Eloquently spoken and wise beyond his years, Julian Lamadrid is a masterful young musician on the rise. Growing up amidst a family of Mexican expats in Dubai, Lamadrid's first exposure to music was through his father, who played progressive rock similar to the likes of Pink Floyd, The Who, Genesis, and Yes. As Lamadrid grew up, he found inspiration in the UK's 1970s music scene, including bands and artists like Joy Division, New Order, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed. In order to escape the artistic limits he felt in Dubai, Lamadrid left his home behind and embarked on a journey of self-discovery. His travels sent him to New York City, where he studied film at NYU and continued to fan the flames of his love for music. After graduating, Lamadrid caught the attention of Arista Records, to whom he officially signed earlier this year. Lamadrid's music is eclectic: a medley of New Wave, bedroom pop, hip hop, '80s synth, and British rock. Though he may be far from home, Lamadrid is finding his footing in the States and conquering New York one step at a time.
Most recently, Lamadrid has been focusing on his new single "Neon," which debuts today, August 2nd. “‘Neon" is an anthem for the ADHD generation, a song that dares to dive into multiple different sonic landscapes and still maintain a thematic and melodic through-line. It's the artist's private "Bohemian Rhapsody," a quality the video attempts to mirror by augmenting the tune's sporadic nature. Make sure to catch the video for the drug-fueled youthful odyssey below.
Recently, Lamadrid was gracious enough to give us a glimpse into his mind, spilling the details of his mind's inner workings, his most recent conquests, and his new singles "Mess" and "Neon."
Katie Ascher: What was the influence behind your track "Mess?"
Julian Lamadrid: To a certain extent, it's one of those songs that spends a lot of time bubbling within you and then starts fermenting. I sat down by the piano one day and it was this summary of the past year I've had when I was feeling like I was lost and wasn't on the particular path that I thought I was meant to be on. I felt like I had to soldier on, but couldn't really find that stoicism within me. So, I just wanted to write down the words "I'm a mess," but take control of it and take charge of it. So, the whole concept of the song I released is that I am a mess and clearly unstable. Or, to a certain extent, I don't know what I'm doing and I'm lost. I'm looking to other people for approval. I'm trying desperately to find the knowledge from books and films and from other people or from history, and it's acknowledging the fact that I am a mess but then at the end of the day taking control and being like, "If I'm a mess, that's just what I am and I might as well learn to love it because I'm stuck with myself." It's the idea of taking control of the fact that you are not perfect and you probably never will be.
KA: When did you really realize that you wanted to be a musician, to follow in the footsteps of major musicians and pursue your dreams?
JL: Like any teenager, I was desperate for an identity. I was the classic angsty teenage boy whose parents were getting divorced, and all I wanted to do was find a microphone and scream and play rock music as loud as I could just to piss people off and to vent and get it out for catharsis. I started a band when I was 15, and it was the quintessential teenage indie rock band. We'd play Battle of the Bands and whatnot, and eventually, I realized that writing music and singing were so therapeutic for me and it was almost essential. It was like breathing and it became just like sleeping. Making a beat was what I'd rather be doing than going out with friends. So music kind of took over. It was so accessible; all I needed to do is get a little mini keyboard and I was there banging out tunes and making music. Obviously, a little part of me found the rockstar lifestyle enticing and the idea of getting girls, fame, and all these things. But essentially, it's that without music, without that kind of release, and the ability to at least attempt to make sense of what was going on in my head and put it somewhere concrete like a piece of art, I think I would have gone insane at that age. Still now, if I didn't have music, I'd be, like, naked on Fifth Avenue rambling on. It's become my therapy and this inherent necessity to create that took over.
It happened with music, and then obviously cinema is a bit more difficult because you can't just do it on the fly. You can't just do it in your bedroom; there are a lot more things you have to go through. You need to have a crew and you have to write a script, but music was accessible and I could get better and better at it and make sense of my own subconscious or just explore my own identity through making music. I'm still doing that. It's still that process of trying to be the most honest, the most authentic, the most forward pushing musician that I can in order to get to know myself better. To me, it's a vehicle of self-exploration more than anything
KA: Can we expect a lot more cross-collaboration between film and music in your future?
JL: Yeah. I think it's really hard for me to kind of draw a line between the two. I'm a visual artist more than anything, so the performance of the piece– visually, and the actual world that it's created is inseparable from the music itself. Those scenes that I have in my mind go with the music as much as the music goes with the scene. At this point, I have the resources that I've always wished I had, so I could actually make those images that come to my mind when producing songs and writing lyrics. I can actually make them reality to a certain extent, and obviously, my toys are going to get better and better as I grow as an artist. But right now it's quite nice because I'm able to explore that. In the future, I would love to direct films and make my own film. I have millions of ideas already in my head for that. Right now, I want to just conquer music and understand it and get better at that. For me, the two are so inseparable that I can't imagine doing one exclusively. Also, I have these ideas and these images. I might as well go out and make them a reality.
KA: The video for "Mess" has noticeably great graphics and filming techniques. Did you direct it all on your own? What was your inspiration?
JL: Yes, I think the entire record "Mess" is a perfect example of the fact I was making little songs and singles and EPs and then I decided, "No, I want to make an album." I want to make something that one day my son will be in the attic, and all a sudden he'll pull out this dusty vinyl and it'll be my record. That was my dream, and it was this idea like, I want to make something that accurately depicts what it has been like for me in the first twenty years of life. What can I say and what is honest? I reduce the ideas in my mind if I want to make the most honest piece. I've never been in love, so I couldn't write a love song. I mean, I could write a lot of love songs and was doing that, trying to vicariously live through writing music. But I realized that the most overarching theme from the past three years of living in New York alone was this feeling of stumbling home drunk at 3 A.M., after not making any decent human connections and keep on drinking to make other people interesting, and it doesn't work. I've had twenty conversations about the same thing, about politics, and all this nonsense and I ended up just alone, stumbling back into my apartment. I wanted to make a record that I put inside my ears at that point and I could, for a moment, a second, a fraction of a second, escape and be somewhere with energy that will help me continue finding the romance in it and soldier on. So, that's what the record is about. It's these songs that are designed for a bad night. That's why it's called Mala Noche, which means "bad night" in Spanish, because it's an homage to all those shitty nights I've had on the L train or all those drunken key drops that I've had by myself. So, with "Mess," those music video visuals are a more heightened scenario based on that. The idea of that boy alone, drunk, at his lowest, is a recurring theme.
KA: Speaking of being alone, you came a long way from where you grew up. Can you tell us about that experience for you?
JL: Well, I think I'm completely in love with New York, and obviously every day I fall in love with it a little more. I come from Dubai. That's where I grew up and I lived for 18 years, and, in terms of culture and substance and heartbeat, it's void. There's not much for a kid whose entire life is film and music and art. It's a place that adheres towards a more touristy and luxurious taste, and I wanted real culture. I wanted leather jackets and homeless people and the trains and something a little more chaotic and unstable. New York is essentially that, so when I got here I instantly felt at home or at least like I had found a place, that the idea of not having a home was accepted. The idea that we are all trying our best was at the forefront of every interaction, and I think everyone in New York to a certain extent is gradually drifting into insanity, but the knowledge that we are drifting as a unit, as a family, all the New Yorkers, provides some comfort and I think it's nice. So yeah, I like New York. I'm enjoying it. Visa situations can get difficult, but at the end of the day, I'm having an amazing time. I lived in New York without any money basically for the past three years, so now that I actually have a job, it's nice. I'll be able to eat at fun places, go to concerts, and things like this, which is a whole other side of New York that I haven't really been exposed to, so I'm excited about that.
KA: There seems to be a trend recently of musicians moving to LA. You were recently out there. What are your thoughts?
JL: There's been this sort of mass exodus from New York to LA because that's where all the producers and songwriters are, but I write and produce by myself, so I don't necessarily need to have those other parts. So, that whole LA lifestyle of hanging out with different producers and doing sessions and meeting up with writers is not necessarily enjoyable for me. As I said, music for me is a vehicle of self-expression and to actually have that, I need a place where I'm forced into my own solitude, and New York is definitely that. Although people are moving to LA right now in general, in a couple of years, mark my words, I bet the actual music scene in New York will become very punk and the last few remaining people here will probably be making the most interesting music. Whenever you move with the grain, things become meshed and similar and rub off on each other. When people are left here we have to rise from the ashes and revamp this scene, which has been dying in recent years. But I have faith in New York and the musicians here. I'm definitely staying here; I can't imagine myself in LA. It's also on the other end of the world, to get to London or Paris or anything like that, New York's beautifully centered and LA's kind of just off in the distance.