Francesca Lombardo stands head-and-shoulders above most of her peers in the deeper end of house music, thanks to her skills and dexterity both as a DJ and as a musician. A member of Damian Lazarus’ Crosstown Rebels family, she’s carved out a strong reputation, playing around the globe at their Rebel Rave events and numerous high-profile clubs and festivals, like Burning Man, where she worked her magic on the infamous Robot Heart bus. Her classical background has given her a strong grounding in music composition, while her positive outlook and boundless energy adds an infectious allure to her productions that she also sings over. With her debut album soon to drop, including a collaboration with an orchestra, Complex caught up Francesca to get the 411 on her world.
Tell us about where you grew up and how it shaped you as an artist and a person.
I grew up in Italy near the Lake of Garda. There were few great clubs well known in Italy and outside of Italy too. Some of the best techno and house djs from Italy were residents so I grew up in a full time Italian house and techno music environment. Nethertheless I used to drive to Toscany quiet a lot to attend the best clubs such as Imperiale and Kama Kama.
You grew up around your father’s vast collection of instruments. What’s your prevailing musical memory as a child and favourite piece of music that shaped you at a young age.
My prevailing music memory is singing with my father Italian artists songs such as Lucio Battisti, Mina and more. We used to sing for hours and harmonise each other voice.
You studied piano and opera at the Conservatorium of Music before moving to London to graduate in vocal performance. Throughout all these years had you always had a passion for electronic music? If not, did you have a defining moment (even a dancefloor experience) that changed everything for you?
I have always been into electronic music. My uncle started playing me Kraftwerk and Mike Olfield in the car on our trips to Germany where part of my family used to live. I was 6 and used to love it! I never gave up electronic music since then. I guess this is the most defining moment for me.
Describe your sound in terms of your production and what people can expect to hear from one of your dj sets?
My sound in terms of production varies depending on how I feel, but is generally deep and at the same time colourful. The same could be said about my dj sets as I love a wide variety of electronic music, enabling me to be free when I play, while always trying to make sense at the same time of course
What came first for you, production or dj’ing? At what stage did you realise that you would be able to do this professionally for a living?
I first started to dj a couple of years after moving to London. At the beginning it all started as a joke and I never expected to become a full time dj, but things got out of hand and I started to get gigs in and outside London. At the same time I was studying music technology for personal purposes and then I started to write music with my computer and slowly got into production that way
Over the years, which other dj’s and artists have influenced and inspired you?
So many that it’s hard to remember them all. Artists I worship are Dave Clarke, Jeff Mills, Matthew Johnson, Luciano, Nathan Fake, Solvent, Matthew Dear aka Audion, Trentemoller, Miss Kittin, Ellen Allien and many many more
Now that you are gaining a lot of recognition and becoming increasing prolific as a producer and dj, who out of your up and coming contemporaries has caught your attention?
David Beiger a producer from Germany. I love his music and always play it in my sets. I think he has a great future ahead of him
You’ve also worked with a live orchestra—how did that one come about?
It has always been one of my biggest dreams to perform electronic music with strings. Damian Lazarus introduced me to Andrew Waterworth, who I worked with for my live show and on some of the string arrangements. After our first few collaborations, we worked together on creating the show I performed on Boiler Room in London. I decided to do a live show with Andrew to avoid DJing with strings, which didn’t interest me, and we had our debut show on the Pyramid at Day Zero in Mexico last year. It was very improvised at that stage, but it was something I had wanted to do for a long time. Since then, I have just developed it further.
Was it a daunting experience working at that level with so many musicians?
Yes, but we took it even further, and for my first ever gig with a full symphony orchestra at Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand, it all came together and was a very fulfilling experience. I love working with musicians and I see myself doing more of these type of shows in the very near future.
Where do your ambitions currently lie? Could you imagine leaving the club world behind to become a composer for orchestras, for example?
I love writing and producing and it’s something that I’ve already thought about, but it requires a lot of time and a lot of focus; I’m trying to learn as much as I can from this experience, and I definitely want to grow as a musician and producer. There’s a lot of things that I’d love to do, so let’s just see where my heart takes me.