Roberto Carlos Lange is the voice behind Helado Negro's soothing electronic music. But don't let his stage name (which means "Black Ice Cream") fool you -- his music is anything but ... Actually, what is black ice cream? Does black ice-cream even exist? What flavor would that be? Dirt? At any rate, if you were to assign his music a color and flavor, it would be pink and cotton candy flavored. That's just how pretty it is.
The South Florida native lives in Brooklyn with his artist wife whom he met while studying at Savannah College of Art & Design. Lange, 33, went to school for computer art and animation, but ended up honing his musical skills.
"I've always been working with computers to make weird things. I've always liked weird things, um, visually and sonically," he says.
Lange lives your normal, everyday musician's life. He "wakes up with anxiety" about his future, he eats something, he calms down, and then he makes some beautiful music. Lather, rinse, repeat.
When we arrived at Helado Negro HQ (aka his brownstone apartment in Crown Heights), it seemed like we had woken him up with our arrival…at the unholy hour of 11:30am. Lange sipped his coffee as we set up. We questioned all his knick knacks, instruments, and gorilla pillow lying around his home studio. We joked about his reaction when he saw two young girls standing at his door with camera equipment. Was he expecting Diane Sawyer? Or maybe a full camera crew?
Either way, we eventually got him to drop his guard, talking about growing up in Miami and electronic music. But as soon as the camera started rolling for our interview, he started to speak in freewheeling sentences and intertwined thoughts.
When asked about his songwriting process for Helado Negro, he had this to say: "The way I form songs a lot of times, I'm just hearing things back and listening to it for long periods of time and mouthing sounds like vowels or just things that I start hearing. And then I start hearing words within that, and then I just start finding words and sentences that start coming together." Uh-huh.
He told us about driving around in South Florida growing up, listening to the radio, and all he would hear was Miami bass and electro music. "Being on the radio all the time it was a huge part of being young and influenced," he said. Lange told us about a road trip he was on with his wife, who's from Iowa, where an old techno song came on the radio. "I was like 'Oh man! Do you remember this song? I remember listening to this song all the time when I was little.' And she was like, 'What? I've never even heard this song before.' It's just funny how it's just so different," he said.
Lange's parents immigrated from Ecuador, so the Spanish language has been a big part of his life and music. He actually hasn't really sung much in English until his 3rd and latest album, Invisible Life, out now. Helado Negro recently had its album release party -- including a DJ set by Lange's friend Devendra Banhart -- in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and he'll be touring the West Coast next month.
After our interview, Lange performed "Segundo Dia" from his second album Canta Lechuza for us in his home studio, sans shoes, and it was a beautiful way to start the morning… or afternoon