In the wake of her latest release, Romy Flores confesses the secrets to the embodiment and aesthetic of her dark pop star character
A dark angel has fallen straight into the pop charts. With twisted lyrics contemplating love, life, and death, DeathbyRomy sings and screams harmonies over tracks mixed with industrial noise. After working with Capitol Records on two recent releases, Love u — to Death and Songs For My Funeral, Romy Flores is back to being an independent artist, creating without boundaries—an approach that lead to her sexiest and most abrasive track to date, “No Mercy.”
In the song, Flores brought melodrama to hardcore, gently singing morbid lyrics: “Your nightmare is the man of my dreams / It turns me on when he makes you bleed / Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the sickest bitch of all.” Following the steps of City Morgue, Flores is continuing to reinvent nu metal by instituting a guitar riff, screaming an almost Korn-like chorus and following a catchy pop structure.
Adding more metal into her sound is a route that works well for the DeathbyRomy persona Flores fabricated at age 15. “No Mercy” is explosive and electronic, appealing to the highly online culture of her generation. She is neither emo nor goth, both words never resonated with her—unlike the outcast label she recalls receiving in high school. Due to the bullying, Flores sought refuge in an online community—and after dropping out and earning her GED, she has emerged as an edgy pop star known for playing with trap and rock and roll simultaneously.
With the track’s music video—a Phobia Films production directed by Flores herself, Gnarlos Wright, and Rake—released today, DeathbyRomy will be seen dancing in a cool-toned trailer park, lying on an abandonded railroad tracks, and locked up with her dangerous lover. She’s surrounded by neighbors, including little girls in babydoll dresses carrying rifles. It’s chaotic and creepy with vomited blood and strobe light flashes.
Between the release of “No Mercy” and the track’s music video, Flores met with Document to discuss the embodiment and aesthetics of DeathbyRomy, the evil thoughts behind her lyrics, and the world she has created for herself.
Madison Bulnes: How does your DeathbyRomy persona compare to the actual you?
Romy Flores: We’re one in the same, equally vile and real. I’ve always been drawn to the darkest things, and I want to create art out of them. I try to remind people online that I am not only my scary makeup looks. I try to show that I cook for my family every day, that I too cry, and make fun of myself.
Madison: How close are you to your family? Does that connection influence your music at all?
Romy: I’m incredibly close with my mother. My family is everything, and my relationships with them definitely influence my music from time to time, although I find those songs harder to share.
Madison: Where did your stage name come from?
Romy: I used to want to kill myself. While trying to claim personal love, I thought about the concept of ‘death by something beautiful.’ In an attempt to try and view myself as beautiful, I claimed the name DeathbyRomy.
Madison: A big part of DeathbyRomy is the style and makeup—the graphic liner, facial piercings and decals, smokey eyes, all black, BDSM accessories, latex. Do you style yourself?
Romy: I style myself, yes. Since I was very young, I was drawn to BDSM and fetish-type fashion designers like Creepy Yeha. I wasn’t really sure why at first, but I saw a toughness and strength in things like metal hardware, shibari, and latex. Embodying my artist persona and finding myself as a woman have gone hand in hand. I started this project at 16, so I’ve always been drawn to creating a type of armor to protect myself and feel powerful all in one.
Madison: What is ‘No Mercy’ about?
Romy: ‘No Mercy’ is a campy story of a sick romance. It’s partially inspired by the selfish concept of wanting your lover to be obsessed with you and only you, while also toying with the idea of being with some type of monster—who we learn is actually loyal to me, the puppet master. [Laughs] It’s not really based in reality.
Madison: Is there a reason why you’re drawn to this ‘sick romance’ ideal?
Romy: I loved someone who was very sick at one point. That relationship was incredibly toxic and unhealthy, but I grew to love the toxicity and it contaminated my head. Luckily, I got out of that. It’s definitely not an ideal I long for or crave again.
Madison: The sound is very similar to your older stuff, but also includes heavier bass and intense screams. Is this a long-term direction you want to go in with your music?
Romy: I’ve always been influenced by heavy music––from Three 6 Mafia, to Death Grips, to Belzebong. In my earliest work, like in ‘running and hiding,’ this is very apparent. I finally got to bring that back with my recent release, ‘Day I Die.’ I wouldn’t say I changed it up, but I finally got creative freedom since I left my record label. This is something that I’m loving now—having no limitations with what I create.
Madison: In the video for ‘No Mercy,’ the scenes switch between very suburban America and an abandoned warehouse cage. Why did you decide to juxtapose the two?
Romy: All of the locations are inspired by decaying America. They’re meant to all play in the same world.
Madison: The location is also the background of many of your Instagram posts. Where and what is it, exactly?
Romy: The ‘house’ is something that started with my ‘Day I Die’ video, as a temporary installation created in a home from the ’50s that was set to be destroyed by now. I painted all the walls and furniture with the help of some friends. I’ve since filmed ‘Lovesick’ and ‘No Mercy’ there, in an attempt to build a little world with a multifaceted character existing in the same place, but in different realities. It’s here, just outside of LA.
Madison: The video brings me back to The 1975’s ‘Robbers’ music video, but with added horror. Did you grow up on Tumblr?
Romy: I’m familiar with the aesthetic of that period. Most of my references for this video were actual photos of American families I discovered in different ways. Unfortunately, Tumblr was not one of them. I did and still do love Lana del Rey, though.
Madison: Where did you find the pictures?
Romy: I found the pictures all over—some on weird aesthetic Instagram pages, some on Google. I find inspiration in things I don’t understand and can’t relate to. It’s shocking and intriguing to see how kids in other parts of America grew up in comparison to how I did. I think people are naturally drawn to things that are different to them. Those things are often the most compelling.