Genevieve’s Technicolor World

Seeing the world through Genevieve Schatz’s eyes is like seeing the world in Technicolor. The L.A.-based, Chicago-native first became known as the lead singer of Company of Thieves, but has since embraced a more pop-oriented sound, releasing music under her given name. Now, everything seems a whole lot brighter, including her candy-coated rhythms that match her vibrant, fire-ombréd hair.

To craft her debut solo EP, Show Your Colors, which was released early this year, Genevieve worked with some of the best producers and writers in the business, including Boots Odestead and Ken Caillat, who have worked with everyone from Fleedwood Mac to The Jonas Brothers to Paramore to Katy Perry. The result is a collection of danceable pop tracks with brutally honest lyrics. This weekend the singer-songwriter will be playing at Electric Love Festival in New York. Beforehand, we met her on the Lower East Side to talk all things music and femininity.

ILANA KAPLAN: Your new music is a departure from the sound of Company of Thieves. Was that intended? Were you always more interested in having a more pop-oriented sound?

GENEVIEVE: I didn’t pre-meditate how I wanted it to sound. I was just expressing my feelings organically. It just so happens that it turned out in this way. I’ve grown up with pop music, so I love pop music. I really love epic, emotional landscapes. As far as being titled “indie-electro-kaleidoscopic pop,” I’m like, “That is great,” and run with it. I’ll keep doing what I do, and you keep telling me what it is.

KAPLAN: What was the reason behind Company of Thieves disbanding?

GENEVIEVE: It’s very complex, but for me, how I see it is: I was a girl in Company of Thieves. Even though I was the lead singer and was the co-writer of all of the songs, I was hiding a little bit. This new project for me was inevitable. It’s me as an artist becoming a woman as a human being. Also, I love this new amount of responsibility that I have because I’m really just representing myself. It puts me in a place where I’m always present and speaking my truth and that’s really empowering.

KAPLAN: What’s the story behind Show Your Colors? How did you come up with the concept behind it?

GENEVIEVE: I moved to Los Angeles a year and a half ago. It was a really big change in my life because I grew up in Chicago. When I decided that I wanted to pursue this new direction as a solo artist, I took a few writing trips out and fell in love with L.A., the oceans, and the mountains. The whole thing was really vulnerable for me because I moved to a city that has a lot of stigma about it and a lot of pre-conceived ideas about who lives there and what they’re like, but I came into it very fresh and excited. I was actually joking with someone recently about how it was such a big transition for me on so many levels. I grew up in the city of Chicago, so I never had a car; I used public transportation. When I decided to move to L.A., I had to save up my money and buy a car. I had to learn how to drive in the winter in Chicago before I left—all of this sounds so everyday, but for me it was a big deal. I was put in this delicate place where I’m kind of fragile and raw all the time; I’m going to different writing sessions, and I’m so relieved I get there in one piece and I’m still alive. Then, I get really inspired—like, “If I didn’t make it home tonight, what would I have to write about in order to feel like I created what I needed to today, as a being?” I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but I don’t take my life for granted and I don’t take any day for granted. There was a lot of judgment that I had to handle from other artists, friends, and family members about moving from Chicago to L.A. because Chicago is so traditionally grounded, hardworking, and very focused, while L.A. seems a little more un-grounded and floaty. I just wanted to go see for myself. There was just a lot going on.

KAPLAN: Why did you choose L.A. over a different city?

GENEVIEVE: In my mind it was either New York or Los Angeles just because I love being around all of the people and the chaotic nature that is human behavior—these places that didn’t exist before we decided to move in and animate them. I think that’s really magical, and I always feel like it’s a perfect place to observe human behavior. I love walking past lobbies of buildings that have the exact same bizarre furniture setup in a city and feel different about it every day. It’s a great place to learn more about yourself.

KAPLAN: To you, what does your music sound like?

GENEVIEVE: It sounds like a lot of epic, emotional confessions, but also ones you want to dance out of your body. I’m really influenced by string arrangements, Disney, haunting layers of harmonies, and even Nintendo. There are so many samples I’ve used throughout my songs. There’s one song that has a Diddy Kong sound, and I know that’s crazy, but I grew up with that.

KAPLAN: In Company of Thieves, you always wore this Free People sparkly dress when you performed. Are you still into wearing lots of sparkles and sequins?

GENEVIEVE: Some, but mostly now with my hair, I’m gravitating towards strong, futuristic pieces that are all white or all black with tons of different textures and cuts. I love wearing like all black and have this flame or fiery hair. Basically right when I moved to L.A. I changed it.

KAPLAN: Who does your hair?

GENEVIEVE: Oh my god, she’s wonderful. Her name is Marcy Harmon. As a woman, I was a little concerned because I was leaving my hairdresser behind.

KAPLAN: It’s like a breakup.

GENEVIEVE: It’s the scariest thing. I looked up who did my favorite styles, like Katy Perry’s blue hair and Florence Welch’s bright red hair. I found Marcy and wrote her an email basically saying, “There’s no way in hell I can afford you, but I really appreciate your hair art.” She was so sweet to me and said, “Come on in.” We’ve been pals ever since. It’s a huge art project every time I see her.

KAPLAN: Have you stuck with the same flame hair color palette?

GENEVIEVE: It’s evolved over time. It started off as a soft sunset—pink, orange, and yellow. Then, it got bolder and brighter. It’s really how I feel. It’s fun. Especially going on the road, if I know I’m going to be in all black or all white, I want to sing like my hair is on fire.