V is for Vandetta, the musician alter-ego of LUSH 99.5 FM Programme Director Vanessa Fernandez. For years now, the songstress has risen to prominence in Singapore’s underground music sphere. Beginning with local hip-hop/R&B vanguards Urban Xchange in the early-2000s, to her recent foray into soul-electronica.

By the end of 2011, she moved on to crafting her debut solo music during an expedition taken to Los Angeles, from which she birthed her EP and her first single ‘Fly.” The slick vocals-only number released back in 2013 earned her praise from major media outlets Pitchfork, MTV Iggy and LA Weekly.

Since her expansion into international waters, Vandetta has appeared at the Giles Peterson Worldwide festival and at iconic venues in the United States like The Satellite in Silverlake and The Standard in West Hollywood. The singer also continues to make her mark on homeground, recently opening for ZoukOut’s Kaleidoscope stage in 2016 and next up at PRESSPLAY festival’s finale LASTPLAY.

Before she hits the stage this weekend, POPSPOKEN spoke with the multitalented DJ-singer on her experiences in the global music arena.

While you were in Los Angeles working on your EP release a few years ago, were there any memorable experiences that grew/changed you as an artist?

I think just being on my own was a learning experience. Having to meet new people and realising what a tough market LA can be is very humbling. Quickly, you learn that while there’s so much to be engaged and inspired by, you also have to hustle because no one is going to give you any credit unless you’re really good and work very hard for it.

If there is one thing local artists need to hear, what would you say to them?

Always try harder because the moment you think you’ve arrived you won’t have anything meaningful to say with your art anymore.

You are known for being experimental with your music. Are there any new or crazy things you’d like to try next?

I have a lot of ideas that I work on, sometimes myself and sometimes with others and they will take years to develop, which is fine. Writing/producing music for a cartoon and a musical are two I’d really like to see come to fruition one day.

If there is one musician, dead or alive, whom you could collaborate with – who would it be?

Just one? Mmm… Q-tip.

Having been in LUSH 99.5FM & working closely with local musicians, what is a step you think could be taken to internationalise our local music scene?

We have to build stronger teams around the artist because the talent is already there. The gap now is that while the artists have developed their sound, style and audience via the Internet, the start-to-end support and trust system around them can be better. There’s not a single big artist that doesn’t have a well-oiled machine to help them. My short answer is better strategy, more time & more money.

Why have you decided to collaborate with NLB and participate in LASTPLAY?

As an artist I like to pick projects that challenge me or work with events & people who I think are doing something meaningful that I can believe in too. I love the ethos and execution of PRESSPLAY, an initiative by the National Library Board- encouraging the convergence and awareness of different art forms through a tasteful yet accessible way. It’s exactly what I wish for with regards to the growth of our culture. Plus, I’m honoured to be part of this awesome line-up alongside artists I personally appreciate and admire: The Neptune Waves, Canvas Conversations, Forests, NADA… amazing!

Vandetta will be performing at LASTPLAY, the finale event of PRESSPLAY held on 18 March 2017 at the Central Public Library.

PRESSPLAY is an annual month-long youth festival aimed to make the arts more accessible to the public. Organised by the National Library Board’s Arts & Culture team, PRESSPLAY collaborates with local studios, interdependent artists, and design collectives to offer a myriad of arts programmes.

Featured image by Inch Chua (2013)