Interview with Quelle Rox: the fairy adding Latin-flavored pixie dust dream pop needs

"I'm going to make it because I'm never going to stop."

Quelle Rox is a Brooklyn-based mystical fairy spreading magic through her whimsical, Latin–flavored dream pop and is taking the world by storm. Her music is usually bubbly with a dark twist, making you feel like you’re high in the car contemplating life. Other times, such as in her latest hyper-pop experimental single, “midnight train,” she creates a high-speed roller coaster fever dream to get lost in. She even mixes both lighter and darker styles in a single song, as seen throughout her 2021 EP, coffee & a cig, with “nuestra historia” and “i only want you when i’m fucked up.”

Due to her introspective lyrics and eclectic sound, Rox’s music has an alternative, underground indie feel, which is often a white-dominant field. This makes her a proud and strong inspiration for Latinas—and women everywhere—as she breaks barriers, infusing her Cuban and Puerto Rican heritage into a genre that is currently not very diverse. She combines the two worlds while adding her own pixie dust, offering something special for the Latin community.

Last month, I went to Bobblehaus, a store, gallery, and event space in one, to watch her perform for their Latin Sounds Celebration alongside Elle Baez and Bentley Robles. Rox looked like a girl boss from another galaxy in her oversized business suit, bralette, and dozens of spunky hair clips. She never took her tiny black cat-eye glasses off as she performed—giving femme fatale Men in Black—while her right-hand man, her dog Cosmos, killed it in a purple onesie. With her transcendental voice, she hooked us in like an enchantress. The mainly Latin crowd was dancing, shining their flashlights, and recording as if at a music festival. As a Latina myself, it made me smile to see this event happening and to have so many creative individuals in one place supporting each other while genuine positivity filled the air.

Before the show, we sat with Rox to talk about her Boriqua bestie, spinning bullshit ass bullshit to empathetic art, and never giving up on making her dreams come true.

How have you been doing lately?

Today, I’m doing good…but well… life is hard, and I’ve definitely been having ups and downs lately. I try to be optimistic and hope for a better tomorrow. I’ve been trying to train my brain to think that way, so I woke up the past few days, and I’ve been pretty good. And I love the sun—the sun definitely helps. And this coffee. This coffee is hitting, so everything’s alright right now.

You’re based in Brooklyn now, right? Where are you from, and how would you describe it?

I’m from the Miami area, like South Florida. It’s Chonga, hoop earrings, Puerto Rico in them, Brazilian jeans—I went through all of those phases. A lot of good food, good music, good vibes. My family is pretty much all out there, so I still go often, but I think New York is home to me now.

How has growing up in Miami influenced your music career?

My mom and I used to do Adventure Fridays, and she would take me to different places. Sometimes, it was the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Other times, it was seeing Gloria Estefan performing somewhere in Miami. Having my mom bring me to a lot of these different, either cultural celebrations or shows by artists who were sometimes from my own background; Cuban, Puerto Rican—we would see El Grancombo if they were performing at a baseball game—that helped form more of a connection and a celebration, especially because I was doing it with her.

Reggaeton was also a huge part of my upbringing in South Florida. I grew up listening to artists like Daddy Yankee, Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Wisin y Yandel, Jowell y Randy. I’d go to concerts in Miami to see them, and it was inspiring to see my people represented in music. Many of those artists I still listen to today.

What’s your favorite part of New York?

Right now, my favorite thing to do is go to the parks. I love going because it brings my dog joy, and I meet people in passing. It’s a great, creative place for me to think. Sometimes, I’ll bring my journal and try to write some things down. It’s very peaceful, and I am looking for that peace a lot of the time. If not that, I go out to dive bars and cafes.

Was music always the dream?

I always wanted to do music. I would write songs before I could even write. When I was two or three, I’d sing them to my mom, and she would write them down. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been writing songs about my life. I always knew I wanted to pursue music, and I still do. I think that’s a beautiful thing—I’m like, okay, I guess it is meant to be if I wanted it for this long.

What’s the background story behind the new track, “midnight train?”

Cosmos slowed down my life a little bit in a great way. Before that, I was living a very fast-paced lifestyle. Even now, too, but back then, it was even more. Really fun nights mixed with going home, and the sadness and loneliness—the dichotomy between the crazy fun and maybe surrounding yourself with bad decisions or not great people. Just a mixture of that. I was thinking about all those times coming home from a fun party and coming home to yourself and facing your feelings—sometimes we’re filled with tears. 

But I also wanted to make it fun, too, and make it fast-paced—to feel that adrenaline rush. I wouldn’t say dark undertone, but the element of what I mentioned mixed with the idea of speed racing through a video game, like flashing lights. Tokyo Drift-type vibe. It was a combination of all those things: that imagery mixed with reminiscing on a crazy party lifestyle.

On your Instagram, you mentioned “midnight train” was a sister to “vomittt.” What makes them sisters?

I actually made “midnight train” first because I wanted to dabble in a more upbeat style. I am returning to my quintessential dream pop, but I wanted to venture out, experiment, open a different chapter. Shortly after, I made “vomittt,” very improvised. We were like, oh… the ending! We created the production soundscapes to lead into “midnight train” because we saw them as a pair. They were both upbeat, both different and more eclectic styles than I usually do. If you listen to it, it feels like a whole world. Very immersive. 

What do you want people really to take away from your music?

I definitely want people to create their own stories with my music and, maybe even relate to certain stories I’ve experienced and put in my art. I love when people write to me and say my music has helped them with heartbreak, a time in their life that they were going through, or a rough patch. I feel like that’s what music is about. Those are the things that make me feel like I’m doing something right, or like I’m leaving my mark in this world. I’d love people to continue to connect with my art in many, many ways.

What has been the best and the worst part of your journey thus far?

The best part has been creating things I never thought I would be able to. I always thought I was going to pursue this, but I didn’t realize you can’t foresee the art you create. Sometimes, I look back on my art, and I’m like, oh, that was really beautiful; that took a lot of work, and I accomplished that; I’m proud of myself

The worst part is with that appreciation and gratitude, as an artist or human, there are also a lot of times I feel like I’m not where I want to be at this current moment or this is a lot of money, a lot of work. Sometimes, you feel like you are putting in so much work, and a song you invested a lot of time in doesn’t do well. I think waiting for the moment to be recognized in the way that you want to because, for me, not only do I want to make music to connect with people, I also want the platform to help my family, to vocalize for the dog rescue, Love of All Dogs, where I adopted my dog and to help them. When you are doing this without financial backing, it can be stressful. I’m trying to practice telling myself, ‘You’re on the right path; everyone’s on their own journey.’ A beautiful thing I came across that I really like is that. This goes for anything, but it said, ‘The only people who don’t make it are the people who stop.’ Well, then, I’m going to make it because I’m never going to stop.

How is your work-life balance? I feel like your career is your life all the time.

It is my life all the time, but I also have to make time for it because I work other jobs separate from my music career so I can have money. I mold a studio schedule around that, work on music around that, and everything that comes with music, which is being in music and a lot of business stuff. Right now, it feels balanced, but I think that’s because I’ve become really organized. I make my lists and cross things out. But I also make time to have fun, see my friends, and hang out with my dog, which is my favorite thing to do. I always have time for that. She’s my best friend. She’s Boriqua also, she came from Puerto Rico!

That’s hot! Have you heard a weird rumor about yourself online yet?

My uncle called my mom up, like, ‘Yo, you know, Quelle got money?’ I was like, I do? Thanks for telling me. There was an article that said I was making like—I don’t even know—150K a year, or something like that. I’m like, where is it? 

Do you think that life imitates art or imitates life?

Let me think. I think life imitates art, but, to be honest, I don’t even know. I’m like, wait. I’m confused now. I think life imitates art, but I can also say my art is based on my life, right?

Yeah, I think it’s full circle.

It really is very full circle. It’s crazy how sometimes I’ll write about something that wasn’t even happening but ends up resonating more down the line with me, and I’m, like, oh, shit.

That’s So Raven, so who and what inspires you the most?

Exes. Without exes and fuckery—sorry, I’m so sorry—but without the bullshit ass bullshit that has happened, there will be no Quelle Rox. That inspires me. Heartbreak and loneliness, honestly. All of those emotions. I don’t think I’ve ever written a happy song; it’s all just coming from a place of bottled-in things I need to express.

Would you ever want to write a happy song?

I mean, I’ve never really done it. Even when I was a kid, if a friend or someone hurt my feelings, I would go home and write about it then I felt better. It’s something I’ve naturally done all my life. Maybe one day, but I love writing from a place of emotions that are the opposite because it feels very therapeutic.

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