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LAURA DRE Interview

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?

Gothic? *laughs*

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

Special thanks to Outland Recordings

‘Moving Spaces’ is released by Outland Recordings, available in CD, blue vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats from https://lauradre.bandcamp.com/

https://lauradre.com/

https://www.facebook.com/lauradreofficial

https://www.instagram.com/lauradre/

https://twitter.com/LauraDreMusic

https://www.twitch.tv/lauradreofficial

https://soundcloud.com/lauradre

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-i6CW5oGLsKIOOIHV9sEHA/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/1AdbxZ3LVADmRfwzJxZwrS


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Wiebke Kreinick, except studio selfie by Laura Dre
1st August 2021

LAURA DRE Moving Spaces

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.


‘Moving Spaces’ is released by Outland Recordings on 9th July 2021 in CD, blue vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats, pre-order from https://hypeddit.com/link/fal543

https://lauradre.com/

https://www.facebook.com/lauradreofficial

https://www.instagram.com/lauradre/

https://twitter.com/LauraDreMusic

https://www.twitch.tv/lauradreofficial

https://soundcloud.com/lauradre

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-i6CW5oGLsKIOOIHV9sEHA/

https://open.spotify.com/album/4Pk6NQVqNR0blHHoNxvZrT


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Wiebke Kreinick
6th July 2021, updated 9th July 2021

Introducing LAURA DRE

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.


‘Moving Spaces’ is released as a digital single on 22nd January 2021, pre-save at https://hypeddit.com/link/gzw0y3 or pre-order from https://lauradre.bandcamp.com/

https://lauradre.com/

https://www.facebook.com/lauradreofficial

https://www.instagram.com/lauradre/

https://twitter.com/LauraDreMusic

https://www.twitch.tv/lauradreofficial

https://soundcloud.com/lauradre

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-i6CW5oGLsKIOOIHV9sEHA/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/1AdbxZ3LVADmRfwzJxZwrS


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Wiebke Kreinick
13th January 2021

A Short Conversation with DANA JEAN PHOENIX

Photo by Hayley Stewart

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

Additional thanks to Stuart McLaren at Outland

‘Megawave’ is released by Outland Recordings, available as a violet coloured vinyl LP, CD, cassette or download from https://danajeanphoenix.bandcamp.com/album/megawave

Dana Jean Phoenix plays Retrowave D’Luxe at The Dome in London Tufnell Park on Saturday 24th July 2021 – tickets available in advance direct from https://www.wegottickets.com/event/504216

https://danajphoenix.com/

http://www.facebook.com/danajeanphoenix

http://twitter.com/danajeanphoenix

http://instagram.com/danajeanphoenix


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
2nd January 2021

POLYCHROME Interview

Describing themselves as “Slacker synth-wave refuseniks”, POLYCHROME’s brand of filmic dreamwave as showcased on their self-titled 2018 debut album found favour with TV producers and advertising agencies around the world.

The duo of Vicky Harrison and Oliver Price wrote the majority of their first record in isolation around the serene surroundings of Grianain Eco Lodge near Fort William.

Utilising grainy Lo-Fi synths, old drum machines, WEM copycat tape echo, minimal guitar textures, the emotional centre comes from Vicky Harrison’s angelic vocals filtered through vintage microphones but airily layered using modern production techniques.

Having recently signed to Outland Recordings, both parties are celebrating their union with the release of a brand new single ‘Starts With A Kiss’. Vicky Harrison chatted about the evolving sound of POLYCHROME.

How would you describe the sound of POLYCHROME?

Our debut album was a mix of dreampop, synthwave, chillwave and shoegaze, so it wasn’t very specific, no! It shows how interested we are in different genres, especially underground electronic styles. But bands tend to end up sounding like the bands they like don’t they? People say “oh, you sound like so-and-so…” and you reply “Oh yeah, I love them, they’re one of my favourite bands so…” *laughs*

Which acts have been key influences, it would appear ELECTRIC YOUTH and CHROMATICS are but who else?

Definitely the ‘Drive’ soundtrack, we were making music in that kind of style but because our track ‘Final Kiss’ did so well, we decided to continue POLYCHROME.

When the first album came out, we got a lot of references to COCTEAU TWINS, M83 and we also had dreampop references, LANA DEL REY and GOLDFRAPP, that sort of thing.

POLYCHROME are very active on social media, how did you and Oliver go about developing this?

It’s more me driving the social media, but Ollie does a lot more of the production so it evens itself out. I’ve been thinking a lot more about how we can connect with fans and try to change my attitude to online platforms being a barrier to people, to being a way of connecting with our fans. It’s trying to think about what they want, rather than what I like or want *laughs*

It’s been very interesting actually, I noticed quite a lot of our fans seem to like metal music as well, as I’m not really a fan… a lot of rockers have come into synthwave, I don’t know what it is, the dark basslines maybe?

From a visual image point of view, you are comparatively more understated to go with the music?

It’s all about the music maaaan… *laughs*

I’m not against a strong visual image at all, in fact I’ve just ordered a really cool catsuit that I may be wearing in our next live video and I want to very much consider our look as well.

But I’ve always been just a bit of a music geek and in my old band VICTORIA & JACOB, the whole thing was set on the music and being very much understated and introspective with the stage presence.

I’ve analysed it quite a lot since to understand why I decided to go down that route, because I really wanted people to connect with the emotion of the songs. But with POLYCHROME, I want to go a step up from that and think more about my stage presence, the look and how I present myself. Our aesthetic is to be more shimmery, glitter and that sort of thing. You will see more of that, a strong visual image does make people look and check out the music.

It’s got to be considered even if it’s understated… when I think of understated, I think of LONDON GRAMMAR, I love that band and I love her voice, but I love that she just wears a pair of jeans and a black top. And THE XX, every time, black tops, black trousers, it’s still considered and not random.

What do you think when you look back on your self-titled debut album?

I’m really happy with it, I do think it’s a grower and me myself, I like albums that grow on you. I like weird underground electronic music or I like something pop, so I think we do have some of that pop sensibility in quite a few of our tracks. There were lots of soundscapes in there.

But there are always things you’d want to improve; our writing process is in the studio so we’re recording and writing at the same time.

So sometimes it’s the final product although we do go back and tweak. You need to sit on it for a few months to review it with a little bit more perspective.

So is a lot of it done with you both sitting in a room together rather than remotely by exchanging files?

We did one track sending files to each other but yes, we had this friend in Scotland who has this amazing lodge which she let us stay in. We felt quite at home and we were definitely inspired by the landscape.

We’d go out on long walks, meet with my friend who is an amazing cook and it all felt very comfortable. We wanted to make sure we had this time to reflect and put it into the writing process. It was really fun and we probably won’t get the chance to do it quite like it again.

‘Synesthesia’ was the tune you opted to get behind to do a video for. What was it for you about that song particularly?

We did work with a PR company so they might have had some influence, we did want their advice. I really that track, we worked with a guy named Stephen Hodd who co-wrote it with us, he’s done a lot of work with PASSENGER and LAMB so I think you do get those influences in ‘Synesthesia’ from him, so there’s an element of folkiness and trip-hop.

The closing track ‘Don’t Be A Stranger’ took its lead from ‘Stranger Things’, how influential do you think that series has been on popular culture?

We’re big fans of ‘Stranger Things’, especially the first series. We’re influenced by anything with a nostalgic element to it and ‘Stranger Things’ had that 80s thing going on. It was one of the big shows that really captured people’s attention. I did meet Nora Felder, the ‘Stranger Things’ music supervisor, at an event so I asked if she’d consider putting POLYCHROME in their but she said “No, we only take 80s originals!” *laughs*

‘Final Kiss’ has become your most popular track and has a disco lento femme fatale air about it, what was its catalyst in terms of writing and production?

It was a long time ago! I did a fair bit of the production on this and the vocal for ‘Final Kiss’ was done with a mic we found in a car boot sale, a vintage harmonica microphone.

Whenever we record, we try out a lot of microphones but quite often, we come back to that one because it just seems to capture the best frequencies of my voice. I don’t know where that Italo disco thing came from, it must be in me and Ollie, the nostalgia from that era must just resonate *laughs*

‘Final Kiss’ did particularly well and what sort of kicked POLYCHROME off to do a whole album. It’s had quite a bit of coverage, we’ve had it on adverts in Poland and Denmark, it was part of a Russian brand campaign.

More recently, it was on ‘The Unorthodox’, a series on Netflix. Denmark has particularly brought in a lot of fans and we’d like to tour that region at some point when we’re ready.

Many artists say they have a lifetime to prepare for a debut album but for the second, its much less, any thoughts?

After our first album, we took a break because we put a lot of effort into it; we started a record label called Hi-Lo-Lo-Hi to release it ourselves. There was a lot of investment and being an independent band, it takes a lot of time to make back what you’ve put in, so we needed a bit of recovery time after that.

Then we re-evaluated our approach to the business and releasing music, hence my improvement with social media. It was to get rid of this belief that somehow, a PR company is going to make something happen for you… sometimes they get something and sometimes they don’t. But you have to make sure you are consistently in control of your fanbase and building it, keeping it and giving them what they want.

I think me and Oliver were a bit stuck in the old model, a record label and a PR company because that’s how we’d done it in the past but things have moved on. And there aren’t that many print magazines now so you can’t get a write-up there either!

What would be the creative dynamic between you and Oliver?

Oliver comes to life in the studio and there’s this great dynamic. We just bounce off each other I guess.

I’ll send Ollie quite a lot of samples or source out a new piece of equipment but he does most of the production stuff. He has quite a clean pop sound although I don’t know if he would agree with me there! *laughs*

The new single is ‘Starts With A Kiss’, so you like kissing as it appears to be a recurring theme? 

I know! That’s what we wanted because we’d finished with a kiss, so now wanted to start with one. We had originally delayed the release due to the sensitivity with the current situation but now we’ve just decided to go for it.

It has vocoders and a FM rock guitar solo too…

The guitar solo is by Bjorn Ågren from RAZORLIGHT who is a friend of Ollie’s, apparently he just loves his 80s stuff so he was really up for it. We’ve gone a little more synthwave with our new tracks so we’ve tried to be a bit more specific, but even when we try, we still come out synthpop! *laughs*

On the new material like ‘Signs’ , there appears to be more of the vocal glitch processing techniques that were heard on the first album with ‘Dreaming About You’, ‘Final Kiss’ and ‘The Call’, do you see the voice as being as much an instrumental aesthetic as much as synth or guitar, so fair game for treatment?

Yes, like with ‘Final Kiss’, the vocals were a hook so we wanted to keep and develop our signature sound. It’s definitely part of the instrumentation but it’s also part of the interpretation of the story, crossing the humanity with the technology.

At the moment, I’m working a lot on how to interpret our own songs for live, thinking more about what the songs mean. So I’ve come up with a character that lives throughout the stories of the songs.

This is so I can keep a consistency through the interpretation in the hope of keeping a stronger connection with the audience. The character is a young Asian girl called Lucy and she’s in this post-apocalyptic world and she is living under water in the sea as one of the last humans; she’s developing a connection with a romantic partner and there’s this strange dependency going on between the two of them, there’s hope and comfort in there.

The journey will take you through the story as the characters are relying on technology. In my mind, they are partly made of technology and Lucy is relying on the technology to interpret her own feelings.

You mentioned previously that you feel vocals are the most important aspect of a recording?

That’s going to be very individual to the listener but for me in any track, the vocals are important to me. I’m a singer, I’m a voice teacher, I’ve analysed the voice, I’m studying the voice, so for me, the voice has been so important to me in my life as a means of emotional expression.

I’m just fascinated by it, how it works, how you can get different sounds and create different connections to your audience, using just your voice, it creates a sense of humanity and makes it more personal. You can have great instrumental tracks but in my mind for it to stick out, the voice is essential. You make what you love. I am used to instrumental versions of our tracks because we want to get our music out on TV and films for producers to consider using as an atmosphere to back a visual.

How has your voice changed over the years?

I used to use a clearer tone but with POLYCHROME, I’m a lot more breathy, it just happened.

I just liked the atmosphere so I added in more breath. It matched the style of the music but contrasted it as well against the electronic sounds and made it a little bit sexy and eerie.

Atmospheric would be the made word here because with dreampop, you’re not using the lyrics so much but creating more of atmosphere or feel, an emotion or vibe. The lyrics perhaps aren’t as important… you might not hear them on first listening and be drawn to the melody, and then later on, you become involved with the lyrics.

Another new song ‘UltraViolet’ seems to sound more aggressive musically with that loud rimshot and layers of synths?

It does! I don’t know why! *laughs*

It’s quite driving with a faster tempo and I think it leans more towards synthpop, but there was no particular conscious choice. We made a series of electronic vibes and picked what we liked and started sculpting those. We might do that in a few sessions on one song, it still needs a lot of work but the main body is there by the time we get to the end.

You’ve signed to Outland Recordings for your next release, what are your hopes and fears with regards the future of POLYCHROME?

We’re very excited to be working with Outland, we met Stuart McLaren about a year ago and he’s a fantastic chap who is well into the synthwave scene. I guess that’s drawn POLYCHROME a bit further in that direction and it’s been interesting to get to know that scene.

I met a lot of lovely and dedicated fans, they’re always super friendly so that’s really nice. So regarding the future of POLYCHROME, we’re just going to release these tracks and see how they go.

We have a good direction with regards our music being used in television for adverts and we’d like to continue that as our music seems to go down well. At the moment, we are looking to try and find people to represent us in different countries for that and we’re hoping Outland gets us some good playlisting.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Vicky Harrison

‘Starts With A Kiss’ is released as a digital single by Outland Recordings on 12th June 2020, pre-save via https://ffm.to/startswithakiss

‘Polychrome’ is available as a name your price download from https://soundofpolychrome.bandcamp.com/

http://soundofpolychrome.com/

https://www.facebook.com/soundofpolychrome/

https://twitter.com/soundofpolychro

https://www.instagram.com/polychromesounds/

https://www.weloveoutland.com/label


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Héloïse Faure
20th May 2020, updated 25th August 2020

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