Caturday with Samantha Urbani

Jessica Chanen
Gemma Lacey

Samantha Urbani waxes lyrical on how to name your cat, make a pop record DIY style and what’s it’s like to record in a dungeon as well as crafts your perfect weekend playlist.

Let’s talk about your cat Remix first, how did you guys meet?
It was very special, almost four and half years ago in Bushwick, around April 2013. I had never seen the cat before but my ex said he had seen him around. When I brought him in I was worried he was someone’s pet but he told me he’d seen him outside every night for weeks.
How did he get his name?
Earlier that year I’d heard one kid on the street call another kid Remix and I was like “That’s the fukcing coolest name ever” because kids are like just remixes of their parents. So then I decided I had to get a pet and name it Remix and then I manifested this cat. I got out of a cab saw this cat, yelled remix and he came running to me and I just brought him up to my apartment and then woke up and was like I have a cat now. He’s amazing and super smart, he behaves a lot like a dog. Even though I love cats I’ve had a lot of dogs too as they give lots more companionship, cats are more psychic and independent. His personality though is cuddly and he does  a crazy thing where he hugs you and by takes both of his paws to hold your hands- he’s very human.
Tell us about how the new record came together?
It’s definitely a very long process, and it worked kind of like a collage. It wasn’t like I went to the studio every month to get it done. I write songs every day and it’s not immediate how they’ll fit together. So I wrote songs at different, times about different things over the course of a year. Somehow when I was making playlists of demos they all fit together. It was also because I wanted to work with my friend Sam Mehran and those were the five songs we were excited to work on that I had written.
I started coming out to LA gradually to record and then decided to move and it was good to have this project to work during that transition when there was a lot of chaos in my life. I didn’t have a label, advance, or support system so it was a hugely different process from how I’d previously made records with my band years ago. It was scrappy, resourceful and DIY but with the intention of making a very highly produced pop sound. How do we take our scrappy resources and put them together in a way that sounds super hi fi stadium pop so it was kind of an art project to figure out how to do that with no gear and no money in a tiny ass weird basement we called the dungeon.
We finished production last summer and then I had to figure out how to get it mixed, so I went back to Greenpoint to work with my friend Kurt Feldman. Both Sam and Kurt are so interesting, because they do all this 80s pop stuff but they both grew up playing metal and that’s what I loved growing up too. We always draw a comparison with Max Martin because he did all this amazing boy band and pop girl shit in the 90’s but he was a metal guy. That’s why “Baby One More Time” sounds heavy and scary but cute and creepy sexy at the same time. Both of them can shred and understand when I reference metal stuff in a pop context. Kurt totally humoured my insanity and I back seat mixed it with him for like 2 months. It was good practise in the sense of no-ones gonna do this for you, you have to do it yourself if you want to get something done.
I feel really zen about it coming out as it’s been finished for so long. I’m also not playing shows yet. I‘m going to put out a few more things first. I’m happy with the whole package.
Will you be making a pop video too?
I am driving myself crazy with the video. It’s hard for me to collaborate, because I always get inspired as things happen rather than having a plan and following through so I have to be able to work with people who are spontaneous too. I’m not totally proficient at music or video production so I have to find people who are, but who will also let me steer the ship- It’s a hard dynamic to find sometimes.
You definitely have an assurance about how to do things though, where do you think that comes from?
My mom was a rebel and she home-schooled me and my brother when we were kids and that created a foundation of auto-didactic learning and also not assuming any construct to be correct. I learned to judge things for myself and figure out my best path.
Pop Music is famous for creating strong female icons, who inspires you most in this world and why?
A lot of the visuals refs for the artwork came from Nina Hagen. Conceptually her and Klaus Nomi are both really important icons to me, visually aesthetically and also the way tehy combined opera with new wave pop and visually being really flamboyant without buying into one trend or another. It was punk, anti establishment but fashionable and beautiful. But there are so many icons, Madonna, Prince, Bowie, this amazing non binary togetherness, with no rules developing their own identity.
What makes the perfect pop song?
It’s hard to describe, there are certain songs and chords and sounds that make me freak out and listen to a song 100 times in a row. There’s also a combination of things being tough, and sweet and smart and palatable that’s ideal for me.
Is it important to you to feel like you’re making a statement in your music now?
It’s always been important to me which is why I didn’t  even want to be an artist. Everyone in my family is creative but I was self conscious about doing what I saw as frivolous work. I thought I should be a Dr or a lawyer or a documentary film maker. Then I realized I’m not good academically, I need to function as an artist but there are ways to tie all that together. If you have any kind of platform why not use it as a way to say something important. It’s especially important now for everyone to consider that, there are so many crucial things to address.
Hidden talents?
I’m really into puns and wordplay, it’s compulsive. I love boggle and would read thesaurus’ as a kid. Also my fingers are really bendy! Sometimes people are surprised by my drawing because I don’t do it or share it very much, If I do one a year that’s fine.