Charles – also known as Charlotte Lindèn Ercole Coe – has been self-releasing her deeply personal music from her LA bedroom for a while now. Transcending the usual lo-fi simplicity of DIY music, Charles’ work is inspired by sensorial deprivation, recorded alone in her car and is truly brilliant; dreamy “trapped in my bedroom Italo-disco” with simple synth loops sit with lyrics that chronicle her descent into heartbreak, (her first album Cactus Milk), or pondering how one learns from misery and mistakes (That’s How Baby Learns). Despite the often doomy subject matter, Charles is a redheaded ray of sunshine – meeting with her in LA she gives off the air of someone who’s a decade older than she is, despite wearing a brown fleece and proclaiming that Napoleon Dynamite changed her life.
When did you become Charles?
I mean, at the risk of sounding soooo cliché, I’ve always been Charles. It’s what I’ve always been called – it’s my name rather than an alter ego. My birth certificate says Charlotte but I’ve always gone by Charles.
You make music in your car. To me, that feels like there’s an urgency to get things out, otherwise you’d book a studio. Am I right?
Absolutely. I am violently impatient when it comes to work – not because I’m trying to keep it authentic but because I get excited. When I start working on a song I usually take one or two days for each part, and a few hours for the vocal. I just write them on the spot, which is why they’re so simple and honest. I record in my car because I get embarrassed. I live with my sister and singing in my room over and over the same verse feels exposing. So I just sit in the garage in the middle of the night when none of the other tenants are around and let the good times roll.
Does making music in sensorial isolation heighten your senses?
Yes. I feel the least self-conscious when I am alone which allows me to do what I think is great. A lot of my inspiration comes from interacting with people who have either in some way ruined or dramatically enhanced my life. But when it comes to working I have to be alone.
So, collaborations are out the window?
I’ve been trying to 'help' other people with their songs but when it comes to my own work I refuse to let anyone in the room. I have a lot of hang-ups about plagiarism, which makes collaboration on my own work nearly impossible. When I was 16 I was a psychopath and had a 2 year-long meltdown over copying my friend's biology homework and wasn't sure if I wanted to be alive. I truly thought if I had copied my homework, nothing I did after that would "count". Like if I got into a good college and got a good job it would have been based off of getting an undeservingly good grade in a class I copied homework in ONE time. I laugh about it now because what a minuscule problem that was to have in the world we live in, but ever since then I've been incredibly sensitive about doing everything alone. I direct and edit videos for a living and insist on doing basically everything myself. It's not a good way to be. I'm starting to let go. Finally. So yes, I must work alone.
As well as making music, in your car, in the middle of the night, you work as a video editor.
It’s a very similar process. Actually the only reason I dreamt about making music in the first place was so that I could make videos and album artwork. I thought so backwards about it! I’d come up with fake album names and song titles and make fake album artwork for fun.