Reneé Orshan, a.k.a. RÉN (pronounced rain), is a confident, feminine, indie goddess from New York. She has a stage presence that radiates power as she swings her golden, Lorde-esque mane to the beat.
RÉN creates powerfully catchy melodies and colorful harmonies with brother Reuben Orshan (lead guitar, backing vocals) and sister Eden Orshan (keys, backing vocals) that move the body and soul. She has an eclectic list of influences, such as artists like Sia, Kimbra, and The Beatles. She pairs genuine lyrics with uplifting pop elements that translate to live performances with a taste of psych-funk grooves.
She creates artistic, imaginative music videos such as “Sunflowers in the Sky” with its vibrant, dreamlike scenes and captivating delivery. She knows what she wants and does it her way. She reveals her creative genius single by single. Her most recent video release, “Into the Unknown,” is a collaboration with Enrique Perez of Neon Dust Media. She has been featured in Nylon Magazine and noted for her fearlessness and voice that resonates. She shared a bill with the lovely Brazilian Girls at Rough Trade NYC and was featured on Spotify’s Weekly Buzz playlist last December.
I saw her perform at NYC’s Pianos on a Tuesday, and she managed to make it feel like a Saturday night in the city. Her presence was fierce and charismatic and the band was tight. Reminiscent of classic R&B and funk influences, they surprised me when they began a justified cover of “Feel Good Inc.” by Gorillaz. There was a sense of freedom and confidence between the band members as they performed; it’s obvious they believe in each other and what they do. They take control of the stage/vibe and then remind you to let go.
RÉN’s artistic vision is not far from realized, and she is a powerful force to keep in mind when you want to feel inspired and uplifted. BTRtoday was able to pick her brain about why she loves the city, how her musical journey began, and where it’s going.
BTRtoday (BTR): I noticed this is basically a family band. When did you begin playing together?
Reneé Orshan (RN): When I started to write the music, I knew that when it came time to play live, I’d get my sister Eden and brother Reuben in on the action. Growing up, we always jammed together. Vocally, there is really nothing quite like a blend from my siblings. (And even if they weren’t my family I’d still put them in my group, they’re awesome.)
BTR: What were your first instruments? Do you play the same instruments now in the group?
RN: Oddly enough I played the trumpet (not well) growing up. Eventually I figured out some chords on the guitar and uke. Now I stick to vocals…and tambourine of course.
BTR: What was the first instrument you fell in love with?
RN: I loved the book “Peter and the Wolf” growing up–I thought the bass clarinet was hauntingly beautiful.
BTR: Do you make home demos as well? What’s your preferred recording set up?
RN: Before I go into a session with my producer, I do like to come up with basic vocal demos at home. My professional set up for this would be me on my bed, pretzel-style, computer and headphones with excessive coffee nearby.
I release all of my songs as singles because I think (in today’s world of distraction) a full album can be hard for us to digest. I would like to eventually compile my songs onto one “album” or a couple of different EPs, but right now I just stay focused on each individual song so I can nurture it to its fullest potential.
BTR: Who are you recording with? When can we expect a release?
RN: My current producer is the very talented Brandon Bost. We’ve got a couple new tunes (and visual collaborations) that I’ll be releasing soon!
BTR: How do you attempt to translate the vision into live performance? What do you want to make people feel?
RN: I want my audience to dance, but also think.
As far as literal visuals go, I am always trying to come up with unique visual stimulants (lights, bubbles, projectors, art, dance, etc.). I love seeing my audience involved. Virtually I want them to think that the experience was unique and memorable, but more importantly I just want everyone in my audience to feel good (hence the cover of my favorite Gorillaz track in my live set).
BTR: What is the theme or message of the singles “Give It All Up” and “Into the Unknown”?
RN: “Give It All Up”–You might think you’re on the same page as your lover, but they’ve got the ability to flip the script on you.
“Into the Unknown”–It’s about getting out of that “stuck” feeling–be it your job, relationship, personal struggles, etc. Especially in NY, I find 50 percent of people hate their job or relationship status and this song is just saying let go, take a chance, you only get one life so you might as well march to the beat of your own drum and do what feels right for you.
BTR: What do you love about the city?
RN: The culture. You can be in New York and feel like you’re across the country. There are always new things to be seen, people to meet, and adventures to be had.
BTR: How has it propelled you? How has it held you back?
RN: The energy in NYC is so infectious. Everyone is always go-go-go and it keeps me motivated when everyone around me is also hustling.
In a way, it’s held me back from touring; there are so many places to play in NYC, so for a while I felt the need to conquer the city before venturing elsewhere.
BTR: Who would you love to tour with and where?
RN: My fantasy is a “friend tour” with some of my super talented music friends Tei Shi, Pronoun, PaperWhite, Brayton Bowman, Henry Chadwick, DayWave, Taxman, Lily Elise, The Coffis Brothers, Joana Teters, the list goes on… I guess it would be more of a festival, and we’d go somewhere sexy and fun like the U.K. or Barcelona.
I’d also love to support artists with great energy like MØ, Halsey, PØWERS, Lily Allen, St.Vincent, Tegan & Sara, or do a family series tour with bands like Haim & Eisley, where we’re all playing with our sibs.
I just opened for Brazilian Girls whom I’ve been a fan of since high school (I even had a song of theirs on my Myspace). They were awesome and I’d love to do more with them.
I think I just had a revelation that I want to go on tour…