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Vanessa Contenay (born Vanessa Contenay-Quinones) is a London-based singer-songwriter born in Paris, France. She is currently a member of the band Vanessa and the O's but currently releasing solo records in collaboration with UK based duo Skeewiff as Vanessa Contenay-Quinones and Skeewiff. She was known as Vanessa St. James as part of a duet, "Vanessa St James and Lou Reed" (Sunday Morning 2004 [clarification needed]).
French composer artist Contenay-Quinones is the daughter of Carmen Quinones, painter of Lima, Peru and was influenced by a wide variety of music early in life with the sounds of 50/60's rock & roll and pop being predominant. She was born in Paris, but spent her early childhood in the Canary Islands returning to Paris to attend primary school. She released her first pop record at the age of 16 in France before moving to England to start her music career proper settling first in Brighton, absorbing the electronic dance music culture and starting up Latin infused beats and samples pop duo Espiritu with Chris Taplin, before moving to London.
In the mid '90's she co-wrote/co-produced and recorded as the primary member of Espiritu, assisted by former Frazier Chorus member Taplin. Two Espiritu albums and six singles were released in this time, the album 'Always' being a Japan (EMI Japan) only release and featured the UK and Japanese hit single 'Always Something There To Remind Me'. The second album 'Another Life' was released in the UK by Heavenly/Deconstruction-BMG and in Japan by EMI.
In 2003, she co-founded the band Vanessa and the O's alongside Smashing Pumpkins co-founding member James Iha, Popsicle's Andreas Mattson and Niclas Frisk of Atomic Swing releasing debut album La Ballade d'O in 2005. In 2009/10 she started work on the 60's French pop inspired solo project 'Allez Pop!' working with Alex Rizzo and Elliot Ireland of London funky beats and analogue sound maestro's Skeewiff releasing the album Vanessa Contenay-Quinones presents Allez Pop! to rave reviews. In August 2012 the second Vanessa & The O's album Stories For Watering Skies was released in Japan. The European release via Grand Palais/Modulor Paris France came out in spring 2013.
A second 60's French pop album with the working title 'Made In France' has been announced by the artist and Skeewiff for a 2014 release.
In 1992, Quinones and Taplin signed a recording contract with Heavenly Records (then in a distribution deal with Arista Records, subsidiary of Sony Music) and released a number of singles as Espiritu. Their debut single, "Francisca" (remixed by Farley & Heller) was followed by three UK Top 50 entries: "Conquistador" (remixed by The Sabres of Paradise), "Los Americanos" (remixed by Mark Stent), and "Bonita Manana".
An album called Manifesto was announced, but did not appear, due to Sony ending its distribution deal with Heavenly. However a remix of the Bacharach and David song, "Always Something There to Remind Me" (credited to Tin Tin Out and featuring Espiritu), went to #14 on the UK single charts, while the original version of the single (without Tin Tin Out) reached #1 in Japan. The Manifesto tracks were then licensed to the Japanese Toshiba-EMI label, and the first Sony Espiritu album, retitled Always..., was subsequently released in Japan in 1995.
Drum and bass influences were to be found on the next three (more underground) Espiritu singles, and on the second album Another Life, released after re-signing with Heavenly (then newly acquired by Deconstruction Records). Espiritu and Deconstruction Records parted company after lack of commercial success (and citing "too underground for mass consumer taste"). Deconstruction Records folded not long after.
In 1999, a cover of the Carly Simon song "Why" was released on EMI Music Germany. In 2000, Quinones provided vocals on the Dario G song "Voices" on the soundtrack to the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach.
In 2001, the (Cream Records) song, "In Praise of the Sun" was released by the Mr. Joshua presents Espiritu (of Brian Higgins/Xenomania) collaboration, co-written by Nick Bracegirdle, better known as the dance artist Chicane. Subsequently, Espiritu was recruited to re-record the song for the 2003 Chicane album Easy to Assemble.
Vanessa and the O's
A 2003 meeting in Manhattan with James Iha (formerly of the Smashing Pumpkins), Andreas Mattson (of Popsicle), and Niclas Frisk (of Atomic Swing) resulted in the formation of the band Vanessa and the O's and the release of the limited edition EP Plus Rien.
In 2004, Vanessa recorded an electro/dance version of the Velvet Underground classic "Sunday Morning" with Lou Reed and released by Warner Bros Germany.
In 2005, Vanessa and the O's released their debut album La Ballade d'O via EMI Records Sweden in Scandinavia only.
In 2006, the La Ballade d'O album was released in Japan by Strange Days Records, in France by Pias, and in Thailand by SmallRoom Records. The album was also made available worldwide digitally via Rushmore Recordings, the band's own label. Vanessa appears as guest vocalist on the Scott Walker album The Drift.
In 2007, Vanessa & The O's contributed a track to the tribute album We All Love Ennio Morricone (see Ennio Morricone) with an update of the Francois Hardy 60's classic "Je Changerais d'Avis".
March 2012, James Iha's version of Vanessa & The O's song 'Till Next Tuesday' was released by EMI Music reaching number 8 on the Japanese top 10 singles chart. Taken from his solo album 'Look To The Sky' featuring Nina Persson and Television's Tom Verlaine.
August 2012 saw the release of the second Vanessa & the O's album 'Stories For Watering Skies' in Japan only.
February 2013, release of the single 'L'Air Entre Nous' taken from the European version of the new Vanessa & the O's album which was released by Modulor/Grand Palais Paris on April 15, 2013.
Vanessa Contenay-Quinones presente Allez Pop!
In 2008–2010, Vanessa created the solo project Vanessa presents Allez Pop! with London-based duo Alex Rizzo and Elliot Ireland (of "Skeewiff"/"Jalapeño Records") a 60's French pop inspired analogue recorded album. Original songs from these sessions titled "C'est Magnifique", "Pres de Toi", "Bon Bon Bon", "Quand Tu Me Dis", "Pour Quoi Pas", and "Odyssee" are now available on various compilation albums worldwide, such as Paris Fashion District Volume 2/3 (cool:division Italy), Filles Fragile2 (Zyx – Holland), Cafe De Paris (HiNote Records – Beijing/China), and Musique Fantastique (Netherlands).
The June 2010 Vanessa present's Allez Pop track "Bon Bon Bon" was featured in the action-comedy film, Killers (aka "Kiss & Kill" in France), starring Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, and Tom Selleck. The album, Killers, hit the US Box-Office top 3 on its week of release June 2010.
May 2011, 'Pourquoi Pas' another track taken from Vanessa's solo French pop album 'Vanessa presents Allez Pop!' appears on the Pschent label compilation L'Alcazar.
June 2011, Vanessa released a specially written song 'Show Me How' for the Vinyl Japan/Red Cross charity album for children orphaned by the March 2011 disaster titled Omoiyari For Japan alongside Tom Verlaine, The Divine Comedy and others.
September 2013 the Contenay-Quinones/Skeewiff production Bon Bon Bon was used in the Victoria's Secret online campaign for 'The Fragrance' 
A new album in the 60's French pop series ('Allez Pop') made in conjunction with Skeewiff has been announced for a September 8th 2014 release. The album is 'Made In France' according to the releasing label Pedigree Cuts UK blog.
'Made In France' album made available to pre-order via iTunes and Amazon (26th August 2014).
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- "Biography". Artist's website. August 1999. Archived from the original on 23 June 2001. Retrieved 7 April 2006.
- Kelly, Martin and Robin Turner. "Artists' Biographies: Espiritu". Heavenly Records. Retrieved 7 April 2006.
- 'The Fragrance' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNZ3d37MfUE 'The Fragrance'. Missing or empty
- The Official Espiritu Web Site (archived) at the Wayback Machine
- Espiritu discography at Discogs