Self-identifying as "one of the ones that don't fit anywhere but yet fit", Roses Gabor's versatility has always been a strength of hers, rather than a weakness. With music that serves as a firm rejection of the previous parameters placed between dance, electronic, pop and alternative music, the London-born talent's catalogue includes collaborations with the likes of SBTRKT, Shy FX, Toddla T and Gorillaz.
Gabors tone, tempo and surrounding production have always demonstrated the wide-spanning nature of her voice and message, and the same rings true on Fantasy & Facts, her 11-song debut album. On this record, she laces her opulent vocals as convincingly over the bass-filled funk beats of her previous discography as she does over stripped back, tinkering pianos and synth-heavy jams. From the sweetly triumphant, romantic confessional "I Could Be Yours" to the infectious dance bop "Turkish Delight", or the intimate and stirring ballad "Perfect Magnitude", this project is a deeply nourishing exploration of the British-Grenadian artist's wealth of tenderness and range.
Amidst a mass redefinition of what it means to be 'popular', there is no better time for Roses Gabor to arrive—completely—and stake her unique claim. With lavish, spacious vocals and exhilarating modern production, her music is doing just that: confidently dodging classification to ultimately find the beauty in between the lines.
Do you feel like your heritage and upbringing plays a part in your music?
Very much so. My parents love music; my dad used to play mass, so soca and uplifting vibes were always a big part of my life—but he also loved pop too. And then my mum played a lot of records growing up: everything from Marcia Griffiths, Beres Hammond, Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs to Motown’s finest, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye.
So did you know you wanted to be a singer when you were growing up?
I always knew. I used to put on shows for my parents and make up songs. We had this back room that was kind of like a den, and I would practice in there and then showcase to my parents!
Do you still feel as connected to your old material?
You worked with SBTRKT on his debut album of the same name, and vocalled one of my favourite tracks on that record. Could you talk me through the writing process on a song like "Pharaohs"?
So "Pharaohs" was an instrumental. I had about 11 and "Pharaohs" and "Assimilation" were the only two I really vibed to. The process for that was basically me sitting in bed dropping the song into Garageband, setting the reverb on the track with my headphones on and sketching a melody from start to finish. The chorus lyrics came in the first sketch and the melodic pattern of the rest of the song. After that, I filled in the gaps with words. Sometimes it's as easy as that! The song was basically written from start to finish in my bed in a couple of hours...
Being in a dark booth or at home alone is my freedom.
That's incredible! And when writing, I feel like you constantly allow yourself the flexibility to explore different sounds. What are your views on 'genres'—have you ever identified within any?
I don't know, if I'm honest. I know I've always done whatever I feel like. No artist wants to feel pigeon-holed. And as creatives, I think we just want to go with our "He/Art". So if that means sometimes I'm on a bass-heavy record or something that sounds what people might called 'alternative', or a beautiful ballad with an acoustic guitar or piano—so be it. I think the thread that ties it all together is my voice, and hopefully my honesty within that.
As we mentioned, you have some amazing collaborative credits under your belt. Did you ever find it hard transitioning between doing those features and becoming a separate solo artist?
I've always been an artist, or at least that's what my journey would say. I've always been creative, and writing has always been my passion. Being in a dark booth or at home alone is my freedom. The world can be suffocating and everyone needs that kind of release so no, there was nowhere to transition to or from really.
Is there anything you hope people come away with after listening to your music?
I hope they feel good. I hope they feel like they've exhaled and just had a really beautiful time.
Do you feel like your music is ever received differently depending on where you are in the world?
Hmmm... not that I've noticed. I think a good song is universal, to be honest.
Could you talk to me about the title of your new project, Fantasy & Facts. I feel like that's a pretty great tagline for life but is the album also a mix of both?
Totally. I spend a lot of time in my head, whether that be through ideas, dreams, inspiration. Love is pretty much the same and that's what I've written about: we feel it, we think it, we fantasise about perfection, we see it as fact. But the lines are blurred. Some songs are either or, one or the other—some are a bit of both.
Who did you work with on the album?
Gosh! So many people. Fred Ball on my last single, "Turkish Delight". He's just won a Grammy for The Carters' project EVERYTHING IS LOVE, and was actually nominated last year too. I worked with Grammy-winner Greg Wells and Jenn Decilveo on "Perfect Magnitude" and, for a long time, that was my favourite record on the album. It's a magnificent experience—full of heart—a lot like "I Could Be Yours" but, sonically, it's a different way of getting there. It was produced by Stereotypes, who are also Grammy winners—two, actually! Jimmy Hogarth, we wrote a gorgeous song together called "This Room" originally on acoustic guitar, which I loved, but I wanted to bring it inline with the rest of the record so I called in my friend who is actually a real gift to this world: Rowdy SS. He added his magic to it and gave it the electronic feel.
Team Salut, we did three songs together but only two are on the record. My dear friend Toddla T on "Awkward Desire", which is literally as the title states; sometimes our desires are so awkward! Being an artist is just that: everyone thinking you're crazy. The whole 'when are you gonna get a real job' type vibe and you just having this blind faith, this desire to share your innermost feelings with the world through song—which, to be honest, is a wild concept. So, basically an array of super-talented producers!
And probably too hard to answer but do you have a favourite track off the album?
Not really. I think I have more favourites if anything now.
I've read before that you hope people listen to your music in the dark with headphones on to really get a feel for it. Does that mirror the way in which you write it?
[Laughs] Yeah, that's true. I have always felt like it was that kind of record. Some of it is quite cinematic, some of it more melancholic. I just feel like to really take it in, you need to take a minute, close your eyes and just zone. Sometimes I listen to it, top to bottom in bed, and just think: 'Wow. This really is a moment.' I hope people can feel it how I do. To me, it's really magical.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never listened to you before?
I don't think I would now. I think I'd just play them some things.
On the new record, as well as basslines and parties you reference planets like Mercury and energy. Are you into astrology?
I am. I'm a keen student.
Your new visuals have been really beautiful and intimate depictions of people. Is this something that you've done consciously and care about with how your art is consumed?
I make art that reflects me sonically and visually, so it's super important for everything I do to reflect that. When it comes to visuals, I want to be there from the mood board, to the edit, to the grade. I've been working with exceptional humans. The team at Partizan are incredible, and between us we created something beautiful. The outcome just reminded me how important it is for me to follow my internal compass.
So in an ideal world, who is your dream collaborator?
A dream would be Quincy Jones, I think. Also Raphael Saadiq, James Fauntleroy—anyone that can play the hell out of a guitar or piano, really. I just love an unexpected chord change, minors and majors together.
And are there any artists that excite you in the UK scene at the moment?
I'm really excited about Kojey Radical's existence. I think we're in a great place right now. It's beautiful to see so many of us just doing what we feel regardless of what's popular or current. You can't ride the wave, if you are the water.
Wow, that's a strong quote. And in the rest of the world?
In the world? Hmmm... Nipsey Hussle? [Laughs] I honestly don't know what's going on out there but I can tell you that I swing from listening to the most gully side of rap to Divine Chants of India.
That's what I call range! I'm obsessed with Alice Coltrane and her journey through spirituality. How did you got into listening to Divine Chants? Do you draw upon that type of spirituality in your art?
I've been going to the Buddhist centre/temple for about five years. I love singing bowls and tingsha bells—they immediately make my mind feel clearer and my body feel at peace. My music is influenced by my heart or my solar plexus; anything that resonates there is a go.