With her debut EP ‘GREY AREA’ released last week, Wonderland present an exclusive exploration of the release in collaboration with painter Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf.
South London’s ROXANNE TATAEI has quietly gone about releasing one of the year’s most intoxicating EPs with ‘GREY AREA’, which was released last week. It’s a spellbinding collection of trap and soul sounds mixed together in a winding, hypnotic melting pot. TATAEI’s vocal segues seamlessly between silky, sensual tones and seductive, raspy whispers. Meanwhile the emotional frankness contained in TATAEI’s lyrics is almost exhilarating (‘Sweet Poison (live)’ being the most striking case). The release bubbles over with a decadent and trippy vibe; it’s a sound that is simultaneously pacifying and electrifying; it’s a recipe that will go straight to your head.
While the release is technically ROXANNE TATAEI’s debut EP, she is no stranger to the music industry. The release in fact marks her return after five years since her previous, critically acclaimed album ‘Memoirs’, released under former artist name ROX. However the ‘GREY AREA’ EP marks that unique turning point in an artist’s career; when they seize complete creative control, with no interfering opinions or judgements. ROXANNE herself said she needed to take those years to “reconnect, reset and gone back to the beginning”, and it’s safe to say every second was worth it. What she’s managed to create, with just the help of a close hub of creative friends (and producer Patrice, who has previously worked with the likes of CeeLo Green and Cody ChesnuTT), is an astonishing project that combines a sensual, rich sound with beautifully striking visuals. Despite the EP being inherently DIY, ROXANNE’S managed an expensive flair around each track, and an unprocessed creative feel throughout.
ROXANNE continues this trajectory with Wonderland, as we present her collaboration with painter Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf and sit down to talk through the ‘GREY AREA’ EP. With Fontaine-Wolf’s work well respected for its raw exploration of female body and female sensuality, the pair join forces to illustrate ‘GREY AREA’ in what seems like a match made in heaven.
You’ve announced that your new EP, GREY AREA, was created without a label, manager, or “machine”. What is important to you about releasing this EP independently?
Honestly the most important thing is for people to get a real sense of me. No middleman or outside influence. The best way I felt I could convey that, was to self-release this EP. The art is coming directly from me, to you. But don’t get it twisted; sure I want to have the right team around me. But it just hasn’t happened… yet.
In your new track, ‘Love You Like I’ve Never Loved’, the production by Patrice really captures the mood of your song; it’s very left-field. What was it like to work with him?
You know it’s a wonderful thing when you attract your tribe. Our musical partnership is something very sacred. Legit artist producers are very rare nowadays; most have no sensibility when working with an artist. For me a true producer musically harnesses, translates & channels the artist’s essence & materializes their vision in the truest way to the artist. He gave me the space to be. It’s that simple. We recorded a lot in the comfort of my flat in Streatham. He likes to tell people I held him captive for a week & didn’t allow him to leave until I was happy with the music. Which of course is very true.
It’s clear that your message is not just surface level through the use of metaphors in the video for ‘My Weakness’, your debut track. What does the other individual in your “My Weakness” video represent?
I believe one of the most human traits we all possess is vulnerability. Whether that’s towards something or someone. The extraterrestrial being in the video, is the manifestation of my own personal vulnerabilities. It allures, spellbinds, frightens & mystifies. It knows exactly how to draw me in, locates my weak spots & turns my reality upside down.
You refer to your music as “art”. Do you create music with the intention of it being viewed as art?
I create to feel, so I can feel what I create. Meaning, there isn’t much thought about intention or thought of any kind, just flows of feeling. I guess I call it art because I’m not trying to just make music. I want to create a world, my world.
You’ve said how grateful you are for your friends believing in your art and vision. What is that vision and how did it develop?
The vision is the projected image of what I thought it should look like, before I even started creating it. I knew it had to be sensual & raw but most importantly, it had to be authentically me. Having people invest in that and wanting to help you make it a reality is so powerful. And as I developed as a woman & a person, the art naturally followed.
You’ve referred to yourself as that “grey area” between light and dark, good and bad. What does being this “grey area” say about who you are?
I think its more depicting human nature & the make up of the world we live in. We live in a society that forces us to conform to a general consensus & to fit into shitty boxes. But ever since I can remember I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged to one particular thing or group. And I believe that’s the case for most of us. The world is not black or white, It’s everything mixed together. I’ve come to find comfort in that area of ambiguity.
In your new EP, you seem to be really getting to the core of yourself. Was this what inspired the change back to your full name?
I love how my name looks, how it sounds & what it means. Roxanne is a mutation from the Persian name “Roshanak” meaning bright star & day dawning. In a way, I guess it’s me reconnecting with my roots, pressing reset & returning to my default setting. There’s definitely truth in having to sometimes go back, to hotstep your life forward.
What is your favorite thing about performing? Do you have any live shows planned?
My favourite thing? The unknown. Not knowing what to 100% expect from yourself or the audience is a weird & wonderful disposition to put yourself in. No, no shows scheduled as of yet, but that will definitely change in the New Year.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Make an album, start performing and hopefully collaborating with some great artists. But more immediately, finishing this glass of wine…