Culture

SPICY Q&A: REGO Talks New Music Video & “To Be Determined” EP

"I want to see more femme artists of marginalized communities continue to infiltrate and shift industry norms."

Many up-and-coming artists can only hope with any project they release that they create well written music that delivers enough variety for all kinds of listeners. This is the premise behind Philadelphia-based artist regothereshego‘s debut EP To Be Determined: that with just a year of her career under her belt, REGO is still exploring her sound, and doesn’t know for sure where that will take her in the coming years.

We got to speak with REGO about her new music video released today, along with the process of creating her To Be Determined EP.

How did you find yourself in music?

I first decided to pursue music in May of 2018 after I graduated from Temple University and had a mental breakdown contemplating my pursuit of a Ph.D in Race and Politics. I grew up watching YouTube covers and singing when I was alone but never thought my voice was good enough, so I learned many instruments by ear growing up. I played the violin for nine years and I can carry a beat or tune on the drums, guitar, and piano; in other words, a jack of all trades but no master. 

What led you to want to make a career out of it?

I went through college thinking that I could make a small change through academia, specifically by creating knowledge on political and social movements. (Foucault said knowledge is power, and vice versa.) It is still important to me of course, but I felt that getting a Ph.D, in a sense, would be “too easy.” If I did the steps right, I would have tenure by age 30 and then what? I figured that if my mind and looks are this sharp and optimally functioning at this age, why not take a risk and spend that same energy I would have spent on a Ph.D, instead, on pursuing a platform for change that I would love to do for the rest of my life? That platform, and that pursuit, was obviously music. It’s powerful to post something and cause a revolution.

When you first got started, did you know what kind of sound specifically you wanted to create as an artist? 

I knew I wanted my voice to sound mysterious and sexy but I also wanted to talk about more than just sex. drew most of my sound inspiration from The Weeknd, Shakira, and Lauryn Hill. I also always thought rappers like Lil Wayne and Drake were really cool, so I take that attitude into my songs, but before I started I didn’t know what sound I wanted. 

Tell me a little bit about the To Be Determined EP. What was the writing process like?

To Be Determined is a sonic introduction to my moody and dynamic persona. I drew inspiration from Kendrick’s DAMN., and each song is based on a different theme; joy, lust, isolation, impatience, temptation, hope, and love. I wanted the EP to demonstrate my vocal flexibility, and introduce Rego as an artist who is capable of leaving her listeners wanting more. Each song highlights a different mood in a different space and time. I chose to name it To Be Determined because I felt it adequately reflects the meaning of the EP as it relates to myself and to my audience: it is to be determined where this EP will take my career as it is to be determined what voice and mood I may take on in my future projects. 

Tell me about “Pray For You.” What story did you want to tell with the song?

Shout out to Produced by Delgado! He invited me to the studio and had the beat already half made. I came in and ended up with the melody and the lyrics “We gon’ make the moves / I’ll pray for me, Ill pray for you.” I knew that was the hook because we were all listening to the reference and jamming to that part. The reference was really plain besides the hook. I wanted the song to sound like I was climbing up and down a ladder, and I wanted to invoke a feeling of anticipation and tension. I thought that the phrase “Polly wants a cracker” represented the dynamics between feeling forced to consume a vice while being caged with Stockholm syndrome. If you listen to the bridge, it follows a similar rhythm to Sheck Wes’ “Mo Bamba,” which I thought sounded lit. After writing, I hit up SlowWave to record, mix, and master the single which he did tastefully, along with my whole To Be Determined EP.

I love the new wave/Alfred Hitchcock description you gave of the “Pray For You” video. What was the process of conceptualizing the video like? What did you envision for it, and how was it executing those ideas on camera?

I had a vision for the music video that I couldn’t fully articulate; I attempted to shoot it twice prior but realized I was thinking too big and didn’t have a budget to make those ideas beautiful at the moment. “Pray for You” is about attempting to overcome temptations and failing. Tristan’s treatment simply said that I, as Polly, would  go through my day, consuming different vices that I think I need but cause me to react weirdly. “Pray for You” is the result of two dope creatives coming together with a common goal of creating a beautifully twisted story on a small budget. I’m proud to say we accomplished that with the help of the crew, Kevin Aponte, Fawwaz Allie, and Erica Dillman.

Tristan Seyek, Director: “I immediately fell in love with the song and wanted to capture the moodiness and melancholy of the production and Rego’s voice. The character “Polly” seemed to have a struggle within herself so I thought of expanding upon her musical journey, satirizing the tropes of what the industry expects of femme artists. Working with a low budget, I channeled the French New Wave genre, as these films were made on shoestring budgets but compensated with dynamic cinematography and avant-garde storytelling. I brought the idea to Rego and she loved it, and we collaborated to expand the concept, brainstorming plot points and picking wardrobe options. With both of us having busy schedules, we realized the only day we could shoot it was 5 days from then, so I hustled to get a small team to help me with the production. What you see in the end product is very much what we envisioned from the start, much in part thanks to our editor, Erica Dillman. I’m very grateful for the trust Rego had in me, I’m humbled to have her as a muse, and thankful to now call her a close friend.”

Do you think it’s important for WoC artists such as yourself to show pride in their identity in their music? And is that something you wanted to prioritize with your own music career?

Absolutely. Like I mentioned, my aspiration is to uplift people, and being a member of multiple marginalized communities, I am conscious that representation in media is key to uplifting the youth. I think it’s important for femme artists to keep in mind that the visuals and platform they are creating can either perpetuate or challenge the conventional system. I aim to awaken the system through my art and show pride for my intersectional identities by collaborating with like minded artists. 

What are some things you’d like to see WoC artists achieve both in the near and far future?

I want to see WoC taking leadership positions in the industry. (It’s already been happening!) I’ve been thinking about the dynamics between the entertainment industry and politics, and it is truly interesting to witness how entertainers have risen up and gained more legitimacy in the political arena over the past couple of years. Also, it’s been amazing to see how femme entertainers were able to band together and really boost social movements like #MeToo. We are leading a sociopolitical movement, and I want to see more femme artists of marginalized communities continue to infiltrate and shift industry norms.

What’s next for REGO?

It has only been one year! At this point in my career, I am looking to put together a team dedicated to regothereshego. I will be releasing more visuals for the EP consistently through the end of 2019, along with new singles too! Depending on where TBD takes me, I hope to release another project next summer.  In the meantime, I plan to perform on bigger stages in Philly and in other cities on the east coast. I hope my message of self-actualization finds bigger audiences, and touches those who need it all over the world. 

Chris is a writer, plant parent, and lover of mangos from Miami, Florida. As a queer Latinx writer, Chris takes pride in highlighting subcultures that often go unseen or unheard, and giving a voice to those who often struggle to find one. Interests include yerba mate, gender fluidity, and The Legend of Zelda.