10 Questions with Charles, L.A.'s New DIY Multi-Talent
Anyone who follows Weirdo Music Forever knows we've been enjoying Charles for a while now. It's been quite a year for the DIY artist in the realms of video, music, and media, so we were thrilled that she was receptive to answering some of our burning questions. We talked recording, cassettes, influences, and more.
Bobby Weirdo: Hi Charles! Thanks so much for doing this interview. First, I should say that I love your release That’s How Baby Learns, which I have on cassette. Was there a reason you decided to release those songs in cassette tape format?
Charles: It makes me feel really good that you enjoyed it, and own it on tape. So cool. I released it that way because Post Pop offered, and I was flattered. I'm fine with it being released tangibly in any form really. How is it possible I've outlived tapes and CDs long enough that they are both making a comeback? That is so wrong.
BW: The album is full of great tracks, but “Hollywood Rabbi” is certainly a standout. Is there a story behind that track?
C: There's a personal story to all of my songs... All my songs are the same song... I kind of would like to get out of that habit, but I don't think I will. It's a love song about my bf.
BW: You’ve said that you recorded those songs on a Casio keyboard and iPhone, and then through Garage Band. Did you use anything else instrument-wise and recording gear-wise?
C: My memory is bad, but I think that's basically all I used. I didn't even understand the concept of bass a year ago - which is embarrassing - so it's completely just keyboard and voice. [On] my new album I play all sorts of things: sax, guitar, bass, keyboard, etc.
BW: I’ve read that you recorded That’s How Baby Learns in your bedroom, and I’ve also read that you recorded it in your car. Are both true? Just one? Neither?
C: Both are true. I typically recorded instrumentals in my bedroom and then would tell my roommate I was "going somewhere," but actually just sat in my car doing vocals in private for hours on end.
BW: I believe you’ve said that the soundtrack to Napoleon Dynamite was one of the earliest influences on your music. What have you been listening to lately for inspiration?
C: Yeah. I've been emailing John Swihart for years. [That's] the best score. People think I'm joking. It's basically just old midwestern organ funk. It's amazing. Lately I've been inhaling all kinds of music. I recently finished listening to every single Metallica album ever made. That was great. I'm really just a fan of a "good song" of any genre. Any song that is catchy is inspiring to me. I love pop music. Rihanna's new album is TOTALLY genius. Kate Bush continuously blows me away. Every time I hear her my face instantly falls into the palms of my hands and I vow to quit recreational music-making out of respect for her. I've really been feeling the song "Gentle Persuasion" by Doug Hream Blunt, and "Pillow Talk" by Lustt. Skylar from Puro showed me that gem. I don't wanna make electronic 80's sounding music, but that song is definitely inspirational for the melody. And her voice is so soft....I am jealous.
BW: Even though you’re 20 years old, your skill set and portfolio are diverse. You were recently interviewed and photographed for Playboy, you direct and edit film projects, and you were also dubbed “L.A.’s hottest music talent”. Do you feel you’re predominantly a film director who also plays music, a musician who works with film and modeling, or perhaps something else?
C: I don't know. I feel occupationally transgendered. I still think of myself as an editor/director and someone who just does music for fun. It is SO cool that there are people who are into it, and call me those nice things. I feel pretty inadequate musically, so it's very amusing. And wonderful. I'm thankful for the kind words.
Also, let's get this straight: I have nothing to do with modeling. I have been suckered into a few things, but it's the worst thing. There are enough photos. Playboy was great though, because I got to "art direct" it and do it from my room.
BW: You recently directed and edited the Weyes Blood video for “Seven Words”. How did that come about, and what was the process like?
C: That was so fun. Natalie approached me sort of out of nowhere to do it, and for some reason trusted me. I'm a video editor/director before I am anything else, so it was a great job opportunity for me. She's one of the most talented and timeless singers I know. [I'm] totally jealous. Also, [she's] so nice to work with. She has an eye that most musicians don't have as far as video editing goes. Usually I like to work alone editing, but she sees things I don't sometimes, which helped in making it a great video. We will be shooting another Weyes Blood video this upcoming January.
BW: I see that you communicate online with the legendary R. Stevie Moore, and he’s told me that he’s a fan of your music. I’m a fan of both of you, so I’m curious – do you feel that there are similarities between you and Stevie, and if so, what are those similarities?
C: RSM - I love him. I think the fact that we both record out of our houses makes us similar, but I think we sound different. I'm gonna ask him to do a song with me sometime. I'm breaking the ice now via saying that in this interview in case he sees it.
BW: From what I understand, you’ve been called “Charles” in your personal life for years, and that’s also the name you record and perform music under. When you record and put out your music as “Charles” rather than Charlotte, is there an artistic persona involved, or is it just you going by your nick name? Is there any difference between Charles and Charlotte?
C: Charles is definitely not a persona. It really is just my name. My birth name is Charlotte. I've always felt pretty masculine and having that name further enforces that problem. Or helps. I don't know. My first "album" was Cactus Milk. That felt very "Charlotte" and feminine to me. Too feminine. In fact it doesn't even represent me at all really at this point. That's How Baby Learns is so "Charles". A blend of both feminine and masculine.
BW: I’ve heard you have at least one live show coming up soon, and have invested in recording equipment (a mic and keyboard) for a new album. Can we expect live shows and a new Charles album in the near future?
C: Yes. Absolutely. I am recording for fun at the moment. I think I will release a new album early-to-mid 2017. I'm really excited. I’m narcissistic about this stuff and I really like posting my songs on the Internet and reading the comments. It lets me enjoy it through someone else. And yeah -- [I] definitely will play shows with a band in the upcoming year.