In conversation with Steffaloo
Interview by Shannon Lawlor
Steph Thompson, aka Steffaloo is a musician, collaborator and vocalist currently based in Los Angeles, USA. Since 2010, Steffaloo has had the opportunity to work with, and lend her intricately delicate voice to some of the most forward thinking electronic producers of our generation, such as Blackbird Blackbird, Chrome Sparks, Slow Magic, XXYYXX, Sun Glitters, and the list goes on. Most of these collaborations can be found on her 2013 collaborative album Heart Beats released via Mush Records.
Other than her electronic-based collaborations, Steffaloo has also released numerous singles, EPs and an LP comprised of her own emotive and sentimental music using only guitars, voice and minimal production techniques, undeniably crowing her the “jane-of-all-trades”. On April 20th, Luxembourg-based electronic producer Sun Glitters collaborated with Steffaloo, yet again, on a mesmerizing 3-track EP and journey of shimmering, unforgiving genre-defying resonance released via DXFXWXU Collective, pushing Steffaloo further down the rabbit hole of her own mystical, musical journey.
We caught up with Steffaloo on collaborating, dream destinations, and meeting her heroine, Feist:
For those foreign to Steffaloo’s aural glistening, how would you personally describe the music you produce?
This is always such a hard question for me to answer. I think i just try to make music that feels real and honest to me. I like making things that make me feel something, and hopefully those listening will feel things too. Someone once described my music as “ethereal.. like she’s retelling a dream she had last night.”, I really liked that.
Your latest EP Happy was self-released in February 2017. How did this recording process compare to some of your more, electronic-based releases, like 2016’s Throw Me To The Wolves?
Oh goodness. Happy was a five-year-long process. Unlike the electronic collaborations I’ve worked on, this was a very raw and real process. It was a journey of being present and really working through each song. It was a lot more intense for me, and it’s hard to even describe this process now that it’s over. Essentially, Happy was the first thing I’d ever recorded with other people present with me. It’s such a vulnerable process, inviting people into something so personal. The guys I had playing with me on this are my dear friends and had been playing with me for a few years and we’d really formed a tight bond, so it made the whole thing extremely special to me. They were really the closest people to these songs apart from myself, and that felt really amazing! Throw Me To The Wolves was a little similar in that I wrote and recorded the songs on that EP with my amazingly talented good friend Katrina. Even that was a bit different, as it was just her and I, rather than me and a band. I’ve found this to be a really special and meaningful process of creating.
Your groundbreaking 2013 collaborative album Heart Beats features some of the most forward thinking electronic producers of our era, including Chrome Sparks, Slow Magic, Stumbleine, Magical Mistakes, to name but a few. How did this release come about? And what did you take from the experience?
This was actually a really challenging and fun project for me. I had just signed with the local indie label Mush Records and it was actually their idea to do an entire album of just electronic collaborations. Up until that point I had mostly been known for, and done a ton of, different collaborations with some of my favorite producers – many of whom were also my good friends, and so the idea really excited me. I went back and did a number of songs with guys that I had already collaborated with, but also took it as an opportunity to team up with some of them that I hadn’t had a chance to yet. It was one of the funnest projects I’ve worked on because each of the artists I did songs with had their own unique styles. It was challenging in that trying to work around the schedules of 12+ different producers who were already working on their own albums and whatnot, proved to be not as easy a task as i thought, haha!
You have also borrowed your alluring voice to a number of prolific producers such as XXYYXX and Beat Culture, but if you could collaborate with anyone on the planet, who would it be? And why?
Goodness. That is such a tough question! I think I’d definitely have to say Feist, as she is my absolute favorite, and what i like to call my “musical spirit human”. Just to be able to write and sing with her would be unreal. She has been an artist who I have loved and admired for quite some time now and I think more than anyone, she has influenced the sound of my music and writing. I actually got to meet her last year after her show here in LA, and I totally turned into an awkward shy girl once I finally got to talk to her, haha.. Though, I’d love another chance to interact with her and act like a normal person! 😛
There seems to be a delicate, yet elegant balance of how you produce your music. How would you compare the contrast between producing electronic music as opposed to producing acoustic music?
Well, I actually don’t do any of the production on the electronic tracks I’ve been a part of. So that in itself lends to a much different process between the two. With the electronic collaborations I’ve done – I typically get the track sent to me, and then i’ll spend time writing and recording vocals over it. I’ll then send it back to the producer to add any last effects to the vocals and do all the mastering, and what not. With my acoustic music, it started out just as me in my bedroom, with a guitar and Garage Band. Those recordings tend to be a bit more raw and real. I would then add any other instrumentation to the track using built in sounds from Garage Band. It was a very homemade way of doing things, and probably not as easy as it should have been, but I just didn’t know anything about making music at the time, haha.. So once i started playing with a band that rawness manifested in different ways. I had no previous experience playing with other musicians and feel I really lucked out with the guys I played with, because we all instantly meshed, creatively. That was a really fun experience for me and to this day some of the best times I’ve ever had!
As a woman in the music industry, have you ever faced discrimination? And do you have any advice for young female musicians out there currently facing these problems?
I’m lucky enough to say that I haven’t personally experienced any kind of discrimination being a woman in the industry. I also haven’t gotten deep enough into the industry to probably face a lot of the things that many women encounter being musicians. All I can say to those women who do face, and are facing these things is that I am for you and with you! Surround yourself with other women who support, and lift you and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something!
Are there any specific writers or lyricists you admire, particularly when writing lyrics for your own work?
I’m going to have to go back to Feist for this one. I actually have one of her lyrics, “I feel it all” tattooed on me, haha.. There’s a real poetry to a lot of her writing that really moves me. She is someone to me who’s lyrics really carry her songs. There’s a lot of beauty and rawness to her words, and it doesn’t hurt that her voice is painfully beautiful as well. Imogen Heap was another artist that I really took to earlier on, lyrically and musically as well. She was just so innovative at the time that she really came into things and I took a lot of notes from her as well as writing. I feel like i could go on and on with this question!
Care to list some of your personal favourite releases of the year so far?
I’ve been loving Soccer Mommy’s new album ‘Clean’, Moses Sumney’s ‘Aromanticism’ (even though that was last year), Litany’s 4 track EP (also released last year), Chrome Sparks of course just came out with his first full length album and it’s beautiful! Blackbird Blackbirds ‘Neon Night’ is on heavy rotation.. and then of course, Feist’s latest album (which actually came out last year) is a constant.
If you could perform in any part of the world, where would it be? And is there anywhere in particular that you feel your music would be best received?
I would love to perform in Europe, Australia, Mexico City – basically anywhere! But the real romantic cities like Paris and Florence would be pretty magical, I think. I believe I already have a bit of a following in Europe so it would be really fun to make it there one day to perform.
What does the future hold for Steffaloo?
Well I have actually just released a new 3 song EP which came out on Friday 20th of April, produced together with one of my favorites – Sun Glitters! It’s always so fun working with Victor, and we’ve always had a natural musical-chemistry that is really refreshing to be a part of. I’m also working on some other collaborations with some other really great producers that I look forward to sharing. Lastly, I hope to write some new solo stuff this year, as well and maybe even play a show or two 🙂
For more information visit Steffaloo’s website
[Image credit: Britni Christie]