It quickly becomes apparent speaking with Roberto Carlos Lange (aka musician Helado Negro) that he is very pensive.
Lange pauses before he answers, meditating on each question, carefully and precisely choosing his words. He means what he says, and says what he means. It’s exactly the type of personality you’d expect from someone who says he never stops writing and whose latest album is called Far In.
“I think my writing process is constant,” he says. “When I’m not on the road, I’m at home writing and creating.”
As he speaks, he’s literally on the road, driving from Boston to Washington, DC, on his first tour since the pandemic.
Prior to 2020, Lange toured constantly, working the music industry in a way he thought was necessary. But when, in March 2020, he found himself stuck in west Texas art town Marfa with longtime partner and fellow artist Kristi Sword, he quickly realized just how unsustainable his life had become.
“I now have the perspective of doing what I want to do instead of doing a million things,” he reflects. “Just trying to manage a way to make it not so exhausting but still sustain a real life.”
Released last October, Far In (as the name suggests) is an introspective dive into the inner cosmos of the psyche. The title is a take on the phrase “far out” and comes from Lange’s chance meeting with New Age musician Laraaji in an airport. The two began talking and when Lange told Laraaji the projects he was working on, the latter commented “Far in.” The words stuck.
Reflective and poetic, Far In stresses the importance of finding oneself amid the chaos of modern society. It’s a love letter to everyone: ourselves, each other and the greater ecosystem that keeps us alive. Much like Lange himself, the album is grounded and calm. Even at its most danceable, as on the slinking single “Gemini and Leo,” his reserved vocals maintain a steady cool.
“Gemini and Leo” in particular sprung from Lange’s time in Marfa with Sword. Lyrics like “We can move in slow motion, just watch me / we can take our time in cosmic balance” speak to the intimacy he felt isolating with a partner while the world slowed down around them.
“Marfa was obviously unique because we were there during the lockdown for six months,” he recalls. “It definitely realigned some of our priorities about life.”
The biggest realignment was the decision to leave their Brooklyn, NY, homebase to resettle in Asheville, NC.
“It’s all love for New York,” he says. “But it’s really difficult to always jump from apartment to apartment hoping to land somewhere sustainable. Asheville allows us to feel it’s possible to exist somewhere and do the things we want to do.”
Born and raised in Florida to Ecuadorian immigrant parents, Lange discovered the blended worlds of music and visual art as a preteen watching MTV’s animated showcase Liquid Television.
“They were these abstract animations that were so mysterious to me, I didn’t know what they were,” he remembers. “That’s a theme that continues today: I’m curious and always searching for how things are made.”
His curiosity led Lange to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), where he developed his background in visual design while making music for art projects. There, his two worlds often came together in stunning ways, foreshadowing his life to come.
Because of his background in visual art and design, Lange is not necessarily a typical musician. Often, he writes by feel and imagery instead of following chord progressions. Collaboration is another major feature of his music, with Kacy Hill, L’Rain and Buscabulla all appearing on Far In.
“In the past there were more insecurities on my end but now I’m way more comfortable doing what I do,” he admits about collaborating. “We all bring something to the table.”
Already, Lange is working on new music, but he isn’t concentrating all of his attention on it quite yet. Instead, with his new, focused outlook, he is trying to savor the current tour and the things he’s already accomplished.
“There’s a new perspective on it for me, even more so now that we’re recreating it live,” he says. “I feel a different attachment to the music that’s more alive.”
Sun, 7pm, $25
The Ritz, San Jose