Interview & Photo: Lyz Olko
We’ve been way into Torraine Futurum lately, so it was quite a thrill when another Ravelin favorite, Lyz Olko, was able to do an interview with her.
Torraine Futurum does not do just one thing, and to fully understand her you need to consider all her artistic facets at once. For example, in the show we saw at Public Arts recently, it would seem impossible to disassociate her onstage presence from her connection to the world of fashion; the styles were so on point. But it is her writing and her lyrics that seem to form the core of Futurum’s essence. Although, you may come away from the interview below with a completely different take.
One thing that impressed us in the interview is just how stark and epic the perspective from which Futurum’s creates art is. She has all the ambition of John Milton when it comes to the themes she approaches. She has no fear of gravitas; as she tells Olko, she has fears but they are not conventional.
But there are also plenty of unexpected detours in the interview: veganism and psychedelia are both touched on. Plus, we’re also privy to probably the most original/personal top 5 film list on the internet.
What are your top five favorite films?
Christopher Nolan: The Dark Knight : Christopher Nolan
Madonna: Truth or Dare
Beyonce Video// Beyoncé Knowles Kahlil Joseph Melina Matsoukas Dikayl: Lemonade
Jean Michel-Basquiat: The Radiant Child
Penny Marshall: Riding In Cars With Boys
Robert Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures
Your performance and stage set up is incredibly beautiful and theatrical. I looked up and felt like I was at the opera, or a performance of a midsummer’s night dream. What are your references that you draw from when developing the set?
Well, thank you for saying that. I mean, I was inspired by the theme of death, reincarnation, and the idea of being indestructible. Like The Terminator. I’ve been drawn to red lately. I kind of just closed my eyes and imagined my idea image of the show and it was all red. I think the color is visceral, it’s bloody, it’s gore-y. It’s also lush, powerful, and triumphant. I chose to make the show a sea of red because I wanted the show to feel passionate and visceral. And i wanted the stage to look like hell… or heaven, depending on who you ask. For some, maybe the staging felt dark, sinister, tumultuous, and for others it evoked strength, power, divinity. I think each person’s interpretation is a projection of where they are in their own lives.
In your ID interview you mention an incident where you “lost everything”. I have experienced a lot of loss in my life, but from that I was forced to change certain things and also realized certain people or things I thought I needed to survive, I didn’t. I realized my own power and that I was good on my own. What happened, and did you feel something similar? It seems like the loss created opportunity for you to develop your body of work as an artist.
Well, I don’t want to talk about what happened because it’s mythology at this point, but I’m definitely a much stronger, smarter, more confident person as a result of isolation and trauma. Trauma and isolation kind of worked in tandem to help me learn and understand a lot about myself. I understand my wants, needs, desires, motivations etc. so much better these days. I’m so in tune and connected to myself spiritually and I trust my instincts to an intense degree. Because of this, I’m able to make decisions very quickly. I know right away when I want to say no to a shoot, interview, show, potential collaborator, potential friend or sex partner. I always know deep down in my soul what I want to do. And whenever I ignore those instincts, I always regret. That’s a gift that I don’t take for granted most people don’t trust or know themselves enough to listen when that voice inside of them screams “This is not enough!”
I also like what you had to say about not having a fear of anything to lose. There is a lot of freedom in this. Is this your M.O. in life, in terms of performing, work, relationships?
Well, I’d like to clarify that I actually do have fears, I just have unconventional fears. Most people are afraid of the negative consequences they’ll face from being vocal about how they feel and what they want. I, on the other hand, have a deep fear on the consequences my soul will face if I don’t speak up about those things. It never fails. Whenever I suppress my instinctual response to a situation I feel strongly about, I always feel sick. I feel filthy. It weighs on my soul. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world to be disappointed in yourself. You can’t escape yourself. So my fear of that feeling keeps me motivated to be as ambitious and authentic as possible. My biggest fear is not living up to my full potential.
I was inspired by the theme of death, reincarnation, and the idea of being indestructible. Like The Terminator.
What inspired the title of your new album?
I don’t know actually! Often phrases just fall out of me and then I try to contextualize them later. That’s actually how I write lyrics. I’ll make the music first and just hummed out a melody until one phrase just falls out of my mouth and then I work the song around the first phrase comes to mind. For the album title, I was just thinking about the subject matter and ‘Miles From Heaven’ kind of just formed in my head. I think it’s probably a reference to me thinking about how much work I have to do as a person before I feel fully actualized.
Are any of the songs about anyone in particular?
All are about someone(s) in particular and all are universally applicable to different interpretations.
What made you decide to take acid for the first time over the summer?
I was just very stifled and stuck. I desperately needed to feel different. I waited until I really really wanted it and was thinking about it every day.
You live with your bandmate, can you talk about the pros and cons of living with someone you closely collaborate with? I used to live with my former partner in my old label for years and we were best friends. Living together allowed us to create and work on the line all the time, but then the cons were like “I’m still mad at you about that argument we had over a button from earlier today, and can you do the dishes??”
Lol. I mean, we love and respect each other and get along well. I think we fill spaces where the other is deficient but we’re also very alike in a lot of ways. I’m very blunt and up front when I don’t like something and he’s not. But I think I’ve become in tune with the subtle signs of when he doesn’t like something I’ve done and I try to be sensitive to that because I know he’s a lot less confrontation than I am and I don’t want to walk over him. We find our way.
And working together works because we’re not working together every step of the way. I work a lot on my own. The lion’s share of the work I do on my music is on my own. I write and produce and mix my own songs and creative direct the live show. My bandmates Alex and Wyatt come are classically trained musicians, so when they come in, it’s to elevate songs with live parts to make them more dynamic and to accent my digital production. they’ve also taught me a lot about production and I always send them demos as soon as I finish them to hear their thoughts. We all have our independent music projects and we all send each other work before we release it and give feedback.
During our shoot I was thrilled to find out you are vegan as well. Do you cook a lot? Ps you must come over for dinner soon.
Yah! I’ve vegan & or vegetarian for three years. I feel a lot healthier and have more energy than I did. I don’t cook though! I’ve never been the cooking type. Not sure I’m understand the return on investment lol.