DOMINIQUE STAR Discusses Her Debut EP ‘Arcana’ and Much More!
Posted On 25 Aug 2017
LA-based singer and producer Dominique Star has just released her debut EP Arcana. Atwood Magazine notes “Star’s first effort [is] a unique one that showcases her arsenal of performance and production skills…” Taking into account current events and personal experiences, she delicately balances expansive ideas with thoughtful arrangements.
The 3 track EP includes the glittering “Take You Home,” a lush, brooding cover of “Alison” by Slowdive, and her enchanting debut single “United.”
“So there are two sides to [United], a more personal one, and a global, what the hell are we doing to each other kind of sense. Like, we’re on a rock hurtling through space around a giant ball of fire. Can we maybe chill and try not to suck?” says Star.
The Mika-approved singer describes her music as sorceress-punk: at times delicate, floral, airy, at times frenetic and feral. She lived in New York for several years as she attended Columbia University to study French, but didn’t get started performing her own music until studying abroad for a year in France.
After several years of writing and traveling, Dominique found her sound through learning how to produce her own music. Her debut EP Arcana is mixed by Matt Lawrence (Laura Marling, Adele, Emile Sande).
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Learn more about Dominque Star in the following All Access interviwe:
Thanks for your time today! How has 2017 been treating you? Musically, did you approach this year any differently then you did last year?
Oh you know…2017 has been a difficult/dumpster fire year for a lot of us! Musically, I’d say I’ve actually been giving myself more patience and space. Since 2013 I’ve been finishing songs basically every week, and working on songs every day. It definitely got to be too much, and now that I’ve released some of that music, I’m just kind of letting it breathe and take on a life of its own.
Where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it? What kind of music do you listen to when you are working? What music gets you instantly out of a bad mood?
I’m at home in Silverlake right now. There are a bunch of gigantic trees around my place, and we have a colony of feral cats, some coyotes, and a lot of obnoxious birds. It really feels like a jungle sometimes, even though I’m in the middle of LA. There isn’t any music in the background, I actually can’t concentrate when music is playing! I can occasionally listen to some instrumental music (whether electronic or classical), but I usually don’t.
Growing up, have you always wanted to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
Yes, my mom actually sent me a picture of my first grade journal and in it I say something a long the lines of “creative writing is my favorite class because I want to be an artist when I grow up”.
My earliest musical memory would probably be from around the same time, when the town I was living in at the time in Connecticut had a singing contest at their summer festival. I sang a song from Cinderella and won a giant pink puppet. It was a good day.
If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing?
We live in the age of the side hustle (aka a terrible economy)! I’m already doing more than one thing. I do software development freelance, which allows me to have flexibility in my schedule and exercise the more logical side of my brain. Coding’s great because it’s both creative and practical, and is usually less frustrating than songwriting.
I always like to ask artists about where they came from and how that city or town has influenced them as an artist now. So how do you think your hometown has affected who you are as a musician and the art that you create?
Interesting question…so I was born in Connecticut and lived in a small town outside of Hartford for the first half of my childhood, and then I moved to Rhode Island to a larger town outside of Providence. There definitely isn’t much to do in either place, and they aren’t very inspiring in and of themselves. That probably forced me to listen to a ton of music because I was so bored. I definitely don’t listen to as much music as I did then.
How did studying abroad in France for a year really motivate you to pursue singing? (I studied abroad in France too!)
That’s awesome! Being in France forced me to rely on myself more and feel more confident in who I am. I also made friends with some musicians from my school, and together we started playing out. Before then, I had done maybe two shows, and they had been solo shows. So from that I learned how to work with other musicians.
What do you think was the biggest lesson learned while singing backup for Mika in New York?
Mika is a consummate performer. I’ve been to a lot of concerts and no one commands the stage like him. The biggest lesson I learned is how much of yourself you have to give to an audience, if you expect them to give anything back.
I have read that you describe your sound as “sorceress-punk.” Can you elaborate on that and what exactly that means? What do you think inspires this sound from you?
To me, sorceress punk is this idea that femininity in art can be bold, and assertive. The sorceress side of things are the sounds and melodies I gravitate towards, sounds rooted in nature, and floral melodies. The punk part is this idea of reclaiming spaces that aren’t traditionally female (DIY scenes, “indie” music, etc. ).
What was it like finally releasing your debut EP, “Arcana”? Did anything surprise you about the whole process to put it together? How long did it all take to make and finalize?
It’s funny, I had been waiting around three years to release anything (after being told to wait time and time again), and by the time I finally got to release the music (by not listening to those people anymore), I didn’t even care! I already had my mind on the next EP. That being said, it was a relief to finally feel like “at least I put something out into the world”.
The surprising part for me was how simple it was at the end of the day. It took maybe 30 minutes to set up my distribution, and then on the release date suddenly I was in iTunes and Spotify. Because everything is digital now, there is less of this sense of craft and creation.
It took about 2 years to make the EP. One year for the songwriting, 6 months or so for me to produce it (and I worked on it morning to evening, everyday), and then another 6 months for mixing, figuring out a release schedule, and putting the art + videos together.
What was the inspiration for the songs on “Arcana”? Generally, how do you go about writing a song?
The songs on Arcana are a group from a larger pool of songs that I felt fit together thematically. They’re quieter and more introspective than some of the other songs, and I thought that understatement might be a more interesting first EP, rather than something more flashy.
Songwriting can be very difficult for me, or it can be the easiest thing in the world. If the idea is there, the inspiration, I can write a whole song in an hour and be very proud of it. Other times, it’s the worst thing ever, I feel like I should just quit, and art is a lie!!
What are your plans for the rest of this summer? Do you have any plans to play out live at all?
My plans for the summer are to keep supporting the EP release and building an audience through that. Since I live in LA, playing out is more of a thing once there are people to play to! I may do a few Sofar shows come Fall.
Who are some of your very favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
My absolute favorites are Grimes, St. Vincent, and Florence and the Machine. When Grimes and Florence announced their tour last year I nearly started crying. I would say I would love to work with them, but I would probably faint, sob, and vomit at the same time if I were breathing the same air as them. And as they say, don’t meet your heroes.
There are some producers I’d love to work with, like Rostam from Vampire Weekend and Dev Hynes. I could probably be a bit more normal around them.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
I hope the message of my music is “its ok to feel things and be quiet sometimes”. I hope people come away from my songs feeling a bit more peaceful, like we can still make beautiful things in a challenging world.
What advice would you give to someone just getting started on this music path? Or even to someone young that is thinking of becoming a musician one day?
My advice is: DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF. Seriously. Don’t listen to other people, don’t wait for other people to do things for you. Do it yourself. None of what I’ve done so far would have happened if I had stayed waiting on other people.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
My next EP, Anima, will be out late Fall/Early Winter, so stay tuned for that!
All photos courtesy of EPK Media