Presenting a swift follow-up to her acclaimed solo debut album ‘Moving Spaces’, German Filipino songstress and musician Laura Dre presents an ambitious concept record in ‘Kyoto Dreams’.
Loving a download only instrumental bonus track of the same name from ‘Moving Spaces’, her label Outland asked for more of the same and Laura Dre duly delivered, but with a twist.
Having grown up with German Hörspiel cassettes, “I instantly had this crazy idea of creating a story with Japanese voice acting…” she said.
The 12 instrumentals contained on the ‘Kyoto Dreams’ album inspired by Citypop, chill-synth and lo-fi house are interspersed with a story in Japanese about a workaholic named Rin played by Hiroko Okunishi; she lives without dreams and ambitions but she embarks on a journey of enlightenment to find that something to enrich her future self. Other characters are voiced by Karinne Okunishi, Satomi Kinoshita, kay and Ayumi Kobayashi. To assist non-Japanese speaking listeners, English translations of the story’s script are available on Laura Dre’s website as well as in the booklet of the CD release.
Of the music, ‘Lost in Transit’ is an example of how music and speech can come together on an exotic midtempo instrumental. Using glitchy pitched shifted vocal samples, ‘Bus To Okinawa’ is more jagged in comparison and its darker austere is intriguing. ‘Waiting’ offers pretty vibes in keeping with its title, while ‘Drifting’ is a more dreamy flight of fancy where the inclusion of speech also works.
‘City Lights’ is superb and its danceable NEW ORDER Goes To The Far East backdrop captures a wonderfully nocturnal feel but ‘Ocean Adventure’ is naturally more nautical, blue and relaxed. The glorious ‘Kyoto Dreams’ is the Citypop-influenced bonus that was the seed to this ambitious adventure and it remains an enticing musical travelogue with hooks, atmospheres and percussive colours in an example of how a good synth instrumental should be constructed.
With Koto textures galore, the Zen hip-hop of ‘Temples’ pitches up some of the dialogue to be more child-like and although ‘Four Seasons’ develops on the hip-hop theme, it does so with a much shadier downtempo approach.
As the album effectively bookends with ‘You Are Here’, the ‘Part 2 – Tokyo 5pm’ variation utilises metronomic club beats over its moodier ‘Part 1 – Unknown’ counterpart, while an extended reprise of ‘Bus To Okinawa’ and the short conceptual statement ‘New Departure’ close the ‘Kyoto Dreams’ album like the soundtrack over the end titles of a film.
Musically, the 12 instrumentals on ‘Kyoto Dreams’ stand up as a collection. But for those who may not be as wholly invested in Laura Dre’s vision of a radio play and its chapters alternating with music, the story in Japanese may prove to be a frustrating distraction. For casual listeners, this switching music / spoken word approach rarely works and even the mighty YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA at their commercial heights baffled their homegrown audiences with their 1983 album ‘Service’ by alternating synthpop songs with comedy sketches in Japanese by SUPER ECCENTRIC THEATER!
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is certainly not against albums with interspersed conceptual pieces as the site’s love of KRAFTWERK’s ‘Radio-Activity’ or ‘Dazzle Ships’ and ‘English Electric’ by OMD have proved.
Now whereas those featured tracks of news broadcasts, speaking clocks and airport announcements in international languages respectively, these concrète experiments were shorter and fewer in number, although ‘Times Zones’ from ‘Dazzle Ships’ remains a flawed artistic snapshot of the world that outstays its welcome by a minute.
In the case of this sophomore Laura Dre album, listen to it as a whole and see how you feel. As a radio play on its own, a synth instrumental record or as Laura Dre’s vision of combining both, what it means to the individual listener is what matters; it will mean different things to different people and only they can decide what to put in their own ‘Kyoto Dreams’ playlist.
With her debut album ‘Moving Spaces’, Laura Dre has presented an impressive musical statement that positions her between the sophistication of Nina and the gothier overtures of Kat Von D.
A musician, producer, graphic designer, model builder and gamer, the German-Filipino songstress has many talents. While she may be a new name in synth, Laura Dre offers a cooler take on electronic pop, the five decades old form having recently had a mainstream boost internationally thanks to THE WEEKND with Max Martin-assisted tunes such as ‘Blinding Lights’ and ‘Save Your Tears’.
Previously the front-woman of feisty electro-rock combo VINYL BLACK STILETTOS whose second EP ‘Electrical’ was produced by PET SHOP BOYS programmer and engineer Pete Gleadall, Laura Dre has a fascination for yesterday’s tomorrow, with the rainy dystopian air of ‘Blade Runner’ lingering with a mysterious sexual tension.
Laura Dre spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about her creative ethos and how artistic independence has empowered her to be ‘Moving Spaces’…
You have been making music for a number or years, particularly with a more alternative rock edge so what inspired you to focus on synths, had there been any artists from this ilk that turned you onto this instrumentation?
My love for alternative rock, grunge, punk and metal was quite strong up until I discovered electronic artists. I think it all started with German electronic artists in 2003 that had a cross-over between synths and indie sounds in their music: STEREO TOTAL, MIA; 2004: SPILLSBURY (Electro-punk); 2006: PEACHES, FISCHERSPOONER, GOLDFRAPP, YPPAH and in 2007: NEW YOUNG PONY CLUB.
I love the bold expression and simplicity of PEACHES, the synth melodies and alluring vocals of GOLDFRAPP, the rhythmic syncopation and ambience whenever I listen to a YPPAH record, and the mesmerising synergy of instruments from NYPC. Of course, there was also a lot of 80s and 90s EDM growing up – all this has influenced me what I do today.
In your writing process, are you quite “synaesthesic” in approach with your musical imagination?
Almost. If we are purely talking about sounds itself, then I most often have already a particular synth sound in my head whilst writing my song. The good thing is, I know exactly what I’m looking for and how it’s made of (ie saw, square, sine, triangle) and then I would modulate / manipulate / shape the sound to match the sound in my head, with LFOs / envelopes and additional effect plugins. It really helps being familiar with a synthesisers functions and controls, which I learned during my time at University studying music production.
I scored 10/10 when my tutor was testing us if we recognise wavetable sounds. So that already gave me a good indication of my ability to identify sounds and reconstruct them from scratch.
You apply a strong visual aesthetic to your artwork, photos and social media, how important do you think this is as an artist?
I think this goes hand-in-hand with music and visuals are very important these days to promote the music you’re doing, to grab people’s attention and to express music on a visual level. Since we live in a world full of advertisements, it’s even harder now to cut through the social media noise to stand out, so that’s why I think it’s really important to have images accompanying the music as well as portraying the artist itself.
From my own personal opinion, I found it even more important that this is carried out through ORIGINAL images / content, something that the artist creates themselves rather than using other people’s artwork like I see it often happening on Instagram. Aren’t you bored of seeing the same image shared over and over by multiple artists?
Yes, it may look aesthetically pleasing to someone who just wants to see specific kind of images, but on the other hand it’s unoriginal and basically it’s stealing other people’s artwork, causing potential copyright infringements. I’ve seen it often happening that other people’s artwork is not even credited, which is bad practice. I also don’t see the logic in doing these things because it’s not really contributing to the artists’ music or image itself. I’m sorry to be blunt, but it comes across as ‘visual portfolio of stolen images for lazy artists’. That’s my personal opinion and it’s something that people don’t have to agree with.
Did you ever consider hiding your face like some of the acts who featured in ‘The Rise Of The Synths’? Can it ever be “just about the music” as some claim in that film?
I have no shame in saying that I’ve not watched this film, just like I never heard about synthwave until last year. No, I have no reason to hide my face, personality nor sexuality. I think hiding is a personal choice – whatever makes you feel comfortable.
Do you have any guilty pleasures in terms of inspiration, unexpected loves like Country & Western or Schlagermusik?
I’m not a fan of German Schlagermusik, but I wouldn’t mind classic Country music (ie Johnny Cash), Hillbilly stuff, Psychobilly Rock N’ Roll, and some Benny Goodman and Bobby Hutcherson here and there. I love Oldies, Jazz, Classical Music, 90s Hip Hop – I can pretty much listen to any genre as long as the music is good.
Robert Harder, who you worked with in VINYL BLACK STILETTOS, mixed the ‘Moving Spaces’ album, how would you describe your creative dynamic?
It’s easier to work with someone when you know that person and what they are like. With Robert, he always worked with the cool bands that I admired (SOHODOLLS, WHITE ROSE MOVEMENT, WHITEY etc) So I had no doubt that he would be a good fit for my sound, which he has proven with my very first VBS EP from 2011.
In terms of dynamic, we both work remotely and super quick. He puts a lot of effort into mixing my music creatively and the vocal production, like he added this wonderful dreamy outro on ‘I Wanna Be Your Only One’ which I originally did not have. I absolutely love it!
What tools were you using on the album, was there any particular hardware or software that you turned to and enjoyed using?
I don’t own much analog hardware, mainly just a good pair of speakers (Focal Twin 6 BE), a good valve microphone (Telefunken AK-47 MkII) and a UA6176 – the rest is done in the box. To me it’s never been about the gear you own, to make music with. One could have the most expensive Studio equipment, but if you’re not a good songwriter you will still make crap music, no matter how expensive your gear is.
The same principle applies for recording – you could be recording at Abbey Road Studios with the world’s best sound engineer – I will repeat this again: it doesn’t matter if everything is top range, your songs will still be cr*p if you’ve never learned how to write and compose good songs.
Were you tempted to bring out your bass guitar or were you strictly adhering to the synth aesthetic?
I’m not afraid to use any kind of instrument at all, as long as it fits the track. In my case, the bass guitar doesn’t really suit my music, so I will only use my guitar here and there, where it complements the melodies and harmonies I create. At the end of the day, I’m not here to please people by strictly adhering to a limited range of instruments or musical style or aesthetics. I see my music as complete different entity not connected to anything, except the electronic genre (which is super broad) but with 80s infused sounds in a modern way.
So did ‘If Looks Could Kill’ begin life as one of your rockier tracks?
That was the third track I created out of the ‘Moving Spaces’ album, and initially I did a fast 4/4 beat with modulation on the synths, but due to an accident during transfer, Robert had to re-program my drums on this track and accidentally gave me back a 2/4 beat, which I totally loved because it was so 80s! Like Michael Sambello’s ‘Maniac’. I’m so glad this happened, because it just sounded better! I wouldn’t call it ‘rockier’ but in my head I visualised an image of an 80s pool party and this song playing in the background. I mainly create music to images in my head.
The ‘Moving Spaces’ title song launched you solo to the wider world, why did you pick that as the track to premiere your synth sound with?
I let Outland Recordings pick the track, I wasn’t really fussed which track went out first as I loved them all. Besides that, it’s better to let the average listener pick, because as a producer / artist, I often can’t see the forest as a whole, I can only see individual trees.
How did Outland Recordings become involved? Was the ‘Moving Spaces’ album already recorded? Was it important for you to have a label?
No, it wasn’t fully recorded. I had 8 songs at the time I started looking for a label. And yes, it was important to me to get a label because I made a deal with my Instagram crush. The deal was that she would have to go out with me on a date if I get a record deal. So 100% motivation right there! 😉
‘All Day, All Night’ has this lovely PET SHOP BOYS feel, right down to the instrumental break, are you a fan?
I’ve seen PET SHOP BOYS live on their ‘Nightlife’ tour in Bremen, it was my very first concert ever. My friend had a spare ticket, so that’s how I ended up there. I still love ‘For Your Own Good’, but I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan. They are okay. If I have to pick a 90s EDM act, I’d prefer ORBITAL, THE ORB, FAITHLESS, UNDERWORLD or THE FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON. If ‘All Day All Night’ sounds like PSB to some listeners, then that’s fine, but I had no intention of making it sound similar to them. What I had more in mind with this song was a modern version of 80s Citypop.
‘Superficial Cyberlove’ gets quite gothic and then goes all EBM, how was this track conceived?
I never had this in mind when I composed it. I visualised something more 80s cyberpunk in my head, like ‘Blade Runner’ meets techno. Sci-fi and Neon Club vibes.
While unrequited love is the theme of the album, how much of the lyrical content is you playing a character and how much is autobiographical?
The lyrical content is a mixture of both. The feelings are from my real life experiences whilst the setting and vibe of the songs have different imaginative settings, for example ‘Superficial Cyberlove’: Whilst the lyrics are about having a crush on your ideal model that you shaped inside your head, this model has a set and certain type of partner in their mind, thus they’re all ‘superficial’ and you’ll never be good enough for that person.
Then, we’re also connected to our computers on a daily basis, so people cyber-stalk the one’s they like and possibly develop deeper feelings for them that are unrequited, to the point that they are letting go of them (‘I Turn Away From You’). To bring the lyrics together with the music I chose a ‘cyberpunk’ setting in this instance, that I try to convey with dark retro sounds, tempo and intensity of the song that gradually increases.
Are you actually an ‘Ice Maiden’ in real life?
Hahaha! I don’t know how other people observe me, but my ex-girlfriend was certainly an ‘ice maiden’, and so is the girl that I made a deal with.
‘I Wanna Be Your Only One’ mentions ‘Bonnie & Clyde’, but which couples, either real or fictional have most inspired you?
Catra and Adora from ‘She-Ra & The Princess of Power’ *laughs*
They are obviously fictional, but they have a very complex relationship that made the whole story of the show really good, I could watch this over and over! I’m not surprised there are many fans out there that want a Season 6 now!
You sing that ‘Loving You Is A Beautiful Sin’, but how do you see the world at the moment in its quest for equality, tolerance and being free from the threat of violence?
I think as humans in this current state of the world we have a lot of things to combat that unfortunately will not change overnight, such as Asian-hate-crime, homophobia, climate change, poverty, trans rights, domestic violence, wars, human trafficking and rape amongst many, many other things that are problematic.
It’s horrible when we think about these things and the fact that they all exist somewhere in the world. I think this is an ongoing quest that will not be resolved for the next centuries sadly. I still like to dream about a world where currency and poverty doesn’t exist, where all life forms whether alien or human are equal, which is Gene Roddenberry’s world – it’s the reason why I’m so fond of ‘Star Trek’. Who you love should not be an issue, but sadly in many countries, it still is.
Which are your own favourite songs from the album and why?
I don’t have any favourite songs, they are all my “babies” so I love them all. 🙂
Is playing live as a solo synth artist on the cards for you or is the recording of a second album first more likely?
The second album is nearly done! I will have it finished by end of September, then it will be mixed and mastered by Robert Harder again. Once that is done, I will perform live shows again, hopefully with the first stop being Tokyo, Japan.
What are your hopes and fears as the world begins to open up again?
My fear is that every damn venue will be booked up! Hahaha. I think most bands are getting ready now to start playing live shows soon, which might become a nightmare in terms of wanting to book a time slot. As for hopes, I’m hoping that Japan will open their borders soon so that we can start booking my first tour.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Laura Dre
With a fascination for yesterday’s tomorrow, German Filipino songstress and musician Laura Dre presents her solo debut album ‘Moving Spaces’, a collection themed around the traumas of unrequited love.
Laura Dre was formally the front woman of electro-rock combo VINYL BLACK STILETTOS whose second EP ‘Electrical’ was produced by PET SHOP BOYS programmer and engineer Pete Gleadall,
‘Moving Spaces’ sees a return in the studio with her previous co-producer Robert Harder whose credits have included David Byrne, Brian Eno and Neneh Cherry.
Her mix of modern synthpop and synthwave anthems coupled to her deep nonchalant vocals capture the rainy dystopian air of ‘Blade Runner’, but there a sexy enigmatic allure and a mischievously wired groove that wouldn’t go amiss in a West Berlin nightclub scene from the Cold War spy flick ‘Atomic Blonde’. While there are darker tinges compared to her contemporaries, ultimately ‘Moving Spaces’ IS a pop record and an entertaining one.
‘Interlude: Utopia’ is an opening instrumental that sets out the album’s intentions, being rhythmic, atmospheric and melodic. The following love ballad ‘Loving You Is A Beautiful Sin’ touches on the lyrical gist covered in David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ‘Forbidden Colours’, chugging with sombre bass pulses counterpointed by digital chimes and washes of sweeping synths. With her expressive contralto voice, this is everything SAY LOU LOU should have been but weren’t.
With a gallop, ‘Pulse & The Drive’ is punctuated by vintage digital drums as our heroine melts into the backdrop. Hitting some wispy higher notes while the keys provide the diamond cuts, the dreamy ‘Moving Spaces’ showcases some glistening electronic pop capturing a wonderful nocturnal atmosphere and a subtle euphoria.
Perhaps autobiographical in its longing for the unobtainable, ‘Ice Maiden’ presents an even punchier triplet while blippy swirls add to the song’s windswept aesthetic. ‘I Wanna Be Your Only One’ sees Laura Dre bear her soul following the unrequited love theme of the album, expressing a desire for a partnership that breaks the rules, declaring “We could be Bonnie and Clyde”.
The glorious uptempo disco number ‘All Day, All Night’ offers great crossover potential; drenched in sparkle and a delicious percussive base, it’s one for fans of early PET SHOP BOYS, complete with a classic Tennant / Lowe styled instrumental middle eight.
‘I Opened My Eyes’ adopts a more archetypical synthwave approach although the vocal register is unexpectedly upped to a wispy soprano in the harmonies. Meanwhile, the metronomic drive of ‘If Looks Could Kill’ could easily be reimagined as a rock number and used in a Brat Pack film montage although the bass backbone here is perhaps a little too hazy to achieve the desire impact.
Beginning with a more subtle Sci-Fi backdrop, ‘Superficial Cyberlove’ springs a total surprise by morphing into a desolate EBM-inspired climax.
With superb icy strings penetrating the core, the ‘Blade Runner’ inspired story about relationship involving “a human and a cyber android incapable of developing feelings” highlights how in this modern world, the convenience of machines can never replace the intimacy of face-to-face contact.
‘Moving Spaces’ is an impressive debut musical statement from Laura Dre, offering a cooler take on synthwave influenced pop forms that positions her between the alluring sophistication of Nina and the gothier overtures of Kat Von D.
Laura Dre may be a new name in synth but she is a seasoned musician and producer with years of experience playing live and working in the studio, completing a degree in Music Production at BIMM along the way.
Having fronted feisty electro-rock combo VINYL BLACK STILETTOS whose second EP ‘Electrical’ was produced by PET SHOP BOYS programmer and engineer Pete Gleadall while also making instrumental music as JADZIADX, the solo work of Laura Dre showcases a fascination for yesterday’s tomorrow.
One of her little projects outside of music has been to build a 1/8th scale model kit of a DeLorean in its ‘Back To The Future’ variant, complete with flux capacitor!
The German-Filipino songstress told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “I’d set my time machine to 27.06.1987 – because of the following release dates: ‘Blue Monday’ 1983, ‘Self Control’ 1984, ‘Living In A Box’ 1987 – I would love to experience the 80s club scene with my favourite songs.”
She also owns a 1987 Casio DG20 Guitar Synthesizer to go with her Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface and Behringer X Touch One controller set-up. Having signed a deal with Outland Recordings, Laura Dre opened her account with a moody nocturnal cover of ‘Strangelove’.
“I think it’s an interesting choice because there was some good musical complexity in the song, and lyrically it also aligns well with my album theme which is about ‘unrequited love’” she said as she reflected on the 1987 DEPECHE MODE song, “I rarely do covers but if I do one, I want to have something challenging and make things ‘my own’. Meaning if it’s a fast paced pop track, then I might turn it into a slower electronic version and add my own flavour to the piece, giving it my signature sound.”
Her first single proper though is the dreamy ‘Moving Spaces’, a fine showcase for her deeper contralto vocal style influenced by Shirley Manson, PJ Harvey and Alison Goldfrapp. Texturally and structurally, the glistening song takes its lead from classic electronic pop. The accompanying lyric video produced by Outland themselves uses footage from the computer game ‘Leisure Suit Larry III’.
Laura Dre added: “All my musical pieces encompass synthesizers in some shape or form, the only difference this time is the style. This year I experimented with making 80s music and without realising it, I was creating some kind synth music that my friends would classify as a ‘mix of synthpop / synthwave anthems’. They then introduced me to synthwave music which was interesting.”
But there is more to come from this most promising of European synth songstresses. Already in the can, ‘All Day, All Night’ is a discowave tune with great crossover potential; drenched in sparkle and a delicious rhythmic base, it’s one for fans of early PET SHOP BOYS.
It all bodes well for her debut album produced by Robert Harder who worked on David Byrne & Brian Eno’s acclaimed 2008 second album ‘Everything That Happens Will Happen Today’; he also produced the 2012 Neneh Cherry long player ‘The Cherry Thing’.
There are the ubiquitous ‘Blade Runner’ references, but that rainy dystopian air is also countered at regular intervals by an enigmatic allure and a mischievously wired dancefloor friendly groove.
It has been a tough 2020 for everyone, but one of the shining escapist highpoints has been ‘Megawave’, the most recent album from Toronto synthwave siren Dana Jean Phoenix.
Recorded in partnership with Viennese electro-rockers POWERNERD, ‘Megawave’ expands on their previous collaborations over a full-length DJPNRD work, lending a thematic consistency that has perhaps not been captured on her previous releases.
Futuristic, danceable and fun, ‘Megawave’ has been just the intergalactic tonic that this planet has needed. Dana Jean Phoenix kindly took time out to talk about the making of the album and the new ‘Cobra Kai’ inspired promo video for the slinky title song.
How did you first come together with POWERNERD?
Powernerd Paddy initially reached out to me to collaborate on the song ‘Flame’ from POWERNERD’s album ‘Testosterossa’. We played live together in Vienna, and continued collaborating on tracks for my album ‘PixelDust’ and their album ‘Far From Human’. It’s always such a wicked time whenever we collab and play live together.
In terms of creative dynamic and chemistry, what was the process with regards writing and recording?
We initially talked about what vibe we wanted for the album. Paddy would send me tracks and I’d get to work on the vocals. I felt I could lose my inhibitions more at the microphone because Paddy was so game to try anything. Then, we’d touch base about each track to see what tweaks or additions were needed. It was a very fun, exciting, and reciprocal exchange back and forth.
You’ve played live across the world over the past few years, had that been a factor in the eventual sound of the ‘Megawave’ album? It’s a quite joyous record!
Thanks, and absolutely! For me, capturing the energy of live synthwave shows I’ve played was important in creating these songs. I’ve been fortunate enough to tour Europe, Canada, and the US a few times, and it’s afforded me the opportunity to see which songs really resonate with an audience in real time.
It’s also allowed me to discover things about myself as a performer and what kind of music feels most exciting and joyful to play and share with others.
How did it feel to be making a cohesive album artistically as a body of work as it would be fair to say that in the past because you’ve worked with lots of different producers, your previous albums have been more collections of songs?
I really enjoyed this approach. I often like the different moods and perspectives that emerge from working with various producers and their unique styles. With Paddy, he’s quite prolific and versatile and there’s always an edge and playfulness to his ideas. It always felt fresh and it kept me inspired to try new things, all while keeping cohesiveness and a good flow throughout.
Photo by Hayley Stewart
Although you concentrated on lyrics and vocals on this album, you got your keytar out a couple of tracks on the album?
Performing with my keytar, Jareth, is the best. When I play the keytar, it feels like I’m donning a superhero cape – some other side of me emerges, particularly during a solo moment. I’m sure guitar players can relate. So, it was fun to jam on solos for ‘Figure Me Out’ and for ‘Fight These Robots’. Jan-Friedrich Conrad played some absolutely killer key solos on ‘Sunrise Stance’ and ‘Living Rent Free’ and Paddy’s guitar solo on ‘Figure Me Out’ is pure fire.
So what is ‘Figure Me Out’ about, or is the answer in the question? That choosing a different cassette intro is also a nice variation on what has maybe now become an overused idea 😉
I was really into solving Rubik’s cubes at the time, and the song for me is about likening the complexities of a relationship to the world’s most famous 3D puzzle. The process of finding solutions (or learning algorithms) can be extremely frustrating and requires patience, consistency, and understanding. Sometimes it can feel like you’re taking several steps backward in gaining clarity, but perseverance, belief in yourself, and allowing yourself to see from a different perspective can carry you through.
I love the cassette intro – a sort of subtle way to set the listener up for a nice easy-going synthwave album, and then bam, the opening beat of ‘Figure Me Out’ is like a sucker punch. It lets the listener know they’re in for a fun and funky ride.
The ‘Figure Me Out’ lyric video with you doing the Rubicks Cube was such a great concept, a lesson to many as to what can be done with presenting a visual aspect to music, how did you put it together?
The director of the video, PHATT al, suggested I solve a Rubik’s cube as the lyrics of the song floated across the screen. I loved that idea and thought it would be so cool to have Powernerd Paddy and I interact too, (despite me being in Toronto, and him in Vienna). The most fun was sending Paddy a matching cube to make it look like we were sharing the same one 😉 It’s a really well directed video and a fun way to introduce the first single of the album.
What was going through your head when you wrote ‘Fight These Robots’, was this harking back to your childhood and watching ‘Transformers’ cartoons?
To me, ‘Fight These Robots’ is a metaphor for resisting complacency and questioning the status quo. It’s arguing that societal change happens when people join forces and fight for the greater good collectively – a plea for togetherness, not divisiveness.
The ‘Transformers’ cartoons are definitely cool and all – but I gotta say, that ‘Metalhead’ episode of ‘Black Mirror’ definitely shook me. I was envisioning those shoulda-been-cute, but terrifying robot dogs while I was singing “dee da deee da doo dee doo”.
Was ‘Megawave’ both you and POWERNERD channelling some of those classic Jam & Lewis productions?
Personally, Jam & Lewis are always a part of the vibe I’m channelling. My obsession with them started when I saw them in Janet Jackson’s ‘Control’ music video and realized they were the producers for so many of her best songs. Then when I discovered THE TIME and realized they were in that band too – it cemented in my mind that they were the coolest dudes ever. Their music always makes me smile, and they have such an unapologetically signature sound.
How did the video concept come together? Are you a fan of ‘The Karate Kid’ and ‘Cobra Kai’?
Filip Vukcevic, the director, approached me with the idea of paying homage to ‘The Karate Kid’ and ‘Cobra Kai’, which was perfect, as I had just finished ‘Cobra Kai’ season 2 and totally loved it. It’s such a funny and well-executed spin-off of the movies. Filip is an amazing director who I also worked with on my ’Only For One Night’ video.
He has a real passion for storytelling, for going all out, and thinking outside the box. We had a great time planning, casting, and shooting.
I’m proud of how our nod to the ‘The Karate Kid’ turned out and it’s always an added bonus when a music video gives a song new context. I feel ‘Megawave’ video captures the young-love message of the song, but also makes it about finding strength in oneself.
‘Living Rent Free’ plays with some soft midnight funk?
If you’re talking sexy funk, then yes, that was mission number one with the album. ‘Living Rent Free’ was the first track Paddy and I created for the album. When he sent the instrumental, I was in the midst of rehearsals for a theatre production. On my lunch break, I remember waiting in line at a local coffee shop and listening to the instrumental for the first time on my headphones. I was very excited and couldn’t help but dance in line, as it was exactly the sound I had in mind for the album. We had talked for a few weeks about the vibe, and direction, and then Paddy delivered 1000% from the first track.
There’s a delicious dancey groove to ‘Sunrise Stance’ and some great synth solos, had it been a conscious decision to keep the ‘Megawave’ album quite lively and uptempo?
Oh yeah. Performing the songs live is always a consideration when creating an album, and it’s so fun to perform lively, up-tempo songs. Jan-Friedrich Conrad’s synth solo added such magic and captured the intensity and playfulness of the lyrics.
Saying that, ‘New Technology’ takes things down a bit and is more soulful, have you any particular influences in this area and what is the song itself about?
I was definitely feeling a Sylvia Striplin ‘You Can’t Turn Me Away’ energy, but in a falling in love with a cyborg kind of way. I was also listening to a ton of Jamiroquai’s album ‘The Return Of The Space Cowboy’ at the time, so that was definitely an influence.
It’s about that buzz and excitement you feel when you interact with someone on a similar frequency, and how technology allows us to connect with people we never had the opportunity to do so with before. The synthwave scene in general is a great example of likeminded people coming together because of technology.
You chose to bolster the album with remixes of ‘Figure Me Out’ and ‘Fight These Robots’? Was there any particular thinking behind this?
It’s always awesome to include more talented friends on the album. STRAPLOCKED and I collab’ed on the songs ‘All Day Heat’ and ‘Iron Fist’ and performed together at NEON Retrofest in Rhode Island. I love NEW ARCADES’ music and it was so great to hang out with them in London when we played an Outland show together in 2018, and again when I played an Outland show in London in 2019. Both artists did amazing remixes.
‘Moves Moves Moves’ is back on the dancefloor and closes ‘Megawave with more electro-funk vibes, how do you look back on the making of this album?
The making of this album occurred during a time of significant personal transition for me. In hindsight, I was on the precipice of having to make some really tough but necessary decisions in my life. Songs that make me want to dance really hit me, as they can offer pure joy and a way to celebrate good times, and also offer catharsis and a way to cope through trying times.
For me, the album is about self-discovery, empowerment, and remembering to spread joy and positivity, even in times of uncertainty. It’s also a love letter to collaboration, nostalgia, and good times.
I wouldn’t be here without the help and guidance of so many key people I’ve worked with, which includes Stu and Brett of Outland Recordings. I’m quite chuffed (see what I did there?) to have the album on their label.
You recently did a song called ‘Freedom Pass’ for the ‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ compilation with DIAMOND FIELD, is he someone you would like to do more work with?
Of course! Working with DIAMOND FIELD on ‘Freedom Pass’ allowed me to explore a different sound in the retro scene. I really dig the pure beachy / summery feel but with a more pop / rock edge in that song. It was fun to sing about being independent while also embracing my super girly side. DIAMOND FIELD is a really great guy to work with, and so super talented.
Have you been back to the studio yet? Is there anything on the horizon?
There’s been so much to digest and unpack this year – some pretty heavy questions about what the future holds, and how we can best move forward with more kindness, understanding, and more time for reflection. I’ve been writing and journaling quite a lot lately and jamming on some ideas for new material. I’m really excited to hunker down in the New Year to take those ideas off the page – and hopefully, when safe to do, onto the stage.
With everything going on, what are your own hopes and fears for the future?
My hope is that we all get to experience and share music together under one roof again someday soon.
My fear is that it may take a little longer than we initially anticipated. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of a scene that fans continue to engage and support with so much enthusiasm online.
This past year has shown me that despite difficult times, the human spirit is incredibly resilient. With that knowledge, now more than ever, I feel optimistic about the future and the day we can all come together again.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Dana Jean Phoenix