Cristina Cano has always felt drawn to and inspired by the water. Born in Hawaii and raised in Miami, the electro-pop artist, songwriter, producer and publicist moved to Portland in 2008 and started performing under the moniker of Siren and the Sea. Her music grew and evolved throughout the years she lived there, with the city helping to shape her into the artist she is today. Full of textured synth and lush production, she came up with the term “swim wave” to describe her tropical synth-pop sound. In 2015, she decided to delve into the backend of the industry and is currently the Artist Marketing Specialist for CD Baby and a publicist at DIY PR, having moved to LA in 2020 to progress her career in the music industry. Her goal is to help independent artists get their message out to a broader audience. On May 7th, she released her new Siren and the Sea album entitled For Bathing, written at a time when she was taking a lot of baths and focusing on grounding techniques and self-reflection. With the track listing revolving around the bathing process, she hopes the listener will listen to it while bathing and exit the tub with a new sense of self. With new material in the works and a fervent desire to play live shows again, Siren and the Sea is an artist everyone should keep on their radar! You can connect with Siren and the Sea via the following links. You can check out JBombz & Oilz website HERE.
You were born in Hawaii and grew up in Miami. What can you tell me about your childhood and discovering your love for playing music and acting from a young age? Did you grow up in an artistic environment?
My mother is an incredible classically trained pianist, so her discipline and ear for music were definitely my first inspirations. I have also always been a ham, so my dream to be an actress was also a coinciding vision from as long as I can remember (which eventually led me to going to college for theater). When I look back, I realize that my family really supported me from an early age to chase my passion of performing from my background in music, to years of dance and theater. I am so grateful that I grew up in an environment where my love for the arts was so encouraged, supported, and given the space to develop.
You have also talked about how Hawaii and Miami attached you to aqueous themes from an early age. In what ways did Hawaii and Miami play a role in influencing you as an artist and your love for water?
The water has been my best friend since as long as I can remember, and has always been a consistent source of inspiration and a personal grounding source. I lived in Portland for about 12 years which is the longest I ever lived away from the ocean, and while I loved my time there, I could feel myself getting called back to this landscape in a very tangible way. In writing this, I wonder if my identity as Siren and the Sea (developed in Portland) was my way of connecting with the ocean while feeling so physically far away from it? We’ll say yes.
You moved to Portland in 2008 and started you career as an artist, evolving over the years both personally and sonically. What led you to move to Portland and what can you tell me about those early days and music and arts scene at that time? What was it like for you to get to grow as an artist in Portland and how did the city shape you?
I moved to Portland at the exact right moment in my life as an artist in that I was so ready to grow in a music community, ripe with energy and creativity, and the city was incredibly welcoming to new artists. It was an indie-music utopia. There were so many small-mid sized venue options for new artists to develop. One of my favorite places to play was this little basement venue called Ella St. Social Club. I could try out new material written that same day, or experiment with crazy performance ideas, or just riff for 20 minutes. One time a bartender there sat outside with me after my set, took a long drag from his cigarette, and in a very jaded but supportive voice said “Keep going. It’s obvious that you got a passion that’s rare these days and it’s going to take you far.” I’ve held on to this random dude’s words for over 10 years now. Living in Portland gave me the opportunity to grow as an artist, to meet some incredible people, and to have some WILD experiences. My years there were so colorful and rich and full of great stories. I value my time there so much.
What inspired you in 2015 to dive into the backend of the music industry and how has that knowledge helped you in your career, both as an artist yourself and as a publicist who helps to advance the careers of other musicians and performers?
I went on some stellar tours for a few years playing keys and synth support for a couple bands, and in that time, I learned a lot about how the industry worked as a machine. For the average local indie musician, a lot of this info was really nebulous and seemingly unattainable. I wanted to give back to my community the valuable information I was learning through experience, and to offer any insight I could. I worked at CD Baby first answering phones, eventually working on the marketing team and helping plan educational conferences for musicians, to now working as an Artist Marketing Specialist and Publicist (for DIY Public Relations, Inc) helping independent artists get their message out to larger audiences. Long term vision: I believe we need more musicians at the executive level of the music industry calling the shots (and as a female + latina, that sentiment goes double).
What led you to move to LA in 2020 and how has it helped you to keep pushing your career forward?
My partner and I both work in the music industry, and we came to a point a few years ago where we realized we wanted to keep exploring and expanding our view of the world, and also of the industry. We had our sights on a few places, but LA has the ocean AND the entertainment industry so it just felt like a no brainer. When we moved here on March 1st, 2020, we were immediately met with the pandemic a week later, but this city is so electrifying and magical that even during a global crisis, people are still working, hustling, and pushing their ideas forward. That sort of energy has been so inspiring, and ultimately my career has just kept evolving and expanding as I had hoped.
You will be releasing your new album For Bathing on May 7th! You have said that you came up with the concept and wrote the album during your “Cancer-Moon” year in which you were taking a ton of baths and getting in touch with your grounding rituals and engaging in self-reflection. What can you tell me about the concept for the album and your cleansing journey, as well as designing the track listing around the bathing process?
I remember the bath I was taking when I first came up with the idea. I was smoking a pre-roll listening to Kadhja Bonet’s Honeycomb and thought to myself “this song is the perfect song for listening to in the bath. I want to make an album that flows like this for bathing.” I got out of the bath and wrote “For Bathing” on an index card and placed it on my keyboard. I drew out this shape (as seen on the back cover of my album) that starts high, dips low, and then comes back out high. I see that as the journey of entering a state of relaxation and self-reflection, finding a stillness and tranquility in the processing of thoughts, and then starting to re-energize, and ultimately exit the tub with a new sense of self, and in the case of the last song “Run”, to shake it all off with and move forward. On the composition level, I wanted all the songs to feel sonically wet and to follow this theme. This flow also was reflected in the lyrical and thematic choices I was making throughout the track listing, and through the talent and creative input from my bandmates and collaborators.
This album now in 2021 seems to hit on a totally new level as we are all coming out of a very long insular and introverted year rife with introspection and self-care as a necessity for survival, and as we are starting to find our footing out of it, we are searching for reinvigoration into the next chapter of our lives. It feels very symbiotic in a way I hadn’t planned.
You have described the first single from the album, “Fountain of Youth”, as wanting it to be energetic but to also highlight the contradictions that are easy to face on the journey to finding confidence, as well as sometimes sarcastically self-reflecting on the journey of finding eternal youth as a woman. What has that journey been like for you?
Oof. It has been a journey indeed. I consider myself an outgoing person and performer, but with every effort to put myself out there, I am internally pushing against a huge mound of projected insecurities that I am sure every person can understand on some level. I choose not to let those things hold me back, but that doesn’t mean that the choice is easy or that I have mastered the art of moving past them. The thing that makes me feel like a confident woman, is when I accept that my insecurities and hangups about youth exist as a passenger on the journey, and keep on moving regardless.
You have said that you wrote your song “Secrets” a few years back and it has since taken a few different shapes and that out of creative frustration you almost removed it from the album entirely. What can you tell me about the dream you had that inspired you to give it another go and about this final version of the song?
My band and I had toyed around with “Secrets” on stage a handful of times, and had made a pretty fleshed out recording of it that I was going back and forth about putting on the record. Then I very literally had a dream one night where I was on stage and my band played the song exactly as it was meant to be played, and so I went into Ableton the next morning, started a new session, and started recording from scratch! I had originally recorded that song on an upright piano, and it had a real ragtime vibe that also felt forced. I took it to a more electro-piano world, slowed it down, and got my amazing band to groove it up with some flowy vibes.
You recently released your latest single “Run”, which you have said was the anthem you needed to write for yourself to escape your comfort zone, embrace challenge and passion and to fuel the flames for personal change. What can you tell me about that process of writing the song and how it helped you to work towards those goals and move forward into the future?
Admittedly, when I wrote “Run”, it was during a songwriting challenge (20 songs in 12 hours) and I thought of it as sort of a goofy idea that was way out of my element. But after some support from my creative circle, I was ready to explore the goofy side a bit more. When I let myself give in to trying things that feel out of my comfort zone, they end up being the most rewarding. “Run” ended up being my favorite single to come from the album because its the one I’m the most proud of taking risks on. I went from making acoustic folk songs in my bedroom in 2008 to writing this synthwave dance tune in Spanglish. To most people it may sound like an energetic retro-pop song, but to me I’m like “I can’t believe I produced the shit out of that song!” When I first wrote the lyrics I thought I was asking someone in my life to get up and move out of their comfort zone, but then later after some life changes, I had an epiphany that those lyrics were me telling me to get my own ass up out of feeling too comfortable, and start running towards my own future. A great ending for an album thats all about sitting in my feelings. At a certain point, you gotta get up outta that feelings tub, shake it off, and move forward.
You have worked with the director Tiki on the music video for your song “The Wait” and most recently, for your music video for “Secrets”. What can you tell me about meeting and working with him and what he brings to the creative process for you? What was the idea behind the video for “Secrets”?
I met Tiki in Portland when he was first making videos for The Last Artful, Dodgr. He instantly became a really great friend and I knew I wanted to work with him on “The Wait”. He has a sixth sense for interpreting an artists’ creative inspirations and translating them into visuals. He moved to LA around the same time that I did, and last summer I called him up and asked him if he’d be willing to art-direct this entire album and single roll out, and to also direct a music video. I wanted all of the visual elements to be cohesive and to live in the same world so we riffed on what that world looked like, and on a narrative for the music video. After a year of living inside, it only felt appropriate that we build a really isolated world where bathing and other coping mechanisms are highlighted. I wanted to play an exaggerated (and slightly more drunk version of myself) and to invite viewers in to my alone time rituals. Tiki did an amazing job, and I’m very grateful for Victoria Campagna (photographer) and Bryan Schuldt (graphic designer) for making the single and album design come to life.
What can you tell me about CHEEBED and the visual collage he created for the video for “Fountain of Youth”?
Oh Man, CHEEBED is the brain-child of my hilarious and talented friend who I like to call a VHS Archeologist who crate-digs for VHS home video gold. He had previously made a really cool and grimy found-footage visual for Smarm’s album Gruff Loose Yuck that I loved. You can really feel his specific humor in every CHEEBED video, so I obviously wanted one of my own! The video he made for Fountain of Youth is so perfect. Just a bunch of old baddies on a late 80’s vacation getting their groove on is the most appropriate visual for a song about never getting old.
For the album, you did a collaboration with JBombz and Oilz LLP for a Siren and the Sea For Bathing custom bath bomb. What inspired your idea to offer a bath bomb as part of a Deluxe Package for the album? How did you learn about the company and come to collaborate with them?
From day one I knew I wanted to create a little bath set for fans which included my favorite elements for bathing. JBombz and Oilz is an incredibly conscious and creative company founded by some brilliant teens, and I discovered them on social media through the Portland community. I love that these young minds were making their entrepreneurial dreams happen, and I knew I wanted to support them so I am so honored that they wanted to work together on making this special bath bomb. I highly recommend all of their products!
What’s next for you?
Well I really miss my band, and I miss performing live. I also definitely have A LOT of material ready to develop so there is no limit to what the future holds.