Add this to the list of artistic connections between New York and Indy forged by local label Asthmatic Kitty Records: Brooklyn-based Roberto Carlos Lange's musical project Helado Negro, which stops in Indy on Wednesday with dreamy new pop album Double Youth. Lange's body of work and bevy of collaborations is notable for its intriguing combination of influence drawing from his bilingual Floridian upbringing as the son of Ecuadorian immigrants during the electro heyday of the '80s for his work in visual and musical fields with artists like Jan St. Werner, David Ellis and Jonathan Dueck. His collected work revels in the complexity of identity, and his new single “Young, Latin and Proud” is the strongest mission statement he's created thus far.
“That idea, that feeling, more than the words, the feeling of that song and the idea of the theme has been something that's been in me for a long time, for a lot of different reasons. When it came together, I had made music for a long time, and I made songs that have a similar theme, or have a thread that runs through: this internal pride of who you are. This is maybe the more explicit or more literal version of that. That's kind of how I came to it. The words just came together. I was making the song, and it just came out. That moment of how that happens is always hard to kind of pinpoint. It's an explosion. I always tell people this: if you're listening to something, you can't listen and talk about it at the same time. Your brain has to process what you're hearing for a second, then you can talk about it. I think that's what happens with a lot of what I write.
“A lot of people were like, 'Ah, this is some kind of opinion toward Donald Trump [and his views on immigration] or a lot of what was going on at the time. I'm fine with people taking it for themselves and using it for that. But he didn't inspire me. That guy doesn't inspire me. I was inspired by the multiple facets of what I grow up with, the beauty of my own upbringing, and not by someone who has zero idea of what that's all about.”
On writing lyrics in multiple languages:
“The easiest one to illustrate is making the music, and as I'm making the music – whatever stage its at, the beginning, the end or the middle – as I'm writing the words, or I feel like I need to sing over it, a lot of times I hear a word, or I hear a sound that kind of represents a melody or a harmony or something, that qualifies for being a part of the song. Sometimes I latch on to some phonetic fragments that I end up sewing together, seaming together with another phonetic fragment. It's just like singing or humming along, then I hear the words in my head and I'm like, 'Oh, okay, these two words work.' Then, as I start doing that, then a theme starts revealing itself how to keep going forward. That's a lot of times my process with it.”
"I also keep a library of things I hear or things I read. I watch a lot of movies and make sure the subtitles are on on Netflix. There's just so many things — we're all influenced by so much — that sometimes it's hard to call it out of thin air. I have all of these arbitrary notes and I just read through them sometimes, and sometimes there's just one word in Spanish, or one word in [English] and things just sound so right. Something sounds so musical — even if it's like the worst word in the world, or the most boring word.
[So of course I had to ask him] On the worst word in the world:
"Well, I don't know. Sometimes I sing in such ambiguities that you wouldn't even know what I was talking about. Sometimes people think I'm talking about like a love song, but it's like the opposite. In terms of a word, there's a new song I wrote for an album that I'm working on and I say the words 'alien daze' together. It's something I would never — I was like, 'Why would I?..' For some reason I never thought I would say something like that; and I still feel funny about it when I sing it right now when I've been playing some of these songs live. Not that it's bad — just that like ... 'Alien daze.' What am I talking about?
There's a song on Double Youth called 'Myself Onto You.' I feel like it's a pretty sensual song, musically. But the lyrics, it's definitely ambiguous, and there can be double meanings with it. But it's really just about like when I'm sleeping and I wake up in the middle of the night and I'm my wife's hot rock and she's a lizard wrapped around me. And I'm trying to push her away from me, and sometimes she wakes up in the middle of the night and comes back to bed and she steps on me, and that's what the song is about."
click to enlarge
On digging Indianapolis:
“Honestly, when you travel so much, there's places that kind of stick to you and there's places that don't. Indianapolis has been great. Besides having people that are connected directly to me through releasing my music, I've just met people, like Kyle [Long, NUVO columnist] and Michael Kaufmann [former head of Asthmatic Kitty Records] who have been just real friends. People who represent the city in a way that inspires you to live in your own city. They make it feel like they're doing something, and you're like, “Yeah, that feels good.” You want to participate and contribute however you can in that energy. That's what's special about Indianapolis to me, to have those kinds of people there, to have relationships with those people and have them in my musical world.”
On Double Youth collaborator Adron:
“Adron is the female vocalist that you can hear throughout the record; I love working with her. Her and I work together on pretty much every record of mine. I always feel like no one every mentions her name even though I tell people about her. If you listen to the record, obviously I'm not hitting those higher notes a lot of time – she's living in that world, and that's just where her voice lives. Pretty much every single Helado Negro record she's sung on. She's been a part of a lot of my performances as well.
“He just does an electronic instrumental set – nothing singing or anything like that. It's things that he works on that I think are half-compositional, half-improvised. I think it kind of just moves around. I think he's got something he does specifically, but I think it mutates depending on the place.”
On performing new music:
I've been working on a lot of music since Double Youth. I'll play a couple songs from Double Youth on this tour, but I've actually been playing all of these newer songs I've written more than anything. It's a lot more fun for me to work it out in front of people and figure it out, and see how I feel about it, and see which ones make the most sense.
"The album is made electronically, made in my house with a computer. Sound-wise, most of this stuff is generated electronically with effects, my computer, my voice. Thomas [Wincek] is actually going to be playing with me too, at all of the shows, so he'll be the second person onstage. Visually, I work with dancers who are in these costumes that I've made. They represent this visual show that comes with the whole night."