The Gorillaz alum on vibrations, Anna Wintour, and a memorable run-in with Jay Z.
It is fair to say that Roses Gabor has not followed the career trajectory of any artist, UK or otherwise. From aspiring singer, to finance, to working in the city, to touring with Gorillaz, to now being on the cusp of releasing her own album, Gabor is a lesson in work ethic and willingness to put in the time to achieve her ultimate goal. If her current music is anything to go by, she is achieving it. The songs already released from her debut album, Fantasy & Facts, are a wonderful mix of clean, abrasive percussion and digi-production. This is very much a 2019 sound, the intertwining of traditional rhythms with such modern melodies creating something unique and, as has become expected with Gabor’s music, distinctly listenable.
We talked to the London singer about vibrations, Anna Wintour, and a memorable run-in with Jay Z.
How did you first get into music?
I always sang and I always listened to music. My mum used to play me lots of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, as well as Reggae, and my dad always played Capital FM; he was a carpenter, so I’d hear a whole range of music from that.
When did you realise you wanted to be a musician?
It was always a vibe for me – I feel like it was a natural thing for me to do. I always loved doing it; I think that my parents imagined me being a lawyer or doctor, or something like that, so I did finance, which I found incredibly boring. Then, I did performing arts, which satisfied my spirit and felt more natural – it kept me entertained. I knew what I wanted to do from around 8 years old, maybe even before that, but then I diverted and came back to it when I was about fifteen.
Were your parents happy with your decision to go back to the arts?
I don’t know if they were happy, but I think they knew that I was going to do what I wanted to do. Saying that though, I did that and still worked in the city for a bit. You have to pay your bills, you know, and buy sparkly cardigans, or whatever else I wanted to spend money on! So I got a job doing banking – I was still writing music, in the toilets and everywhere I was really. It’s always been a burning desire.
What inspires your music?
I always feel like I’m inspired by love really, and emotion. Also, as glib as it might sound, God, and vibrations. Which sounds so corny (laughs). Musically, I was fascinated by Michael, so if that comes out in my music, that’s what it is. I’m not very good at giving people references though, as the music I listen to is very different to the music I make, so I don’t want to confuse anyone! I love Mary J. Blige, and I love Bjork too – the separateness of her music.
Fantasy & Facts is out in February, and the songs on there that are already out have a lovely modern feel, with lots of heavy percussion and quite digital sounds. Would you say your music fits into a genre?
I don’t know if us artists ever feel like we ever want to be boxed. But, because you have to know where to put it in the iTunes system, I know it’s electronic, I know it’s R’n’B. But if anybody asks me, I just say that it’s feels, and hopefully it’s cinematic to a certain extent.
Why did you call the album Fantasy & Facts?
I’m a Pisces, and we tend to dream quite a lot – we tend to get lost in our own little worlds. Some of the songs I wrote are factual, but then spill a little bit into fantasy. Also, it’s like, what is this? [gestures around her] What is real? So I think that sense of escapism is a theme in the album.
Are you inspired by London?
I have to be, because I live here, and this is where I write most of my songs, but I also feel inspired by LA when I go there. There are similarities between the two: as a creative, you fall into hubs, and I find that I have my creative hub here, and in LA.
Do you enjoy the more visual side of being a musician, the videos, the album covers, the fashion?
I’ve always loved fashion, but never really bought magazines. I never followed any sort of trends: I like what I like, and that’s what I’m going to wear. There’s no one on the planet that could tell me what to wear, unless you’re, like, Givenchy. Or Anna Wintour.
The video for “I Could Be Yours” came out a couple of months ago – could you tell us a bit more about the ideas behind it?
The video was about male angst, maybe even black male angst, and men not being able to express themselves emotionally sometimes. Innocence – there’s a young boy in there…I don’t like to explain the visuals too much though; I prefer people to pick their interpretations.
What’s a stand-out gig you’ve done?
I love performing live, so it’s difficult to pick a stand-out gig. I’m lucky to have been able to perform Gorillaz stuff as well as my own stuff, which means I’ve done, like, Madison Square Gardens, Glastonbury Main Stage etc. My favourite independent one was at Concrete, in Shoreditch – that’s super cute, I had a great gig there.
Do you get nervous at somewhere like Glastonbury, or MSG?
100%. Everyone was nervous at Madison Square Gardens, you could just feel the energy more than anywhere. I had heard that Jay Z was there and, as I was walking towards the stage I was just like “Oh, hi Jay!” I’d never met him before, and he was like “hey”, and walked past me. As I got onto the stage, I tripped; I was so full of nerves! He’d gone way past, luckily, but the song had started and I tripped over a wire!
London is in a really interesting place musically at the moment, and I was wondering if there were any particular artists you were loving at the moment?
I really love Kojey Radical, I think he’s doing a great great creative job. I love Koj. And I really like Raye as well – I’ve never met her before, but she has great songs, and seems like a nice girl. Oh, and Slowthai.
What’s next for you?
Just working on some live things for you guys, there should be more videos too. You’ll have to wait and see!