In the music video for her new single, Casper, Lourdes Hernández — best known by her stage name, Russian Red — drifts between two tacky Americana motel rooms. One has glossy satin sheets, the other, a rotary phone and plastic-wrapped lampshades. The first is her dream room; the second, reality.
Hernández lies on the bed, supine and vulnerable, waiting for a lover who will never come. Her cigarette smoke is blue and her lipstick is red. The scene looks like something out of a David Lynch movie — which was precisely the point.
Russian Red, who is arguably Spain's foremost indie songstress, has often been compared to Canadian singer-songwriter Feist, whose soulful guitar tunes won her international acclaim but unlike Feist, Russian Red's music conveys a lush, desperate longing, expressed through retro guitar music that's pure rock'n'roll. Her newest album, released this month, is titled Agent Cooper, a reference to David Lynch's clean-cut hero from Twin Peaks. Russian Red, so-called for her lipstick colour, is a huge fan of Lynch because of his strong sense of irony and drama. In her music, she says she aims for her own ironic balance. "In general, there is an attempt in every song to grasp the comfort in the combination of a nice melody and a bitter thought," she says.
Agent Cooper marks a turning point in Russian Red's career, both musically and professionally. For the album, she signed with a major label, changed her band format, and began "digging into electronic sounds".
The album has a more intensely charged, sophisticated sound than her earlier work. She reflects that during the process of writing the new album, "I only followed what felt natural for a change, I felt more free and mature and I used my music to express that new stage".
In the past few years, Russian Red has been busy establishing herself as a musical fixture in Spain and beyond. In 2011, her second album, Fuerteventura, debuted at No 2 on the Spanish charts. Tony Doogan, who has previously worked with the likes of Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai and Talking Heads' David Byrne, produced the album. That year, Hernández took home the MTV EMA award for best Spanish artist.
Fuerteventura catapulted the Spanish songstress onto the international stage. In 2012, Hernández played more than 120 shows around Europe, the US, Latin America and Asia. She also recorded the official Spanish version of Disney-Pixar's Brave soundtrack. Although she identifies herself as a Spanish artist through and through, Hernández sings all her own songs in English. "It allows me so say things in a simpler way, and I like the freedom that gives me," she says.
Following Fuerteventura's great success, Hernández moved to California to record the songs for Agent Cooper, the next step in her international expansion. The album was produced by Joe Chiccarelli, known for his work with The White Stripes, The Strokes, Morrissey, U2 and Beck. Each song on the album is named for a different man.
Hernández explains that it's not an indictment of actual people, but a way to move forward and mature emotionally. "[On this album], I was willing to grow up, to move past an idea of love that had me stuck and was not making me happy. There's a lot of anxiety and idealising involved."
Going forward, she hopes to celebrate the positive influence of female role models in her life. "I'm definitely inspired by women, and their attitudes towards life. My inspirations are never strictly musical but more of a 'how you are in this life' approach. People around me whom I cross paths with inspire me the most."
Russian Red, June 12, 8pm, Music Zone, Kitec, 1 Trademart drive, Kowloon Bay, HK$360. Inquiries: ticketflap.com