V for Vandetta — Introducing NYLON’s January 2020 Cover Girl, Vanessa Fernandez!

Meeting Vanessa Fernandez for the first time is like meeting an old friend whom I’ve known for years, but never actually met. In the decades behind both our careers in the same industry, I’m surprised our paths never crossed. I first heard of Vanessa when she was in the local hip-hop group, Urban Xchange (year 2000), and subsequently, Parking Lot Pimp (2004); and then I heard her on Mediacorp’s 987FM radio station as Miss Vandetta (2006—2010). Today, she’s still making music — and as a solo artiste; and it’s with her latest single, Give Me Love, that I discovered how good she is at it. I’m super proud to present her as our first cover girl of the new year! Here’s Vanessa in the NYLON office talking about her music. Read on.

Photography by Adele Chan using the Leica M10-P + Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH lens.
MAKEUP BY HAN, Dior International Proteam Makeup Artist using DIOR MAKEUP.
HAIR BY JAMES CHIUN FROM PRO TRIM HAIR STUDIO.

 

On Vanessa, makeup (all dior):
Dior Backstage Face and Body Primer, $59
Dior Backstage Face and Body Foundation, $65
Diorshow Brow Styler, $38
Dior Backstage Eye Palette in 003 Amber Neutrals, $83
Dior Crayon Eyeliner Waterproof, $34
Dior Backstage Eyelash Curler, $38
Diorshow Designer Mascara, $54
Dior Backstage Rosy Glow in 004 Coral, $61
Dior Lip Glow 001 Pink, $50
Rouge Dior 789 Superstitious Matte, $52
Dior Backstage Air Flash Radiance Mist Primer and Setting Spray, $80

 

About her new single, Give Me Love
“I actually produced that one and I haven’t really flexed that muscle — in terms of producing my own stuff; so usually, like with some of the other songs, it’s either I had a producer make the beat or I work with various producers, but this one I kinda just started experimenting with it again. It’s very special to me because of all the singles I’ve put out, this is the one that is completely, totally me.

And, I think it’s probably not a very pop song — but that’s okay. I mean, there’s another song called ‘Not Your B’ which is specifically like ‘let’s make a pop song’. And on the first one which I ever really released, which was called ‘Hold It Down’, is kinda like ‘let’s do R&B’, but not a classic R&B that I’m used to, but more like whatever is current now, you know? And then, there’s ‘Give Me Love’, which is kinda like a down tempo or deep house track.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fk2mIVRq9ok]

The next single…
“The next one that is going to come out in 2020 is actually a hip-hop one with Masia, Kim Olsen, this young rapper called AngelK, and myself. So, all of them are very different. I think it’s nice to put yourself out there in a much more vulnerable way, because I wouldn’t say that I’m the greatest producer [laughs] but I feel it’s always important to push yourself and try things. So, yeah, it’s just nice to flex that muscle.”

About being a Soul-Electronic artiste
“To be honest, a lot of the genre definitions these days is because people have such short attention spans; you just need to be able to give them the box instantly. Of course, I would say every artist, as you will know, would have a much deeper and longer explanation of who they are, what they do, and what message they have, but for me, the two things I always want people to know is that, I am a soulful person, and that I am also a progressive and experimental person. And that’s what I feel soul and electronic means.”

About Vandetta the artiste
“As Vandetta, the stuff that I do is pretty much always electronic music, and the soul part of it is… that is my voice. I do also have side projects where I do duos. And as Vanessa Fernandez, I release audiophile covers.”

[Listen to Vanessa singing in the NYLON office:]

 

The process of writing music
“If I’m making it myself, I’ll just kinda like sit down and play around with sounds that I like. And some sounds that I like will be influenced by whatever I was listening to, or just something that I hear in my head. And then I’ll piece that together, and as I’m piecing that together I will also hear like a melody line… And then I will insert lyrics based on whatever it is I also feel like singing at that time. And then it will just come to me.

If I am working with a producer, usually I would hear a beat and it depends… Sometimes when you’re working with producers, it’s like there’s a bunch of beats in there and they will play you different things, and then you kinda hear something again. So, a lot of it is just almost like pulling from the air or channelling, very organic, I would say. I will just hear something.

But I feel like when I put things together, when it’s time to be ‘Alright, let’s figure out how we’re going to take this to market’, that for me is always a spiritual, philosophical, artistic journey. I think working with Syndicate — which is the audio-visual collective that I’m a part of… which I became a part of in 2011 — one of the things that they taught me was the concept is really important. And I feel that is the thing that anchors. It’s like your bible, you know? It’s how you look, what you say, how that gets communicated, that’s all from the concept, so I usually think quite deeply about that concept before I then go and meet my team, or decide on what the roll out would be. So, that’s kinda like the whole process, I guess.”

On the Vandetta “brand”
“I recently did a brand exercise; it was very random. I did it with my partner, and my partner was in branding. We sat down and thought about it archetypically. So like ‘what are my archetypes?’, and then sort of like streamlining how I would roll that out as a brand, I guess. But I’ve never really done that before; I guess for me, the archetype stuff helps because it helps me categorise myself. I find it very difficult to just know who I am instinctually, but then I find it very hard to use words to explain it sometimes. So that was a cool exercise as well.”

On Vanessa, makeup (all dior):
Dior Backstage Face and Body Primer, $59
Dior Backstage Face and Body Foundation, $65
Diorshow Brow Styler, $38
Dior 5 couleurs in 157 Magnify, $102
Dior Crayon Eyeliner Waterproof, $34
Dior Backstage Eyelash Curler, $38
Diorshow Designer Mascara, $54
Dior Backstage Rosy Glow in 004 Coral, $61
Dior Lip Glow 001 Pink, $50
Rouge Dior 219 Rose Montaigne, $52
Dior Backstage Air Flash Radiance Mist Primer and Setting Spray, $80

 

Does she miss radio?
“I actually do miss being on radio. Because I feel like when I was in radio, I came to radio as an artiste, like as a singer, so I consumed music probably a little bit differently than most DJs. Because the producer is very important to me; the context from which the artiste exists is very important to me; and also our context.

You know, I studied Mass Comm and one of the courses that actually resonated the most with me was Media Ethics. Because to me, I look at media as, you know, you’re not just taking an agenda; you’re setting an agenda; you have a responsibility; you are a tool of socialisation — so I feel like I miss radio and how I could use that platform more from a social aspect. As an artiste, a lot of what I do is more of an expression. Whereas I feel like radio time was a lot more of… like a sharer.

So anyway, I do miss the radio days, but I don’t miss the actual culture within radio.”

On coming back to Singapore from working in Los Angeles
“I came back for practical reasons. I was actually working for an online radio station at that time so it allowed me to just be in LA. I came back because I didn’t have a job anymore. I needed to get a job so that was the practical reason for coming back. I didn’t actually want to come back [laughs] so that’s the short answer. I would have preferred to stay in LA but coming back and then of course, going into radio, and doing LUSH at that time, was very meaningful for me. For me, I need to do projects that feel meaningful, that feels helpful and that feels challenging.”

On Vanessa, makeup (all dior):
Dior Backstage Face and Body Primer, $59
Dior Backstage Face and Body Foundation, $65
Diorshow Brow Styler, $38
Dior 5 couleurs in 157 Magnify, $102
Dior Crayon Eyeliner Waterproof, $34
Dior Backstage Eyelash Curler, $38
Diorshow Designer Mascara, $54
Dior Backstage Rosy Glow in 004 Coral, $61
Dior Lip Glow 001 Pink, $50
Rouge Dior 219 Rose Montaigne, $52
Dior Backstage Air Flash Radiance Mist Primer and Setting Spray, $80

 

Music she’s listening to now
“This African artiste called Bongeziwe. On Spotify, my top artists are: Moonchild, I really like Moonchild. They’re kind of like a jazzy-jazz trio? I think its trio? Could be four of them? I also really like this group called SHAED. They are kinda new. It’s kind of like pop dance music. Charlie Lim has a new remixes album, the CHECK-HOOK remixes album. And he has a really funny music video featuring omarKENOBI for the remix of ‘Better Dead Than A Damsel’. I actually rap on a remix for the next wave that he is doing but that — I would plug that because I feel like he pretty much got all of the really awesome electronic producers in Singapore, and got them to be on the remix project. And if you’re not clued in, you would probably have no idea who these producers are, but if you know — I would say like I have been doing this for a long time — it’s the crème-de-la-crème of anyone in the electronic music scene now in terms of production. So I thought that was really cool.”

When she’s not doing music
“I really like to chill. My partner and I really love being by the beach or being in nature. I really like parks with a lot of green. I find it very, very calming. I would say that those are the top two things I would do when I’m not doing music. In fact, I feel like doing those things brings a lot of clarity and groundedness to the music-making process.”

On Vanessa, makeup (all dior):
Dior Backstage Face and Body Primer, $59
Dior Backstage Face and Body Foundation, $65
Diorshow Brow Styler, $38
Dior Backstage Eye Palette in 003 Amber Neutrals, $83
Dior Crayon Eyeliner Waterproof, $34
Dior Backstage Eyelash Curler, $38
Diorshow Designer Mascara, $54
Dior Backstage Rosy Glow in 004 Coral, $61
Dior Lip Glow 001 Pink, $50
Rouge Dior 999 Matte, $52
Dior Backstage Air Flash Radiance Mist Primer and Setting Spray, $80

 

Her take on fashion and beauty
“Okay, I will say that I don’t feel like I’m very good at it so I’m not like a fashionista, and I’m not someone who is like an expert in beauty. But I am fascinated by it because I look at it as a mode of expression. So fashion for me — again, I don’t know the trends, I don’t sort of keep up with the trends, but every time I flip through a magazine or see something pop-up in my feed that has to do with fashion, I love knowing-seeing it because I feel like it’s art.

Beauty, I’m a bit more into because there was a period of time where I had this obsession of watching makeup videos on YouTube, because I love makeup as well. To me, makeup is another mode of expression and it’s wonderful because it can completely change how you feel, you know.

But, as I’ve also gotten older, I feel like I just gravitate towards good skincare, and products that I know and tried and work for my skin that I can get behind. So like I have a kit right, and my makeup kit is like a curation of all the products that I know that I will use, and all the colours that I like. It’s very small! I realise that after trying so many things, this is all I need. And, I’m a bit of a minimalist in a sense. When I travel, I like to carry a small bag, something small and compact and I can just take it.”

Products in her current beauty kit
“I have the Erborian CC Cream. I also use the IT Cosmetics CC Concealer. I have an ELF palette, which is the rose matte one. I bought it online and it’s really cheap and really good. I have an Innisfree palette that I made because I just love that brand. I have a ColorPop eyebrow pencil. I think that’s pretty much what I use. And I use all that for everything. Oh! And Hourglass Caution Mascara. That’s a really good mascara.

For skincare, I have four products. I have whittled it down. I hope it’s four. Okay, maybe five. So, my skin cleanser is the CetaPhil Gentle Skin Cleanser. It’s almost identical to the Glossier Milk Jelly Cleanser but the CetaPhil version. I have a toner serum which is from Innisfree. And then my moisturisers, for day I use Natio — it’s for more mature skin and also has SPF 30 so I use that for daytime. And then at night, I use the Drunk Elephant Glycolic T.L.C Serum. And then, this is like the hero product, I feel like it’s the best product ever, which is the REN skincare overnight balm. It’s expensive but it has lasted me pretty much a year.”

On Vanessa, makeup (all dior):
Dior Backstage Face and Body Primer, $59
Dior Backstage Face and Body Foundation, $65
Diorshow Brow Styler, $38
Dior Backstage Eye Palette in 003 Amber Neutrals, $83
Dior Crayon Eyeliner Waterproof, $34
Dior Backstage Eyelash Curler, $38
Diorshow Designer Mascara, $54
Dior Backstage Rosy Glow in 004 Coral, $61
Dior Lip Glow 001 Pink, $50
Rouge Dior 219 Rose Montaigne, $52
Dior Backstage Air Flash Radiance Mist Primer and Setting Spray, $80

 

Back to music. Her take on the current state of the local music scene
“I find it very exciting. I think there’s a lot of great things happening.

However, I work with the Arts Council on multiple projects; I’ve done it also when I was even in radio… and the way the music community looks at music is… everyone is trying to make it outside of Singapore. Because that’s the only way for you to kind of be sustainable. So, what happens is now in the age of the internet, what’s cool is that you can also I guess be an influencer? And if you look at some of the artistes that have done well, or are being able to sustain themselves, it’s because they are making money not from music. So, that’s like a good and a bad thing because I feel that sometimes art and money cannot mix — especially in the creation process. And it can be confusing especially if you are a younger artiste.

I think that as a country with our sound — whatever that may be — we haven’t really done anything like the Koreans or the Japanese, or even like some of the Chinese at this point, in like the rap world, to give the world something that they haven’t seen before. Or give the world something that’s really unique and also give the world something that can compete with the top level artistes in the world.

Are we getting there? Absolutely; but when I say that, I mean like maybe in like five to 10 years? Hopefully. I feel like it’s quite complicated. It’s very, very tough still being a musician. And that part’s kind of sad but at least I feel like there’s so much more music being created now than before, and that’s really important. ‘Cause that’s how things kinda improve and get better.”

Favourite local musicians, past and present.
“Humpback Oak is definitely one. I actually covered ‘Circling Square’ on the Mindkiller EP, which is the one that Chris Ho is on. It’s a remix by Kiat who is part of Syndicate. Electrico is one of my favourite bands. We actually recorded in the same studio. We were kind of like coming up together when we were in Urban Xchange. We would be coming out of the studio and Electrico would be going in to record. I like Concave Scream, but I would say that like if I had to like name names — Zircon Gov. Pawn Starz [laughs]!

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVF7T1BPIig]

And then present, I have a lot of present that I like. I love Charlie Lim, I love .gif, love Tabitha, I quite like Yung Raja and Fariz Jabba and what they are doing. I like MASIA ONE, I like sub:shaman, I also really like MYRNE, he’s an electronic producer. I like RRILEY. I really love Ben Kheng as an artist, releasing his solo stuff ‘cause I feel like he also produces. His new one is called ‘Wicked’. Yeah, he’s just cool because he’s actually a very multi-faceted artiste because he produces as well, and directs and acts. So all those different types of expression make his music a bit deeper. I really like this guy Fauxe, he’s a great electronic producer. He’s very, very cool. Uh, Ffion, who’s another pop artiste as well, a bit more R&B sort of vibes. Intriguant is another producer/friend of mine as well, a bit more experimental bass music. Alemay Fernandez, who is my cousin. and I feel like she is the queen of jazz in Singapore and she is a really, really good singer. I really like THELIONCITYBOY, to be honest. I feel like Kevin is really, really cool. And Inch.”

On Vanessa, makeup (all dior):
Dior Backstage Face and Body Primer, $59
Dior Backstage Face and Body Foundation, $65
Diorshow Brow Styler, $38
Dior Backstage Eye Palette in 003 Amber Neutrals, $83
Dior Crayon Eyeliner Waterproof, $34
Dior Backstage Eyelash Curler, $38
Diorshow Designer Mascara, $54
Dior Backstage Rosy Glow in 004 Coral, $61
Dior Lip Glow 001 Pink, $50
Rouge Dior 219 Rose Montaigne, $52
Dior Backstage Air Flash Radiance Mist Primer and Setting Spray, $80

 

Plans for 2020
“Music-wise, my partner and I work on music together. His name is Nic Robertson and we do a project called Soulful Ghosts. So we’ve actually been writing music together and I think we’ll probably work on refining those. It will take some time because he is a very thorough producer.

And then I’m also going to be spending more time on what I would like to create as the next Vandetta project, and I feel like in the last two years, I’ve gone on a bit more of a journey to be at peace with myself, which has been quite a spiritual journey. I feel like a lot of the music I have written has been about my own catharsis and my own expression and I would like to explore two things: one, improving my skills as a producer, which will take some time because I have a lot of work I need to put in to get to improve. And two, is what can I say that is a little bit more, for lack of a better word, a little bit more conscious? Not really just about my broken heart or my joy and love, but what I feel is important to say as a human in this day and age. So like that is what I’m trying to explore in 2020.”

Listen to Vandetta’s new single, Give Me Love here.
Read more about Vandetta here.
And follow her on Instagram here.

 

🎵

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