Various Asses’ Raquel Solier on motherhood, Body Horror music and her new video
Melbourne’s Raquel Solier wears many hats. You might have seen her as RnB artist Fatti Frances, or on stage with the likes of Jens Lekman or Sally Seltmann as their touring drummer. You might have seen her around Melbourne lately performing under the moniker VARIOUS ASSES as well, which is her latest reincarnation.
Specialising in self-described ‘Body Horror’ music, Solier’s resume reads as prolific, from touring the world to her steady output of impressive releases. A proud mother as well, Solier does things her own way. Railing against conventions and the very narrow norms of electronic music, she’s chosen not fit in, but cut, carve and push her way in – whether you like it or not.
Her music as Various Asses is criminally underrated in my opinion, standing on its own against some of the country’s biggest producers. Harsh, aggressive, and instantly captivating, Various Asses doesn’t kindly ask you to listen. Instead, your attention is demanded within seconds, and you can’t help but give it over. From her Locîon mixtape released last year, to her outstanding visual accompaniments, Various Asses is unashamedly, undeniably herself, which is what makes it so damn good.
Set to perform at the Women In Electronic Music Showcase this weekend as part of VIVID Sydney 2017, we got deep with Raquel Solier to talk motherhood, lessons learned and how important it is to rail against conventions. Read it all below, as well as getting your first glimpse at the brand new video for ‘Hood Team’, premiering right here.
Firstly, let’s get something straight. What is ‘body horror’ music?
‘Body Horror’ refers to the V/A’s sonic and visual aesthetic and was coined by Joel Stern from Liquid Architecture. My tracks have naturally always been rhythmically dominant and incredibly unsettling, music felt in your body with strong urges to dance to it, however unusual timings, accents, tempo and intensity make it incredibly difficult to do so.
We paired the music with a visual backdrop of gorgeous femme bodybuilders flexing under the glow of their 70’s spray tans, which accentuated the horror-like feeling of the music but also by some divine intervention the jerks of their muscle flexes would sync up with the beat every so often, providing some foundation before it was ripped from under your feet again.
Today we’re premiering your new video for ‘Hood Team,’ which was directed by Geoffrey O’Connor. How important is that visual aspect to you for your music, as all of your clips are really different but really remarkable? Do you believe that the visual aspect can amplify music and that the two are linked together?
Yes yes yes. The visual aesthetic is such a huge part of V/A. We are defined by how we look and how we present ourselves and people openly judge you. Why not take advantage of this? Having said that, everything I do represents a very personal element to myself and at no point is it ever a choice based on fashion.
To me this clip represents strength and acceptance of your body. Everyone in this clip had obstacles in some way in regards to health, confidence and size.
In addition 2/3 of the dancers in this clip are mums. After having a kid I realised everyone has some preconceived notion of what a mother is, how they are to behave, what they look like etc. They are never allowed to be sexy. Don’t you know how babies are made?
Your music is often linked to words like “scary” or “visceral” or “abrasive” – do you intend on making music that doesn’t comfort, but rather makes people uncomfortable?
I definitely don’t intend on making anyone uncomfortable but what one person finds comforting can be terrifying to others. I find uplifting pop or EDM very uncomfortable, I simultaneously laugh then get paranoid at a fleeting thought that pop music is there to sedate the masses.
Personally I enjoy the temporary feeling of being confused or overwhelmed when listening to strange music for the first time. I want to work for it, forge my own opinions and context, be challenged and discover something new for myself. Most of the time if I’m hearing music that confuses me when I first hear it, it ends up being music that I will love forever.
Just about everything about you goes against conventions of music, and especially electronic music lately, and that’s what I admire about you the most. How important is it to you to rail against conformity?
I think it is very important to rail against conformity – as long as it is true to your nature. Some people are really quite happy doing their thing the way it has always been done and that is fine. We should all be granted the freedom to be ourselves. But really nobody is ever ‘normal’. Working 9-5, listening to Nova FM, watching real housewives of whatever is not normal. Sadly its normalized but definitely not normal in my eyes.
Locîon is your debut release, and it’s been really exciting to watch your gradual rise since then. Was that release a long time coming? Can you talk me through a bit about what was going on at that time?
I feel like there is urgency in V/A that is only becoming apparent now that I’ve made so much progress in such a short amount of time. V/A’s entire lifespan is less than 2 years old. I started writing 1-2 minute songs whilst raising my daughter just to keep me sane in that first year of baby stage but I realised that being an artist defined me more than being a mother. So I made music on my laptop, had a set of parameters to make the process limiting and easier for myself to complete tasks. I played a few low key shows and then Simon from Nice Music asked me to put out a tape, I agreed but didn’t really think anything of it. Not because that idea wasn’t exciting, but because having a 1 year old is all consuming and you take one day at a time. I recorded Loción live over 2 weeks until I got a take I liked best and then just continued on with domestic routine. Eventually we did a film clip and launch (months after the release) and that is when we began to gain momentum.
So in short, nappy changes, bedtime routines, dog walks, illnesses, first steps, car seats, sleep training, crying… the list is endless, they were really the things going on.
You’ve spoken before about how having a child enabled you to give less of a fuck about things – do you think this enabled you to really start experimenting with your strengths and your love, and really take the bull by the horns so to speak by creating Various Asses?
I think more than anything, having a child has allowed me to finally be comfortable and confident with myself and has also brought me closure and acceptance in so many difficult moments in my life. The combination of these things has without a doubt lead not only to the creation of V/A, but contributed to the sheer force, drive and energy V/A embodies which is what lots of people find attractive in my music.
You’ve been in the music industry for many years, and you’ve spoken about how you’ve had to fight to get to where you are now. Now, you’re playing at the Women In Electronic Music showcase for Vivid, with the kind of next generation of producers and artists. What is a key lesson you’ve learned that you could pass on to someone coming into the industry now?
Money money money, demographic, gender, sex, beauty. So nothing has changed ever in the history of business. I still haven’t accepted it but at least now our networks and platforms have expanded so you can have one or a combination of those things to work it.
You’ve toured the world supporting artists like Jens Lekman, Geoffrey O’Connor and Sally Seltmann – artists that couldn’t be more different from what you’re doing as Various Asses. What is it like on this side of music now, in this time, compared to your years drumming for other artists? Have you always been interested with rhythm-based electronic music?
Everything changed for me when I tried making beats on a sampler, as suddenly I could create perfect renditions of drum patterns I had been hearing in my head when touring in bands but was limited to the sounds, tones and key in a basic rock drum kit. Once I discovered the added bonus of piling all my crap into one bag and jumping on a tram rather than standing on the sidewalk with a 5 piece drum kit waiting for a cab driver to feeling sorry for me I could never commit to bands the way I once did. Having said that – I still happily play in bands on a standard drum kit because yes I really do love playing them and fortunately I’m pretty good too. But looking back, I was raised on lots of music that featured drum machines, 80s pop, 70s no wave, disco etc so perhaps it was inevitable. The first music I ever really got into was Kiss FM in the 90s – I was in grade 5 and would tape everything off the radio. I didn’t know anyone else that did that, but also didn’t really know how weird that was at the time.
It’s interesting to see the progression of your work from Fatti Frances to Various Asses, especially considered the change came post child. Do you think V/A is a kind of psycho version of Fatti Frances in a way, due to the hip-hop and rhythmic influences you’re working with?
Ha yes most definitely I hope so. Its like Terminator 2. Better than the original.
You’ve got an incredible resume, but I’m interested to know – has there been a particular moment in your overall musical career that has been a major highlight for you? Anything that was a personal goal like, “Fuck yes, this is it”?
This is so corny but the stuff I’m doing now is the most exciting for me. I always love playing in other people’s bands and projects but I will never be able to congratulate myself no matter the achievement because it’s not my baby. I’ve almost finished a track collaborating with rapper Sophie Grophy and it is a highlight for me because I’ve always loved hip hop and finally get to hear verses over my music. I know that if I heard it on the radio and it wasn’t me, I’d love it. And that is a very massive and rare achievement personally.
What’s next for Various Asses?
I am desperate to work on new material. Ideally I’ll put out an ep this year and an album next year. Get me overseas, tour, do some collabs, give myself a new haircut, fresh clothes and food for my family and friends. I have a fantasy that one day I can shout all of my team to Kamayan and buy them a nice piece of jewellery.
Catch Various Asses at the Women In Electronic Music Showcase for VIVID SYDNEY 2017 at Oxford Arts Gallery on June 17th. More info here.
Intro and questions by Emma Jones
Image: Tim Hillier