Alt-Pop Artist Victoria Reed Releases New Album
V got the chance to talk to the tarot card reading musician, where she dived into her unique inspirations for 'Aquamadre.'
V got the chance to talk to the tarot card reading musician, where she dived into her unique inspirations for 'Aquamadre.'
Text: Sam Ford
Her father is Alto Reed, one of rock's most famous saxophonists, and her mother was a PlayBoy bunny. Her family psychic was also Jimi Hendrix's psychic. With a family history that interesting, Victoria Reed and her alt-pop discography carry on those eclectic influences. Detroit-bred and now Mexico City-based, the artist just released her second album Aquamadre today via Fisica Moderna Records/AWAL, which is available here.
The album fuses sounds from the '70s and '90s and was mainly recorded in her Mexico City home, working with producer Autre Ne Veut and her life partner Erik Deutsch, who has worked with Leftover Salmon, Citizen Cope, and Norah Jones. Reed set out to find the salve for pain within her 10 track album, searching for remediation through the chaos in moments of both calmness and emotionality.
V got the chance to talk to the wisdom-filled Reed, where she dived into her own practice of tarot card reading and extensive knowledge of astrology, a childhood spent backstage at rock concerts and her unique inspirations for Aquamadre.
V Magazine Your new album Aquamadre is out today; can you tell me about some of your inspirations, sound, and lyric-wise, for the tracks on the album? What were some other inspirations?
Victoria Reed The name "Aquamadre" was inspired by a few symbols of guidance that for me, really represented my intent for this record and also the headspace I was in while making it. It’s a name that's part astrology (the sign of Aquarius), part tarot (the Queen of Cups), and part feminist ode to my Piscerian-Italian mother and grandmother. It also happens to be derivative of my first ever screen name “Aquagurlz” shared between my sister and me circa 1997 in honor of the band ‘Aqua.' Which felt totally appropriate considering some of the sonic inspiration for this record. While my songwriting style is more informed by the 70’s classics, a lot of what I find myself referencing in the studio is full-on '90s. If you listen closely, you might find some shades of Annie Lennox in there, a little Sade, PJ Harvey, early Air. I actually took everyone on a Spice Girls deep dive one day while recording, pointing out things like the perfect example of 90’s pop chimes.
I was also deeply inspired by the experience I've had with EMDR therapy and some other tools I've picked up along the way for learning how to heal from trauma and feel at ease with myself and in the world. It all inevitably makes it's way into what I write about, and I've always been moved by the idea of being able to share some of that with the world through my music, crystalizing, and embodying important growth and life lessons in my songs.
V What’s it like collaborating with your husband on your music?
VR It’s really special. I met him in the studio on the first day of recording my first record, so we’ve been collaborating together since the day we met. And what luck! He is so immensely talented as a solo artist and bandleader, and he also has this magical gift for being able to tune into the needs of the project at hand. I’ll admittedly catch myself taking for granted at times how fortunate I am to have his talents so readily available to me and my projects. He cares so much about my music and also gives so much to it all, it's pretty amazing to have such a genius and passionate ally.
And there are also challenges of course! We’re both what I would call ‘leaders,' and we also have fairly different dispositions in the studio, so there’s definitely been a bit of a learning curve that we’ve had to navigate over the years in terms of our dynamic. While he’s more inclined to be super open and flexible with things, I tend to have these really strong, immediate reactions that sometimes make it hard for me to give things a chance. If I hear a certain sound that I’m not into, I feel it so viscerally, that it’s hard for me not to want to scrap it right away. So I’ve had to learn how to loosen up a bit and just let things breathe sometimes, and he’s perhaps had to learn how to maybe just accept that that’s how I am.
We actually joked that Autre was like our musical couples counselor during the making of this album. He sort of exists somewhere in between our respective dispositions. We also both feel really respected by him, and trust in his taste so much that we could happily defer to him in any slight moment of an impasse. It helped make things less personal, which is a difficult feat considering the nature of it all. I think Erik and I learned a lot more about what our middle ground looked and felt like during the process.
V Your family is deeply tied to some of music’s most influential figures, with your father being famous saxophonist Alto Reed and your family psychic giving readings to none other than Jimi Hendrix. How does that play into your music, but also your life?
VR I’m certain that it made me more inclined towards pursuing a life in music. I grew up so surrounded by it, that though there were some detours here and there, I honestly never seriously considered doing anything else with my life. My parents would always talk about the magic and importance of Bob Seger’s songwriting. And though they never ever pushed it on us, my sister and I definitely absorbed it, and were both genuinely inspired to start writing songs from a very young age. I never really had a diary that wasn’t anything more than a passing vanity project, instead, I’d write songs to process my emotions. So as early as middle school, songwriting had become a pretty vital function of my being.
There’s also something to be said for being six years old and sitting on the side of the stage at arenas. It was so much fun and completely exhilarating, there’s no way that didn’t impact me in a way that made some part of me think, “That! That’s what I’d like to do with my life.”
V I’d love to hear more about your own personal relationship with tarot cards and astrology; how and why did you first get into it? In what ways do tarot and astrology impact your music?
VR I grew up in a Greek Orthodox family, and yet my parents were pretty open spiritually and super into the mystical and psychic arts. They had spirit guides that they would commune with and talk about at the dinner table as if they were members of the family! Which to be honest always kind of freaked me out, but when they hired an astrologer to come to my 13th birthday party, I immediately took to it. I’ve been viewing the world, my relationships, and myself through the lens of astrology to some degree ever since. I find it to be such a helpful tool for self-reflection and understanding. I’ve studied both formally and informally over the years and started offering birth chart readings a couple of years back. There’s also a lot of bad (scary, fatalistic) information out there on astrology, so it’s important to me to be able to reframe it for people in a positive and empowering way that includes the element of free will.
While writing this album, I had recently become totally obsessed with a significant point that we all have in our charts called the North and South Nodes. The North Node points to the direction of our highest good in this lifetime, or what we are meant to embrace and embody to feel fulfilled and fully realized. The South Node indicates where we’re coming from (maybe in past lives even), what our comfort zone is, and what we’re meant to release in this lifetime. Whatever sign it’s in will indicate our natural gifts in life, but we’re essentially being asked to be really conscious about releasing any lower or more negative expressions of that particular sign. For me, overly simplified, that’s a journey from the image-conscious, praise driven, and adoration seeking sign of Leo, to the humanitarian leaning, bringer of the new age, embrace-your-freak-flag sign of Aquarius. I got really into what that meant for me in my life and as an artist, and it definitely informed a lot of what I was writing about at the time of making this record, and the style in which I was processing things and creating.
As for tarot, Autre Ne Veut says that he’s never had so many consecutive tarot readings in his life than during the making of this album. We were definitely on a major tarot trip! I've been into all types of oracle cards since I worked at a spiritual spa in college where we had tons of decks on hand to pull from throughout the day. And yet sometimes I’ll go weeks without even touching a card. Sometimes it simply feels more helpful than others for whatever reason.
V You just made a huge move, from Brooklyn to Mexico City; what have you loved the most about Mexico City? What do you think Mexico City offers you in terms of creativity or inspiration that Detroit/Brooklyn didn't offer?
VR This city and country are so completely inspiring! I grew up in Detroit, but also Miami, Florida, and though I cherish my upbringing in Detroit, I always felt this feeling of arrival and rightness upon landing in Miami. So the idea of living in a Latin country had always appealed to me. My husband Erik brought me to CDMX for the first time in 2014, and it wasn’t long before I began fantasizing about moving here. He had come here on tour with Charlie Hunter about 13 years back, and had been returning and building connections here ever since, so it actually made some sense.
I absolutely love the energy of this city. It’s a bit wild here, totally frenetic, and there’s an abundance of excitement and creativity. And yet it’s somehow simultaneously, super laid back! I find it to be extremely supportive to my artistic process. It also doesn’t hurt to have space! Back in Brooklyn, we lived in a loft that was a gem of an NYC apartment but was also essentially only one big room. Here, we actually have space for a home studio and a guest room to host all of our favorite musical collaborators from New York and beyond, which meant we were able to record almost the entire record at home. It’s a dream come true! And it made for a really relaxed environment with a lot less pressure, super conducive to being at full creative power. If I went to sing, and it wasn’t quite feeling right, we could just go for a walk, take a nap, eat a cookie, pull some tarot cards, have some mezcal, etc. and revisit again later when things felt better. It’s pretty great to have that luxury without having to worry about the money that’s flying out the window every second that’s wasted when recording in a studio for hire.
V With the pandemic causing live music to grind to a halt, what are a few of your plans for the future with regards to Covid-19? What are some plans you have despite the pandemic?
VR It’s really hard for me to think about making any plans for the future currently. I tend to be a pretty future-oriented person, always dreaming up schemes and fantasies about what it can hold. But I’ve been finding it more important than ever to be present right now. The future is just so unclear, that when I find myself going into it too much, the whole world starts to feel a bit topsy-turvy.
So at the moment, it’s all about adaptation. I made the decision to call off the entire tour I had been planning in support of my album release just days before it was actually announced. So now I’m learning the art of the live stream concert! Lucky for me, my quarantine mate happens to be my favorite collaborator and bandmate, and we’ve got plenty of gear, so I’m not in bad shape to pull it off! While it’s a far cry away from real deal shows IRL, I’m a can’t-help-but-to-find-the-silver-lining kind of person, and there is something exciting about this whole strange new way of making a connection that’s emerging in the music world right now. For example, I’m taking over the Instagram account of one of my favorite clothing brands, Paloma Wool, for my album release show as a part of the Instagram live performance series they started a few weeks back. That wouldn’t have even been a thing a couple of months ago.
If one thing is clear to me right now it’s that the world needs music and healing escapes more than ever. So I feel fortunate to be able to have at least a little something to offer in that realm during this time.