Words by Willa Rudolph
“midnight train” is like putting a facade to the world that everything’s good, while you’re concealing and dealing with your own demons inside,” half-Puerto Rican and half-Cuban rising artist Quelle Rox says about her new single. Hailing from South Florida and residing in New York City, she releases “midnight train” today, along with a retro-futuristic music video. We had the pleasure of speaking with her about the release. You can find the interview below, but first I’ll tell you a little bit more about the track and visual accompaniment.
The synthwave “midnight train” is a sweet and dreamy, yet sorrowful and technologic, bad lil’ beat. The Brooklyn music scene knows Quelle Rox as a “Dream Pop Boricua Princess,” her team tells me, “who never fails to disappoint lovers of the Latin genre.”
The VHS-style music video embodies retro-futurism by thematically referencing past perceptions of the future. Watching it, you feel lost in time, unsure of where you stand, unsure of how to find your footing. It’s kinetic, disorienting and energetic, and it does feel like a night out in which you relinquish any control over where you’re going and just surrender to the night.
Quelle Rox sings, “I promise I’m sane/ a goddess of pain/ iconic and lame/ remember my name,” as we follow her through her neon adventure.
“midnight train” marks a new era for the artist, as she infuses her dream pop aura with a hyper-pop beat. The song tries to convey a “live fast, die young” sensibility through it’s intentionally auto tuned vocals and the VHS visuals that take the viewer along for the ride of their lifetime– a surreal night out with Quelle in NYC. It reminds me a little bit of the music video for L$D by A$AP ROCKY.
Quelle Rox sonically references artists like Kali Uchis and Pink Pantheress, but creates an entirely distinctive combination of Latin music, drum & bass, and cyber-pop. “midnight train” embodies the frantic uncertainty of youth that is both intensely exciting and fun, and can make you feel despondent and bleak.
I take the midnight train/ go back to my apartment
More regrets, cocaine/ I tell everyone i’m sane
Then the demons come fuck me up again /
I promise I’m sane / Remember my name
Quelle explains, “this track pairs with my previous single “vomittt,” but I am working on a larger project that I plan to release next year. Maybe an EP, maybe more… we’ll see!“
Read our conversation with Quelle Rox below:
WR: Where are you from?
Quelle Rox: I’m originally from South Florida, and am half Puerto Rican and half Cuban. But I’ve been in NY for many years.
WR: What are some sonic influences for “midnight train”?
Quelle Rox: I was thinking of nighttime, the rush of party filled nights, the adrenaline and excitement. I was thinking of video games and what speed racing through city nights would feel like. Sonically I think drum & bass was a genre I hadn’t tapped into and I was feeling fiery and excited to try a fast-paced song.
WR: What was the reason / inspiration for dropping it with a “VHS retro-futurism, anime fever dream-type video“? [this is what Quelle called the video in our email correspondence]
Quelle Rox: I wanted to make a homemade video. I knew I wanted to shoot on VHS because I tend to like how it makes me feel, versus digital. The inspiration came from wanting to create a video that feels like how it sounds, while also doing something more low key and real to my day to day–hanging with friends, being silly, roaming through the night…I knew I wanted to shoot in a car from Brooklyn to Manhattan and in Chinatown, in the Lower East Side (though in real life I barely ever leave Brooklyn). My “momager” and I had discussed the movie Chunking Express when I first made the track, and the film visually spoke to me, as well. I wanted to have fun with it, shoot a bunch of clips, and piece it together later. I write this as my momager and friend Alia is currently editing the video by my side haha.
WR: What exactly do you mean by retro-futurism?
Quelle Rox: To me, I mean the future that different decades envisioned, especially the ’80s and ’90s. Essentially how people and pop culture imagined what the future would look like aesthetically.
WR: How does this imagery relate to the lyrics of the song?
Quelle Rox: The imagery is a night out, literally and figuratively. I met up with my photographer and friend Carina at a fave local bar of mine. We chilled and ate and then met up with Alia in LES, who assisted and edited the video. I threw in some cheeky touristy souvenir shop shots because I thought it was funny, haha. But ultimately the video is fast, dark, city nights oriented–everything that I would use to describe the track as well.
WR: How does this song sonically differ from your sound in the past, and why the departure?
Quelle Rox: The track is faster, less dream pop girly. But no departure! Just a cute little experimental moment of what a Quelle Rox hyper-pop track would sound like. Coming off of my last EP “Glitter Tears,” I wanted to have fun with something different for a sec. That said, I’m going back to my dreamy Spanglish roots in the tracks I’m working on now 🙂
WR: What story does “midnight train” tell?
Quelle Rox: “midnight train” is like putting a facade to the world that everything’s good, while you’re concealing and dealing with your own demons inside. It’s a blend of the beauty of lights, a fast-paced life, and glitz and glamor, mixed with the realization that you have to get your shit together, eventually, haha.
From Quelle Rox’s press release: “Evoking themes of imposter syndrome and heartbreak, Quelle creates a frenzied, adrenaline-filled landscape where we can dance with our demons. She even cheekily references her highest streaming track “Cosmic Gloom” when she sings “remember when I said to stay high.”