One of the more interesting local electronic artists on the rise: the enigmatic Shoni, whose sound blends a classic shoegazer sensibility with downtempo beats and an ethereal aesthetic. She has many great things planned for 2014 -- but one more major event planned for 2013: a video release party at Rain Dogs for her new song "Space Bars", available on Spotify.
The video that she will premiere Wednesday evening, she informs Folio, has high production values, reminiscent of a Hype Williams joint. It took two days to shoot, and when Shoni saw it just last night, she tells Folio that "it gave me chills."
The local media was clamoring for an interview with the reclusive Shoni... but Folio Weekly snagged an exclusive, in-depth Q&A. Read on to find out more about the event, her influences, how she creates music, and the Ludacris cover that started off what Shoni fans call Shonimania!
Folio Weekly: Tell us about the event you have at Raindogs 12/18.
Shoni: The Space Bars music video premiere is being hosted at Rain Dogs on Wed, Dec 18. There will also be live performances by Shoni, Ritual Union, and Ascetic (all female-fronted music projects that employ digital instruments).
FW: Why did you pick Rain Dogs for this event?
Shoni: We chose Rain Dogs for the music video premiere because of its relationship to the music and arts scene here in Jacksonville. It’s quickly becoming a haven for members of the local arts community with its open mic nights and intimate appeal. I like the energy there.
FW: What does it mean to “employ digital instruments”? Do all of you have similar sounds?
Shoni: What I and the producers I work with create is music through the medium of technology. Sometime I’ll sit down with an electric guitar and work out chord progressions and sometimes I’ll start my work on a recording program using MIDI inputs. The result is usually a dreamy, downtempo sound. I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself an electronic artist, but I do rely on digital methods to produce much of the instrumentation.
FW: Is there significance to being female electronic music artists? Have you encountered resistance In The Industry?
Shoni: I like seeing female artists like Grimes use elaborate mixers and computers to produce sound on stage. She’s an incredibly talented producer and showcasing her skills live adds to her appeal as a multi-faceted artist.
What I do right now is play backing tracks that either myself or a producer friend has created and perform just the vocals live. I use a vocal processor to add texture and variation throughout each track.
Folio Weekly: Tell us about Space Bars.
Shoni: Space Bars is a collaborative track with music and production by James West, who makes music under his moniker Slomile Swift. I would describe Space Bars as a retro-futuristic sound collage; I was hooked the first time James sent me the track. There are some elements he used that I didn’t expect, like the wind chimes and “spinning plates” effect. I immediately started adding vocals over it after the first listen.
FW: How has your sound evolved over the years?
Shoni: My sound has definitely evolved. I started out tinkering with keyboards a child then picked up an acoustic guitar at 16. From there, I’ve gone from recording simple guitar arrangements on cassette tapes to producing multi-layered tracks on digital recording programs. The first time I heard MIDI keys on a composition I recorded in 2010, tears started welling. I thought it was magical. Since then, I’ve been shaping an ethereal sound anchored by heavy percussion. Working with producers has helped move my sound into a new direction.
FW: Tell us about your infamous Ludacris cover, and if you plan to go deeper into hip hop -- or covers....
Shoni: The “Move” cover started as a joke. While I was living in Gainesville a few years ago, some friends and I were jamming and one of us started rapping. I think there was a keyboard and bursts of laughter involved. Anyway, I thought about how entertaining it would be to hear a female with soft vocals cover a song with harsh language. What I like about performing “Move” is that it’s completely unexpected. Here I am in a bar strumming my seafoam electric guitar and then all of sudden, I’m moving across the stage and telling people to move. People look bewildered and then start laughing. It’s very gratifying.
Actually, that Ludacris cover is what prompted me to shift from playing guitar on stage to adopting more of an emcee delivery. After playing months of shows with that cover at the end of each set, I realized that I lit up when I was free to move around on stage and focus only on my vocals. I find it easier to connect with an audience when I can move freely and make hand gestures without worrying about hitting the right guitar chords.
I don’t have plans to work with any hip-hop artists but am totally open to the idea.
FW: But "Move", and Luda in general, is pretty grimy -- and misogynistic. Any conflict between being a female artist and doing this kind of material?
Shoni: There can be many interpretations of the lyrics in “Move,” all of which are valid. That’s the great thing about poetry; it’s up to the listener to interpret the meaning. One of the reasons I perform it is to bring the audience out of their comfort zone. With that said, there is definitely a feminist subtext in performing a song that uses 40 expletives in 4 minutes. There’s a dramatic shift from a rich and romantic ambiance to this harsh, aggressive anthem that challenges the stereotype of a solo female performer who makes dreamy music. That’s what music, as an art, should do – pull you out of your comfort zone. Plus, the song has a killer beat and gets my adrenaline pumping on stage.