At the end of October, multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Ana Caravelle dropped her debut LP on the Non Projects imprint, produced by talented LA beatmaker Asura. A beautifully orchestrated and intuitively played suite of music, ‘Basic Climb’ is a compelling listen from start to finish, with a maturity that belies her mere twenty-two years on this earth.
Constructing the skeleton of her songs on a backbone of folk and classical, Caravelle contorts these traditional influences into a much more modernistic shape, deconstructing them and rewiring them through a unique and fluid songwriting talent. The interplay of the sparse, abstract arrangements and lush instrumentation with her rich voice, weave a beautiful tapestry of textures and sounds that has the ability to transport you somewhere else entirely.
The obvious musical touchstone to cite would be Joanna Newsom, to whom Caravelle openly declares her admiration, however, there are different forces at work in Ana’s music. Where Newsom invites you to enter into an arcane fantasy world, Caravelle’s music is imbued with a warmth and intimacy to it, drawing you into a more personal and interactive narrative.
Ana was kind enough to answer some of my questions, which you can read below.
Hi Ana, can you please introduce yourself?
Hi, I am a singer-songwriter and harpist from Los Angeles.
How does it feel to release the album into the public sphere?
Releasing the album into the public sphere has been daunting but exhilarating for all of us involved. Music is solely an intimate and personal experience for me, and the connection that I have with the audience I play for has a big role in the composition of the music itself. So it can be scary to know that the audience is expanding beyond what I can see with my own eyes, but I have much optimism that people can connect with what they are hearing, even though they are not personally experiencing the live presence.
Was there anything in particular that was inspiring you and feeding into this record, either lyrically or sonically?
This record was first and foremost inspired by personal experience, as is all of my music. Each of the six songs capture a story that unraveled in a distinct period of time, namely a couple of months each, that made up the full year of composition. But the external inspiration was a theatrical work entitled “Aurelia’s Oratorio,” starring Aurelia Thierree, the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin. The topsy-turvy, playful world that she crafted inspired me to write every song that followed my viewing of her performance. The album was also generally inspired by Icelandic music, Bulgarian vocal music, folk music, and female soul singers.
As a multi-instrumentalist, what was it that drew you to focus on the harp?
I am drawn to the harp because it feels good to play. I say this very simply because it’s a simple, therapeutic, and intuitive feeling for me. When I sit down behind the harp, I feel like I can tell a story with it simply by playing and singing without much preconception, and can exude the reverberation of the strings directly onto audience members. I’d hope that this creates a warm, inviting feeling that makes people feel like they belong with me at that moment, experiencing that good feeling of the harp together. The harp also offers a dynamic range of sound that I will never finish exploring.
How much of the instrumentation on the album was done by you? Do you play with a band?
I sang and played harp, glockenspiel, musical saw, harmonium, and melodica. My best friends did the real work in making the album what it is! This is our band that also plays together live and for fun all the time. Ryan York on bass and cello, Yvette Holzwarth on violin and vocals, Max Kaplan on clarinet, saxophone, and vocals, Alex Genco on drums and percussion, and Alina Cutrono on vocals and guitar.
The way you use your voice and instruments to create sound is quite unorthodox. Is this in any way a reaction against your classical training?
I do not consciously react against classical training that has been graciously provided to me by some of the best teachers I’ve ever known. My harp teacher Marcia Dickstein is often involved in my composition process, and I have done some vocal classical training…but for some reason, although I know very well what the rules are, I have trouble sticking to them. This is partly because I devote a lot of my time to academics and clinical work, and music becomes a form of release and relaxation for me. I think of music time as my party time. So when the day is done, we drink wine and play and sing what naturally feels good, and tend to let go of the restrictions.
In this sense, the music can be called escapist as you mentioned, but I also feel that it feeds off of and in turn enriches every other component of my life, so that everything is actually quite unified in my mind. Clinical work with children feels very therapeutic, playful, and improvisatory, and this is exactly how I feel about creating music.
The album was produced by Asura. Has being surrounded by producers in the LA beat scene affected your approach to music at all?
I am very inspired by the producers in the LA beat scene, especially the mind-blowing Asura who weakens me at the knees! This music is very different from mine, but I am always inspired by music that does not sound like my own. I have been especially inspired by the large range of sounds that can be produced electronically, and hope to explore this theme further with actual electronics in future releases.
A lot of comparisons have been drawn between you and Joanna Newsom. I personally see your music as quite different, but what do you think of these evaluations?
I will not ever evade the fact that I owe everything I make to Joanna Newsom. She is the one who taught me that you can play this instrument, sing, and craft narrative at the same time! But I feel that when I watch Joanna Newsom play live, I am experiencing an intricate and ornate exhibit. I like to think that I’m taking a slightly different branch of this genre, and taking it into a more warm and interactive place.
What is next for you? Do you have any more releases or projects in the pipeline?
My next release will be three suites of three songs each, hopefully electronic, slower and more ambient, and each on a different theme. It will be much more independently made, so I’m taking a bit of a retreat into myself now. Can’t wait to tell you more soon!
-ANA CARAVELLE ‘BASIC CLIMB’ IS OUT NOW ON NON PROJECTS