Nine Songs: Vagabon
Vagabon is an artist shaped by impulse.
Laetitia Tamko’s songs have been labelled as indie music, but she feels the genre doesn’t come naturally to her. It was never her intention to be defined in such terms, rather it was a result of the resources and people around her at the time of making her wonderful debut album Infinite Worlds.
“I think it’s important to remember that people are multi-faceted and contain multitudes. When people hear music they automatically want to connect it to something, whether it’s a band or a genre, but I’m of the mind-set that people are going to call my music whatever they want to and all I’m going to do is make the music that I want.”
Tamko has always written; she carried a notebook with her as she penned her first verses, choruses and basic song structures – the only thing missing was an instrument. At the age of seventeen she decided upon the guitar, largely due to necessity “For some reason I saw the guitar as the easiest thing to learn. It’s easier to carry around than a set of drums.” She taught herself a few basic chords and then began to connect the music and her compositions piece by piece.
As an artist she creates music very much in the here and now. Whatever she’s feeling in a precise moment in time will spill out from her pen and onto the page, bound together by her powerful, yet vulnerable voice. “I think a strong vocal is a big part of what draws me to music. The voice is very much an instrument. I love to hear people play around with it and use it like one.”
The songs Tamko’s chosen reflect her love of artists that similarly follow their own path, whether that’s writing music that provides a feeling of universality, ground-breaking production, or simply the power of a singing voice that touches your heart.
“I went on my first tour in the summer of 2015 and I didn’t know all the people I was with very well, but this is a record that we had on constant rotation.
“Attic Abasement are just a couple of Dads from Rochester, New York, who live on a farm. They don’t want the thrills of the industry; they just make music in their own zone. They’re also really funny, the opening lyric to this is ‘I distrust a mattress that smells like it feels.’
“I love playful writers, because I’ve not been much of one myself in the past, so it’s nice to hear other people express their humour.”
“Anna is my friend from the US and she lives in New York now. She is an incredible keyboardist and she shreds on the piano. I think the morning I picked this song I was just thinking of her. She has this voice that you never know where it’s going to go, but it’s always so good.
“This particular track scratches an itch for me. Her voice sounds very urgent, she has something to say and you need to listen to it and that’s what I love about certain musicians. She is always pushing it and forcing the listener to feel what she is feeling. It’s not polished and doesn’t worry too much about perfection, but it’s perfect to me.”
“The best part about this one has to be the ad-libs, it’s great to hear her say ‘Bitch’ and ‘Fuck’, I like to envision her in the studio saying these words. Throughout this whole record Lust For Life there are random lyrics, there’s one about ‘all of my peaches are ruined’ that I love.
“This song was actually my first introduction to Lana’s music. I love all the samples and I just thought ‘Yeah, I’m into this.’ Plus, it’s always nice to hear Playboi Carti on a Lana Del Rey song.”
“This is one of my favourite songs ever, with one of my favourite lyrics ever too - ‘I do recall that my very best friends / are the ones that left me empty / and ready to be filled again.’
“When you add those lyrics to the urgency in Diane Clark’s voice the message delivers perfectly throughout the song.
“I love songs that I can identify with, which I guess is the same for a lot of people. This song in particular got me through a very rough time in my life. I felt comfortable in solitude because of this song.”
“I found COMMAND on Soundcloud recently. He’s a very new musician out of Atlanta and he actually opened for me at one of my gigs when I played there.
“He’s the kind of person that comes out of the gates swinging, I was like ‘Oh, you’ve never played live shows before and you don’t have a record, but this is what you sound like?’
“I have an incredible amount of respect for him coming out so ready. I love geeking out on production too and the production on this song is so good.”
“The synths at the beginning of this song are all out of time and it makes you think your volume is fluctuating. There’s just a really cool nuance to this song.
“SZA just runs with her voice, she barely comes up for breath, not leaving much room in the song and that’s really exciting for me, because I often leave a lot of room within my productions.
“One theory I have on why her record has connected with people so well is that her career path is similar to an independent artist. The way the production is so personal and so intimate has changed the game a little bit too. I think we’re in a special time, where people are more open to hearing something different. Not forgetting that this is just a fucking dope record.
“I think timing is also a thing that no one talks about in terms of records. People want more great albums, because 2017 is pretty bleak. We need more of the Kelela’s, SZA’s and Frank Ocean’s of the world. It’s nice to see someone who you are rooting for win.”
“The first song I played on guitar was ‘White Horse’ by Taylor Swift! I’m so embarrassed… because now we don’t fuck with Taylor! Then I learnt to play drums by learning songs by Say Anything and Brainiac – songs that were simple enough that they seemed attainable.
“Mastering ‘Judas’ was the most accomplished I have ever felt as a bass player. In my eyes Esperanza Spalding is a genius bass player. When I was teaching myself to play bass it was a goal of mine to play something of hers, because it meant that I could really play bass.
“This song is infectious, intricate and interesting. I value her musicianship, but I also value how good she is at just creating a great song.”
“I just love female rappers. Chynna is a young rapper from Philadelphia who was co-signed by A$AP Mob, but is still very much an independent artist.
“I played this show with Princess Nokia once about two years ago in New York. Once someone like that is on your radar it opens this portal for a lot of similar artists, and then you begin to discover and scratch away at the surface. Sometimes I go real deep into that side of things and Chynna was one of the artists I discovered.”
“Frank does whatever he wants. Thinking about him leaving Def Jam, self-releasing his music and making whatever he wanted goes back to my situation three and half years ago when I started out. It’s cool to see artists take control and to know that it can work.
“Going back to what we spoke about earlier with the intimacy of production, on some of Frank’s songs you can literally hear the walls of his hotel room. It’s funny to nerd out about Frank Ocean because I think he makes everyone feel the same way, my experience is in no way special. I just want the part when Frank wheels out to come faster.”