Cover Image for Maral Versus the Mythologies of Music's Democracy*

Maral Versus the Mythologies of Music's Democracy*

Words by Alex Siber
Published on 

Are you releasing music with or without intent?

Wade across TikTok wasteland, snorkel through the great muzak garbage patch, tiptoe around landfills of white noise ‘podcasts,’ take a right down the lane of aggrieved music execs, resist the siren calls of a cafe selling $10 matcha to the tune of Flower Boy, imagine yourself in the Alborz mountains of Iran (or the Tehrangeles areas of LA), press play on any project artist-producer Maral has ever released, and — this is the most important part — don’t fight it. Inhale all you can.

Freewheeling, splattered, etch-and-sketched Persian vocal samples, cutting rivers over daf and tombak percussion. R&B callbacks revived by dozaleh clarinets. Adhans in the club, adhans in the club, adhans in the club. Obliterated synthesizers. Punk chants. Setar transmitting from the swamp. Sneak melodies infusing tranquil edens among the folk mayhem. Maral’s is the kind of electronic music deserving in-the-round theater treatment— haunting, psychedelic stress ricocheting around the chamber. One artist’s Lynchian anxiety is another listener’s slow-release relief capsule. It takes time to incubate.

Much has been written (and marketed) about the democratization of music. It’s a recycled narrative of mixed merit and half-truths. Every price drop, from 8-tracks to MIDI keyboards to plugins, comes with proclamations of unhindered creativity, presented as if it’s never happened before. Within each step toward affordability comes staggered access: wealthy westerners of the north first, DIY producers in Iran or Indonesia last. (The order of gear and software distribution, to state the obvious, doesn’t equal the ingenuity of what’s created. I’ll spend my eartime on a Brazilian teen’s mixtape before a super-producer’s pristine studio output.)

When we talk about ‘diminished barriers to entry’ in music, we talk about imperfect progress. That lineage includes DJ Kool Herc, shoegaze, stolen amps, Soulja Boy, Billie Eilish mythology, bootlegged Ableton, cracked Logic, multiple eras of SoundCloud, and, in a triopolistic twist, major labels gobbling up independents and distributors to bite back market share. We’re all well aware that the systems fielding all this music haven’t quite matched democratic ideals. Less discussed is the collective responsibility required to sustain any democratization — DAO, co-op, country, public good, platform. It’s not on us as artists to fix things we can’t control, but it’s not fair to each other to release art with reckless abandon and expect the world in return, either.

We can make this era one defined by corrective care. The volume game, played to thrilling effect via sanctioned YouTube links (NBA YoungBoy) and rapid-fire free mixtape downloads (Future), has tired. Public demos, once a necessary overhaul of the perfectionist anxieties keeping artists fearful of release day, has soured. While some still possess the soul-stirring talent and hyperactive mind needed to pull off these tactics, so many other half-hearted releases just play into the macro content game’s ends. We’re a half decade into supersized event albums, pining to rival the 90s and 00s gluttony of one-great-song-on-a-$15 CD. We’re a half decade into “drop every other week to catch the algorithm’s wave.” We’re more than a half decade into “pay us if you want more than 20% of your own audience to see your posts, and post every day while you’re at it.” At some point, the imposed rules of the road become personal codes of conduct. A little inward discipline can offer a hedge against inflationary art. Music platforms aren’t dumping zones for every stray GarageBand bounce, but public zones to be cared for by all parties involved. (To any artists reading this: We all know how much the platforms get wrong, but Maral makes a compelling argument that we have room to move more thoughtfully with our music, too.)

Over this five year epoch, Maral has moved at her own pace, declining to partake in the rollout carnival out of introverted disinterest. That disinterest evolved to include politicized concern as her artistry led to the less warped corners of industry. A DJ residency on the venerated internet radio station dublab, along with an A&R position at Big Dada / Ninja Tune, has granted her multiple vantage points from the frontline music business, on top of performing with the likes of Panda Bear. We shared a candid conversation about all of this and more. Keep scrolling for our discussion, and do your best to keep moving forward. Sending love, thanks for reading.

Inquisitiveness runs rampant in your music, from Mahur Club to “Wondering Dub.” You’re presenting these striking records by pulling from your Persian lineage in daring ways, either mashing those samples and sounds together with the rough edges of synthesizers, or carving out space for them to glide freely. The result is always a one-of-a-kind electronic music. Maral music. Where did those genre experiments begin?

It's interesting, growing up in Virginia. You might not have many opportunities to go proper raving, or find warehouse raves, so when I first got into electronic music, it was me in my room, almost getting academic with it. I studied and studied its history. Even at university, in Blacksburg, Virginia, there was no DJ or rave scene. Few chances to form personal memories with the music live. The first rave I went to was in New York City, to see FaltyDL DJ at 285 Kent.

[Editor’s Note: 285 Kent, a legendary club since shuttered, was displaced by VICE’s headquarters just under a decade ago. Earlier this year, VICE filed for bankruptcy and fired 100 staff members, including the video reporting team responsible for creating Emmy-winning and Emmy-nominated documentaries and nonfictional series from around the world.]

Did the absence of rave and DJ culture mean you avoided the white-washed EDM reign taking place at that time, or does that mean you were surrounded by it? [Laughs]

We’d have dubstep nights, like American dubstep, at this bar in Blacksburg, and even though it wasn’t my favorite scene, I’d go because it was a chance to see electronic music played, but I didn’t really know what a DJ did at that time. I just knew that you could play music for friends, so I started using Ableton to do that for mine. I went to Bonnaroo twice, and the closest I got to seeing a proper electronic show was seeing Tiësto, and that was a life-changing experience. I didn’t have access to underground electronic music until I moved to Los Angeles. By then, I was over ecstasy, and the drug use you’d associate with it all. I did all my partying before I could go to a rave. [Laughs] I was going there to listen and dance.

Respect you straight-edging it.

Well, I would smoke weed. [Laughs]

95% straight-edging it! That mentality reminds me of David Mancuso’s approach to The Loft in New York. No sales of alcohol or uppers. All about the music and sound system.

That’s what it became for me. After moving to LA, I got really into the Mustache Mondays scene, Total Freedom and all of that. There’s nothing like it. And nothing can match it. Back in Virginia, when it was just me and my room, I can remember reading about it all. It was amazing to experience it firsthand, and seeing I wasn’t alone in liking experimental underground music. When I started trying to book gigs in the DMV, everyone told me my music was too dark. There wasn’t a zone for me there. All my friends getting shows were in indie bands, which was great, just not what I was exploring musically. The very first show I saw in LA was at an amazing bar called La Cita, where Total Freedom played, and the whole Fade to Mind crowd spent time.

Did you feel fully at home there? Another fantastic artist and previous collaborator of yours, Eddington Again, also spoke so highly of MM.

Musically, it was locked. But I didn’t feel like I belonged as much because the whole scene was also very fashion-oriented, which is cool, but that part wasn’t for me. I hate clothes. I just don’t care about the look of physical materials. Shopping saps my energy. [Laughs] I can appreciate fashion for others but not for myself. Plain as possible is my vibe.

Was the break away from keeping up appearances solely related to shrugging your shoulders at social or family pressure as you got older? Or is there a connection between not focusing on what you can see to focus on what you can’t, with music?

To my mom’s sadness, I never cared. [Laughs] She used to say, “Whyyy are you like this.” I wanted people to judge me off who I am. Even my social media was private for a long time, until I had to accept that you have to open things up a bit to grow your fanbase. But that’s the sole purpose. I don’t want to use my physicality to market my songs. I’ve luckily never been pressured, mostly because I've never had a manager or a team so it's all been on my own terms, but when I first started working in music, I do remember a "friend" telling me that I needed to start straightening my hair and wearing make up if I wanted to "make it" and that once I've reached a certain level of success I can start doing things "my way" which was a big impetus for me to stick to my beliefs and try to navigate my artist career in the most genuine way possible I’m still trying to answer questions relating to that approach. What path can you take as an artist if you don’t want to use your appearance? How far can you go?

Especially as a woman. It’s odd, compared to a couple decades ago. There’s more ‘options’ to distribute and market in nontraditional ways because of general social ‘progress,’ but that progress is back-spinning, and music is as visual as ever.

For a really long time, I got away with not having pictures of myself, but once I started releasing albums more professionally, working with press, you have to submit special pictures. Maybe I could have done an obscure mask, but I didn’t have the energy to figure out a facade. When you participate in it all, you notice the impact of a post when it has your face, likes going crazy. At the same time, I have so many friends and so many artists I look up to who do remarkable work with the physical, and that’s part of their art. You know what I mean

The physical packaging for Maral's 'Ground Groove' album (2022)
The physical packaging for Maral's 'Ground Groove' album (2022)

100 percent. I think where I land in this spectrum is, it’s great if an artist wants to participate visually, if the ‘world building’ thing to them involves all of that. But I don’t think it should be a prerequisite to have any chance of surviving off of music. Is there some relationship to visuals you’ve found that has the least amount of dissonance?

I like working with other visual artists on little animations, or ripping footage from YouTube to create my own psychedelic blend out of it. Sometimes I’d do drawings. For my first album, Mahur Club, I made a separate Instagram account where I shared the tracks from the album in video form, as they were all short anyway. I like the discovery side of social media, and what I can share that does that for someone else. I found a way to hack it a bit by minimizing my presence and working with other amazing artists who make things that are meant to be appreciated and shared on these platforms.

That online treasure hunt still means so much to people. No Bells shared a great story recently about how CloudCore and Two Shell are using clever ways to make that experience exciting for people. You just finished a run of shows with Panda Bear — is existing physically in person, in front of other people, any easier or more natural?

I don't talk to anyone. I don't have a mic to say anything. I've just been noticing how when you play like that, the audience's engagement is going to be different than when you're playing with a band and you're singing and you're talking — at some point, you need to do more. Now that I’m playing bigger shows, not solely underground spaces, how hidden can I be? How do you participate with larger audiences while wanting to stay hidden or whatever? I started using an Sp-404 during my live sets to add some more physicality to the live show and for certain shows I will "sing" my "singing songs" live. I do want to have more verbal interaction with the audience and feel like that will be a good next step, although again, I love the idea of just presenting the music and letting that speak for itself.

I still think about Shiloh Dynasty, or how Frank Ocean approached his career. I think for a long while he was seen as the ideal for many introverted artists, especially after he finagled Def Jam to drop Blonde independently through Stem, but a bit of a cultural backlash started brewing even before the Coachella ‘controversy.’

It's also like Burial, who never plays shows and stays hidden. I want to stay hidden, and I want to play shows. [Laughs] People get signed now truly just based on what they look like or how they present themselves and I’ve felt a need to fight against this type of thinking, and how we participate with music in general. Sometimes it really feels like no one cares about music. Even if something gets a million likes on socials, how many people actually listen to the whole track? Transferring attention to actual music feels very challenging, especially when so much of it is bought.

Photo by mattabaca
Photo by mattabaca

The attention issue is as important, if not more so, than the money issue in the streaming economy, but it still gets overlooked. Whether it’s Instagram or Spotify. For every million hours of user activity, where are people directed by the UX? How widely spread are those hours among different posts, people, songs? When I lived in London I spent time at a number of indie labels I deeply respect, places I perceived as temples of ‘artist development,’ and they all checked TikTok religiously, released sped-up versions of songs, etc. Do you sidestep that via your A&R work at Big Dada/Ninja Tune?

I like working at a sub-label because you’re less beholden to those things. Indies and majors are competing all the time now, so we all do need to be checked in to some extent. I get sad thinking about how indies have to participate and think about things in ways we only associate with majors. But we’re lucky and get to work with artists earlier in their careers, off merit. We didn’t sign Yaya Bey because she went viral for a week. Her music was incredible before she had a huge audience, and now many more people have caught up. She can play Glastonbury and has a strong presence in different markets on Spotify. Taking that chance is special, but even then, she had released three albums before working with us. Sometimes it makes sense to spend more time on the DIY route before working with an indie. The whole system is so oversaturated now that you can be better off in your own niche, at least at the beginning stages, rather than drown in a big fish bowl, competing with artists on the same roster for attention.

Financial precarity seems to be sending people in two general directions: double down on the industry and any sense of stability it might bring, or get very creative on your own. I'm really curious to hear how your understanding of DIY has evolved because I think sometimes it's really challenging to look at this landscape right now and feel like anything is outside of the clutches of the powers that be, especially after Epic acquired Bandcamp, Sony acquired AWAL, Universal invested in NTS, etc. They all seem to be staying the course for now…

“DIY” has definitely changed and it’s often used wrongly. It’s a cool word to throw at an artist when they have a huge team behind them, or a really established manager. They may be doing it themselves, but DIY is community-based and goes beyond the typical business of industry. It’s not just about your own growth. And the growth that does matter isn’t about numbers. You’re growing an idea, a new sound, a sense of togetherness and mutual support. Bandcamp is still a great space for that because it’s a zone of cult followings and stewardship.

You’re right. Dedicated labels on Bandcamp are helping artists sell 20 to 200 physicals. That’s a really special step. How did you feel after the Epic acquisition news broke?

That definitely made me sad. I want to help Bandcamp and see it succeed, but it’s upsetting to see it bought out by a bigger company that likely doesn’t care about music the same. Then it’s like, “Wow, I spent all this time and effort into building this zone — what will it be in two years?” Maybe I should have just made my own website, but that goes against being part of a community. I’m sad, but the editorial is still so good, still highlighting amazing music.

We’re living in the most compromised times. I think that sentiment, participating in the growth of something just to see it falter, is omnipresent in ‘web3,’ too.

That’s the cards we’ve been dealt. The whole system is a bit too narcissistic.

I’ve been inspired the last couple years by the Eldia Summit crew — gum (fka Dirty Bird), Swami, dazegxd — and how they’ve worked together to create more of a movement around their work. Swami will share BandCamp download codes with his followers. Dazed and gum just dropped a project. They all did Boiler Room together. On top of the music, gum will take out-of-print or inaccessibly priced books about art, politics, and history and make them freely archived, public. There’s a strong code of ethics present.

It’s good for your mental health to not just be focused on yourself. I think that protects the purer energy of “I’m making music with my friends.” When I’m looking to sign people, the best music comes from those folks. They’re not tailoring their art to get signed. That seems so lost right now because everyone’s been told you’re supposed to be marketing yourself as a product. Our current reality also has its benefits, though. I was initially reluctant to participate in the DSP landscape but now I see the benefit of engaging with it especially in terms of underground music, from saving my friends music on Spotify and sharing it so it helps shape the algorithm to support music like that because there's a real benefit to that. People hit me up all the time and say they discovered my music there. I recently signed this duo based in NYC who found each other and started making music together because they didn't feel like there was a place for them in the scene at the time. That resulted in them creating a unique sound and a new scene that is now at the forefront of what's exciting in New York. They created the world they wanted to exist in just so they would have space to explore and connect with others and the intention wasn't to get signed or gain followers. You see examples of this constantly in music history and it's how new "genres" are born, but the focus of the industry isn't on these lil scenes anymore, it's what viral stunts can be exploited.

I talked recently with a writer I respect who said he abstains from DSPs entirely and hopes they go out of business. It’s a position I feel in my heart but struggle to accept logically. As long as millions of people are using them, I’m interested in how they could be improved. We’ve seen similar mistakes get made in web3, which was meant to be this brave new beginning. I’m aware that sounds incrementalist or apologist. It’s a mountain to climb or a mountain to throw TNT at. Are the mountains in your Zoom background the same mountains in your Bandcamp profile?

[Laughs] Yes, the Alborz Mountains, that’s so funny. It’s close to Tehran, Iran’s capital, sort of like how close the mountains are to LA. You can go on hikes and go to this beach area too, on the Caspian Sea. My cousins have gone exploring on crazy hikes to visit villages there. They’re very inspirational to me. You can go on YouTube and find videos of people driving through the Alborz. I use that a lot in my own visuals. Clips of people walking around there. I always remember walking from my grandma's house to get fresh bread and hearing the call to prayer while walking alongside the water drains by the tree-lined street, hearing the rushing of the water mixed in with the adhan and the cars driving by. The smell of pollution and trees

There’s an eternal link to Iran you preserve through your work. Did your family immigrate to the US before, during, or after the revolution? Did they need to archive their own music? I know your parents would make mixtapes that they shared with you growing up.

My dad came here before the revolution for college, grad school. My mom lived in Iran during the revolution and Iran-Iraq War, then she came here too after she married my father. Most of my family’s in Iran, still. The mixtapes my parents were making for themselves, they reflected all of these eras and geopolitical shifts. Because of the revolution, western music became illegal, and so many artists couldn’t make music. Western influence really started affecting Iranian music before the revolution. Guitar, psychedelic music, funk, drum patterns — it wasn’t all traditional instruments. The combination led to these new approaches that got shunned. Music in Iran focused back on classical. Then when everyone moved to LA, musicians started incorporating these cheesy 80s synths. [Laughs] A fruitful scene got crushed, relocated to LA, and grew too commercialized. There was also a lack of access to certain software, but now there’s kids in Iran who have Ableton. An underground always exists, though. It still does.

It seems like hip-hop has borne the brunt of those anti-westernization efforts abroad — a version of NYPD protocols organized against rap. The artists I’ve spoken to who make hip-hop-inspired music in Iran described this constant sense of risk. There’s a long-standing tendency for the U.S. to use the Middle East / SWANA region to justify its own moral grandstanding — news segments on Fox about the morality police in Iran while the Supreme Court here strikes down Roe v. Wade.

America basically ruins all these countries and leads them to these horrible situations where it's like a dictatorship or these really bad people come into power because of the instability that the U.S. creates. Then these people immigrate to America to have a better life…

Which Americans use to prove the exceptionalism myth.

And America is on the same path! Ruining itself, which is very interesting to see. For a really long time they were mostly focused on controlling populations in other countries, and now those tactics are shifting to domestic use. And I do feel thankful every day to be in America, in all honesty. But I just feel like the trajectory we're going down is worrisome. That said, if I wasn't Iranian, I probably would be thinking along those exceptionalism lines, unaware of so much. You know what I mean? You have this inside scoop because you're from these other countries. But those conversations seem to be happening more and more, earlier and earlier. No one knew what was going on when I was in middle school. The corruption is just out there now, in plain sight, but most of us are too comfortable, or, on the other hand, too financially precarious, to meaningfully do something about the minority of people in charge who make the bulk of these awful decisions.

Wealth flips one cohort of people into some mix of hoarders and patrons, rent neutralizes a much larger group, then aspiring to move from one to the other takes care of a third segment, with culture swirling around those dynamics. Differently in different regions.

It took me a while to really learn about the different regions of Iran, and how the folk music varies. When I was growing up, we had exposure to Iranian pop and classical music, which is great, and everyone draws from that repertoire, but some of the more local music is raw. I found a compilation here, in LA, called The Voices of the Land of Iran, which includes field recordings and a booklet that explains everything. I studied that and that influenced my own music.

Photo by Sam Lee
Photo by Sam Lee

Do you feel an Iranian-Arab solidarity?

It’s mixed. When you grow up Iranian, you're always told, “I'm not Arab, I'm Iranian.” There’s a history of Arab armies invading Iran, trying to attack our culture, adding different letters to our alphabet, getting rid of music and literature. I understand that history. But honestly, we’re all mixed up together in the region, and it’s beautiful seeing the overlaps across music, food, all of that. So I feel close to any Middle Eastern person. We’re all within the same zone.

Did anything or anyone from the Persian musical lineage become a north star for you ?

It’s less about the person and more so the sound. There’s different masters of certain instruments in Iran — you study until you learn your own way to play, but the players themselves in these recordings are often anonymous.

Your ideal. [Laughs]

There are entire instruments I didn’t know anything about, like the tanbur. Compilations have been a lifesource of me, from dub to punk to Iranian field recordings. It’s education.

You produced something of a compilation tape of your own, inspired, I’m assuming, by The Voices of the Land, that’s still up on your Soundcloud for free download, five years later. Really paying it forward, rather than hoarding that resource. You cited an influential study once that reported how abysmally underrepresented or excluded women were in music production. A single-digit percentage of Billboard hits featured contributions from women. Do you hope to produce a tape with a bunch of different vocalists someday?

That’s my dream. Over time, I’ve grown more interested in working with others, and applying my method, which is an untraditional approach. I’m proud of the sound I’ve worked to create for myself. The idea of working alongside others to see how we can bring that into their world is exciting, giving it structure. I don’t want to make music for the sake of it because a lot of people are doing that and I think of it as pollution. The world’s oversaturated as is.

Do you consider yourself a hacker?

Yes, I figured out my thing without being technically skilled. I don’t know how to even use Ableton the right way. [Laughs] I don’t do plugins. No extras. I take the basics and play around until it works. I don’t get notes. When I see musicians working together like, “Oh yeah, that’s in D, we can make a whole track now”... It’s painful for me. Making music’s painful. [Laughs]

Writing’s the same for me. It’s an eyeroll-y thing to say, but here we are.

It’s painstaking. It takes a lot out of me. [Laughs] A song never turns out exactly how I imagined it, which is the uniqueness of it and what I like about it. It’d be fun to have the ability to make a certain type of sound over and over, but that’s also what boxes people in. And if you’re too capable of doing everything, it can become generic. I’ve grown to appreciate my incapabilities. I think my skill is in conducting people outside their usual routine. Music making is so easy now, and I think that ends up hurting people more than helping them sometimes because you can do anything without feeling a real inspiration, in the mind-expanding sense. We all need to push ourselves.

I think we both agree that access to the creation of music is good and important — this idea of saturation reflects the distribution. Do you think DSPs should be ‘open to all’?

That’s on my mind a lot. Promoting access for everyone while recognizing its side effects…

In a commercial space, where it’s not just pastime recreation.

Yeah. And again, I wouldn’t be able to make music if not for Ableton. I love that access. But we all have a responsibility in what we do with these tools. We as people have a really hard time with responsibility, whether it’s day-to-day relationships or it’s the environment. There’s lots of things we’re forced into, like getting in your car to drive to a job you don’t want but need. With music, there’s more choice involved. It’s crazy to me that there’s millions of half-baked songs out there, and millions of bullshit emails trying to get other people to listen to them. People want that endorphin rush. They want to feel seen, and share things on socials. I don’t think it’s ok to contribute to this oversaturation without any thoughtfulness. It’s not even the ‘quality’ of music. It’s the lack of thoughtfulness that comes with so much of it. What benefit are you bringing to the overall ecosystem? I’d never want to restrict someone from releasing a song on Spotify. What I want is to see a perception shift in what it means to release music. Everything is so image-focused, so bent on getting that ‘like’ notification. It gets in the way of music being this transcendent thing. Obviously some people want to just make music so they can make money and that's understandable. I like working at a label because sometimes I bring more benefit to others, because I don’t have that desire to be a full-time, front-facing artist. Music in 10 years is going to be very bad if we all only focus on ourselves. Don’t just do it because you can.

Photo by mattabaca
Photo by mattabaca

Collective stewardship, our past’s preservers and our future’s keepers. It’s sort of like Avatar in The Last Airbender, the way you speak of it. This mythical person carries within them all their previous incarnations. People with those values in label systems are important.

We’ll see how much longer I last. [Laughs] I feel obligated to do it. I used to have these big dreams about how the music industry could function when I first moved to LA. I realize now that a person like me has less of a chance of making big changes, because it’s the power brokers of the industry that shape its norms. Maybe one day I’ll be able to partner with someone who isn’t like me, but shares the same values and visions. I don’t have the stomach to make the decisions and business maneuvers that the powerful make. If I can’t be like these people, how far can I really go within this system? Same with my artist project, and my personal limits there.

I remember reading The Operator by Thomas King about the entertainment mogul David Geffen, when I first started working in music in LA. It described how cunning, clever, but also cutthroat Geffen was to amass his influence and fortune. It had been recommended to me in the context of, “read this to learn the ropes.” I finished it and felt hopeless, because that wasn’t me. I assume you’re speaking about people at that level? The Irvings, Brauns, and Grainges of the world?

Look, I used to work at Universal. I have friends who work in the mainstream pop industry, and they're amazing people, and they have been able to do things in a way that’s true to themselves, and I find that really inspiring. But the people that they have to work with in order to make it happen? The completely business-oriented people just in it for the money and the competitive aspect of one-upping each other? I can’t do it. I love Big Dada because we made our own bubble. We can try ideas and learn. Maybe at some point I'll become desensitized enough where I can participate more. I admire people who can fight the good fight from within.

You’re almost describing a double agent.

We all do it to some degree. What ends justify which means? Look at Spotify.

The daily dissonance is off the charts. This unsettling normalcy we have to accept, in so many respects, to exist. Almost Lynchian. Film Twitter can roast me misusing that term later, but would you identify musically with the word “horror”?

David Lynch is one of my biggest influences. I read his memoir, which I highly recommend. He’s someone who did things his own way, but only because he had support around him — both friends who cared for him and well-intentioned people in ‘bad zones’ who were like, “Let’s give this guy money and a chance.” Everyone that participated in the production companies were down to let him do what he wanted, crazily enough.

Eraserhead took a village.

And Lynch continued to work with those people! He was able to convey himself so well to others that he created a vision, and that vision’s created a legacy. He also did it softly, kindly. Everyone likes working with him. But yes, my partner always tells me my music is scary. [Laughs] I’m like, no, I’m not trying to be scary! I do have a lot of anxiety though, so I think my battle with anxiety comes through my music. I would absolutely do a horror soundtrack.

Those nerves do come through, but in a way I find healing. You convert that tension into sound to turn it down, and it has the same effect on my mind, too.

It’s like a battle between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ thoughts. Intrusiveness trying to defeat my effort to be positive. In my soul I know that’s what I am, so I experience moments of relief as a result. That probably makes its way into my music, too. My partner teaches me to be positive. Being around them makes me want to stay in that zone. And I finally feel fully at home in Los Angeles, within the amazing music community surrounding dublab and Leaving Records. I think there’s a sense of mutual respect & excitement for each other. Going to each other's shows, booking each other and sharing music in a genuine way is my favorite type of exchange. There’s also an openness of discussion that's appeared after covid. We’re all more transparent and ready to discuss how to nourish the music ecosystem, not just ourselves.