We love discovering new music here at SheRa Mag and when the New York songstress Aimee deBeer’s atmospheric track “Oblivion” came across my desk, I immediately wanted to know more about this girl! Aimee’s music is a mélange of analog synths, electric guitar, and lush harmonies…and the overall sound is introspective and dreamlike. I chatted to Aimee about her influences, what she thinks about hypersexualization in music videos, and being compared to Lana Del Rey.
When and why did you get into music?
As a child, my parents moved around often. I was born in South Africa and eventually wound up in Texas with a British accent. My nickname at three was “Boomer,” because I had this big voice and wouldn’t stop singing—I also have a third grade report card with a similar complaint…distracting the other children with song. I’d have to say though, that from all the traveling and uncertainty, I felt a bit alien and alone. I think this feeling of isolation really led me to seek out music—to find a sense of companionship with the musicians whose stories I heard and felt—and a way to indulge my escapism.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
Some of the most random stuff! Once I got my hands on a walkman, I spent all my pocket money on used CDs at bookstores—hunting covers I liked, as well as stealing them from family members. Bob Marley because of my mom, Queen from my dad, Elvis because of my grandmother, and lots of old country music since I was in Texas and that was my favorite radio station. From skimming the shelves of other people’s rejects, I fell for Joni Mitchell’s Hissing of Summer Lawns, Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, some weird Prince compilation, and Ani DiFranco’s Not a Pretty Girl. I also started studying classical music when I was 10, and went to the opera often with my father, so that was always around. He introduced me to Fleetwood Mac too, after deeming me a “hippie.” I wasn’t completely unaware of music other kids my age were listening to, though, so when the time came to choose between *NSync and Blink 182, I bought into that notion and chose the latter—I’m sure unconsciously that plays into my songwriting now, whether or not I want it to.
You’ve only released two singles and so are very new to the music scene. How are you finding it?
It can be both exciting and intimidating. By far the most wonderful thing has been hearing from people I’ve never met from all over the world. Whether they listen to my music before they go to bed, or if it helped them define a breakup, or if it reminds them of their best acid trip—it just means that a part of me, through my honesty and vulnerability, reached a part of someone else. To me, that speaks to the connectivity we all have as humans at this base primal level, which is a beautiful thing.
What’s the best and worst thing about being a musician in New York?
I think the best and the worst thing is that there’s so much. The chaos, the excitement, the opportunities, the confusion… It’s hard to differentiate the big talkers from the doers. Inversely, once you’ve started making strides in a particular direction, like-minded people will seemingly just appear.
What can audiences expect from a live show?
I feel like myself on stage. I’m far better at singing than I am at talking, and feel so much more comfortable doing so. My band mates are amazing so creating a world to surround the melodies and stories comes pretty naturally. If you’re looking to go on a beautiful, reflective journey, that’s what I’m aiming to create. Ideally, I’d like to see people crying during one song and making out during the next.
Describe your look. Looks like you like pink, hats, and snakes! Is it fun dressing up and creating a new persona for photo shoots? And what is your everyday style like?
It is! I think day-to-day clothing requires practicality and some consideration of society. For photo shoots, it’s great to get rid of all those restrictions. In a perfect world, it’d always be summer and I’d walk around the streets wearing a metallic leotard and a Stetson, decked out in tons of jewelry, and surrounded by a posse of wild jungle animals. Every day, unfortunately, it’s a far tamer version of that.
People have compared you to Lana Del Rey. Care to comment?
I’ve heard that before. Honestly, I’m flattered in many ways. While she’s done a remarkable job of reinterpreting a specific brand of American nostalgia, I have no limitations of that kind. In contrast, my interest in the past is merely to interpret the present and future, thereby opening my options as far as influences, sounds, and subject matter are concerned. I have far more room to experiment. But, I think we’re both female, oftentimes juxtaposing our escapist tendencies with melancholia. Perhaps that’s what’s lifted from the recordings and draws the comparison.
If you could raid one person’s wardrobe, who would it be?
If it’s just one person, I’ll say David Bowie. Ideally, I’d raid the costume closet of Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Jane Fonda’s from Barbarella, and Elizabeth Taylor’s from Cleopatra.
Do you think there is pressure for women to conform to certain body types in the music industry? Do you yourself feel or have ever felt that pressure?
Yes. But, this pressure exists for women everywhere regardless of the industry they’re in. Being in the public eye and the entertainment industry just magnifies and brings attention to what I think we all feel as people with two X chromosomes.
Do you have an opinion on the way female bodies are presented in pop music videos (Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” is an obvious example)?
So much flesh—which, in many ways, I feel is beautiful. We cover ourselves in armor every day so to acknowledge your true form and be unafraid to be woman or man, human and animal, takes a great deal of trust and strength. There’s a Kahlil Gibran quote that I’ve always loved: “Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean. And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?” From my observations, those who obsess over modesty are oftentimes those who fetishize the lack of modesty. I think there’d be less shame, less exploitation, and better physical and mental health all round if we learned to love and respect our bodies as our vehicle through this life. With regard to music videos, I think there’s a difference between an honest expression of physicality and/or sexuality, and a projection through this degrading modesty/lack of modesty lens. I think only the person who is allowing themselves to be seen in this way can make that distinction.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Definitely the responses to the shows and recordings. Knowing that you’ve made a connection with someone you barely know or have never met is the most gratifying experience.
Who are some of your favorite bands/artists?
The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed are up there. I used to practically stalk the guy—knowing where he and Laurie ate breakfast—just to be in their presence. Recently, I’ve been listening non-stop to Perfume Genius. King Krule is awesome. The Pixies. Mount Kimbie. Gold Panda. CocoRosie. Mazzy Star. Talking Heads. Biggie Smalls. The Animals. Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Phantogram. James Blake. Rolling Stones. Gustav Mahler. Cat Power. Bjork. Modest Mouse. Thom Yorke…
What does making music mean to you?
Making intangible vagueness a little less intangible. I mean, it’s still just sound waves floating in the air, but it’s about bringing these feelings/thoughts we can’t explain to life. Providing a feeling of catharsis. Creating the songs I wish existed.
What does success mean to you?
Getting to do this until I die, or close to death. Going on a long journey of life, but always having music as my companion. Connecting through songs with as many people as possible. Engaging in interesting collaborations. Becoming less afraid of myself and the things that surround me, and helping others to do the same.
What advice would you give to young musicians starting out?
I think everyone’s path is so different and there are so many ways to go about creating music. Because of this, I’d hesitate to give too much advice. I’m still in the midst of navigating. I’d suggest putting yourself in as many weird situations to learn from, though. That, and be willing to take a beating and fake a lack of fear from time to time…not knowing can be taxing.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
1970s Brian Eno!
Who are some of the women who inspire you?
I’m inspired by everyone. The good, the bad, the nuances within each individual…all songwriting material and clues to understanding this world we live in. While my female heroes are badass babes like Jane Goodall, Patti Smith, Maya Angelou, and Amelia Earhart, I’m also fascinated by historical, literary, and day-to-day people, too. Cleopatra and her asps, Cathy/Kate from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, the girl having a temper tantrum because her yoga class was cancelled.
Describe your sound in three words.
The real answer lies within the individual listener… I’d like it to be beautiful, transportive, and somewhat surreal…but how listeners perceive what they hear and the dialogue that starts within themselves is what music’s truly about.
And finally, what’s your ultimate goal as a musician?
I think as any sort of creator, you have to be a bit of a Don Quixote character—battling these ferocious giants (windmills), trying to find this impossible sense of “truth.” I hope to get better and better at this and not give up the fight. No complacency.
Aimee deBeer’s debut EP is set to be released in September.
Main image courtesy of Sarah de Burgh.