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Press Photo - Emanuel de Oliveira
Photography Emanuel de Oliveira. Courtesy the artist

Nana Lourdes: the producer blending Britney, psych-pop and the Kardashians

The Portuguese artist talks K-pop, Mr Bean, and her transportive debut album, Wyoming

“Cattle Drive Me Crazy”, an episode in season 17 of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, sees the famous family jetting off to the mountainous state of Wyoming to herd cows and ride horses. The image of surgically-enhanced, cowboy-hatted celebs bobbing among the rolling hills of North America would serve as inspiration for the debut album, Wyoming, by Portuguese producer and vocalist Nana Lourdes. “What I was interested in was in them being very artificial people – at least in the show – against the most natural backdrops,” she says. “Wyoming is like nature on steroids.”

Real name Adriana Caldas de Barros, 27-year-old Nana Lourdes grew up as an only child in a small Portuguese village of less than 800 people, known for producing wine. “It’s mainly old people, I don’t know any people of my age here,” she says over a video call from Monção. “It is pretty isolating. But maybe that’s the reason why I do what I do today – I could just literally laser focus. I have nothing better to do so I just work on my craft.”

Wyoming is an alluring blend of ideas that suggest a strong musical grounding in the 90s up to the 2010s and beyond. In her productions, you can hear the psych-pop of Currents by Tame Impala and In The Zone-era Britney – two albums she describes as her “North Stars” (“whatever they make me feel, that’s what I’m always chasing,” she says). Little kernels of influence are everywhere on the LP, from the bells in “Fuck Up Person” which recall Britney’s “Drive Me Crazy” or Steps’ “Tragedy”, to “Sausalito” being named after the location of a studio where Fleetwood Mac – another sonic influence – recorded. Around making the album, she was listening to “a lot of Carpenters”, particularly 1972 track “Goodbye To Love”. “It’s five minutes long, and there are two solos, which is insane,” she says. “I think in Western pop music we’re not as creative anymore.” 

She’s also spent countless hours listening to K-pop ballads, which “always use so many chord progressions – they’re so cool”, and other pop favourites are Gwen Stefani, LeAnn Rimes and Kacey Musgraves. In the K-pop rabbit hole she dived down, she discovered a parallel between a strand of Korean music called trot (트로트) and pimba, a style of Portuguese folk-pop: “How is it possible that they’re there and we’re here, and somehow we went through the same phase of music?”

As a kid, de Barros knew she wanted to work in music, but doing it full-time had always seemed unattainable. “People here are told they need to have really safe careers – and my dad’s an accountant, he has a company, so that was supposed to be my future.” But when she attended business school to fulfil that dream, she realised she couldn’t go through with it (her parents were “a little heartbroken”, she admits). “I really was becoming depressed and it was just not for me – If you think about it, economics or whatever, it’s the exact opposite of creation.” She’d been producing in her bedroom for some time, with a process that’s “super simple”, she explains. “I do most of my production in the box on Logic apart from the guitar stuff, and a little kids’ glockenspiel I got a few months ago.”

But, having never studied music theory, de Barros felt she couldn’t enrol in music at university level. So she did the next best thing: film school, and apparently “everybody in my class had the same idea. Everybody wanted to do something with music, they just didn’t know how.” Studying the moving image, though, would find its way into her work: Wyoming narrates an imaginary couple’s road trip from California to the midwest state as they spin out of love. “The album only exists because I feel very inspired by images in films, and storytelling,” she says. The toxic love story that the album tells mirrors the relationship with reality TV and celebrity culture that many people have: when reloading episodes of KUWTK, de Barros asked herself: “‘Why am I watching this? If I feel like they’re not the greatest people in the world, why do I keep watching?’ It created this dilemma in me, like am I a hypocrite?”

That toxicity is also present in her love of cathartic, fuck-you songs. The sing-a-long hook from “Kenny”, one of her first singles released in 2020, goes: “Fuck off forever / I don't wanna see you / Ever again, ever again”, while in “Fuck Up Person” she spells out the visceral sting of being cheated on: “I introduced you, where is my finder’s fee?” “It’s funny because I don't have any beef with anyone, that’s the thing,” she says. “So it’s interesting that my comfort zone is those kinds of songs. I write them a lot, for some reason.”

Despite de Barros being an independent artist in an overcrowded musical landscape commandeered by major labels, Wyoming is resonating hard with people, as Twitter users slowly declare their devotion to her (“why didn’t anyone tell me about nana lourdes,” one wrote recently). She humbly shakes this off, with a jolt of self-deprecation: “I should be better at, like, promoting the album, honestly.”

At one point in our conversation, de Barros recalls the time when music first captured her imagination as a child. It’s something of an unconventional reference: the oddball British sitcom Mr Bean. “There’s this one episode where Rowan Atkinson was controlling a marching band or something – he grabbed the little stick thing, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that is so cool,’ it just moved me,” she says, with a laugh. “So I do think there’s a part of me that was, maybe, born with it. It’s gonna sound really corny, but it’s always been kind of like magic to me.”

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