Francesca Lombardo has cultivated a sound of her own, one that represents her multi-disciplinary musical background and transcends the dance floor via an emotional narrative of dreamy soundscapes, stirring melodies and hypnotic rhythms. Italian-born and classically trained, Francesca carved her path in electronic music. Criss-crossing the globe as a DJ and live performer, she’s played monumental shows including IMS Dalt Villa, Burning Man, Tomorrowland, Get Lost and Circoloco. In tandem Fracnesca has built up a formidable back-catalogue of music on esteemed labels: Crosstown Rebels, Mobilee, Leftroom, One Records and her own Echoe and Echolette imprints amongst others. Always pushing boundaries in the name of creativity, Francesca’s live show sees orchestral ensembles of varying sizes perform her intricate productions, whilst her finesse as a DJ and undeniable vocal prowess further distinguishes her from the crowd.
When did you start writing/producing music – and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing music on my piano at 6. I was always inventing melodies and loved to play my own stuff. I remember I wrote a song for a carnival play I was doing with my classroom, and it became the song of that particular show. My schoolmates and I had to sing it at the end. I always had fun writing but producing came a bit later when I slowly started to buy studio equipment. At this point I was already in London, it must have been 2001, in search of bands to play with whilst working with a couple of friends. We were into techno and electro, with influences from acid techno and underground artists such as Henry Cullen and Darc Marc to the electro artists on Gigolo Records. At the time, I remember feeling that I was a good enough writer but had to learn production properly, so I went on a course to do so. It was an easy choice as I was completely in love with electronic music, drawn to all synthesizer sounds.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I had always sung since doing the opera with school and I was constantly part of bands in my hometown, so I was always singing for one reason or the other. I started as a musician before becoming a producer. All I had was my piano and my voice and I was not DJing back then either. When I moved to London I had a wide choice of engineering and sound technology schools to begin studying electronic music properly. Any music I made I was keeping for myself, as I didn’t think I was ready to share it with others. Although in their early stages, the tracks had great ideas but I wanted to be a more advanced engineer. I didn’t really like the computer thing or audio loops but soon started falling in love with hardware gear. I have never copied anyone but I was inspired by other artists for sure. Saying this, I have always chosen not to listen to any music whilst in the studio, as I don’t want to be conditioned by what I am hearing, aiming to keep a pure sound of my own.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments,contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I know my studio pretty well, so I know how I can get what I want from it. When I introduce something new into the studio, I try to welcome it as if it were a person. I try to study it and understand it, so I can make a full use of it later. If something doesn’t work for me I just get rid of it or put it to one side.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I think any of those methods you named above could work. Whatever it takes for you to get along and be able to collaborate with someone. I have done all of them and I think jamming is probably my favourite. You can enjoy yourself with the other person and both of your creative sides can come out more strongly. All you need to do is press record.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Sometimes you find yourself composing something from playing around spontaneously at first. It seems more magical when that happens and for sure more fun. Sometimes you can spend ages working on a track and it never happens. I usually leave it on the side and come back to it later. I think there is a strict relationship between the two and it’s always better when they are both there.
Your new LP Life of Leaf is out now. What can fans expect?
My fans can expect a new sound that they’ve probably only heard in “Is it True,” back in 2012, a track I wrote for my first Crosstown Rebels release. I have always loved to use my own vocals and “real” instruments in my songs, as I love a wide genre of electronic crossing over with classical music. I would not be able to give a name of the genre used in this album, but it will definitely be fresh to listeners, in comparison to what I have released in the past.
Life of Leaf brings your talents at vocals and live instrumentation to the forefront of your process. What was your production process like for it, and was it different than your process in the past?
As you can imagine, it takes more time and work to record vocals and live instruments, alongside synths and drum machines. I produced pretty much everything in my studios in London and France. I have recorded all my own vocals, processing them too. I recorded a 16 piece orchestra in London’s Milk Studios. I also recorded a string quartet plus double bass in London’s Snap Studios, with the help of some engineers. All other sounds come from my toys, synths and drum machines. As always, I used several effects on the sounds, alongside dynamics and preamps. The Eventide Ultra Harmoniser is probably one of the most used effects on this album.
The new LP draws from a diverse palette including your classical upbringing. What are some of your biggest non-electronic influences?
Max Richter is definitely one of my favorite contemporary classical composers. I love the reinterpretation of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” I have always liked Mike Oldfield since I was a little girl, he is on the edge with electronic music but most of his tracks are not. One of my favorites has always been “Moonlight Shadow.”
How long does it take you to make a track?
It all depends on the day, the creativity level, the moon, what I have eaten and of course my mood. Some tracks can take months, others can take as little as 2 hours. “Charlie’s Tapes” for instance was written in three hours during a full moon at night time. Others took much longer.
What are some exciting things you have lined up this year and beyond?
Seeing how my live career develops is the most exciting thing for me this year. Also, continuing to release dancefloor music, whilst working on my labels. And of course, I have a lot of new music that I have finished and am finishing…