The Rodriguez Jr. & Liset Alea musical partnership arose from a prized encounter between history and destiny. Born from the excitement of a magical cliff-side performance, it’s also the result of 15 years of friendship, and fuelled by the inspiration that comes from two already very successful musical careers. With Liset Alea a former vocalist for Nouvelle Vague, and Rodriguez Jr. an elite club producer fresh from his ‘Baobab’ album, the time was right to unite and discover new horizons together.
The destiny of the new project is one that is guided by emotion, inspired by the spontaneity that comes naturally from two such experienced live performers, and driven by a desire to stretch musical boundaries beyond clinical club beats. RJLA is about sonic storytelling and songwriting, as well as fusing the organic charms of live instrumentation with cutting-edge music for the dancefloor.
The history of the project is one that is already well established. The pair met 15 years ago during their time creating music for Laurent Garnier’s legendary F-Communications, working on several projects together that included music synced on major television series like Entourage and Beverly Hills 90210. Both musicians stand out for the rawness and unpretentious enthusiasm they bring to their live performances.
More recently, the pair came together when Liset helped write several tracks on Rodriguez Jr’s ‘Baobab’ album this year. The collaboration proved so successful that they both knew there was something more to it. All will be unveiled in 2018 with fresh music, international shows and more, beginning with their North American debut at Cityfox LIVE. Known for bringing in some of the brightest talent in the world to NYC, this event will be bringing in a host of never-before-seen b2b sets and audiovisual performances to Brooklyn with a focus on live sets across all acts at Avant Gardner on February 16. Tickets for Cityfox LIVE can be found HERE.
We decided to sit down with both Olivier and Liset to discuss RJLA, and to ask them to provide 10 tracks they feel represent their project and the message of Cityfox LIVE.
Hi Olivier and Liset, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. First things first, how did you two first meet and what made you realize that you wanted to write and perform music together?
Liset: Hi, there! So the story goes back to circa 2003 when both of us were releasing music via Laurent Garnier’s Parisian label FCOM, Rodriguez Jr. had a project called The Youngsters at the time and I was on tour with Alexkid for the ‘Mint’ album and we met backstage. We decided to create a project with Alexkid — the three of us set up in a studio for many days and made some music. The music enjoyed some synchronization love in a few TV series and advertisements (“Entourage” & “90210”) and then we all went our separate ways but remained friends as we had lots of mutual respect for one another. Then in 2017, Olivier contacted me to sing for his ‘Baobab’ album. I went over to do one song and I did three; our lives kind of changed since then. We are happiest when we’re making music together.
You both had quite prolific solo careers prior to this collaboration. How do you balance those endeavors with RJLA?
RJLA: We don’t, we freak out all the time.
Talk to us about your RJLA live set. What is involved in your performance and what can fans look forward to hearing when you both take the stage at Cityfox LIVE this weekend?
RJLA: For us this show is quite intense, melodic and cinematic. We are implementing sounds from the newly acquired ARP2600 which we sampled at home ( because it’s hard to travel with) and there’s a very exciting cover of a song we both loved when we were growing up — a song that left its signature on both of our palettes…we can’t tell you which so you’ll have to come listen.
Who on the Cityfox LIVE lineup are you both looking forward to seeing?
RJLA: We’re very excited to see our good friends Stephan Bodzin & Mathew Johnson as well as Giorgia Angiuli’s live performance — we love the concept she has come up with.
Olivier, you’ve previously played for Cityfox at The Brooklyn Mirage. What is it about their events that keeps bringing you back?
Rodriguez Jr: It’s such a unique concept, the sound, the visuals, and of course the New York crowd which is one of the best in the world.
Liset, this will be your first time at Cityfox correct? What are you most looking forward to about playing at one of their events and in New York?
Liset: Yes This is my first time, looking forward to the sound. Big venue, big sound, big emotions!
Who inspires each of you musically?
Liset: I’m listening to a lot of new stuff recently; I’m tired of my old playlists. I am interested in hearing the now message. I love what’s coming out in the electronic world but also in other genres: Billie Eilish so fresh, DJ Koze keeps me focused, KLLO from Australia touches my teenage heart, Little Dragon is a dose of inspiration, but also Sharon Van Etten’s new album is honesty dressed up in lush electronic production and it’s so courageous of her.
Rodriguez Jr: I listen to old school electronic music ( Kraftwerk, Jarre) and early 90’s dance music — it’s an infinite source of inspiration for me. When I am facing a creative block, I love turning back to the musical past in order to find a new starting ground. Recently I got into Justice, who by the way, just won a Grammy. That makes me super happy for them to be putting French electronic music back on the map and going for a sound without fear.
What’s on the cards for you both in 2019? Any new music for RJLA lined up?
We’re preparing new songs for more RJLA releases in 2019, we’ve also been working on music for a theater piece in Paris. The vibe of the music is very John Cale and Laurie Anderson and this has been a great challenge for us; it’s great to work with live action onstage. As each of us has our own personal albums to make, we don’t want to be forgotten by those who listen to our work.
Thank you for sharing your 10 for CITYFOX Soundcloud playlist with us! Can you talk to us about the tracks in it please?
1. RJLA – Part the Sea
In November 2018, we were invited to the Soundcloud studios to record an exclusive track. Liset picked up the bass and Olivier turned on the pre-war microphones. This song is a fine example of the wide range of musical references we both have from Peter Gabriel to Tricky.
2. Nicola Cruz – Equinoccio Ft. Huaira
The shaman/cumbia movement is a great escape for the soul. We heard this in a club in Rome one night and it was the perfect moment for the sound.
3. Billie Eilish – Bury a friend
It’s so inspiring to hear what these young kids are doing — the textures, the production choices…Pure inspiration, especially for vocal effect lovers like Liset.
4. David Bowie – I’m Deranged
What is there to say? Epic moment in our lives.
5. Kllo – Downfall
We saw these two playing live in a small stage one afternoon in Australia two years ago and we were blown away. We’ve been watching and listening to them ever since — makes you fly.
6. TENDER – Slow Love
This is a new band from London. We just discovered them last week so we don’t know what to say yet except we’re buzzing from their sound.
7. DJ KOZE (feat. Roisin Murphy) Illumination
Music goes 3D in your head. Amazing production and her voice is always amazing!
8. Depeche Mode – The Sinner In Me (Villalobos Remix)
This is a classic. The song to start a good weekend, and the song to end a regretfully bad one.
9. Four Tet + Burial – Nova
We love his subtle and liberating approach to electronic music, and as for Burial, he has an important influence on our sound and texture.
10. Apparat – DAWAN
Major respect for this guy doing it his way with his own voice.
Photos courtesy of RJLA