ROCH: Sculpting music at CSM
It is hard to balance an existence between two worlds, but as we speak to ROCH, musician and Central Saint Martins sculpture student, we are shown through her frameworks of minimalism and rebelliousness that it is not only natural, but obligatory.
Despite working with a drummer and a synth bass player, ROCH’s music is not overly produced because she thinks her voice needs “space around it.” Channeling how she plays live when she records, Roch tries to recreate this particular atmosphere in her sound and her harmonious videos. “I find that you understand the artist more when you see them, because there’s a raw performance in front of you,” she says, and to Roch this understanding is key as she tries to capture its exact essence in her own work. “You can connect with somebody when you play live,” she explains.
Artistically she believes that 2016 is a time when it is especially hard to stand out, and that it can be a “polluted place.”. So to combat this she refines her own music, saying: “In the studio I do tend to build things up with a lot of recordings and all the synths just to get everything out of my system and then strip it, taking it to the raw elements.” We can see Roch continuing this theme in her first music video ‘Vienna,’ which she shot and edited herself: a four minute video portrait of her unembellished and unconcealed presence before the camera, and her reaction against it.
“It’s nothing against the men but you have to be aware of your gender in the industry you’re in. Plus it has affected me, otherwise I wouldn’t just talk about it without reason.”
Despite Roch’s pursuit for connection, this is not equated by a pursuit of audience. “I’ve kind of learnt in my songwriting that I don’t have to please anyone,” she acknowledges. “Don’t be precious about it.” Unusually Roch finds reading helpful in creating the right mindset for songwriting. “I’ll sit in the studio and get back to why I’m doing it and read. I find reading really helps to channel your mind somewhere,” she says. With her dream collaboration being with PJ Harvey or Patti Smith you can see the parallels emerging between lyrics and literature, Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’ a recent read that has become a real influencer. “She’s quite a role model I’d say,” Roch says.
As Patti Smith and PJ Harvey have had to carve their own versions of ‘self’ in the male dominated music industry – where there are even more acute definitions of women in the spaces left for them than in everyday life – so must Roch, an issue which she realises shows in both her artwork and music. “I’m obviously quite aware I’m a female in quite a male dominated industry,” she says. Roch explains that she looks at a lot of female artists in her art and on her tumblr, although she is surprisingly apologetic about this. “It’s nothing against the men but you have to be aware of your gender in the industry you’re in. Plus it has affected me, otherwise I wouldn’t just talk about it without reason.” She says that in general she gravitates towards female singer songwriters, citing Angel Olsen, who in an Guardian article this August spoke of how her songs engage with the “complicated mess of being a woman,” as an inspiration.
“I thought coming to CSM there’d be more music and bands but it seems to be more experimental DJs and experimental music in general.”
Being both a sculptor and a musician seem like two very large worlds to juggle but Roch is coolly unfazed, probably because of the clarity of her artistic conceptualisation, but also because one allows for a little respite from another. “It’s cool actually – I just gig in the evenings, write a few times a week and the rest of the time I’m in the studio. Or I write when I’ve had enough of my art. I go through phases of music art then art music.” Roch does not use music in her artwork, which is perhaps unusual for someone for whom music is such a large part of their consciousness. “I’ve never really needed or felt the need to use music because if I want to say something I feel, I use my film work,” she explains. However she does see overlaps in theme and lyrically, with one of her songs speaking about ‘the cold stones surrounding us at St. Martins,’ showing that her life as a sculptor is influential. She explains how it feels “to be surrounded by so many creative people and how it can feel quite claustrophobic. You can feel on your own sometimes.”
If there was any institution known to breach the gap between music and art it would have to be Central Saint Martins, and not only because the Sex Pistols held their first 1975 show there. Roch however isn’t so sure. “I thought coming to CSM there’d be more music and bands but it seems to be more experimental DJs and experimental music in general. But I think the attitude of the Sex Pistols with that punk rebelliousness is still here.” It is 2016, are experimental DJs not the Sex Pistols of today? Is that too sad? Roch sees her studio’s constant questioning of the school that has become an establishment as a form of rebelliousness, and sees a further pushing back in their projects as she says “we kind of veer off from what we are told to do.” In truth Roch is a bit of a rebel in her line of thought, which is a far cry from the noise and muddle of the art and music world in which she inhabits.
Roch will be playing live this Friday at 8pm at The Nines in Peckham, in collaboration with visual artists Isabella Gooch (CSM), Lisa Darrer (CSM), Anna Smith (Chelsea) and Jack Rowe (Chelsea). Catch more info here!