On her lockdown album, Vertigo
In this week’s UoA Artist Spotlight, we kōrero with Ilena, an artist in Tāmaki Makaurau. Ilena works with several different mediums, but most recently released her lockdown-perfected album Vertigo along with music videos for several tracks. She’s currently studying Fine Arts, English, and Screen Production.
How did you manage to produce this album while studying? Where are you at with all of your studies?
Last year, I took the whole year off to focus solely on music. I did the Producer Development Course at Parachute Studios in Kingsland. I thought it would be nice to try and focus on one thing for once. So, the album’s a product of that year… and having the time to just focus on that completely, rather than music being something I’m doing on the side, something in the evening that is cathartic.
It’s like studying in a different capacity… How do you feel like that year off kind of adjusted your process musically?
I learned a lot more that year about how music can be more viable, and actually more of a career choice because I was seeing how producers work in their studios, like five days a week and meeting people in the kitchen… who are doing music full-time and seeing it in more of a business sense. Not that it lost all the creative aspects, but just seeing people fully immersed in that life… It was very validating for me because I felt like I was doing this process in more of a supportive environment.
It helped formalise my process as well… [During lockdown] I was like, how can I still find a good and productive method of working? I would often adopt the viewpoint of art, like… if the inspiration hasn’t gripped you, then why try making a song? But for me, I found it quite helpful just to try and do a little bit every day.
And that meant working towards the final album of Vertigo?
All of the songs and Vertigo were made during the lockdown at the end of last year. So, it’s kind of my little lockdown album, I guess. But yeah, as soon as we weren’t allowed into the studios or anything… I spent all that time walking, making really long meals, or trying to make music and, considering how hectic that time was, it was relatively productive for me.
After that, I wanted to try and bolster it a bit more and do music videos and re-record the vocals in studio. That was really fun. It was actually made in quite a short, fruitful amount of time, it was still taking on everything that I had learned from that year.
I feel like I was noticing a really intentional structuring of this album.
I was actually going to release [Vertigo] as two separate EPS, but… there were two very different moods… the first half was more upbeat and fun. The second half had more like serious subject matter and was more low key as well, sonically. That’s why there’s an interlude between them, because I did want to still separate them, then I just thought, functionally, it felt as if it would be easier if I just did it as one album… but yeah, it was supposed to be kind of like an A side and a B side.
Is there anything that you hope that this music offers to listeners?
It’s weird to think about who’s listening to the album, because I never really think of that… I mean, all of my lyrics always pertain to very specific situations. I think my lyrics can be vague enough that people can really apply them to whatever circumstance they’re in… not that art has to be relatable, kind of a dead word, [laughs] but like, I hope there is some kind of relatability to be gleaned from that.