Sometimes timing is everything and for French-Mexican singer and songwriter Andrea Balency, timing has been a bit of a bitch.
While contemporaries have hit the mainstream, Andrea has been on the move, packing up her life in Mexico to move back to her Parisian birthplace. With her travelled an EP, the beautifully sparse and sensuously creepy 'Walls'.
“I started on classical piano at five,” she recalls. “I really loved it, I wanted to be a classical pianist but after school I went to Argentina. I was supposed to go there for a couple of months but I ended up staying for two years. The first person I met was this singer/songwriter and I hadn't been in touch with songwriting before. He showed me Argentinian pop music, it's very indie and underground, with artists who are just doing their thing. But it was very honest to me and that's when I started writing songs.”
Her eventual presence on the Mexican art-rock scene lead to her opening up for The Cure, playing to a mere 50,000 people. “It wasn't terrifying, I wasn't scared, I was a bit nervous five minutes before but the minute I went on stage it went away,” Andrea says with an almost unbelievable casualness. Though her career was on the up, Balency admits the scene had grown repetitive for her. “I wanted to do something a bit more avant garde and nothing there was pushing me to do that so I decided to go to Paris because I met someone who is now my manager and we talked and he said, 'go'.”
It sounds simple but Andrea, already with songs that would become 'Walls' written, struggled with the transition. “I was in the middle of moving and changing managers and it was a very complicated time in my life.” She continued to record in Paris, working with Airhead and Stephane Briat, but, unhappy in Paris, upped her life once more to move to London.
The EP, released in late June, contained the startling 'Crystals' - a tinkling, throbbing psychological horror film of a song, with breathy, knowing vocals insidiously menacing piano trills and absent-minded electronic drums. The lead track 'You've Never Been Alone' tripped through vocal samples as Balency sweetly chastised a lover for emotional failings.
“I was in a long term relationship and was changing really fast at that time. It was right before I went to Europe after Mexico and he just stayed the same. He didn't want anything to change. It was (a break up) of a lot of affection. Even the title of the song, it's not 'I don't care' or 'I'm angry at you'. We are still friends but he doesn't know that song is about him.”
Balency, to date, has been described as dubstep, electronica, R&B and pop. She's often said to either induce devotion or hate for her vocal style and she's heard the word 'quirky' more times than she'd like. For Andrea, however, to sharply divide critics is “a good thing because it means you're doing something different, that stands out, it's new. And new is either terrifying or the best thing.”
Could she categorise herself then, if she had to? She thinks about it for a moment. “I was playing a festival on the beach. There was a guy. I didn't really notice him while I was playing because I was really into it but afterwards he came to me and said that I looked like I was the eye of the storm. The music had gotten really intense and the beach got crazy. And I was like, wow, that's cool. Because that's really, really how I feel when I'm playing those songs.”
Out today (August 18th) Andrea Balency has compiled a remix EP focusing on breakthrough cut 'You've Never Been Alone' - streaming first on Clash, you can check it out below.
Words: Taylor Glasby
Photo Credit: Heather Sommerfield