"I’ve enjoyed having the freedom to challenge myself to experiment with new styles and learn new production techniques"
Slow Shudder has an honest and sincere career. Her musical selection and good judgment has dared borders. The productions and dj sets by Shudder are powerful statement, emblematic of her no-holds-barred approach. We take the opportunity to interview her.
Hi Amanda! Where can we find you right now? How did you start off your day?
Hi! Thanks so much for interviewing me! Right now, I’m in my apartment in Seattle, WA. I started off my day by having an iced coffee and an English muffin, and then I wrote and recorded a new song. Definitely a great start to the day!
What was your first foray into the world of electronic music?
My first foray into electronic music as a producer was when I was 19. I was studying Vocal Performance at NYU and having health issues that made it difficult to sing. My teachers and doctor advised me to go on vocal rest for a full month, where I couldn’t sing or even speak.
During that time, I had to find new ways of being creative without the traditional use of my voice. I manipulated previous recordings of me singing into glitchy songs in Garageband, which was the beginning of me realizing how I could use my laptop to make music.
Which artists have your interest these days?
So many, always hard to choose favorites. Off the top of my head right now:
UMI – her new album, Introspection, is fantastic.
I love Yaeji’s new album, What We Drew 우리가 그려왔던.
Ninajirachi – loving her EP, Blumiere, that recently came out on NLV Records.
TRACE – her song “Hard Times” has been one of my go-to’s during lockdown.
My friend Space Candy recently released a new EP called “Slime Sounds Vol. 1”. Their production is endlessly inspiring to me. It’s unlike anything else.
When did the idea of starting a project begin to take shape? Has it always been something you’ve wanted to do?
I’ve wanted to be a professional musician for as long as I can remember but for a long time, I was a bit afraid to be an artist in this capacity. I was a performer for years before I ever shared any of my own writing.
When I was working at a music festival in exchange for a pass in 2010, I had a moment where it clicked for me that I wanted to be up on a stage like that, not for the sake of performing alone but having a dialogue with the audience that involved my own words and my own music, in the hope that sharing my experiences could serve those listening.
How do you manage to combine such disparate genres? How do you manage to give them unity and harmony? What do they have in common for you?
Lots and lots of practice! Continuing to commit to making music, even when I felt like everything I made was bad. My early production was marked by its incoherence, and during the rare moments I showed songs to people in the first few years I was producing, a frequent comment was “It sounds like 2-3 different songs put together.”
The more I produced, the more I found that unity and harmony would occur when I stopped thinking so much about individual sounds and what I wanted to sound like genre-wise, and instead focused more on how I could elevate the songs in their most minimal form (for me, that’s lead melody & lyrics).
I feel like every sound I design or manipulate naturally begins to fit together when I’m thinking about how to make the song an appropriate sonic home to live within.
When did you start producing?
I started producing in 2007, and started taking it seriously in 2010.
How was the Slow Shudder project born? What inspired you to create it? Why did you decide to name it like that?
I started Slow Shudder in 2015, after feeling stuck with the project I had before that. I’d been producing and DJing various dance music styles under a different name for 5 years, and wanted to start fresh with a new project that would allow me the room to explore any genre I wanted.
The name “Slow Shudder” comes from the concept of capturing motion, the slow shutter camera technique where long exposure time can catch a fleeting moment of change as it’s happening.
I altered the spelling of “shutter” to “shudder” to reflect a more organic embodiment of that, as what’s changing is my internal landscape as a musician, writer and person. The name is a reflection of my constant change, both personally and musically.
What are you interested in transmitting in your productions?
I think the production in my songs, which serves as an extension of each song, can transmit different layers of an emotional experience. I often find myself doing contrasting production and songwriting – it’s not something I’m really doing consciously but I’ll often have production that’s upbeat and positive-sounding, with lyrics that are dealing with complicated or wistful subject matter, and vice versa.
Taking a step back from it, I think it’s because I’m hoping to express the grey areas of emotions – I believe it’s rare to be only happy or only sad, there are always layers. So perhaps what I’m interested in transmitting production-wise is an embodiment of that complexity.
What can you tell us about your EP Off The Rails?
“Off the Rails” was written over the course of years, starting in 2016 while I was in grad school. Each of the songs details a different part of the journey I take when I’m getting close to someone. In retrospect, a lot of it is also about getting closer to myself.
What were you trying to transmit on this EP? What inspired you to create this EP?
I wanted to express this narrative of finding strength in the vulnerability of moving through constant unknowns – new cities (I moved 5 times in less than 5 years), new people, new experiences, new sides of myself that emerged as a result. All of that was endlessly inspiring. I wrote dozens of songs – two other EPs and an album – before deciding that I wanted these five tracks to be my debut EP. I feel like the way they fit together is how I could best tell that story and represent those experiences.
How much has your sound changed since you started? What sounds are you interested in?
My sound has changed drastically many times over the years. When I started working in this capacity as a musician, I was making glitch and experimental music almost exclusively production-wise, while writing singer-songwriter type songs with just piano and voice or guitar and voice simultaneously.
In the early 2010s, as I began DJing, I got into making dance music styles - dubstep, house, moombahton, techno, various bass music & club styles. Then when I started my Master’s Degree in music, I started really honing in on “my sound”, which evolved out of all my various musical interests. I was lucky to have found the space to do this while in school. I’d saved up for years and finally had a year to focus fully on music for the first time in my life.
How do you deal with C19 confinement with your work? Has this situation influenced your creative perspective? What social and musical implications do you think this situation can lead to?
At first, I was incredibly terrified of what was happening with C19. Seattle was the first city in the US to have a recorded outbreak, in January, and things started shutting down here a bit earlier than in the rest of the states. I had been following the news about what was happening in Wuhan and then in the Phillipines, South Korea, Iran and then countries in Europe, and I felt it was only a matter of time before it was widespread globally. I was so worried about people around the world, in my community, and of course, my loved ones.
When the lockdown began here, I lost 90% of my income because I primarily make money by playing DJ gigs at clubs and corporate events. I also sometimes work a side hustle as a dog walker & sitter, and I couldn’t do that either. Fortunately, I was able to get unemployment assistance after about 10 weeks of waiting for approval. Until I did, I spent a lot of time anxious about getting sick or my loved ones getting sick, and also about running out of money, because I didn’t have enough in savings to cover more than a few months of rent.
Fortunately, I was able to be distracted by an amazing production project for an immersive media piece, that I was working on with one of my collaborators based in the UK, Stephanie Singer, from mid-March until the end of May. Working with her is always incredibly inspiring (we’re also working on an animation pilot together) and I learn something new every day no matter what the project is.
I also had the pleasure of playing a lot of online DJ gigs and doing some guest mixes, which is always really fun.
Once I found out I had the unemployment money to rely on in early May, I started writing more again, more than I usually do actually. I think I’d needed the break from writing my own stuff all the time, but didn’t realize it until after the fact!
For most of June, I was consumed with activism for the current Black Lives Matter movement. I still am, of course, but I was able to find some balance last week and started writing more again.
My creative perspective has definitely been influenced in positive ways. I’ve enjoyed having the freedom to challenge myself to experiment with new styles and learn new production techniques.
Right now, in absence of gigs and my side hustle, my schedule is almost completely up to me, and that’s how I work best. Having the flexibility to write, produce, and record whenever I want is my version of paradise. I feel really privileged to be able to enjoy that right now, and know that at any moment, that may change, so am trying to enjoy it to the fullest extent.
I’m not sure how the industry will transform as a result of C19, all I know is it has to pivot to meet the current circumstances. Without most live performance possibilities, I think artists are all being challenged to find new ways to continue connecting with the people who listen to their work. Based on my friends, I can say some artists are using social media more and/or streaming more, essentially performing online more. Others are writing more, honing their chops, preparing to release more online. I’m more in the latter category.
One hope I have is that the industry offers additional financial support to artists through all the work they’re doing and releasing online, in absence of them getting any sort of income from gigs.
I feel like large and indoor events will be out of the question for a long time, perhaps until there is a widely available vaccine. Ideally, decision-makers at music platforms, labels, publishing companies, and in the sync licensing world, will all consider how to provide opportunities for artists so they can make a livelihood doing what they do without live performance income.
So what music are you currently obsessed by? Have you picked up any records recently that you have been playing in every set or have been listening to every day?
In addition to the music from the artists I mentioned earlier, I’ve loved these tracks for my sets:
Badsista – “Machooka”
Dizzy Fae – “Company”
OMAAR – “Quien Se Comio Mi Chocolate”
UNiiQU3 – “Rave in my Room”
Charli XCX – “Claws” (torr Remix)
For listening to every day, my friend Holliday Howe put out a new song called “All Night” that I’m obsessed with. I love the new James Blake track, “You’re Too Precious”, that one’s definitely been on repeat since it came out. My friend Wishlyst released a track, “Other Girls”, recently that’s such a bop – it pops in my head all the time. My friend SAKIMA just put out a song, “U Dnt Fk Me Up”, which instantly joined my daily rotation.
I started a weekly playlist, Replay, just over a month ago where I share 10 tracks a week that I’m loving. Each week, I move the previous tracks to my Replay Archive playlist. Highly recommend everything I’ve put in there too!
What can you tell us about your work as a host at Data Fruits? What have you learned in this project?
Broadcasting on datafruits has been so fun! I’ve met so many cool artists through doing my show, Solar System. I’ve been doing the show since 2015 - before it was on datafruits, it was on Wired Radio – I started it there at my university, Goldsmiths.
I’ve learned a lot about programming songs - creating an auditory journey through selections in ways that are a bit different from my DJ sets at clubs or more dance-oriented online streams. I’ve gotten better at announcing things over the years, even though it still makes me nervous!
Would you like to share a set? Can you tell us more about it? When and how was it recorded?
Sure! I love the set I made for KEXP at the end of last year. It was an honor to be featured on their series, Midnight in a Perfect World: https://www.mixcloud.com/kexp/kexp-presents-midnight-in-a-perfect-world-with-slow-shudder/
I wanted to showcase the music I make as well as songs I love that span alternative pop, electronic, and experimental music. I played lots of songs from artists I’m thankful to know personally who inspire me: Cosmicosmo, Marcioz, Liyv, SAKIMA, AObeats, Holliday Howe.
I recorded it as I record most things, in my home studio.
What makes a good mix to you?
To me, a good mix flows well but is still surprising. I personally like mixes that throw curveballs. My favorite thing about mixes is when a DJ plays something that catches my attention and challenges my expectations.
I also love when DJs have clearly done a ton of digging and have found songs I’ve never heard before. I listen to mixes all the time for music discovery.
Two of my favorite DJs in London, Naina and Jamz Supernova, have introduced me to tons of amazing artists through their respective shows. My friend, Sara El Harrak, is an incredible selector and DJ who has shown me so much amazing music. Same goes for my friend Cralias with his show, Radio Show, which is also on datafruits.
What tracks would you recommend us to liven up the confinement?
Ah I love all these music recommendation questions! Let’s see, to liven up confinement I’d additionally suggest:
Anything by Namasenda – I listen to her music constantly.
Marged – “Freaky Deaky”
BIIANCO & Chong the Nomad – “Put You In The Kitchen”
Cosmicosmo & Voia’s track – “Touch and Go”
Morgan Hislop’s new EP – “Once You Pass The Light You'll Reach The Spire”
FROMTHEHEART – “things happen, it’s okay!” – a collective effort from a group of incredible artists which includes Valentine, Knapsack, Chuck Sutton, underscores, and Fraxiom
What makes you happy?
Oh wow, so many things! Making and listening to music – that’s a given though, haha!
Additionally, I love cooking, practicing yoga, reading (I recently tore through two short story books that were both amazing – “Get in Trouble” by Kelly Link and “Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado), playing video games, spending time with my partner, family, and friends.
I’ve barely seen anyone that I know in person, besides my partner, who I live with, during the lockdown, so I’ve been video chatting a lot.
Can you tell us something about your current or future projects?
Right now, I’m finishing up the production on a few of my favorite songs that I’ve written over the past year. I’ve also got a few collaborations finished and am figuring out the release plans for those. I’m excited to share everything – right now, if all goes according to plan, I’ll begin releasing new stuff in August or September.