – such as Lee Ranaldo, Rocío Márquez, Christina Rosenvinge, Kiko Veneno, Silvia Pérez Cruz or Josele Santiago, among others – results in a well produced album. His guitar is this time accompanying Rosalía’s vocals, in modern tones, leaving the traditional flamenco aside. Her schooled voice and earlier experimentations with the trap scene gives another layer of originality to the songs. Our challenge was to create a strong visual impact and add another layer of interpretation, respecting both the traditional and the contemporary in their music.
“Rosalía, the young Catalan singer that revolutionised flamenco”
“The exquisite viral union between trap and flamenco”
“Rosalía, the triumphing singer of Primavera and Instagram”
After her collaboration with C.Tangana (+10.800.000 views) and the launch of “Catalina” (+159.000 views), Rosalía became a huge success this year. She gathered a significant amount of following on both Instagram (+34.000) and Facebook (+10.000), and was interviewed by over 25 media, including A-list fashion magazines like i-D Spain (+73.000 followers) and METAL (+135.000 followers), as well as Spain’s leading newspapers, of which El País (+1.217.000 reads daily), El Mundo (+761.000), and La Vanguardia (+586.000) are just a couple examples. Rosalía will be performing all over Spain this summer, including some of Spain’s most beloved festivals: Primavera Sound and Vida festival.
Abstraction and modernity
We sent the song to the fashion photographer Txema Yeste, he was as thrilled as us, and we started an eagerly awaited collaboration with him capturing both the music video and imagery. Txema’s fashion and artistic background collaborating with world-renowned magazines, such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Numéro, was the key to reach the abstraction and modernity we wanted for the shoot. Together with the set designer and art director Cristina Ramos we had the perfect opportunity to create the right ambience and sensibility for the video.
Rosalía’s stage presence and strong empathy with the lyrics became the central point of the video and encircles the essence of the deeply passionate song “Catalina”. By capturing her facial expressions, we could reach an intimate relationship with the song and its meaning.
A change of order
We changed the order of production. By bringing a fashion photographer, instead of a music video team, we could together with Txema take more presence in the production. We wanted to have the feeling of being all on the same page, all outside our regular walls of production and comfort, in order to create a dynamic session hand in hand. Since the shoot was done in one day, the video and photography set was placed in the same space with different lighting and equipment, all to create the same atmosphere. Consciously we started with the photoshoot, the experience of acting in front of a still camera would make it more comfortable to then switch to the moving image. The music video was then recorded with the direction of Txema.
Unity in contrast
We wanted to avoid the obvious connections to flamenco and decided to use an industrial and more contemporary typeface for the website, video titles and album cover. New Rail Alphabet designed by Henrik Kubel of A2/SW/HK in close collaboration with Margaret Calvert gave us the modernity we were looking for. New Rail is a revival of the British rail alphabet designed in the early 60’s by Kinneir Calvert Associates for the British road signage. The variety of the typeface gave us the possibility to use it in both bigger titles and smaller descriptive texts and information. This gave us a great unity in contrast to the very powerful use of photography. By adding a vivid cerise as a complementary colour, accompanying the darkness of the photography very well and gives a contemporary feel to the artwork.
Director: Txema Yeste / DOP: Ricard Canyelles / Camera assistant: Nonna Serra / Art Direction: Cristina Ramos Atelier / Gaffer: Sergi Hernandez / Electrician: Oriol Cañis / Digital: Carles Arnán / Editor: Martí Blanchet / Colour: Yulia Bulashenko / Special Thanks: Nur Casadevall / Make up: Victor Alvarez / Styling: Veronica Febrero
"We don’t like to preclude new paths and we have drawn upon several sources. Our music is pervaded by that."
Folch interviews Rosalía & Raül Refree
Rosalía & Raül Refree photographed by Txema Yeste
FOLCH Despite your differences in background and age, you have found each other in flamenco in the upcoming release of “Los Ángeles”. What has been your connection point?
RAÜL First of all our connection point was the the love of music: at the early beginning we just listened to music that we like, old flamenco artists like Bernardo el de los lobitos, Rafael Farina or Joselero, between others, but Kendrick Lamar, Onehotrix Point Never or Sufjan Stevens too. Then, after some weeks/months, we started playing and we realised how deep the connection was.
ROSALÍA I think the link between us is the way we understand music. We are both musicians who like to experiment. We don’t like to preclude new paths and we have drawn upon several sources. Our music is pervaded by that.
FOLCH From a very deep archive, the songs are circulating around death. How come death has been the central topic in “Los Ángeles”? What has been the curation process?
ROSALÍA We were looking for a central theme, the vanishing point. Flamenco is so far-reaching and vast that we have words to deal with any theme: still the topic of death is always there. It is so visceral and widens throughout the whole universal literature. It was the black thread we use to weave the chants together, in order to impregnate the album with a concept that is explainable through diverse moods and atmospheres.
RAÜL We wanted to find a central subject for the album, we wanted a concept, and flamenco has always had a strong relationship with death and loss so we decided that could be the main subject. Rosalia is very good at finding old songs and lyrics, so she was the one who did the research. At the end we found the record approach death in a many different ways, from sadness to fury.
FOLCH You have a lot of eyes on you at the moment, what do you think the audience expect from the release? And what do you expect from them?
RAÜL We want the record to be heard, that’s maybe the most difficult thing nowadays when everything is going so fast and people do not have the time to listen carefully. I guess some people, some purists, will be quite disappointed, but I hope as time passes they’ll find the deepness of the record.
ROSALÍA My priority is the creative part. I don’t really care about what happens to my music after that. I mean: I don’t care if it is a summer hit or counts just a bunch of plays. This doesn’t mean that I don’t pay attention to the creative process regardless of the positive or negative answer of any audience.
FOLCH Similar to El Niño del Elche, a traditional culture, as flamenco, is pushed to a more modern environment. What happens when the traditional becomes modernised?
RAÜL I don’t think we are trying to modernise anything, it’s just our vision of this, I don’t think we could have done it in any other way.
ROSALÍA It can happen when the modernity can find its roots back and then tradition can refresh.
FOLCH Rosalia, you gathered another audience through your collaboration with C. Tangana and the trap/hip hop scene, how do you think it has and will affect your flamenco career?
ROSALÍA Every collaboration comes from my restlessness as an artist. I am moved by intuition. I think my career will be more understandable through the years. I feel more of a contemporary folksinger than a traditional one.
I have a huge respect for flamenco, my whole career is based upon it. Still it doesn’t mean that I am not going to do the music that really tickles my fancy just because it would give me more acceptation or credibility. I believe that my work should speak for itself.
All the artists from my generation are way more global than the past and we don’t have many prejudices when it comes to exploring different genres. We need to stand for this freedom. Nowadays purity lies in heterodoxy.
FOLCH Raül, you have collaborated with many big names, how is the experience working with a young emerging artist?
RAÜL It’s always good to work with talented people. It’s always about talent and personality more than any other thing. Rosalia is very talented and it’s been easy to find ourselves playing together. She’s young but the decisions she makes when she sings, when she makes music, are from someone who’s been thinking a lot about it.
FOLCH Raül, you are in between both producer and musician, how do these two roles affect you as a professional?
RAÜL I cannot separate one thing from the other, you can approach music from many places, visions, roles and that makes you a better person. I am trying to learn as much as possible everyday, trying to understand things and discussing it with myself.
FOLCH What is your contribution to the future of flamenco? What is your vision?
ROSALÍA I think that while working on this record we had never stopped questioning what flamenco really is for me. Starting from such a question one can find more honesty and authenticity in his work, and I guess this would be a great thing not only in flamenco, but in music and art in general.
RAÜL I hope people from flamenco will listen to this record (as I hope people of any style or country will listen and enjoy it) but I am not sure they will. So it is difficult for us to think of it as a contribution to flamenco or even to music. I see it just as a contribution in our lives, in our careers and, again, in our knowledge. It’s been very good to find the right partner and opportunity to do a record like this.
Thanks to Raül Refree, Rosalía & Mar Girona. Interviewed by Emmy Koski.