RaveenaThe singer-songwriter on her debut album 'Lucid'
3 July 2019
A year ago, Raveena, a singer-songwriter from Queens, New York was prepared to call it quits on her music career.
With over six years of experience in the business, her battles with dwindling finances, industry personnel, and waning mental health had peaked. That same year, she travelled to Berlin, joined by her partner-cum-producer Everett Orr. Together, the duo had three months to prep what would later become her debut album, Lucid.
“I’d been working a lot of side jobs at that time,” Raveena reveals. “I was honestly having so many doubts and it felt like this was really my last shot with that EP.” The EP in question was Shanti, released in December 2017. The seven-track project spawned the pop-inspired singles “Love Child,” “Sweet Time,” and “If Only.” (The latter of which would later go on to amass over 3 million views for COLORS Berlin).
“I feel a little outgrown from that record,” she admits. “I’ve matured out of those songs a bit.” In a faithful leap to a new sound, Raveena found much-needed clarity on Lucid. The album feels like a psychedelic dream. It navigates through expressions of self-love, the pains of sexual assault, and growth in her identity as a bisexual, Indian-American. Through melodic records, magic storytelling, and a refreshingly candid attitude, Raveena strikes a carefully curated balance between colours, darkness, texture, and tones.
In conversation with YEOJA, the singer reveals all on her album process and why she’s finally getting closer to the healing and acceptance she’s long desired.
Listening to Lucid in full felt like filing through an archive. Like, you were digging back through experiences, moments, ideas, and feelings. What was it that you were trying to capture with the album?
Raveena: You kind of summed it up perfectly. I was definitely looking back. I was looking back on what my life was like from ages 17 through to 22-23. There was a lot of trauma in that time period; a lot of really hard and toxic relationships. It was just me digging back into that time and making with peace with it.
I think it’s meant to tell a story from start to finish. The record has this arc. “Stronger” and “Salt Water,” are the most painful moments on the album. By the end, it’s meant to resolve that and put that chapter of my life behind.
I think your voice has transformed a lot since the Shanti EP. Using “Stronger” as an example, I’m quite stunned at how bold your vocal presence is. Have you been training?
Raveena: I think it was always in me. I had that lower tone and bolder voice within me but I didn’t really know how to harness it. Lucid was really a playground for me to stretch myself vocally. I’m really happy I grew in that way because it was imperative in my process as a musician to explore that side.
Yeah, I also hear that on “Floating.” Is there somebody else on this song?
Raveena: Yeah, Hopetala! She’s an amazing UK artist.
You’ve been travelling a fair amount between the States and Europe. What kind of experiences did you take on board and how did these adventures influence your ideas for Lucid?
Raveena: Definitely some of the lighter songs like “Floating” and “Bloom” were things that I wrote while travelling. Travelling is really nice because it gives you this renewed perspective every time you get out of your comfort zone. You’re inspired by new sights and sounds. I love curling up in an Airbnb writing new songs. A new part of you awakens every time you go somewhere new.
Can you think of one location in particular that struck you as profound?
Raveena: I wrote “Bloom” in Mexico right after the tour. It was written from the perspective of my past, and kind of saying “fuck you” to all the men who hurt me. But it was also me coming to terms with people holding me back and infecting my energy. So, I wrote “Bloom” and it came out really beautifully.
What’s important in the Raveena universe?
Raveena: Oh, definitely surrealism and colour. I’m really inspired by space, really inspired by nature; so I’m trying to find a blend of all those elements. I’m really inspired by the ’70s. I kind of like a nostalgic feeling through all my visuals.
You have such a strong visual aesthetic. In between Shanti and Lucid, you released the singles “Honey” and “Temptation.” The visuals for those records completely embody your influences. What was it you wanted to tease listeners with before the album?
Raveena: “Honey” and “Temptation” were me really stretching what I’d done before, visually. I co-directed the “Sweet Time” visuals as well. It was meant to draw people into this really warm, soft, healing space but also be wild and colourful. I think I’ve realized more and more, throughout making videos, how important colour is to me. Especially growing up around Bollywood. I’ve really tried to establish myself and my viewpoint as a director.
In light of establishing things, I remember you coming out as bisexual on Instagram. How was that for you?
Raveena: It’s been really beautiful! I’m in a kind, open space with my relationship and am really trying to explore that side of it; which has been just really liberating. Just being able to express myself fully also changes how I write music. Just having more experiences like that. People are people at the end of the day but also being with girls is completely different than being with guys.
Is that something that came about on “Nectar”?
Raveena: Yeah, definitely. That’s funny that you caught that.
Tell me about putting your Grandma on the record.
Raveena: She’s such a big influence in my life, spiritually. She’s been through so much and survived. I’m in awe of her. I wanted someone who obviously had a really different life experience but who’s in more of a meditative space now. It just felt like a full circle moment having her on the record.
I want to talk about “Mama” as well. You released it as a single on Mother’s Day. What did your mom think of it?
Raveena: She really loved it! It was really special for her to be involved with the video. It was an emotional song to make [because] she’s done so much for me and has lived through so much. I just really wanted to pay homage to her someway. I think she definitely appreciated it.
What were some of the things you had to let go in order to make this record?
Raveena: I definitely had to let go of the idea of perfection. I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect piece of art. I’m just trying to let go of setting too high a standard for myself. Sometimes I push myself too hard and I tire myself out.
What was the hardest song to write on this record?
Raveena: The hardest song to write was definitely “Salt Water” because it was just so vulnerable and upfront. I think I’ve never written about an experience like that in such a raw and open way before.
In contrast, what song came quite naturally on this record?
Raveena: “Petal.” It felt like a spirit just came into me and then I wrote that song. It was one of the coolest writing processes. I built it from the vocals up with no instrumentation and I actually played a part in producing that song as well. I wrote the whole thing in one hour.
If you had to collab with someone, who would it be?
Raveena: Definitely No Name. I think she’s really, really incredible.
What do you want your fans, listeners, and potential new listeners to take away from this album?
Raveena: Just a sense of being seen. I want them to feel like they can be their most vulnerable selves; that they can be soft and strong at the same time. I want to hold a space for people who are in pain and just need a record to kind of colour their life. Just be a soundtrack to people’s lives and a healing process. Kind energy.
Lucid is available to stream here.