Interview: Tiombe Lockhart on her solo career

Although they never officially announced that they were breaking up, Cubic Zirconia called it quits sometime in late 2012. Sad shit because they ruled…but life goes on. And especially so for Tiombe Lockhart, former front-woman of the group, who spent the past year locked in her Brooklyn apartment penning soulful songs of heartbreak and sadness to include on her debut EP. Now, Tiombe is on her grind and releasing powerful solo material one-two-punch style with a new song and music video every month. It may be unconventional to release an EP one song at a time, but Tiombe does things her own way— a quality that bodes well for the future of her solo career.

In January, she debuted “Can’t Get Enough,” an ethnic-disco jam produced by Hudson Mohawke. The track was accompanied by an ethereal video that she co-directed with Thu Tran of IFC’s “Food Party” fame. A short month later, she put out a second song, “Gone,” along with a video that she shot on location in Costa Rica. Up next? She’ll be releasing a third song on March 5th at Glasslands in Williamsburg. So in anticipation for the next installment of her first solo EP, I sat down with Tiombe to talk about her new work, using creativity to power through periods of sadness, and what it was like shooting a music video in the mystical Costa Rican ruins.

You’re known as a nu soul singer, but your newer material is giving me more of an electro-R&B-diva vibe. Are you going in a different direction or attempting to merge the genres? 
I have been blessed enough to have played all different genres of music. Now, I just feel like there is no real genres and however someone wants to categorize me – they’ll categorize me. With my music and my videos, I feel like I’m just so different that there isn’t a blueprint for me. I make it myself. For this record I just wanted to make something really sweet and sad. I was so sad when I wrote it a year ago.

Oh no! What was going on? 
There was a lot of heartbreak, separation, and transformation happening in my life. Things were dying and people were moving away. I moved out of my apartment that I lived in for four years. Everything was changing and the only thing I could really do was write songs to get through it. I was facing this sadness that was really raw, not this intense *rawrrrr* bluesy kind of sadness – it was a sweet type of sadness. A genuine rawness where you’re just very wounded… almost like an animal.

So you were writing lyrics with a particular person or experience in mind? 
Definitely. There was a particular person who broke my heart. But ultimately, my co-producer Eben D’Amico and I made things that we really wanted to hear and see, things that we really liked. We made it from a really genuine and truthful place. I had a feeling that people would gravitate towards that.

Then I assume the positive feedback you’ve received from your first track off the EP, “Can’t Get Enough”, is pretty good compensation for that sadness. And Hudson Mohawke produced the song…
HudMo is a super talented producer. I met him in 2008 outside of Nu Blue – an East Village Jazz Cafe and we hit it off. He asked me to slap him and I slapped him and then he slapped me. Ha! But yeah, I’ve gotten really good feedback which feels great because I was in my cave working on things for a year.

The video for “Can’t Get Enough” is visually stunning, seriously. It looks super high-budget, but you took a DIY approach to it by shooting it at your home in Brooklyn, self-directing and editing it yourself. What is making your own videos like? 
I started making videos when I was in Cubic Zirconia and then I just kept going. I taught myself Final Cut. I like challenges and I like to learn, so I went with it. Looking back I feel like I was always supposed to have directed my own videos. I have always been a visual person but just never had an outlet for it. Now it all fits together. While I’m writing a song I’ll start thinking about the videos for them.

The video for your second song off the EP, “Gone”, came out last week. Was the video playing in your head as you were writing the song? 
Yes. I was writing “Gone” and I saw myself on the beach. I saw water around me. At that time, I felt like I was at the bottom of the ocean writing the song because there was just so much sadness filling me so I knew that we had to go somewhere wet to shoot the video. I didn’t want to go somewhere like Jamaica or Puertro Rico, I envisioned something more raw, rugged, and in the jungle. One of my best friends went to Costa Rica and brought me back a pink stone and I looked at it while writing “Gone”. I felt all this energy coming from it and I just had a feeling that I needed to go to Costa Rica for the video. Plus, another one of my friends owns a strip club in Costa Rica so I was like, “OK, done.”

What went down in Costa Rica? 
My team and I flew down for four days. We landed, rented a car and I drove us to our house. We started shooting right away and didn’t stop. It was grueling. We wanted to get some shots at magic hour, right when the sun is about to come up, so I was sleeping one hour there, two hours there… there was no sleep involved. But we had so much fun down there, the Costa Rican ruins are magical. Also, the day we got there a freakin’ bat flew into our house and posted up under the couch. The next day ANOTHER bat flew into our house… so basically we were just living with a bunch of bats. One of the bats was sickly, so Claudia – one of the dancers from the strip club scene in the video, killed it with her flip-flop! She was really crunk. We looked in my animal totem book and I believe bats mean transformation, change, and seeing in the dark.

Well that’s a good sign, then!
Magical things kept happening to us in Costa Rica. We were driving up a mountain that had all these structures built on to it and Claudia, once again, saved the day and jumped out of the car saying, “No no no, fuck this shit! You have to go all the way up to the top of the mountain. It’s the best place to work, you’re gonna love me forever.” So we kept driving up and up… it was raining season so there were several times where we were very lucky that we didn’t drive off the cliff! But at the top we found this place that was fucking crazy: this man started building a house up there and he died in the middle of building it. He left behind these two floors of openness, over looking the ocean and the city. We shot a lot of footage there.

Going back to that pink energy stone that your friend brought you back from Costa Rica, and the incident with the bats in the house and how they symbolized transformation… it seems like you put a lot of stock into mysticism when it comes to your musical career. 
I had just started doing Transcendental Meditation when I was shooting the video for “Can’t Get Enough” and my first vision through TM was an image of Isis. That’s how the Isis character ended up in the video. There was a period in my life that I wasn’t creating, but now I am using every aspect of myself as a vessel to allow creativity to come through me. I’m really enjoying following my intuition.

Your intuition has definitely lead you in the right direction creatively, but do you ever face creative blocks? 
Not really. I get tired. Sometimes I over extend myself and don’t allow myself to rest. I do so many different things and when something’s not working I just go to the next thing. If I’m not feeling a video then I’ll just go write a song. I’m always ending a video and starting another one because I like creating so much! If I feel like there is a creative block happening I chill on it and way for it to come. I usually get my ideas through mundane things like washing the dishes or taking a walk – they just pop into my head.

So now that the EP is finished are you still sad? And what’s next for you? 
Nope – I’m not sad anymore!  I’m editing two videos now and getting ready to shoot another one, AND writing a new song. I’ll be in Austin for South by Southwest, but before that I’ll be performing at the release party for my next song, “Let U Go”, at Glasslands on March 5th with The GTW, Princess Nokia, and Tomboy!

Image: Danny Lane