Billie Roa previously fronted the Toronto extreme metal band Anakra, and with her solo project, Billie Rogue brings that intensity into exciting new musical directions. The new Billie Rogue EP, Eclectric, is highly varied, bringing together thrashing guitars with dark, moody electronics and a multitude of influences. It showcases Roa’s range as a singer, as she is capable of aggressive metal growls, as well as strong mezzo-contralto vocals. In an email interview, Roa discussed her music and the Eclectric EP.
Could you discuss your musical background? I know that you’d previously been in Anakra. But what were your initial influences in becoming a musician? What effect did your experience in the band have on what you’re doing now as a solo artist?
This is a looong history. Stems all the way to my early childhood because since I was a little tot, I always wanted to be a ‘star’ haha. When my parents would watch TV, whether it’s showing movies or MTV–back when they actually showed music–I’d often imagine myself in those movies as the kickass character, or the cool singer in the music video. The rockstar dream started to manifest more when I was 8 years old; I got into Three Days Grace, then The Runaways. As I got older it would just get heavier and heavier.
Being in the band definitely affected the new sound ‘Eclectric’ represents. Initially it was because I wanted a clear division of myself as the front woman/lyricist of Anakra and as Billie Rogue, the solo project. I don’t see a point in having other projects when it’s nearly the same as your main one. I’m a metalhead by heart so Billie Rogue was initially just another metal act, but when I got into Anakra, they became the outlet for me to do all those extreme-death-vocal-headbanging-metal-schmetal things. Whereas for Billie Rogue, I didn’t know anymore and kinda had an identity crisis. Then one day I was suddenly inspired again after listening to ‘Army of Me’ by Bjork and ‘Head Like a Hole’. Lightbulb moment.
Also, I tried the acting thing for a bit–did not like it, but I got to be in this indie kung-fu x-mas film!
Do you feel that the approach or creative process has changed in any particular ways since your first solo recordings?
Big time. I realized how efficient songwriting to electronic music is–least for me. With rock/metal, songwriting was different because composing consisted of just yourself and an instrument in a room, rehearsing over and over before you even touch the ‘record’ button. Things move on much quicker now which makes me happy because I’m a slight neurotic with a sense of urgency.
The tracks on Eclectric are pretty varied sounding. As you write a song, do you tend to have a general idea of the sound and type of production it should have? Or does it come out of experimentation?
The tracks being varied was somewhat intentional actually, because I know I have an eclectic database of musical influences. I’d say it’s about 80 percent experimental and 20 percent already-made-decisions. The conscious decisions come from if I have a solid beat in my head, that I need to bring to life, or if I already have mixing strategies for production. The rest is a direct effect from my musical inspirations, media consumption and style aesthetics. Like for example, my production style is more raw, retro and imperfect because I love that about the 90s and early 2000s. It’s also ‘cus I’m lazy. I’m in a trance-like state when I’m creating due to the experimentation. When I’m playing with midi sounds, sampling and effects, it’s like a candy shop for me and I’m just putting everything in the basket like a little girl with sugar rush. I’m in the zone.
Following up on that, was making the EP varied a conscious decision, or did it just happen organically based on your interests/influences? Were you striving to make the songs sound different? Or did you reign any in to keep it somewhat cohesive?
Yes. It happened organically, I’d say, and took a plan-as-you-go method. I went in with whatever music and specific artists on my playlist had influenced me and just winged it. Deciding to even do the EP was a spontaneous decision in itself. I had no tracklist or anything. Subconsciously, I probably was striving to make each song sound different because the title of the EP is a wordplay of ‘eclectic’ and ‘electric’. And because I have diverse sources of musical inspirations, I don’t exactly stick to the same sound. Genre-fluidity!
I see that you produced the EP. Did you perform all the music? If not, could you discuss your collaborative process? (do you demo parts yourself and then bring in people for specific instruments, etc)
I did! Composed and self-produced–I played bass, guitar, vocals, midi programming. The only track that did involve other collaborators was the last one, “I’d look over my shoulder if I were you”. It’s the most post-metal-sounding one. I had my bestie, Braydan, and a fellow producer, Luc Chiasson, in on the drums. I’m still new to writing drum parts so what happened was I wanted Braydan to create a drum line for the song, since he plays drums, while I attempt the same. Then the next step was sending those drum recordings to Luc and have him compare and eventually re-program ’em to sound like a real drummer.
Is the music on Eclectric intended to be performed live as shows start up again, and if so, how do you see it adapting to the live setting?
Heck yeah. Doing gigs, though it can be daunting, is the most fun an artist can have in their music career. It’s actually funny you ask what my plan is because I’m in the middle of curating a live duo consisting of just me and a drummer (again, Braydan). After being in a band, I realized it’s not the thing for me–but I know that even if I perform to a backing track, I need a drummer on stage to help bring the heft and adrenaline to the crowd. Bray and I will be jamming in a rehearsal space and seeing how it’ll all work out so we can be prepared–cus when live performances come back, I don’t want to be left behind!
I’ve noticed that more and more artists have been putting out EPs recently, for various reasons. Was it obvious that you wanted to put out Eclectric as an EP rather than adding a few more tracks for an album release?
It’s because the newer generations’ attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, sadly. With music being accessible..and music-making being accessible, it’s like a free-for-all and quantity comes into play. The reason I wanted ‘Eclectric’ to be an EP is because I knew I could get it done quickly and my sense of urgency was from the fact that I haven’t released anything in a while at the time of its conception. I also really only had 5 songs in mind. The way I see an EP is like a prologue to your story. I’m introducing myself–my new self .
Now that the EP is out, what are your plans for the immediate future? Are there any upcoming singles or videos? Are you planning any performances (online or in-person)?
To maintain tradition, I’m already working on a follow-up, full-length album! Got a track list scribbled out and a name too. And a new single is coming! I’ll release it in, I think, about a month, or so, from now when the hype of ‘Eclectric’ is probably dying. That same single will be on the album as well, actually. Other than that, I’m going to college and am aiming to play local gigs around my city and the rest of the Greater Toronto Area–preferably in person. I don’t think I’ll be touring or doing music videos just yet until the album is done…and I get a driver’s license. LOL.
For more info, visit : billieroguemusic.com.