LiB: Behind the Scenes with CloZee
Amid syncopated bass drops and house rhythms, CloZee’s Lightning in a Bottle set resonated with audiences craving the unexpected. At 23 years old, France’s CloZee has risen meteorically in the world of glitch hop. Indeed, just three years into producing, she is already a master. Although her sounds are well known in the electronic music scene, her story less so. After catching her spellbinding LiB set we sat down backstage over iced chai and chatted in her native French about her inspirations, the Euro scene, festie style and more. (Translation my own).
Sensible Reason: You have been busy on the American Festival circuit this season. Where do you prefer to perform, in the US or in Europe?
CloZee: In Europe it is still all about deep house. Almost nobody has heard of glitch music. When I play in France, I have to modify my ideal sound to suit their taste. European audiences prefer constant, predictable beats.
SR: Festivals like this seem to meld the European origins of electronic music with the transformational elements found in Burning Man. How do you see yourself fitting into these two worlds?
CZ: Americans seem much freer with their experimentation, both in terms of style and sound. They feel less of a need to control their experience, which really appeals to me.
SR: Have you been to Burning Man?
CZ: Not yet. I’d love to go but I can’t afford it.
SR: There’s a misconception that if you’re performing at a festival that you’ve made it. People probably assume you bounce between homes in France and in the U.S. Can you set the record straight? What’s the reality of being a working producer in your genre.
CZ: [Laughs] Wow, it is definitely a myth that we are rich! I am finally at the point where producing and performing is my only job, but I had to move back in with my parents in order to make that feasible. I travel back and forth from festivals in the U.S. And recently Costa Rica, so it would be impossible to make ends meet if I had to keep up my own household at home. I don’t aspire to be rich. I just want to self-sufficiently make music.
SR: During your set I transitioned between watching you and watching your audience and it seemed very much like you had them under your spell.
CZ: I love it when artists deliver the unexpected, so that is what I try to do for my audiences, too. American festival audiences are great because they are willing to listen and go where I take them. They are more open to organic sounds and experiences.
SR: Some of that comes through even in festival styles. Festie girls are known for ultra-feminine styles, and may show up in nothing more than lingerie. In contrast, you perform in jeans with your hair pulled back into a practical ponytail.
CZ: It’s true. My style is masculine.
SR: I would say “athletic.”
CZ: Athletic. I like that. Yes, it’s true that I don’t have great style [laughs], but I’m here to offer music, not a visual experience. There are women in my field, but it is dominated by men, and my job is to be a producer.
SR: You are also a classically-trained musician. How does that influence your music?
CZ: I have played classical guitar for years and continue to play. I wish I could bring my guitar on the road with me, but it’s just too cumbersome. My classical training has given me an ear for sounds that I like to incorporate into my music. You’ll hear flamenco, as well as traditional sounds from Eastern Europe, India, and South America. I also play bass on stage and would love to incorporate more live music.
SR: What about live vocals? Is that a direction you could see yourself going?
CZ: Yes, for sure. I’m at work on a new project back in France that is starting to experiment with this. I would love to incorporate voices like those of Ibeyi [twin sisters who also performed at LiB].
SR: You didn’t just show up, perform your set, and take off. You’re also attending the festival. How has your LiB experience been?
CZ: I love Lightning in a Bottle! I’m inspired by so many artists performing here. This is definitely among my three favorite festivals in the world!
With this, we wrapped up our interview. CloZee graciously agreed to let me photograph her for this story, but made it clear that she is not especially comfortable in front of a camera. After snapping off a few frames, I mentioned to her that one of the most striking elements of her performance is the way she moves her hands in a wave-like motion far in front of her while she plays. I asked if I might refocus away from her face. She welcomed the idea of the attention being on her instrument — her hands — with her face blurred in the distance. She loved the resulting “portrait,” which is pure CloZee; playful, focused and humble to an enchanting fault.