Francesca Lombardo stands head-and-shoulders above most of her peers in the deeper end of house music, thanks to her skills and dexterity both as a DJ and as a musician. A member of Damian Lazarus' Crosstown Rebels family, she's carved out a strong reputation, playing around the globe at their Rebel Rave events and numerous high-profile clubs and festivals, like Burning Man, where she worked her magic on the infamous Robot Heart bus.
Lombardo's classical background has given her a strong grounding in music composition, while her positive outlook and boundless energy adds an infectious allure to her productions that she also sings over. With her debut album soon to drop, including a collaboration with an orchestra, Complex caught up Francesca to get the 411 on her world.
Interview by Marcus Barnes
It's been a busy summer for you, Francesca. Talk us through some of the parties you've played at, and what you enjoyed most about them.
It has been busy, indeed. I've been working on my live set a lot, as well as working on my own record label and some new music. I played in America quite a lot this summer. New York for Babel was one of my faves! I also loved playing for Dose in Milan; that city amazes me, especially how it has changed over the last few years. I played Circoloco at DC-10 a couple of months ago and, as usual, I enjoyed myself. I think DC-10's garden stage is bringing something really interesting to the club. I played a few festivals this year as well. Exit in Serbia was a great one. I'm really impressed with the location and organisation over there. The crowd was very warm and it was probably the biggest stage I've played to date. I also joined Sandbox in Egypt and Woogie Woogie festival in California; both also really, really good.
Speaking of festivals, you've played Burning Man twice now, celebrating your birthday there too. What's it like playing there for you?
Playing at Robot Heart is quite an experience for me. Both times I played on the bus, it was the day of my birthday, and both times were amazing! It's not easy to explain, but Burning Man is an experiment in absolute freedom and what you see is what you become. Burning Man has the power to purify me on any level. Last year, I felt so refreshed and happy after I left. When you go to Burning Man, you take in a lot of love, energy, and spiritual vibes—and it all depends how you want to react to it. Whatever you do, it's like the desert already has a plan for you. It's just nice to know that there's a place like that in the world... It's like a door to another reality, teaching you things that you can take with you when you leave.
Do you find it hard to lock yourself away in the studio when it's sunny and hot outside? How do you keep yourself motivated to stay in the studio?
Being in the studio when it's hot outside is not an issue for me. I know there will always be more sunny days, and since I travel a lot, I get to experience better weather abroad than I usually do in London. On the other hand, I love being in my studio too much!
You've been working on an album, right? How's that all coming along?
The album will be finished soon. It will be coming out on the Crosstown Rebels label.
Does the album have a name, or a theme, and can we expect any guests to appear on it?
It's called Once Upon The Ether, and it's a collection of music that works as a complete album and the tracks relate really well to each other. It's been a few years in the making, but I'm very happy with the way it plays as a body of work. Strings are featured on some tracks, which, for the most part, were recorded with my string quintet which is headed up by Andrew Waterworth, who also plays the double bass. I'm really happy to have had the chance to sing on most of the tracks too, making it more of an album to experience and immerse yourself in, rather than just being solely for the dancefloor. But there's definitely a few surprises in there. And you can expect it later this year.
What does the album say about Francesca Lombardo: the artist?
This album shows something different in comparison to what people have seen from me up until now. It's very musical and reflects me more as a producer and songwriter.
You've also worked with a live orchestra—how did that one come about?
It has always been one of my biggest dreams to perform electronic music with strings. Damian Lazarus introduced me to Andrew Waterworth, who I worked with for my live show and on some of the string arrangements. After our first few collaborations, we worked together on creating the show I performed on Boiler Room in London. I decided to do a live show with Andrew to avoid DJing with strings, which didn't interest me, and we had our debut show on the Pyramid at Day Zero in Mexico last year. It was very improvised at that stage, but it was something I had wanted to do for a long time. Since then, I have just developed it further.
Was it a daunting experience working at that level with so many musicians?
Yes, but we took it even further, and for my first ever gig with a full symphony orchestra at Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand, it all came together and was a very fulfilling experience. I love working with musicians and I see myself doing more of these type of shows in the very near future.
Where do your ambitions currently lie? Could you imagine leaving the club world behind to become a composer for orchestras, for example?
I love writing and producing and it's something that I've already thought about, but it requires a lot of time and a lot of focus; I'm trying to learn as much as I can from this experience, and I definitely want to grow as a musician and producer. There's a lot of things that I'd love to do, so let's just see where my heart takes me.
Francesca Lombardo's 'Perseidi' EP is out now on Crosstown Rebels.