Uh Huh Her’s Camila Grey: The Autostraddle Interview

After our recent doozy of a news week, you are most likely asking yourself: hey Autostraddle, it’s been 72 hours, where’s my Uh Huh Her status update? Well, have we got a good one for you! A one-on-one with Camila Grey, who gives us the Behind the Music treatment on UHH’s brand new record, Nocturnes, finally out October 11th.

For the uninitiated, here’s the quick and dirty on UHH: they are an electropop duo consisting of Camila (lead vocals, keyboards, guitar, producer) and our very own Alice Pieszecki, Miss Leisha Hailey (backup vocals, bass, keyboards). They released one really awesome full length album, Common Reaction, back in 2008 and a follow-up EP, Black and Blue, this Spring.

Prior to UHH, Cam was a member of the lo-fi rock band Mellowdrone and also played bass and keyboards for Dr. Dre, Busta Rhymes and Kelly Osbourne. Oh, and she most recently did this little thing globetrotting with Adam Lambert as his keyboard player during the worldwide Glam Nation Tour. No big deal.

The girls are about to embark on the Keep A Breast Tour (aiming to educate women on breast cancer awareness and prevention) hitting all major cities in the US starting October 8th. They’ll probs make out on stage, so you should definitely go.

Listen to “Another Case”

What’s been the biggest evolution from Common Reaction to Black and Blue to Nocturnes?

This record has an anthemic rock sound, cause I was listening to a lot of Pink Floyd… I’m obsessed with The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon. I’m really into 70s rock, like [the psychedelic, experimental band] Can, Bowie, etc.  I would say that Black and Blue was very electronic based, it was electronic influenced and made within a week and a half, two weeks. It was very like stream of consciousness while Nocturnes is very thought out, planned, and done in a studio with live musicians. It’s fancy but also done very organically while Black and Blue was just very electronic. Nocturnes is extremely layered, lush, just a deep rock record. When we made Common Reaction in 2007 we were really just getting to know one another. We met, decided to form the band, three months later had a record deal and three months after that we had Common Reaction out and thrown out on tour. It was just happening so fast! This time around we really took our time and thought everything out carefully.

You said Nocturnes was inspired by darkness… how did this manifest in the lyrics/music?

Yea, it was inspired by literal darkness… I would work until all hours of the night, just because that’s kind of when I wake up, when most people are sleeping. And, darkness also in the sense of… I had been going through personal turmoil with my relationship, and we left our label and fired our manager and we just left alone and dark and sad… There were a lot of break-ups, in that sense, happening between the two of us and the company we were dealing with. And, then I went on the road with Adam [Lambert] and spent a month in the dark in Sweden and northern Europe cause it was during the winter. I literally spent like 26 days with no sunlight in northern Europe… I’d never done that before and I was writing lyrics during that time and thinking about what that all meant… So, it was a mixture of a lot of things. It was kind of a dark year. I also want to say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, so, while it’s lyrically dark, the music is super hopeful. Which I think we do all the time: dark meets light; light meets dark. You can’t have one without the other.

Why did you leave your record label?

Well, without giving away all the details it had to do with the politics and bureaucracy of our record company and we wound up being dropped and then we decided to leave everything – our managers and go off on our own as independent artists.

Did it have to do with being in out band, or the direction of the music?

…I’ll just say it had to do with the record company [laughs].

And you were left with the responsibility of financing the record production on your own…

Yeah, which was really scary because we came from Nettwerk where we had like a $200,000 budget which was amazing since we didn’t even know if we’d ever be signed when we first started and all of a sudden 5 months later we had this huge budget. So, when we left we had some money left over but not a lot so we wound up holding an auction on E-Bay and sold all kinds of stuff so our fans could help us raise the money we needed to finish mixing the record. We sold guitars, we made art, redesigned vinyl covers and stuff. All kinds of things to raise the money for the final mix of the record. I actually love that we’re self-releasing because now we get to have a hand in everything we do which is exciting but it takes a long time. We felt so bad that it was taking forever to come out that we made the EP (Black & Blue) to sell at shows until this record was ready to finally come out.

How much did the record end up costing?

You know what, in the end it cost $20,000 which is basically unheard of, especially coming from that $200,000 budget on Common Reaction. And, I can honestly tell you that the record sounds just as good, if not better. Seriously, you guys can judge for yourselves when you finally get to listen to the record.

A while back you tweeted about possibly changing the name of the band. why did you want to change it and why did you ultimately keep it?

I get so frustrated with the name because I probably have to repeat it 4 or 5 times every time I am talking to someone about the band. It’s just so hard to understand, ugh I fucking hate the name so much! So, we really wanted to change it but it’s really too late now. It would basically be undoing all of our work over the past few years getting people to know who we are and making a name for ourselves. I just keep referring to us as UHH and I really hope that catches on, like CSS [laughs]. It’s just gotta be UHH from now on.

I know it was inspired from the PJ Harvey album title, “Uh Huh Her,” but what’s the deal there? Were you guys really high one night, joking around and it stuck?

[laughs] I’ll never say… It was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time in the middle of the night. Like, you drink a 6 pack and everything seems like a good idea at the time and then you’re like, “wait, what?! That’s an awful idea.” But it’s too late now.

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Who else do you like to listen to?

I like a lot of old stuff, like Zeppelin, Bowie, The Fall, Bjork, The Eurythmics, Depeche Mode…  and then newer stuff like… Ladyhawke is brilliant, Cut Copy

Does it frustrate you that a lot of people come to the shows to see Alice Pieszecki?

Yes! It’s so annoying, seriously! A lot of girls in the audience will actually scream “Alice!” and I’m just like “Come on, really. Come on.”  It’s a little frustrating because I want all the L Word fans to really get into our music and hopefully they eventually do throughout the show or if they listen to our records. But yeah, that absolutely happens and I gotta win them over.

Does Leisha sing lead at all on the new record?

Yes, she sings lead on one song, “Debris” which she wrote by herself, and I produced.

What is the most personal song on Nocturnes?

Hmm, probably “Wake to Sleep,” which I wrote…  it’s funny because people will assume it’s like this intense, serious song but it’s  just literally about our experience writing and recording the record. As soon as the sun goes down I’m like, okay, let’s throw some candles on and go write or produce, whatever it is. Basically, Leisha has this thing where she has to leave the studio at 5PM every day and go home. And that’s just when I’m getting started and get all inspired by the night, etc. So it’s always me asking her to stay later but she always has to leave and go home [laughs].. Leisha’s very different. She’s very light-hearted, and bright and happy-go-lucky and she’ll write during the daytime but, for me… I’m inspired by the night.

Do you write the music and lyrics together or each song written entirely by one person?

When we first started we had this thing where we felt we had to write everything together. Now, we definitely still write some stuff together but there are also songs that I write entirely on my own or she writes entirely on her own. Like, I wrote “Human Nature” and “Wake to Sleep” and “Darkness Is” entirely alone and Leisha wrote “Debris” entirely on her own. The rest we collaborated on.

You guys appear to spend 24/7 together.. ever feel like a married couple?

Yes! Oh my god, we totally are. We write and record together, we do press together, we travel together on tour. And now that we don’t have the backing of the label everything is in our hands with regard to promotion and actually selling the record so the company is truly in our own hands.

What’s the craziest thing you witnessed on the Glam Nation Tour with Adam Lambert?

Oh my god. Do you have two weeks? What didn’t I see?! Probably the funniest thing from that tour was this thing Adam coined called “tongue diving” where he’d be on stage and pick out a cute guy or girl int he crowd, and start making out with them. That whole tour was crazy and so fun and it was just an amazing year. I was on the road with him for a year. I don’t think people realize how hilarious Adam Lambert is. Like, I think people see him as this serious, brooding musician but in reality, he could be a comedian – for real. We’d be in a different city in the US and Europe every day and we just had so much fun. I’m working with him now on his new record – I wrote one song and I’m producing another. I just love him – he’s like a brother to me, really.

What can you tell us about Adam’s new album?

Well, I wrote this song I love called “Dreamer” a few years ago and had been looking for a huge, powerful voice to sing it. Originally Christina Aguilera was supposed to sing it, but that didn’t happen so when I started thinking of songs for Adam it was just like “of course!” It’s perfect for him. I co-produced it with Brad Thomas Ackley who worked on Black & Blue and Nocturnes with us and and, even if it doesn’t make his final album I’m just like, oh my god! To have someone with that caliber voice and hear them do little tricks on on a song you wrote.. I REALLY hope it makes his album, it just sounds so amazing. He’s working with these big, huge producers like Pharrell, and then it’s like… us [laughing].


Did you watch The Real L Word?

You know, I don’t want to bash it, but I cannot watch that show. It’s upsetting to me. [laughing].

Which did you find to be the more accurate portrayal of lesbians – The L Word or The Real L Word?

To be totally honest, I only watched the first season of the actual L Word show and then I stopped watching it, so… I really have no idea. I’d imagine The Real L Word? I know Tracy Ryerson and she’s amazing and I think she was accurately portrayed, so I’d have to go with the reality show.

What’s the sweetest thing a girl has done for you?

Hmmm…flown me to Hawaii just to chill.

So, do you remember the fan video contest you held back in 2008 and these three girls went to SXSW and made this really funny video and won?

Yes!

So, the hilarious blonde girl in the video is Riese, the creator and editor-in-chief of Autostraddle!

Oh my god, that video was great! I remember it! So funny.


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Jess is a pop culture junkie living in New York City. She enjoys endless debates about The L Word, Howard Stern, new techy gadgets, DVR, exploring the labyrinth of the Lesbian Internet, memoirs, working out, sushi, making lists, artsy things, anything Lady Gaga touches, traveling, puppies, and nyc in the fall. Find her on Twitter @jessxnyc or via email.

Jess has written 267 articles for us.

37 Comments

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    once had an embarrassingly long convo at a party with a girl where we were each drunkenly yelling/proclaiming our love for Uh Huh Her… only to realize later she was talking about this band, & i was talking about PJ Harvey. *facepalm

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    Cam is the coolest person ever! When she joined Adam’s band, she seemed so quiet and aloof then we started getting to know her and were so excited to see the snarky, funny, awesome person she was/is. Adam was lucky to have her as a keyboardist as well as a friend.

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    pahahaha i think i remember how UHH got its name, but i could be mistaken cause ive done a lot of drugs since then.

    wasnt it an ourchart contest or something? laniea might remember i think she used to write for them or whatever. this was back when i was sniffing a lot of mspaint fumes and mainlining the planet podcast.

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    Ahhh! You made me think she was going to talk about the plane incident or their apparent couple status! You tease. Well, it was a great interview, so I can’t be upset.

    I’m looking forward to their new record. To be honest, I love electro synth stuff — I think I listened to UHH’s song “Explode” about 800 times — but that sample song posted “Another Case” sounds awesome. Can’t wait to hear the full thing. Fuck their record label — all the royalties are theirs now!

    (BTW, it’s hard to say, but I like the name Uh Huh Her. Gotta admit though, Liz Feldman’s jokes about the name were fucking hilarious. When I first watched that episode of This Just Out, I nearly died laughing.)

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    Sigh. I know it’s a thing in the community to reject & *eyeroll* everything L Word related, but I wish the cast would just be proud of that show and embrace the fact they are mostly ‘known’ due to their L Word character.

    Yes, some were known for a few other things before TLW and have done artistic endeavors since it ended, but they need to remember thousands (millions?) of girls only discovered them as ‘Alice’, ‘Shane’ etc. and that’s cool.

    Moving on is understandable, but actors/singers need to embrace the recognition, however it comes to them (as long as it’s positive). Leisha will always be “Alice”, Kate will always be “Shane”, and that’s okay. Don’t be annoyed by it.

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    i agree with Cary. UHH should embrace the ‘Alice’ thing at their gigs and do something funny like hold up a big sign that says:
    ‘ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE’
    With Love,Leisha,UH HUH HER

    .
    Yep,it was only Cam and Leisha on that plane. Love them as a new couple.2Xhotness.

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    i just got to see those turquoise boots in person!! went to their show on sunday in cleveland…..going through somewhat of a depression now that it’s over. ;) i can confirm that Camila and Leisha did give each other a tiny smooch during the show!!! :x

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    Open letter to Camila Grey of UH HUH HER
    Please be assured I mean absolutely no disrespect whatsoever and I am actually a huge fan of UHH.
    So back in 2008, UH HUH HER toured Common Reaction twice and were always well dressed and in fact, Leisha Hailey said in interviews that she was trying to get Camila Grey to dress up a bit more since they were giving a show. For the gigs they did in 2009 and 2010, they were also dressed up and dynamic on stage.
    For the Black & Blue tour this spring, Leisha’s outfits were hit or miss, meaning she had nice outfits for some shows and looked as though she was wearing a little girl’s pajama top for others or those god-awful worn-out tights and worn-out oversized t-shirts for other shows. However, they were both dynamic during the shows and had a good stage presence. Being both single, they even felt free to engage in flirtatious behaviors on stage to the absolute delight of the fans. The Black & Blue tour was absolutely amazing and by far superior to the disappointing Nocturnes tour.
    Then they release their best album yet NOCTURNES (which I absolutely adore and am obsessed with) and we get no dynamic on stage, lumberjack outfits from Leisha Hailey, no funny banter, barely any interactions between the two of them on stage and god forbid they should get within 20 feet of each other on stage.
    They get Brad to play the Nord to, and I quote Camila Grey and Brad Ackley respectively, “to mix it up” and “to free up Leisha”. So what does Leisha do? She sits in front of the drums or hangs for dear life on her mic stand or leans on the Nord played by Brad Ackley during Philosophy. Really! What happened to the sexy dynamic Philosophy renditions we got in the spring on the Black & Blue tour. UH HUH HER should realise that if they start using sex appeal and flirtatious behaviour to create a buzz about a song or the band or get people excited enough to go see them live hoping they will get to witness this raw sexiness live, well then they can’t just stop and start acting like robots who are just performing because they are contractually obligated to.
    Well they can do whatever they want but they must be ready to face the backlash; most of the fans were so disappointed to look at Leisha Hailey sitting on the edge of the drummer’s platform during Philosophy at all the shows I attended this past month and when Leisha was handing the bass to Camila Grey for Not A Love Song, the fans went crazy, hollering at them because it was the first and only time they were actually within 20 feet of each other and had to actually pay attention to their bandmate. They each seemed way more concerned about the new drummer Bobby Alt than each other.
    Now I understand Bobby Alt was really new to the band and barely knew the songs when they started the tour, but then again, wouldn’t a serious band concerned about giving a good show schedule rehearsals with the new member of the band before hitting the road, and not just the day prior to departure as the case was this time around. I do admit it was endearing watching Leisha approve of the beat and rythm Bobby Alt was drumming on the songs he managed to get right. However, the constant signalling of the impending end of the song was not as professional. Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey were however playing tighter than I’ve ever seen them play and they also interacted with guitarist Brad Ackley better and even let him sing chorus on the encore Leisha sang (also another strong point).
    However, the image of the band is based on the sexy hot actress known for her racy role on TV. So when Leisha just does not want to put in the effort to be her cute sexy adorable self, then that’s when I say she just stopped caring about the band. It’s really sad for Camila Grey who always shows up for the shows and actually cares enough about the experience the fans get to get upset when technical difficulties plague a show. Leisha Hailey just keeps playing through the set as if she can’t hear the massive Larsen effects just so she can get the show done, fulfill her obligations and get off the stage as quickly as possible.
    Other interesting fact, they have started using musical interlude played by the drummer and guitarist Brad Ackley (who are both super nice by the way) when the front women need to trade instruments or make adjustments just so they don’t have to engage the crowd with some funny banter or comments or something. If all the fans wanted was to listen to the songs, they would play the CD at home. When going to a live show, one expects a show, which means yes a stage outfit, dynamic interactions with the audience, funny banter, just something to show the people who paid to attend that they do care and really want the fans to have a great time.
    I suppose I may very well be a minority when it comes to fans demographics, but for me, seeing “Alice Piesz…whatever the name of her character is” in the flesh is not what draws me to the shows nor to the band for that matter. I thoroughly enjoy the music and the amazing, sadly underrated, musical talent of Camila Grey. And when Leisha Hailey puts her heart into it, I have to admit that both ladies of UH HUH HER have incredible chemistry together.
    Well all along I have said that either Leisha has stopped caring about the band OR she’s depressed over her recent break-up and should seek professional help to treat her depression. Now I got torn apart for suggesting she might be depressed and was assured by her many fans that the ending of her 10 year relationship was no big deal. I tend to disagree and think that Leisha might very well be depressed, lonely and basically heart-broken. While it’s completely understandable to feel sad after a tough break-up, when one is unable to grieve the lost relationship in time, then one must be concerned about depression and seek professional help. Depression is a serious illness affecting 1 in 6 women in North America.
    I sincerely hope, for Camila Grey’s sake, UH HUH HER’s sake, and yes for my sake also since I really hope the band makes it so we get a 3rd album, that Leisha Hailey mends her broken heart and gets serious about the band before it’s too late…

    A real fan and no not a hater.

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