Following on from our interview with electronic TinyDance genius, Ela Minus, Lizbeth Román spoke to Bristolatino music editor, Rebecca Wilson, about her Duendes Invisibles project and its conception and evolution as a similarly personal and honest venture. Román hails from Puerto Rico. She sings, writes and strums her poetry with accent and conviction.
R: How would you describe the music you make and what do you try to express through the music?
L: A genuine, organic fusion. Through poetry and everyday language I talk about the human experience, about love, about social and political complexities and the existential.
R: You have a very clear, strong voice, is this thanks to a prominent musical background?
L: I always wanted to be either a singer or an astronaut. And, well, I’m not an astronaut.
I found my voice quite late on, singing in the bathtub. When I realised, I ran out to tell my mum straight away.
I think the particularity of my voice says a lot about who I am. In many ways it represents my personality and my life.
I don’t come from a musical family and for me, finding music has been totally spontaneous, a discovery. I began properly singing in the street when I was 18. At 21 I embarked on my first original project. In 2014 the project evolved into what is now Lizbeth Román and the Duendes Invisibles.
R: You have a way of telling stories, not only in your lyrics but also through the musical progression in your songs and their almost theatrical composition. What has inspired you to tell stories?
L: We are all storytellers in one way or another, we have stories within us, and as we develop, we are constantly internally writing more; how can we not tell them?
My theatrical training heavily influences my style and conceptualisation. People inspire me, what happens to us, the complexity of emotions we feel and our ways of living in the world inspire me.
R: I believe the concept of the bruja, or witch, resonates in some way or another with many women. Who is the ‘bruja’ you sing about?
L: In ‘La Bruja’ I talk about myself, my being a woman, my country. I confront abandonment, fear, inertia, stasis and the idea of evolving from all of this. On a thematic level, the song is a frontier: there are two parallel concepts constantly crossing each other.
The subtext is Puerto Rico and it’s political situation. The evident component is my experience, a sense of disillusion or indifference and my relationship with that great obstacle: fear. As a human with our many complexities, the song comes to be a reflection of my social environment and vice versa.
R: Tell us about the process of making the video for ‘La Bruja’.
L: It was a lot of fun. I visualised the world that inspired the song, the musical atmosphere, the story of the protagonist and the characters.
The musical and video production processes went almost hand-in-hand; in many ways they fed into one another. I wanted to shoot in the south of the island [Puerto Rico], as it has such varied landscapes, it’s a lot drier than the north and it’s full of Creole architecture. There are scenes filmed in the Central Aguirre, in Salinas and in Guayama: all areas with a particular mystery about them. The town of Aguirre has become this double-reality, it’s practically a ghost town with decades-old abandoned buildings, but in another part there’s this whole community inhabiting the space. The historical energy of the place really transcended in the process.
The production took months: first conceiving the idea; then travelling to the area, discovering and selecting the different settings for the scenes. I then met with Eric Rojas to work on the direction, on developing the concept and on the camerawork; incorporating the visuals I had imagined, the plot etc. It was a very special project.
R: Who are the Duendes Invisibles (the Invisible Spirits) and how did you find each other?
L: The Duendes Invisibles are my imaginary accomplices. Sometimes I play with the band, other times I play solo, but I am always accompanied by the Invisible Spirits. Los Duendes Invisibles is the whole concept.
The band are my family, they are great colleagues and friends. They are the visible spirits. I got to know each one of them in different circumstances, music brought us together.
R: I also wanted to ask you about the beautiful songs from your ‘Ella’ project, featuring a similar style but under a different name…
L: ‘Ella’ was my first original project which paved my way into the independent music scene. I wrote the songs we played but they were put together by my friend, the guitarist. It was a sort of duo act. This project fell apart. I’ve been with my Duendes Invisibles for 2 years now. I’ve felt a transformation in this project; I feel freer and happier. It’s as if I’ve gone through a some kind of empowerment by returning to the foundations, to myself; freeing myself and evolving in the process. Lizbeth Román y los Duendes Invisibles is a very honest project.
R: What’s ahead for Lizbeth and the Duendes? Where are you playing next? Can we hope to see a new video?
L: New York.
The project is also halfway through an ‘insular tour’- an independent tour around the 18 municipalities of Puerto Rico. At the end of May we’ll be returning to New York to play. There are lots of little things going on, we’re taking each thing one step at a time.