Video Premiere: Michelle Rose "i wanna be wrong"

Michelle Rose is a downtown music fixture whose new single “i wanna be wrong” is a Y2K-inspired escapist pop masterpiece. Cell Vision is proud to premiere the video today. Cell Vision co-founder Prince Terrence spoke with Rose about her new music and visual inspirations.

words and interview by Prince Terrence

Michelle Rose is a New York native and a familiar face in the downtown music scene. Previously, Rose was half of Frances Rose, a duo with her sister Sarah Frances. The sisters are descendants of the Greek instrument makers who created Epiphone guitars. A classically trained cellist, she has collaborated with artists like Blood Orange, Shamir, and more. Michelle was the studio voice behind the song “Leanne” which appeared in the popular show Broad City numerous times as a recurring inside joke. Now her latest exploration is a collaboration with Tyler McCauley who has previously produced works for Shamir, Soft Lit, and numerous projects for the label Godmode. Rose’s new track “i wanna be wrong” is premiering today exclusively on Cell Vision.

The new music video for “I wanna be wrong” satisfies Michelle’s obsession with the Y2K era aesthetic and is reminiscent of those formative years when we were coming of age and figuring it all out alone in our bedroom.

CELL VISION: I wanna be wrong" is the second song from your new project in collaboration with Tyler McCauley, which is a solo project of sorts. What is it about?

MICHELLE ROSE: Fun fact, I was singing almost too correctly, and Tyler said “can you sing more wrong?”It’s about the death of ego when you’re madly in love, and not having the compulsion to prove something. When your gut knows a relationship is doomed and you don’t want to accept it. You choose to fixate on your own flaws, to hold onto the romantic vision of how you choose to see your partner—the blinding of love. Refusal to sharpen the lens/forfeit the gaze.

CELL VISION: You were previously a part of the duo Frances Rose with your sister Sarah. I see her giving you all the props in your social media comments, so I guess that dispels any indications of bad blood. Why did you break apart from your sis and go solo?

MICHELLE ROSE: I wouldn’t consider it breaking apart, but rather creating space for each of us to explore individual projects and new avenues. She’s currently in Greece working as a musical director for a play she wrote and composed the music for called “When We Went Electronic” that was brought over to Rome and Athens via The Tank Theatre. Ironically, the playwright loosely based the dark satire on our electro-pop duo, so that project feels very meta (in the best way possible). A few years ago our dad, who was a really brilliant musician, was diagnosed with cancer and passed away suddenly. At this time my sister and I decided to take a break, and focus on our healing—being sisters came first and foremost. As time has passed, It's been beautiful to support each other as individuals. We’ve sung and played music together our entire lives, so that bond will always remain.

"My intention with creating tracks is to create something that allows people to really lose themselves in a musical dream sequence."

CELL VISION: How did you meet your collaborator Tyler McCauley?

MICHELLE ROSE: A year after my dad passed, I segued into doing a lot of cultural programming and running the events calendar for Ludlow House downtown. It was actually there that I bumped into this comedian Kareem Rahma, who introduced me to Tyler. I met Kareem at a karaoke party for the Metronomy album release, and when we crossed paths at Ludlow House, he went out of his way to ask if I was working on any new music (if not the best producer he knew would be a great fit). I’m usually the one connecting the dots, bringing people together, so that was really awesome for him to be a DIY A&R. Tyler and I had been orbiting for almost a decade in similar music scenes, so when we started co-writing and collaborating it was just really fun and organic.

I had some of the best times of my life writing music with Sarah [for Frances Rose]. There comes a time when it’s important to set creative boundaries, to grow as an individual. I’m grateful to have such a supportive sister who encourages me to dive into my own aesthetic vision, and inner world—I do the same for her. It’s been interesting to write from different perspectives, and explore darker, more personal, cynical tones. I feel like I’ve been really into escapist pop, songs that are autobiographical that I can really lose myself in. The songs Tyler and I have been making feel cathartic, but they’re still upbeat, empowering, and anthemic. My intention with creating tracks is to create something that allows people to really lose themselves in a musical dream sequence.

CELL VISION: What else have you been up to on the creative front lately?

MICHELLE ROSE: I’m reopening a play I wrote called Beatrice Game, it’s a period piece about nightlife and identity. I’m considering making it a play with music by incorporating unreleased Frances Rose material that parallels the theme. We had recurring themes of vampires, and the tragedy of falling in and out of love in the tumultuous downtown scene, when the dark is light enough. There are so many amazing bangers from that musical era that I would like to find a narrative platform to elevate.

CELL VISION: Outside of your own music you have lent your talents as a cellist and collaborated with acts like Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange) and Shamir to name a few. How did those musical relationships come about?

MICHELLE ROSE: I actually met Dev Hynes on the subway at the 8th Avenue L train stop. I was running to make the train wearing a red cape with a hood, and he was carrying gear out of a session with the band Space Camp (a sort of supergroup who backed Dev with Lightspeed Champion, and Adam Green). Dev and I locked eyes and he turned towards me and just sort of heckled me, “Little Red Riding Hood where are you going?” I ended up sitting next to him on the train, and the funny banter led to a musical friendship. A few months later he wrote some cello parts for me to accompany him on a WNYC soundcheck session with John Schaefer.

Shamir and I met at [Brooklyn community art space] the Silent Barn when he was living in their artist residency program. One night I forgot a pair of jeans at his apartment with Mickey Mouse patches that were cut out from a pair of sheets from the 90s I had as a kid. He ended up bringing the jeans with him on tour, and our friendship spawned from this Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants motif. After his debut record was released by XL (Tyler was actually an assistant producer on that) he was really sucked into the industry machine. I’m so proud of everything he’s accomplished on his own, starting his own label, breaking out of the machine, and staying true to his artistry. After I opened for Allie X’s debut New York show at Baby’s All Right, we spontaneously wrote this surf rock type duet together at a home studio in Greenpoint. A month later he invited my band with my sister to open for his sold-out Bowery Ballroom show, and Shamir and I ended up singing the duet together as the encore. I made a recording of the song and added some really beautiful cello parts.

CELL VISION: What is your relationship to Epiphone guitars? Did this have any influence on you growing up as a musician?

MICHELLE ROSE: On my dad’s side of the family we’re the last line of lineage from the Greek instrument makers House of Stathopoulo. Epi was the oldest son and later renamed the company Epiphone Guitars. The company was acquired by Gibson in 1957, and sadly is no longer family-owned. My dad was a really gifted musician and was incredibly proud of his family heritage. He definitely raised me with this sort of bizarre confidence, to really be empowered by the legacy. Epi was more than just an instrument maker, he was a great player and sort of an iconic downtown socialite. Last year I really started diving into the history, although it’s bittersweet since Epi pressured my great grandmother out of her share of the company. The family history has been a huge influence on my passion and path in music. It’s in my veins, but it would be pretty cool if it lived on like that HBO show Succession. A girl can dream.

"I grew up in the Y2K era, and I’ll never forget thinking the world was going to legit end before I reached middle school."

CELL VISION: Your video for “i wanna be wrong” gives me late ‘90s MTV feels was this intentional what is your connection to the late ‘90s/Y2K era?

MICHELLE ROSE: I’ve been obsessed with the late ‘90s and Y2K era of pop culture for literally thirteen years? It’s exciting that it’s finally coming back in a mainstream way. I did all of the art direction and styling for the video with the help of some key props like the wig and microphone from mutli-disciplinary artist Jaki Doyka. Drag artist Freya Wray painted my face makeup and instinctively knew how to capture the bubblegum drama of that era. I love the minimal details of white eyeliner of the early 00s’, and gems. I grew up in the Y2K era, and I’ll never forget thinking the world was going to legit end before I reached middle school. I love that the trends are being reclaimed. My aesthetic inspirations have been consistent with late 90s grunge, and Y2K bubblegum. The world I’ve been cultivating through images with photographer Joey Vanilla (Dan Giovanniello) feels like a cross between Y2K and Twin Peaks.

photo by Dan Giovanello

photo by Dan Giovanello

CELL VISION: What are some of your favorite videos from that era?

MICHELLE ROSE: My favorite videos from that era are “Walk Me Home” by Mandy Moore. I just loved the visual color schemes, and I still love the delicate, and romantic aesthetic. Mandy was my queen - I just found her goofy and relatable. I’m still a huge fan of her performances in indie movies like Saved. I sang a Mandy Moore song at a talent show in fifth grade with a broken leg. I literally hobbled up to the stage and sang my heart out to “Candy” while balancing on one foot.

MICHELLE ROSE: I love the simplicity, moodiness, vulnerability, of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”, and the dark whimsical glitter and glam of Hole’s video for “Celebrity Skin.” The baby blue caskets are iconic. I really love that ice-cool baby blue color in general.

Currently, I’ve been really inspired by the new era of Charli XCX, and Caroline Polachek. All of their videos encapsulate this dark escapist pop that feels authentically like twisted fantasy starring a female heroine/anti-hero.

CELL VISION: You were the actual singer behind the audio recording performance of the popular Comedy Central show Broad City’s inside joke/easter egg song “Leanne”. Which appeared multiple times in numerous scenes on the show and became a recurring theme on the show. You later released a music video for Leanne which showed a diverse cast of characters singing “We’re all Leanne”. I loved that show by the way. How did that all go down? And do you know the inside joke behind “We’re all Leanne”?

MICHELLE ROSE: The opportunity came about when I struck up a conversation with the show’s music supervisor, MattFX. The next day he called me and said “So how good is your Lady GaGa impression?”. Later that night I was in a studio with him and Ary Warnaar of ANAMANAGUCHI belting my heart out to Leanne. That clip plays in almost every episode of the last two seasons of Broad City. It’s in the background at the bodega, on the radio when Abby has a meltdown, and infamously by an older man at a karaoke bar. Honestly, I thought I was just singing a guide vocal for the actor in the karaoke bar scene. Matt FX did say that if we blew it out of the water there was a chance it would be used on the show, and it WAS! Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson created a behind-the-scenes video, talking about how the Easter egg was a spoof on Lady Gaga’s Joanne. It’s just an infectiously catchy refrain that goes “I am LEAAAAAANNNE!”. My friend Gabriel Stanley and I created a full-blown performance art piece karaoke-style video shot at Baby’s All Right just after the fifth season wrapped. A few months later I organized a video release party at Ludlow House with Tanners, who I featured in the video. Now it’s finally on the internet!

CELL VISION: What can we expect next from you as a solo artist?

MICHELLE ROSE: In 2022 I’m going to start playing live shows with Jessica Louise Dye of High Waisted/Hello Lightfoot on guitar. I’m really looking forward to playing shows together and sharing more of the visual identity for the project, the world of the music. I’m approaching this project completely organically and DIY, so you can expect some rad custom-designed merch, high-energy live power pop shops, and a fresh new track released every month for the foreseeable future. The video I made with Steven Turco was shot in a day in my Brooklyn apartment. I really just want to engage and share my world that’s been keeping me going. In this rat race of a capitalist dystopia, if we don’t have escapist pop art what do we have?

You can watch Michelle Rose's new video on YouTube and connect with her on social media via the links below.

Watch "i wanna be wrong" on YouTube
Michelle Rose Instagram