New York City
Ana Lola Roman
A is for Ana
Ah wanna tell ya ‘bout a girl…
Ana Lola Roman is a singer, a musician, a dancer, a choreographer, a curator, a writer. She’s talented and beautiful, funny and smart. Has the looks of a silent movie star, a Louise Brooks in a Pabst film, with a hint of Audrey Hepburn, via Maria Callas and and Frida Kahlo.
An only child born in the early 1980s into a large Spanish family, that had emigrated to America, “during the whole Iranian Revolution Post-Oil Boom Era” in the late 1970s. The first 5 years were spent in a ghetto of Del City, on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. The family worked hard, worked harder, until they settled into a middle class suburb of OKC.
Her home life was European by nature, American by inclination. A heady mix of European sophistication and American pop, which informed her musical influences.
‘I’d have to say my first influences were a heaping helping of various flamenco singers listened to while in the back of my Grandmother’s Cadillac. It was a weird mix of environments and influences. Gracia Montes and Lola Flores…well, these women had soul, heartache, moxie, and power.
‘Mixed with that and the impending sensations of early MTV. I fell in love with David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” video when I was only 5 years old, developed a keen fascination with Numan’s “Cars”, and felt delightfully inappropriate when I witnessed Billy Idol’s curved lip.
‘I was only 5 years old when these things happened to me. And I knew right then that I wasn’t going to last long where I was. I was going to be restless for the rest of my life and end up somewhere as crazy as New York or Berlin.’
‘Then of course being 10 years old and seeing Siouxsie….that’s when everything fell apart and got worse, then I felt bitten by the vampire when Joy Division came along. That was the end of the road for my Oklahoma Journey.’
L is for Lola
The aims and ambitions that sated one generation soon constrict the next. Understandable that life in OCK would never be enough for Ana Lola.
‘I learned real early that glamor comes from hard work and telling the truth. I’ve always wanted to be a war correspondent-journalist or Olympic Gymnast. I wanted to be the female Anais Nin/Hunter S. Thompson sort of mixture. Real crazy and sensitive but I don’t like hard drugs or liquor and I stayed a virgin as long as humanly possible so I didn’t have the back bone. What was left? Well, the Olympics.
‘Then there was the accident. 3 Years of gymnastics under my belt. 9 Years old. I was flying high, I was the next Nadia Comaneci. And while I was doing flips I even managed to get parts in the Dance Classes my aunt choreographed and taught. I was in lots of recitals doing South Pacific, Grease, and West Side Story.
‘My Aunt was a Prima Ballerina and basically introduced the whole state of Oklahoma to Modern Dance, she had a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude. So it was when I finally broke my collar bone at age 9 from slipping off the high bar because my flip in the air was off, I became equally hard on myself. Hospital stay and wearing a shoulder and back brace for 3 months straight, no school, no movement, disoriented, I healed completely. My parents were absolutely against me doing anything physical ever again. No way. Piano was the extent of it. So my mom checked me into piano lessons ONLY so I could learn “Ave Maria” because it was the only song she wanted me to play for her. Unfortunately one thing lead to another and I just became addicted. I went on to play Tchaikovsky, Grieg, etc. and bad versions of Joy Division and Wire.
‘I was hungry all the time. My stomach growls. It still does. All the time. My eyes and ears are always open and darting around. I have real annoying super-antennae. My piano teacher even knew something in me was a force to be reckoned with. I can’t control it. Look, what motivated me? You mean when did I snap? There’s always a moment when you’re younger, if you’re a real artist, when you realize you have no choice. You snap. Well, after I witnessed the Oklahoma City bombing at age 13 and at the same time getting over my first boyfriend that had just dumped me, I remember looking up at my piano and bass guitar one night, alone in my room with only me and a picture of James Dean above my bed and the voice came to me: It said “ANA FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE IT’S EITHER GOING TO BE constant doses of Creativity and Music or constant doses of Prescription Medication. YOU CHOOSE.
‘I chose life.’
R is for Roman
Tell em about your earliest recordings?
Ana Lola Roman: ‘My earliest recordings, earliest-earliest were always so experimental, but tipping towards acoustic and songwriter. I didn’t know how to do much except keep my mouth shut and play dead composers’ songs on piano. Then I moved to New York and really learned how to move and assert myself sonically. That’s when I got my lips and hips and earned my broken heart badge.’
How did you make them?
Ana Lola Roman: ‘Tape machines, four-tracks, and while undergrad in between journalism and political science classes I would sneak into the Music Department recording booths with boom mics and one guy helping me rig the piano and sing away. Of course this would take hours and I’d end up missing my classes.’
How do you write songs?
Ana Lola Roman: ‘I spent 6 months doing photography right before I wrote this album…and that’s what led me to it. In the same breath, I like to learn from Choreography, especially Butoh and Flamenco, and all the technical aspects of different music programs. I am constantly building my brain as sonically as humanly possible. And for one thing, Every morning I wake up I’m fully aware that my voice is AN INSTRUMENT FIRST and a verbalization SECOND. If I have something to say, I’ll just say it. I don’t need a lover or some boyfriend or death or drama to get my ticker going. I’ve got a lot of history in me already. I deeply admire physics, silence and the sounds of nature and industry. I have really bad science and math envy. I read about history, politics, and I pick up the occasional French Vogue. In reality, it varies. There’s no one process that I transmit. And to boot, it’s a fucking secret.’
Ana Lola Roman’s life reads like a film-script, a well-thumbed paperback to be filed under Passion and Art. Her music is where the Avant Garde meets 1980s synth pop. You can dance to it, you can love to it, you can fuck to it, you can feel to it, you can think to it, you can be who the hell you want to be to it. Her music is best defined by something Luis Bunuel wrote about the Artist.
‘In any society, the artist has a responsibility. His effectiveness is certainly limited and a painter or writer cannot change the world. But they can keep an essential margin of non-conformity alive.’
It’s the non-conformity that makes Ana Lola Roman the artist that she is. Over the past 2 years, Ana has toured Europe, connecting with audiences across the continent, especially in Germany, where she recorded in the hidden landmark of Teufelsberg, an abandoned CIA station located outside of Berlin.
‘Europe is a hoot. Because no matter where I am I’m always “exotic” or “spanish” or “Hey, Brooklyn!” and then when I’m in Brooklyn it’s “yo, aren’t you from Berlin?”
‘Europe gave me a lot of backbone and was the stomping ground of where this album, (Even Assassins Have Lovers and Romances) was conceived, and not easily. The first people to hear these songs live before anyone in the states heard them was all around Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Copenhagen, Vienna, the slums and warehouses of Leipzig, loft parties in Ljubljana, etc. This was in late 2009 and the Spring/Summer of 2010. I just had to see if I had something, and it was validated more than I could have ever imagined. I knew the United States would not embrace or nurture what I had and what I was a about to do—-at least in the beginning. And maybe it still won’t and I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m well-taken care of in Europe. Always.
But before I went to Europe…I was really hiding a lot of myself. I didn’t know who I was. There was a sensuality that came from it too. In Europe it was okay for me to be alone, with only a laptop, notebook, mixer, knapsack, my leather jacket, black t-shirt, black pants uniform, my pixie cut, and my small midi keyboard strapped to my shoulder, hopping from train to train, station to station. My hotels and hosts always looked out for me, everything was always paid for. I had rides everywhere and joints handed to me freely. I was nurtured and encouraged by complete strangers whether they were huge tattooed Nordic men, moody drunk Germans, or coked up Czechs in train stations with knives in their pockets. That never would have happened in the states…’
More importantly, Europe taught Ana how to perform, how to give everything in a performance, how to “show [her] guts”.
‘I remember one night in Hamburg I failed to show my guts and this man came up to me and said ” You are going to pay me back my 10 Euro. I came all the way from Rostock to see you play and you lied through your whole performance. I wanted to see you burst. I wanted to see you show your guts and get in everyone’s face. Next time I see you, you will do this.” I cried for days. But I learned. Europe is always honest and forgiving, I hope to make it up to that man from Rostock’
In April, Ana released her EP Keep It Mellow, a selection of synth songs that hit fast and brought in an impressive selection of reviews from New York, London, Berlin and Japan. Now, she is putting the finishing touches to her long awaited, debut album Even Assassins Have Lovers and Romances, out later this summer, and is at the start of organizing her US and European tours. But even with all this going on, Ana is not fazed.
‘Maybe someday in the near future I’ll become a pixie-hobbit living in a hut somewhere with really expensive high heels and a killer dishwasher. FOR NOW, I’d like to stay alive to see the future as long as possible. To travel for days on a pagoda and record that experience. To make another album in Haiti, Brazil, Australia, and South Africa. Aims are to dance, sing, write, and take care of my friends and lovers. I’d really like to make a decent apple pie and master a good pie crust. One of my ambitions, if you can call it that, is to somehow keep an ocelot as a pet where it’s legal and have the Ocelot not kill me in my sleep. To visit James Dean’s town and camp near his grave in Indiana. I’d like to make a side project out of that. Oh, and I’d like to make some money while I’m at it. It’d be nice to pay my parents back for all the crap they’ve bailed me out of because I chose to be an artist and engage in pathological Peter Pan behavior.’
Ana Lola Roman plays Rituals NYC 26th June; Brooklyn Wildlife 4th Of July Celebrations, July 4 2012; and July 14, 2012 LADIES OF EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC NYC Special Set with Snakyhunt and TAIGA founder of Tom Tom Magazine.