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On Deck: Carmen Villain

By ; June 14, 2013 at 12:50 PM 

Carmen Villain

Model-turned-musician Carmen Villain (née Carmen Hillestad) seems intent on pushing past the recognition of her recently abandoned modeling career and focusing solely on her musical abilities. And it seems that she’d prefer everyone else to do so as well.  The current London native made her modeling debut in her teens, moving quickly to the front covers of Vogue, Marie Claire, and Glamour. But Villain wasn’t happy simply being another manicured face on the cover of a fashion magazine.  She began writing songs to vent the frustrations that she felt as a result of the perceived trappings of her career, and with the help of producer Emil Nikolaisen (Serena-Maneesh), she recorded the songs that would form the basis of her debut record Sleeper.  She has gone on record as saying that, “Most of my songs are about escaping something – escaping this weird vacuum, an unsatisfying world.”  And so in a cyclical search for meaning, she seems to have found this longed-for escape.

But the common stereotype of the pop crossover starlet is washed away as Villain dives into fractured rhythms and atypical tonal structures that meld the tendencies of psych rock and drone but that pulse with a songwriter’s heart.  Sleeper draws on numerous influences in its attempt to convey the disparate and distinct sounds that seem to swirl endlessly in Villain’s subconscious.  In our latest On Deck feature, Villain draws back the curtain a bit and allows us to see how these particular influences have molded the way that she approaches her own music.  An admitted Sun City Girls fanatic, she also talks briefly about records from Kurt Vile, GZA, and Syd Barrett–among others.  Check out her full list below.

Syd Barrett - The Madcap Laughs
Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs

This might be my all time favorite album, the songs are all perfect and effortless. It’s all so loose and nearly falling apart at the seams, full of beautiful textures and brilliant songwriting. And his lyrics are so incredibly good: “Inside me I feel/Alone and unreal”… Emotional stuff communicated in such a laid back and effortless way.

GZA - Liquid Swords
GZA/Genius – Liquid Swords

I started listening to this when I was about 13, and it has stuck with me ever since. The production is brilliant and very inspiring to me; dark (“Liquid Swords” really creeped me out but yet I couldn’t stop listening to it) and psychedelic (for example “Swordsman”), and those fucking beats!! Today it not only stands as a great record, but it takes me back to those teen years, too. And hip-hop has firmly placed a love for loops, beats and sampling in the way I make music, too.

Sun City Girls - Funeral Mariachi
Sun City Girls – Funeral Mariachi

I love the Sun City Girls. There have been a lot of good (and bad, hehe) SSG releases since they started, and I have a good selection of albums that I go back to, but this, their last recorded album as Sun City Girls is the one I listen to the most. I think it’s their weirdness and their ethnic/world music influence mixed with noise that does it for me. From groovy “Ben’s Radio” to beautiful “This is my name”, this album is definitely a great introduction to SSG.

Bardo Pond - Amanita
Bardo Pond – Amanita

My friend Emil (and Sleeper co-producer) introduced me to Bardo Pond a couple of years ago, he played “Be a Fish” for me and I quickly became obsessed and listened to Amanita a lot. This came to me in a strange and crazy time in my life, so my associations with their music is pretty melancholic, so when I saw them live in London last year, I cried like a baby haha. Anyway, this is psychedelic rock jams at its best, the drums are sooo perfectly loose and just when you think they are falling completely off the wagon Joe Culver brings them back in such a great way. And Isobel Sollenberger’s vocals are so laid back and beautiful and cool.

Royal Trux - Accelerator
Royal Trux – Accelerator

Perfect pop songs gone nuts! There are so many good songs on this record, full of hooks and earworms, and shows how damn good these guys are at writing pop music that then gets pushed through to another warped dimension. I often play “Juicy, Juicy, Juice” when I dj, and always get pleasantly surprised when even the straightest of people go crazy dancing to it. The drums on this records are sooo good, too; for example on “Liar” and “Follow the Winner”. Very inspiring.

Kurt Vile - Constant Hitmaker
Kurt Vile – Constant Hitmaker

Kurt Vile is one of my all time favorite musicians, and it’s so pleasing to see that so many people have caught on to his music. He just keeps delivering great albums. When I first discovered him it was through reading a short roundup piece in some music mag, and the one line referring to him and then current album Constant Hitmaker made me check it out. I love the production on this, mix of beautiful songwriting, psychedelic weirdness done with impeccable taste. Songs like “Slow Talkers” and “Best Love”…And his voice, man… swooooon.

Carmen Villain’s debut album Sleeper is out now on Smalltown Supersound

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