❉ Curxes mouthpiece Roberta Fidora waxes cynical about her cult faves, inspirations and… wood cladding?
Late last year, We Are Cult spoke to post-pop act Curxes, aka Roberta Fidora, about her second album ‘Gilded Cage’. We caught up with Curxes again for the latest instalment in our Cult Q & A series where we quiz some of our favourite people about their cult fave raves, influences and inspirations and what they are about to have just been doing. (See me – Grammar Ed.)
Who were your heroes growing up?
I think they were always changing, especially during the brief time we had cable at our house and I had access to music video channels where I could see the music I loved and who made it. Prior to that, I had a lot of admiration for April O’Neil from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series and the Ewoks from Return of the Jedi. Subsequently, I’m small, hairy, unintelligible, have a taste for loud jumpsuits and could probably take down a chicken walker if provided with the right information.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Working as a shop assistant for a well-known beauty chain, where staff were encouraged to be forthright in approaching customers for makeovers and aggressively peddle makeup products in a way that I felt preyed on people’s insecurities. I loathed selling self-improvement and lasted about 2 months before I quit.
What are your best and worst qualities?
Worst qualities? Moaning, obsessiveness and hoarding. My desk is surrounded by several colour-coded shelves of retro tat – I have to keep it in check and make sure it’s confined to one room otherwise it starts to sprawl out of control. I’m an honest self-critic though, which I feel is one of my better qualities.
What do you consider to be the single greatest piece of television ever?
Wood cladding, especially its appearances in Fargo, Twin Peaks and True Detective. All breakout performances.
Monty Python: Is it funny?
A lot of people will probably spit out their tea with disgust at me saying this, but I’m actually far more interested in the Terry Gilliam animation in between the main sketches than the bulk of Monty Python. Stylistically, it follows a lot of DIY cultural artefacts like zines and flyers and the slightly grotesque, cut and paste style had a fairly sizeable influence on the video for ‘Avant-Guarded’, which I made with my friend and longtime collaborator, Rob Luckins.
What was the last film that you watched?
Hidden Figures, chronicling the first women of colour to work at NASA in significant roles and based on a true story, although reading up afterwards, some of their greatest acts of defiance seem to have been left out of the film in favour of bending to Hollywood, which annoyed me a little bit. The real-life stories are inspirational.
What film could you watch every day?
I want to be a meta smart arse and say Groundhog Day, but my favourite film ever is The Lost Boys. My brother lives in California, so one day we went to Santa Cruz where it was filmed. One of my proudest moments is recognising the car park from the opening few minutes of the film as we drove past. I can quote the majority of the dialogue as well.
What’s your favourite film soundtrack?
The Lost Boys is also my top choice as a soundtrack, but lately it’s been edged out slightly by The Greasy Strangler OST by Andrew Hung, a record that is a breath of fresh yet greasy air, like Tim Cappello.
Which four actors would you like to see in a film together and which genre?
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sofia Helin, Lupita Nyong’o and Matthew McConaughey, who seems to excel at playing charming bastards. The tone would be somewhere between the bleak comedy/dramas Entertainment, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, with animated segments. Hopefully, I’d get the opportunity to create or curate the soundtrack and oversee the animated parts.
Which film, book or record last disappointed you the most?
I still bought the record, but I was hoping the latest Depeche Mode instalment would take a really big risk, even if it was something so bold as to be upsetting. I’d be thrilled to see someone like Blanck Mass produce an album for them, particularly listening to a track like ‘Dead Format’. There’s a sleaze and sinister edge to it that would make for an incredible crossover.
Which record would you recommend and lend to a friend?
Colleen’s A Flame My Love, A Frequency. It’s subtle, introverted and perfect.
Which record wouldn’t you let out of your sight?
The Strange Death of Liberal England’s Drown Your Heart Again LP, as there is only one copy in existence.
Which book would you save if your house was on fire?
The Mute: A Visual Document book I got for Christmas, as their ethos has underpinned a lot of my own decisions around making music and it goes to show that the aesthetics of music are just as important as the other components of it, but not in the way people expect.
What’s your definition of what makes something cult?
If it produces a secret society for a microcosm of popular culture and you could potentially host a fancy dress convention around it.
What are you reading at present?
How Music Works by David Byrne.
So how did your life in music begin and what inspired you to make a career out of it?
I don’t think I ever intended to make a career out of it because I’m not someone who enjoys constructing confidence or indulging the ‘hype’ part of making music, which puts you at a disadvantage when certain organisations and tech companies seem to value and incentivise narcissism but, regardless, music feels like the best means I have of communicating who I am and filtering everything from unhealthy behavioural patterns and suppressed emotions to processing outside visual stimuli and general unease.
Which other singers, musicians, or producers have inspired you over the years?
There’s a constant shift, especially discovering new musicians and producers who weren’t previously represented in popular culture until now. In college, I swerved from opera and folk songs to singing PJ Harvey and Blondie and that had a dramatic effect on the kind of music I wanted to make. Production-wise, listening to musicians like Daniel Miller, TV on the Radio, Power Wind, Semifinalists, Karaocake and Nine Inch Nails has made me realise you can do a lot of things yourself and derive greater satisfaction from it in the process. That said, you have to find other people around you to balance things out and stop you from becoming neurotic or to at least shape the neuroses for the benefit of the song or record.
I take a lot of inspiration from visual art and photography too and could talk at length about seeing the average made extraordinary through images or fading tastes in pastimes that I associate with growing up, like collecting weird ornaments or deteriorating seaside resorts. My most recent finds are John Baeder’s Road Well Taken book, which takes the ordinary (in the form of the American diner) and makes it look cinematic, distant and beautiful via a series of photo-accurate paintings, essays and photographs and The East German Handbook, which is a fascinating collection of offbeat objects and advertising.
Can you give us any teasers as to what we can expect from Curxes in 2018?
At the moment, I’m organising a video shoot for another song from ‘Gilded Cage’, which I’m really excited about because it feels like a nod to the photographers I love, like Nadia Lee Cohen, Cindy Sherman and Martin Parr but with a personal slant and Rob’s distinctive visual style. After that, I’ll continue working on the third album, which is 70% finished, not to mention somewhat poppier and beat-driven than ‘Gilded Cage’. Some of the lyrics are a bit naughty too. By contrast, the EP is minimal, almost like electronic church music, and would benefit from orchestral instruments so that may sit on the back burner for a while. They’re like heaven and hell in song form. I already have the name, cover artwork and video ideas in mind for both as well, it’s just when you’re working independently, projects can take so much longer to plan, finance and execute.
Is there anything unique about yourself that you would like your readers to know?
I will pay cash for Little Chef merchandise and collections of kitsch or boring postcards. Can also swap for a fancy beer mat collection.
What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?
When songs transform from blocks of colour on a screen to something that fills a venue and surrounds people. Additionally, when other shy people listen to my music and comment positively on it, that carries a lot of weight.
What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career so far – and why?
Making ‘Gilded Cage’ and co-producing it with Deluxe Flamingos was transformative and completely restored the creativity and enjoyment I’d lost during ‘Verxes’. I love to see things other people have made that are cracked, bizarre and where you can pick out something new every time you hear it and I wanted to release an album which was as close to that ideal as possible, not anything designed to fit in with some transient, populist idea of relevance. There’s a brilliant animation by Daniella Shuhman about that, actually, it’s called ‘Advice to the Young Artist’ (watch here). On a local level, I received mentoring and funding from a community arts organisation on the Isle of Wight called The Mike Howley Trust, not long after moving here, which meant I could afford to get it mastered properly and have physical copies made. I cried when I found out I’d been given the funding. It was, and still is, a huge lifeline.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I’d like to do some remix swaps with other female producers and I’m hoping to do a collaborative album using reworked samples from ‘Gilded Cage’ but nothing’s definite there. Aside from that, I’m working on a couple of short comics and outside of music and illustration, it’d be good to do something as a collective with other people on the island to highlight the breadth of creative projects going on here – it might surprise people but there are a lot! I don’t think anywhere should be ignored just because it isn’t some cool, cocktails-in-a-jar metropolis. We’ve got a post box museum, for a start.
What’s the best bit of advice anyone has given you?
“Buy the gold pineapple if you want it.”
Who has had the biggest influence on your career, and how has that person changed your life?
My partner, who most recently learned how to use a bunch of new equipment and acted as my live backing band at a recent run of gigs because I lacked confidence after not playing live for two years and I sometimes suffer with panic attacks. You’ve got to admire someone who takes on such a big ask whilst wearing a giant bear head and a flowery dress.
Do you think it’s true that you should never meet your heroes?
I’ve never met them, so I couldn’t tell you. I’ve stood behind one and hyperventilated though.
We are at a bar, what are you drinking?
A fig Old Fashioned, or just Bourbon if that’s too pretentious or expensive.
What are your three favourite cities?
Amsterdam, San Francisco and Berlin, very closely followed by Helsinki and Tallinn which are both underrated and play host some excellent car boots.
What do you do to chill out?
I go to jumble sales or pick up sea glass on the beach.
What would you like to be your epitaph?
It depends on the death. If perishing in hilarious circumstances, I still stand by the description “more Frank Grimes than Grimes”, otherwise the last three lines of the last chorus from ‘In Your Neighbourhood’. I think that would be nice, maybe etched into a tombstone that looks like a Sony Trinitron TV set.
How can our readers discover more about you and your work? (ie website, social media, etc)
You can visit www.curxes.com where you can enjoy a wood cladding fetish and Pepto-Bismol-coloured carpets or find links to other online lairs. There’s also http://curxes.bandcamp.com which helps towards future projects, like that imaginary feature film or fancy tombstone I mentioned.
❉ ‘Gilded Cage’, the second album by Curxes, is out now: https://curxes.bandcamp.com/album/gilded-cage. Listen at Amazon, AWA, Bandcamp, Deezer, Google Play, iTunes/Apple Music, Music Glue and Spotify, among many other digital stores. If you’d like to find out more please visit: www.curxes.com