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Vagabon's powerful new album is a testament to self-sufficiency

Vagabon's powerful new album is a testament to self-sufficiency
Photograph: Ebru Yildiz

“Water me darling, take what you need before it runs out,” Laetitia Tamko sings on the final track to her new debut, Infinite Worlds. The line speaks to a fundamental tension the album addresses: discerning when companionship drains versus replenishes your resources. Independence is an important value to Tamko, who performs as Vagabon, and it shows in more than just the lyrics. As a former engineering student, she harbors a propensity toward the technical side of songwriting. Accordingly, she produced the entire record herself and played every instrument. Bridging the gap between producer and songwriter, Tamko explores solitude, intimacy and self-actualization with a variety of sonic textures: jittery guitars, proggy bass lines and placid synthesizer ambience.

Why did you choose to take on so many roles with this album?

I’m a creative-control person. I’ve always been drawn to being independent rather than creating through collaborative efforts like writing in a band. That’s trickled down into learning how to produce, how to play drums and bass, and so on to execute my vision.

Your last EP, Persian Garden, featured more typical indie-rock instrumentation, while your new album introduces a lot of textures and more intricate
production elements.

On Persian Garden, I took a back seat. I wasn’t yet confident in myself as a musician to orchestrate every element. With Infinite Worlds, it was more about experimenting. I never want to make the same thing all over again.

“Mal à l’aise,” an ambient synthesizer song, really demonstrates that experimentation. What inspired it?

The story in the really hushed vocal track is about a conversation I had at a DIY concert I played in the mountains. You’d make really beautiful relationships and memories with strangers whom you’d meet while traveling upstate, hiking up the mountain and seeing a performance at each spot on the trail.

Why include that song in the middle of the album?

There’s a guitar in every other song, the album is wordy and heavy with vocals….I wanted to break up the instrumentation of the record before the listeners got to side B.

I know you’re drawn to creative control, but would you ever produce for other musicians?

I’d love to do a Vagabon-produced album with just my production and no vocals. I’ve done some scoring in the past. I’d love to do that on a larger scale. Why not?

The single “Fear & Force” is a remake of a previous song, “Vermont II,” which itself is a sequel to another song. Could you explain how that happened?

I’m a big fan of revisiting and reworking material. I think a lot about how Kanye took down The Life of Pablo and put up the new Life of Pablo. Now people all over have multiple versions of the same album. I think people would call me neurotic if I tried doing that. But I feel like I might anyway. I don’t care. [Laughs]

Vagabon plays Brooklyn Bazaar on Saturday, May 6 at 8pm (bkbazaar.com). $12, at the door $14.