interview | samantha urbani

Photography / Gina Canavan

The complications of life are such that, at times, may place the everyman into a bemused stupor. Various artists have attempted to frolic with issues of heartbreak, identity, authority, control, and loss. However, the reconceptualising and rewriting of such issues must be taken with a brave face and sincere desire to experiment with the concreteness and familiarity of life. Samantha Urbani’s pioneering approach to these issues takes lyrical and musical euphoria to new heights.

From working with the conceptual punk-pop band Friends to collaborating with former boyfriend Blood Orange, Urbani has really learnt how to process meaning through several aesthetic filters before using language to articulate herself. Urbani’s debut solo EP Policies of Power jousts with the larger concepts of life in order to externalise thought, engaging her audience in the imaginative and interpretative capacities of human existence. In her hands, various emotional predicaments come under extreme tension. These dynamic voices do not merely hover over her songs but become integral to the shaping of her EP. Having “written hundreds of songs over the last 5 years”, Urbani considers it was time to “consolidate a small collection of songs [in order to] break the ice of a new era for myself.”

Photography / Gina Canavan

Her latest EP features the empowering and headstrong ‘Hints and Implications’, with lines like ‘there’s no more, there’s no more, needing you’, and more nostalgic and romantically invested tracks such as ‘Time Time Time’ – the whole collection is filled with small selections of pop’s past. This rather overt reaching back into past experiences and recollections is Urbani’s way of projecting her own current emotions and ideas onto the medium, something well known in the pop scene. As such, her music is much “more of a meditation rather than a spectacle.”

Explaining the significance of her EP, Urbani voices that “grouping 5 or 6 songs together for each body of work allows me to create small cohesive worlds one at a time.” In Policies of Power this ‘world’ is one in which a young woman grapples with the many wrongs in personal relationships with a captivating intensity. In doing so, she reaches out to her audience and calls on them to question such wrongs without any trepidation. Such boldness may come from the beginnings of her career. “We were a bunch of kids with no money, no big contracts or professional networks, really just manifesting what we wanted to see [and] experience culturally or what we wanted to hear sonically,” Urbani explains. Through this, Urbani has learnt has to be tough and resourceful, championing a “be-the-change-you-wish-to-see ethos that continues to be invaluable in an industry that can at times feel dominated by very capitalistic and narrow pathways to success.”

This very explicit and vigorous outpouring of strength and power is what Urbani really wishes to home in on. “After moving back and forth between NYC and LA with no real anchor or support system, I could feel that I was going through a Saturn-return type metamorphosis, a pretty psychedelic upheaval of infrastructure and expectation,” she recalls. It is precisely this sensation that’s mirrored in her music. As she herself puts it, “[I try to be] very intentional in highlighting that frenetic, surreal dynamism in the arrangement and production of each song.” Having been very obstinate against authority and its pressures, Urbani has had to grapple with the stresses and anxieties of being open and free with her musical inventions. 

Policies of Power is “maximalist”, says Urbani. What makes it so, she explains, is the lack of “the resources to record a live band”, historically having been her strong point when being in Friends, and in turn the need to be resourceful with “my songwriting, my ideas, and a friend who is a total magician in producing solely on a laptop.” Urbani is very open about the ‘limitations’ surrounding the creation of her music but, having managed to create “a huge sonic world just from a couple instruments and a computer in a tiny basement”, these limitations make her music that bit much more admirable.

“I have so much that’s nearly ready to go,” she teases about future plans. Being an avid admirer of the past and its novelties, it is not at all surprising that Urbani wishes to “revisit older projects and bring them back to life in new ways”. Nonetheless, her eccentricity and quickness of imagination with of course bring about fresh and renewed forms of art. “I can’t wait to put more things out, stuff that is really new and exciting to me,” she says. Open-mindedness is a must with this musical genius.

Policies of Power is out now and available here.

Words / Marianna Mukhametzyanova

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