Camila Alvarez was born and raised in Miami, left to Loyola Maramount University in 2007, then came back to finish a masters in Underwater Archaeology as a part of RSMAS in 2011 and now lives in L.A. again and is pursuing a music career. She let us pick her brain on how she got on this journey of creating experimental music.
How did you get involved with WVUM?
I got involved with WVUM by just knocking on the window and snooping around, seeing what was up. I explained to them that during my undergraduate at Loyola Marymount University in LA, the radio station was the safe haven for all the weirdo’s like me, and I was hoping to find the same kind of place for myself during my masters.
How did you start making music?
Well I've been taking singing lessons on and off since I was 4, changing directions periodically but always coming back to the dream of being a famous singer. I've always come up with little songs here and there but never could get a hang of the guitar, so I deemed my songs un-sharable. Consequently when I was 15 I got really seriously into circus. I'm not ashamed of that part of my career but I'm not necessarily proud either... but it did give me the sort of lifestyle I needed to get seriously into music and believe in myself enough to write and perform songs about my struggles for the public. I had been trying to incorporate original music into my circus act since undergrad, and when I came back to Miami in 2011 I happened to be hanging out at my family spot, Moksha, when there was an Ableton user-group meeting focused on using the Launchpad to control music, projections and lighting all at once. This made me realize it's totally possible to make my own music without playing guitar. I got well acquainted with this program and performed quite a bit of this live-triggered kind of performance art. It was all very sensational and I got the wrong kind of attention from it more often then not. I picked up a bass for the first time when I was staying with the Herbert Bail Orchestra. That basshad a lot of strange dark energy I could identify with at the time, and I started writing my first "blues" so-to-speak.
What kind of influences reside in your music?
I guess if I have to name people everyone knows I'd say Bjork and Nirvana, but the true answer would be all of my closest friends. Being a little circus gypsy muse gave me a good excuse to follow whatever music in the air inspires me and hang around it until I've had my fill. Just like when you become best friends with someone and the two of your kind of start to talk the same, it is the exact same way with music, and I'm not ashamed to say that I have been highly influenced by the artists I've sort of "stalked” in a way because I believe we are all attracting what we want whether we realize it or not. Many times I'll just be walking or biking by and hear something I really like, introduce myself and feel out the vibe for as long as it lasts. Sometimes it's someone with no band name or no plan, and sometimes it's the Flaming Lips' hot new prodigies. Other bands I've worked with like this include TRANCE FARMERS, HOTT MT, Sleepy Owl Love Tribe, Wa Le Lu, VisionQuest, Exile, Oliwa's Pleasure Circus, Rainbow Tornado, and most recently Bloody Death Skull and Blah.
Would you say that your time at WVUM helped you develop your sound?
WVUM really does do an excellent job at opening people's eardrums to entirely new sounds. While being part of the music staff, my palette was so broadened; I can't even begin to measure by how much. That and playing around with Ableton really kept me in the rat race of the pace at which new music is developing these days. My alma matter station, KXLU, just plays whatever they think is cool from any time-period all the time. This fits the vibe with the slow-paced, enjoy whatever moment for what it is, kind of attitude LA generates. Then LA musicians wonder why it's so hard to book consistent shows with the amplitude of new music being generated everywhere all the time. Whenever I need to re-orient my brain with the quality of sound that the general public tends to enjoy these days but also what is new and exciting coming out of the all the deepest pits of the earth, I tune into WVUM.
You have developed the name “mysterr” for your music, what is the origin of that name/character and where do you wish to take that?
Mysterr is an origin word related to mystery. It's funny because I actually like to make mysteries explode in people's faces with my music. I'm kind of mysterious in how I make my sounds and how I actually manage to get by, but I'm really not a mysterious person. I'm very frank. I started asking my really American friends to call me “Mr.” instead when they would call me "misses", an endearing salutation that for whatever reason makes me throw up a little in my mouth. Then just to add to their confusion i'd make them say it with a Cuban accent. It stuck because at first I was not using my voice in my music and I liked the fact that my appearance or gender even had nothing to do with the music. Now I kind of tend to play with the romantic ring of it a bit in my graphics, and enjoy even more tearing apart romantic illusions on stage.
Ah yes, this "Shifting" film experience. It was during Los Angeles' record breaking heat wave, and I was squatting in this magical bus my friend painted a while back that I found sitting on this elaborately painted lot in Chinatown, because my apartment had mold. The bus is parked right next to some traditional train tracks. So not only was I up with the mind-altering sun and down with it, but the blaring, blood-curdling train horns would shake up my whole existence several times throughout the night. I found out where there were some showers I could use on the property and this became my happy place. As soon as I let out my first note in there I knew I had to record an album in there. There was so many magical moments on this property around the 4th of July, that I decided I needed to also make a music video there with all my new friends. As it turned out all my new friends were getting their big break all the sudden, playing in Vegas with the Flaming Lips, going on tours and TV shows and such. I'm pretty stubborn once I set a goal and a date I want it accomplished by so I didn't let that get in the way and just made a really ego-centric video instead. Out of all the experimental videos I've made throughout the years, I never thought this one would be the one to catch on. The past year most of my experimental music has been made out of video samples on Ableton and I think I've really broken some ground there. I still used Ableton to edit this video, but you can barely tell, except for the jittery-ness which I like. I wish I could tell you how this got 30,000 views in 3 days and my other ones still have 0... I guess this one really exposes the most of myself yet, which is really encouraging.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently building myself a studio at theFMLYhead-quaters called the LA Fort, and working to make it a really fun place for creative adults. I am already putting out at least one song a week out of there and hope to keep doing that, making videos that reach far and booking tours to distant lands.
How are you enjoying living and working in L.A.? Any differences/similarities to Miami?
LA is a lot colder in more ways than one, than Miami. Whenever I go back to Miami it's hard to leave, but I feel the music of LA calling me in a very strong way. It's just got a style, pace and openness that is all I can handle right now. My life out here is crazy but people out here are ok with it as long as I can keep making it work for me, and really it's the only kind of life I see working for me right now.
What advice would you give current WVUM djs and artists?
I guess my advice would be, regardless or your gender or social background, if you want to make music for a living you have to be really, really humble and get used to a life where every comfort is extremely temporary. Even my friends who have struck gold musically, are on perma-tours and have their music on high-paying commercials, live like vagabonds, because it could all be over tomorrow at the rate at which music is constantly moving, that being said, I wouldn't ever give it up for the guarantee of the nicest car and apartment for the rest of my life, but that's me. There are plenty of other crazy artists out there to relate to and keep you going throughout the way, not to mention the unlimited amount of potential listeners.
What do you enjoy doing outside of making music?
I also enjoy sculpting fruit, drawing people's faces, doing weird dances in public, traveling, photographing the strange in between moments in life and collaging.
You can follow all of Camila’s beautiful musings at:
tumblr: mysterrcircus & personal blog: LAunZine.tv