Camila Ortiz is a junior living in Quincy who both works independently on musical projects and performs in collaboration with other artists on campus. Earlier this year, she released Fall Apart. This is her second EP, following her 2015 release of Carrot Flowers.
Jess Erion: So, Camila, I heard that you have a new EP out. Where is it? How can we listen to it?
Jess Erion: Can you tell me a little bit more about it? Inspiration, the process? Did you work with other artists?
Camila Ortiz: Yeah, I worked with this guy who was a producer on the first EP I did, and I recorded some stuff with him. And I worked with Gabe Fox-Peck of Young Bull—we did the drums on one of the songs together. And it’s kind of weird, because it’s a demo EP in the sense that the songs are all kind of recorded differently, and all come from things that I wrote freshman year of college—so there’s a lot in there about existing in new spaces, messed up communication, figuring out old and new relationships. Two of them were recorded for a class freshman year—for my freshman seminar, actually. They were based on my dreams, and they were for a final project, and I was just reworking them for a while, and they made it on. And then the other two were mostly written during the end of my first year. And those were recorded differently, in a home studio. So there’s just a lot of difference in how they were written and pieced together.
Jess Erion: That’s really cool. Is it easy to balance making music at school with being a student? What is that like?
Camila Ortiz: Yeah, it’s really hard. It’s really hard at Harvard, especially, because I feel like it’s hard to work on your own stuff here by yourself, and still feel like it’s something worth doing. Because there are so many things you could be doing! Like, with other people. And so many things that would just be more validated by other people too. It just feels kind of like . . . it’s hard to make yourself just stay in your room and do something alone that may or may not ever see the light of day. And be like, “okay, this is what I’m doing.” So it’s been hard to form a routine, working on stuff here.
Jess Erion: Do you do a lot of performing on campus? I know you’ve performed at the Queen’s Head before … are there a lot of cool opportunities? Do you enjoy performing on campus?
Camila Ortiz: Yeah! I enjoy it a lot. One of my favorites, I think, was doing a show at the Venue, which is that place in the SOCH penthouse. Laila and Ben [two other students] were putting together like a space for experimental and original music. And also just like for art, generally. And I think those spaces are really lacking on campus? So it was cool to get to do something like that. It would be fun to keep performing on campus. And I would love for there to be more opportunities for like independent projects, or people who are doing stuff on their own, to showcase that. I also want to try to play more off-campus. Not just at Harvard, but in Cambridge and Boston. But it’s hard to initiate. I don’t know where to start, but I’m working on it.
Jess Erion: That’s real. You’ve touched on this a little already, but have you found a good community of musicians on campus? Or has it been tricky to find people who are doing similar things?
Camila Ortiz: That’s been so cool, and probably indirectly the biggest influence on the music I’ve made in college. Meeting and observing and getting to play with a bunch of musicians doing a bunch of different kinds of things, too . . . there are some cool things I would not ever get to be a part of if I was not on this campus. It’s really exciting. And people are making a lot of music independently. Which is cool, to get to meet those people and talk to them and learn from them.
Jess Erion: Now I’m gonna ask you a question that I probably should have led with. How would you describe the kind of music that you make? Specifically on your new EP?
Camila Ortiz: Yeah, so I feel like it’s vocally-driven, melody-driven, kind of synth-y, kind of folky, indie-rock? That’s what I would call it. I’m steadily moving into just a little more electronic stuff. But still, pretty firmly grounded in pop and rock.
What song would you listen to before starting a fight?
Grimes’ “Kill v. Maim.” It literally starts with the lyric “I got in a fight” but also has a generally villainous vibe and these kind of amazing grating vocals that could probably drive me to fight someone.
What’s one song you’d put on a road trip playlist?
“Everybody Wants to Love You” by Japanese Breakfast – it’s really short and sweet and great to bop around in a car to.
What song has your favorite vocals?
The first song that came to mind is “I Care” by Beyoncé. Her delivery is just wild – like really emotional and angry but also technically incredible.
What’s the saddest song you like?
Probably “I Bet On Losing Dogs” by Mitski? Really anything by Mitski?
What’s the shortest song you love?
“You’re Lovely” by Labi Siffre – it’s 0:32 seconds long. There’s some really beautiful guitar picking and he just sings a single (very tender!) phrase – like four lines of lyrics – over it. Would definitely listen if you want to be reminded that there’s love/good in the world.
What song makes you think of water?
“Shinzo No Tobirah” by Mariah, a Japanese and Armenian band from the 80’s. The sound itself isn’t like, wet, but the whole song moves and flows really organically from synth lines into these kind of warbly, almost spoken vocals – and all the elements gradually stack onto each other in a very wave-like way.
Terrible song by a band you love?
Might be “Fourfiveseconds”—which is that song that was a Rihanna / Paul McCartney / Kanye collaboration. Mostly I just feel like all the combined brains on that project should have created something really incredible and weird and it was just like, fine? Also I think counting down to Friday in a song is kind of eh?
Great song by a band you hate?
“Butterfly” by Crazy Town – really an early 2000’s classic that came from an awful band. Features the incredible lyric “you got me sprung with your tongue ring” – like who thinks to rhyme sprung with tongue! And it only kind of works!