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In conversation:Bu Cuaron's music puts the 'art' in artificial realism

by Isabel Williams

“A lot of art is like a diary. You're not going to think about others [while writing]. You have to write your diary for yourself.”

Upon hearing Bu Cuaron’s latest single ‘Viceversa’, for the first time, the initial reaction for many listeners would be one of surprise. The musician has only previously released one song, and yet there is a refined confidence to both her lyricism and the quality of her production that is far more polished than the average indie artist. You might scour the internet for more info on the elusive individual, but aside from finding information on her father, renowned filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, your results would come up short.

Despite having played the Italian music festival ‘La Prima Estate’ and gracing the cover of Mexico’s Elle Magazine in 2023, Bu is something of a social media recluse. Don’t be fooled by her 130k Instagram followers – it’s rare that she’ll post more than a couple of times a month. But over the course of our conversation, it’s evident that I shouldn’t be as shocked by Bu’s musical prowess as I am; after all, she has been making music since she was an infant.

“I made my first song with my cousins, called ‘I Like Strawberries’, on GarageBand when I was like, four,” Bu reveals, smiling as she reminisces, “and ever since then I’ve always written music.” This may sound like an exaggeration or idle boast, but talking with Bu, I can find little reason to refute it. There’s a grounded maturity to her demeanour and speech, reminiscent of somebody who has seen a lot more than the average 20 year old. “I feel like there was this big moment in my hormonal teenage years, when I was 13, 14, that I started writing like, three songs a day. And it was never like, what do I want to do as a career? I just did it because I would have done it anyways.”

Having started classical vocal and instrumental training at a young age, Bu credits hearing the music of electronic R&B singer-songwriter James Blake with jolting her creative transition into songwriting. In a true flex of her creative muscles, Bu wrote her latest track, ‘Viceversa’, for a school project when she was just 16 years old. With her Mexican heritage and a childhood spent living between England and Italy, Bu is fully versed in the cultures of all three countries, and she speaks Spanish, English and Italian fluently. ‘Viceversa’ is the first of her released singles to be written entirely in Spanish.

“I guess in Spanish, especially in Latin America, we get the most emotion in it, especially when it comes to drama and love. It’s the Forte, and I guess I’m saying something almost so cheesy and dramatic; it works the best in Spanish,” Bu says in reference to the song. The choice is certainly an effective one. Her vocals are clean-cut and richly bodied, but there’s a slight rawness to their quality that is brought out by the hoarser ‘r’ sounds of the dialect, bouncing off of the syncopated synth rhythms and building tension right up until the bridge. ‘Me preguntaste porque me fui / A mi preguntaban porque estaba ahí,’ Bu sings in one verse, translating this for me as ‘You asked me why I left / They asked me why I stayed.’

The chorus is a thumping, fizzing crescendo of frenzied energy, powerfully reminiscent of the distorted chorus of Billie Eilish’s single, ‘NDA’. It’s tense and anxiety-inducing, chaotic on the surface but with a hidden control at its core; the calm within the eye of the storm. “I love Daft Punk and synths and I love sounds that sound fake, in a way,” Bu tells me, “like really deep synths sometimes, or 808’s, they trigger a frequency in your body. And I think I was really like, experimenting with that kind of influence and arpeggiators and stuff.”

These elements are prominent across the body of work that makes up her carefully curated upcoming EP, ‘Drop By When You Drop Dead’, which is due to release in Spring later this year. When I ask her how she would describe her own musical style, Bu takes a moment to think before smiling coyly. “Do you want to know the answer I tell my friends?” she asks. “Boxes are for cereal.” She laughs at herself before continuing. “I mean, I think genres help, and I feel like the easy way to put it would be like, indie pop, but at the same time there’s a lot of different sounds and three different languages in the EP. And it’s synthy; some parts are more rappy; there’s a ballad in Italian and then there’s a reggaeton song.”

Although Bu is confident wish pushing the boundaries of other people’s expectations for her music, this mentality hasn’t always been around to buoy her up. “I guess a lot of people around me had things to say,” Bu says in reference to her early days of making music, “and were like, you should make a slower song, or you should do this, or you should do that. And I think sometimes I’d feel like, oh my god, am I doing something wrong? And I think that puts me into a block. And then after a while, I just pushed that away and said ‘I’m just going to do things for myself’”. She finds Rick Rubin’s comparison of art to a diary to be a particularly compelling statement. “You’re not going to think about others [while writing]. You have to write your diary for yourself.”

Alongside her love for synthesizers and what she describes as “fake” sounds, Bu’s fascination with the artificial extends outside of art in a musical format. Produced by the Parisian design company ‘Mathematic Studio’, Bu and her brother Olmo designed the perfect uncanny valley cover for ‘Drop By When You Drop Dead’, featuring a plasticky, 3D-illustrated Bu sat musingly atop a giant Rubik’s cube. A wide expanse of digitally rendered, too-green grass filters out into the horizon. As someone with synaesthesia, Bu closely associates music with colours, and she reveals that every colour on the Rubik’s cube is specifically matched to the aural colours of a song that features on the EP.

This interest in co-ordinating visual art with music is partially influenced by all-round musical connoisseur Tyler the Creator; somebody Bu regards as having mastered the art of the concept album. “I love how he’s able to integrate his music and represent it with his style of clothing at the same time,” she says, “and like, even a colour palette. I think that’s so awesome and that just stuck with me so much, this association of colours and palette and textures of clothes with the music he was creating at the same time.”

She tells me that she loves the journey of an album, and that she finds it sad that her sister can name Billie Eilish’s individual songs, but not the albums they form a part of. “I think unfortunately, on a universal level, TikTok may have shifted the way we consume music by short content […] and I think that’s what kind of destroyed album culture,” she says. “I think that it’s super important to keep that culture alive and it’d be so sad to kill it.”

Sticking true to her words, Bu is hoping to release a concept album herself in the not-too-distant future, regarding her upcoming EP as something of a tastemaker. With a self-directed music video dropping alongside ‘Viceversa’, Bu’s entrance onto the music scene is shaping up to be an explosive exhibition of her multiple talents – and she’s only just getting started.

Alex G. Harper
Cover Art Producer
Mathematic Studio
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