An Interview With The Eclectic Alt-Pop Musician DEFOE!
Eclectic Alt-Pop artist Defoe was born in Southern California and grew up on the golden oldies that played on her father’s radio, classical music, and motion picture soundtracks. Patsy Cline, Connie Frances, The Beach Boys, the Beatles, and the Motown sound – along with composers such as Ennio Morricone – informed her developing musical tastes. With the release of the cinematic video for genre-bending song “Something’s Happening“, she is bringing those influences and more to bear as she takes her career to the next level.
Defoe explains “The song came about in a serendipitous way. In 2018 I scored a Horror/slasher film ‘420 Massacre’ by indie director Dylan Reynolds. It was a great experience making music to visuals. The part I scored for the ‘chase’ scene was the highest impact portion of the score – and that gave birth to “Somethings’ Happening”. I took that piece of the score and turned into a song, based on how the music made me feel. The song is about the peak of emergency when in any second, disastrous things are about to strike – whatever it may be; end of the world, mental battles, etc. – and how we respond to them.”
She continues: “For the music video, I couldn’t think of anyone better to direct it than Dylan and his talented Director of Photography Kyle Stryker and their team. This song to me was all about contrast; soft vocals/heavy track. The music is very heavy and textured – so I wanted to couple it with a clean, almost sterile – yet colorful environment. The video was shot at the iconic Popsicle studios in Los Angeles. We filmed it in the room that was built for the bat cave in ‘The Dark Knight’ movie”, so the ominous visuals work – I hope you like our vision for the song”.
Defoe is an accomplished studio engineer and producer, who has worked on critically acclaimed The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus albums “4” and “The Awakening”. The latter included the single “On Becoming Willing” that spent 12 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Christian Rock Radio charts.
Defoe’s debut album “Too Soon to Cry” is an amalgamation of all her life stories, espoused from the perspective of a woman who has made her way and succeeded in the male-dominated field of studio engineering and recording. Balancing her career with motherhood has led her to where she is today: bold, strong and empowered. After many years behind the scenes, she is ready to step into the spotlight and shine as a performer in her own right.
Connect With Defoe Online Here:
Official Website: https://www.whatisdefoe.com/
Learn more about Defoe in the following All Access interview:
Happy New Year! When it comes to your music, what are you most excited about for 2020?
I’m excited about potentially collaborating with other producers on the next EP and bringing in some fresh ears. The album ‘Too Soon To Cry’ I did on my own. Even the editing and engineering (which was challenging and fun) but, I think it’s time to open up the gates and let my creativity evolve. I may go back to doing music on my own most of the time, but I need to let go of some creative power and challenge myself in that way.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be a musician? What do you think has motivated you day in and day out?
I’ve been singing my little heart out since I was 4. Always making up my own words, melodies and my own rendition of songs. My parents couldn’t get me to shut up really, ha ha! Since I was young I’ve always been haunted with melodies in my head, it’s like a constant jukebox. I’m always connected a dreamworld – so in the real world I have to consciously remember to be present in here and now, or else I’ll float to the clouds. I make music to stay sane and express those melodies so I can live like a normal person and not go crazy. ;o) Other-wise I almost feel a bit guilty letting such beautiful melodies go to waste in my head and not share it with the world! Sometimes I even get burdened and depressed if I go a long time without creating…
How do you think your hometown has influenced the kind of music that you make? If not, why is that?
I’m not sure if my hometown influenced the music I make now, but I feel like my upbringing had a lot to do with it. My dad always had the ‘golden oldies’ on the radio. I was exposed to great vocalists and musicians from an early age. My mother loved movies with amazing movie scores. When I would go to my auntie’s house she would expose me to more of the current musicians of the time. As an only child, I had a lot of time to marinate on those sort of influences without judgment.
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Was your family and friends supportive of this career choice? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing?
My family knew at a young age that I was a bit obsessive over music. They bought me a piano and I took lessons; I started using a karaoke machine when I was 5, then graduated to singing lessons. They also introduced me to martial arts which I really took to, but music was always my number one. If I were not a musician, I would probably be an interior decorator, a painter, and or study psychology.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all? What has been the best part about it all?
The biggest surprise has been all the things that come with being an artist – like interviews. The filmed ones are challenging for me because I’m naturally an introvert – But I love the questions about music and talking about the creative process. Making music videos is so exciting! I love writing treatments and letting my imagination go wild. In the video for ‘Something’s Happening’ my Dad and I built the wall together and putting up vintage wall paper… It was a challenge but super fun!
Let’s talk about your latest single, “Something’s Happening.” What was the inspiration for this track?
I scored a horror film called ‘420 Massacre’ directed by Dylan Reynolds. There was a scene where the monster guy is chasing the main character through the woods during the peak of the movie. I know I needed something suspenseful and hard, so that’s how the majority of the track came to be. I knew there was something special in that part of the score and decided to make an attempt into turning it into a song. I created the hard pauses and started to record a vocal, line by line. The words poured out and I kept all the first takes – which is in the final product. So it didn’t start out the way a traditional song started. I wanted to convey a sense of urgency, and terror and a sense of acceptance to the impending doom the character is about to experience.
What was it like shooting the music video for it? How creatively involved with that process were you?
It was such a dream experience! I hired Dylan – who directed the film I scored and he brought on board a slew of talented people for the production. They were all wonderful to work with and had worked on so many other films I have been a fan of. The room we filmed in was featured in the movie ‘The Dark Knight’ as the bat cave – so I was truly fan-girling out! I wrote the treatment for the video and made a story board to each second of the song – I wanted it to be dramatic. I love the film world and making video and being heavily involved is a dream come true!
How would you say that this song compares to anything else that you have released in the past?
It’s a lot heavier. It’s fun playing with the contrast of using a super heavy track, with soft feminine vocals. I really love that combo and will be doing more of that in the future. I learned a lot and I dig it.
How does “Something’s Happening” compare to the rest of your debut album, “Too Soon to Cry”? What was it like getting into the studio to record this collection?
“Something’s Happening” came from a totally unconventional method – the film score first, with no lyrics only music, then it eventually became a song. I see the album as a color palette, and each song its own color. Each song is very different from the others. So every color is unique but pairs really well as a unit to make a beautiful picture and story. Adding “Something’s Happening’ was a quick, last minute decision. I feel like last minute decisions are also important to any creative project. It’s a sign that you are still changeable and you are locked into ‘the flow’. I needed some depth and shadows to complete my construction of colors and it worked great in my opinion. I was happy to add it to the ‘Too Soon To Cry’ family.
The whole album and score to the film was done 98% at my home studio. I basically recorded, produced, engineered and edited the entire album. It was so great to have the privacy to work out the ‘kinks’ and be able to making daring and sometimes ridiculous risks! I rented out a full recording studio with my buddy Kevin Abdella with a live room when I record drums, cello, or if I feel like there is a musical part I’m not nailing and need a studio musician to add some “butter”. ;o) I usually have all the parts mapped out before I record and at least 4 other tracks ready to go to make the best time out of the studio. Then I take it back home to edit. It feels pretty bad ass to be living in an age where it is possible to do that!
Do you have any tour dates scheduled for this year yet?
Not yet. I knew that this album was gonna be very different and ‘genre bending’ as I’ve heard from others. During this release I really wanted to watch what kind of fans I have so I can learn about my demographic. It’s been fun talking to fans and seeing what cities have been playing my music. I plan on building my shows around those fans.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started making music? What if anything has stayed the same about your music-making process?
Since I started my producing journey of 14+ years I’ve always given myself musical challenges and goals. One week I would give myself a challenge to make a rap track, or blues, or black metal. I would immerse myself in a genre I wouldn’t know too much about. Through the uncomfortable trials of being in new territory, I gained so many skills and techniques. When it gets easy, I don’t feel like I’m learning anything…. With every song and risk I take, I get better. I’ve grown by becoming an expert at making mistakes and learning from them and moving on. What has stayed the same is my musical curiosity. I feel like the quality of being curious has nurtured my growth.
How do you feel about social media? What do you think social media has done for your career so far?
To me, there are positives and negatives to social media. The pressure of having to constantly post is a bit much for me, personally. Also trying to keep up on all my friends and families posts on a day-to-day basis is hard. Some posts I just miss, don’t hate – lol! But I love how I can get to know my fans, and communicate with people. I’ve linked up with some amazing directors and DPs I’ve always wanted to work with who have also really loved my music. If it were not for social media, I wouldn’t have been able to get the opportunity to work with these talented group of people. I get to meet a lot of other creative people who are on the level. I love all of that.
What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
I would love to work with Arca, who started off producing and engineering like me – and then became the amazing artist he is today. He worked on some of the greatest albums of Bjork. That would be incredible! I would also love to work with Nigel Godrich, the producer of the Radiohead ‘Ok Computer’ album, which has a permanent place in my heart. Nicolas Godin (AIR) creates outside of the box and gives himself personal challenges. On a solo album he created called ‘Contrepoint’ every track was his interpretation of a Sebastian Bach piece to the note – Loved that! I’m jealous and wish I thought of that myself. But ultimately I’m glad he did it and I get to just sit back and enjoy it. I would also love to work with Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, I feel like he is also very unconventional and has an unapologetic sense of musical self. I would love to collaborate with Ioanna Gika. I think we have a lot of musical aesthetics in common and would be a seamless musical union. I’m a fan of Grimes – she produces and engineers, and she lives a creative loopiness that I find endearing. There are just so many great artists out there!
If you could design your dream music video right now, what would it look like?
I’m so thrilled that I get to be living that reality as we speak. I’m recording the music video for the song ‘Black Metal Romance’ this week. I’m so honored to be working with Joey Danger who is such a rare talent and I believe he is gonna blow up soon! He has fallen in love with the song, so it’s pretty cool to work with a group of people who are also emotionally invested in this track. It’s going to be super dreamy and slightly devastating. It’s been fun being stuck in dream land as we have been creating the treatment. So stoked for this video to come out, it should be ready in March.
Where would you love to hear a song of yours played?
Definitely more Film and TV! I subconsciously made my music to pair well with visuals.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
I made the album purposely dreamy. I hope that people will create their own visuals to the songs in there head. I hope it will encourage others to make art according to what they personally like and not what they think is cool. That’s what I did on “Too Soon To Cry”’: It was a risk, but a risk that has fulfilled me as an artist.