Q&A: 5 Minutes with Öona Dahl
Öona Dahl found music on cassette tapes. As a young girl in upstate New York, she would listen to countless reams of old music in her living room, later going on to draw up sketches of ideas on software like Fruity Loops. Music for her has always been tactile. It’s an approach that you can feel in her work. An incredibly dextrous producer, Dahl’s sonic palette is equally informed by her nomadic lifestyle. Scenes from around the world have served as inspiration, from the basements of Berlin to the eclectic heat of Florida. After releasing her sophomore effort Morph on Hallucienda last year, Dahl recently contributed the stunning track Reverie to Lee Burridge’s latest All Day I Dream Winter Sampler. We caught up with her to find out more about how she intermingles these ceaseless influences, and on what we can expect from her next:
You seemed to move around a lot in your early days, from growing up in New York, to exploring the Toronto rave scene, to eventually finding yourself in Berlin and Florida. What sort of influence have each of these diverse places had on your development as an artist? Do you think it’s made your points of reference quite eclectic?
I’ve always had a bit of wanderlust! The first time I moved was with my family from Orlando to New York when I was 5. While in New York I’d travel with friends all over and drive to parties in NYC or Toronto. When I turned 18, I enrolled into a recording college and moved to Florida because I really enjoyed the music scene there. Throughout my time I started to travel to different events like DEMF and later on Burning Man. In 2010, I left Florida and lived in many places like San Francisco, Denver and Berlin. My life thrives on experience and I get a high from being in new places. When you really put yourself out there in the world I notice that’s when synchronicities start to happen and things really start to align for you. My creativity is partially fueled by travel and these firsthand experiences. Each city has its own unique flair which inspires my art and sound, especially places like Berlin and NYC.
It’s clear that artistically, you sort of carry that diversity and dexterity with you. On one hand, you have the dance record producer and on the other, you’ve experimented with more left-field house and vocal driven avant-pop. Where do the various sides of Öona Dahl intersect, and how do they inform each other?
It really comes down to being open minded to all forms of sound and music. When I produce music I don’t put up any barriers. The purest form of creativity comes when you don’t overthink and instead you just let go. My mood has a strong influence as well when I write. For example, lately I feel like I’ve had a lot more energy so I’ve been creating more fast paced bpm’s. I’m always inspired by other states of consciousness so this usually interplays with my sound in some way. I think there’s always this unique thumb print to my music whatever the style may be.
You also work under other monikers like Slumber alongside Amber Cox. Can you tell us more about this collaboration?
Amber and I formed Slumber back in 2009. We became roommates and it was a natural bond that led to us eventually making music together. We have DJ’d together before but our main focus is live performance. Our last show was at Envelop in San Francisco which is a room dedicated to immersive 3D sound. We have continued to make music as Slumber living in different cities and finish it off when we see each other in person. Our sound has a darker, moodier aesthetic and this creates a nice creative outlet for me. We have a 6 track EP coming on Hallucienda this spring I think is our most exciting body of work to date.
You’ve worked with Lee Burridge and ADID for a while now. What is your history with the label, and how have they allowed you to develop and grow creatively?
Well, I’ve actually only released three things on the label — a compilation track called High Eyes in 2015, an EP called Let The Light In in 2017 and, just now in 2022, another compilation track called Reverie. Along the way, I’ve DJ’d quite a few of Lee’s parties so maybe that’s why I’ve been so commonly associated with ADID. Lee is also a great friend, of course! I attended the second All Day I Dream in NYC in 2011 and the rest is history. We do have something very, very special planned for an All Day I Dream event in America this year, though!
Your track for their latest winter sampler, Reverie, is a standout from that compilation. Can you tell us more about where this track came from, and why you made the aesthetic choices you did on it?
Thank you! I wrote Reverie while in lockdown and when I was really missing events and parties. ADID stuck out the most of all as there’s always some magic element to the parties that make them special. I think memories are like dreams in a way where you can only remember part of them. In the studio that day this was in my mind. Sometimes when you go into the studio the music writes itself! This was one of those days, everything worked and Reverie was created.
The horns on Reverie are a really awesome touch that stands in contrast to the otherwise light and sparkly elements. Do you enjoy using juxtaposition and contrast in your work? What do you think this manages to create?
Oh yeah that main synth is a horn isn’t it? The sound had a powerful effect on me when I was making it. It felt like it completed the emotional balance of the song. I do admire juxtapositions in music! My goal is to always find and create really unique sounds that I have never heard before.
Last year you released your sophomore album, Morph on Hallucienda. Congratulations! What was the experience like making this record compared to your debut album Holograma?
Hallucienda is really where I’ve been encouraged to spread my wings the most creatively and especially as an album artist. The main difference I think between the two albums is Holograma was made throughout a timeline of 5 years since it was my early years of production and MORPH I made most of the music throughout lockdown. MORPH still has an essence of vulnerability like Holograma but, my process has evolved. As time goes on and my experience grows, the creative possibilities become more and more endless.
What can we expect from you this year, are you allowed to share?
This year my main focus is getting out into the world again. 2022 marks 20 years of being a DJ and although I will still be in the studio a lot, I plan to focus most of my attention to a new music & art installation project which will debut at the All Dream I Dream event I mentioned. I’ve gained a new perspective that I have much more to contribute beyond making and playing records. My scholarship into college was an art scholarship so it’s something that has always been a part of me.
Name three artists we should be listening to right now.
Prins Thomas, Future Sound Of London, Ionnalee/iammaiwhoami
Thank you for your time!
Listen to Reverie from the ADID Winter Sampler below.
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