Womanism 1.2 Sofia Hultquist
Kristen of SELVA NEGRA sits in conversation with Sofia Hultquist of Drum & Lace, an extremely talented artist-composer-performer-aesthetic-ista. There's something about a renaissance woman we find irresistible and she's no exception to the rule. We came back to talk process, evolution, and all things woman with this amazing lady! Getting to pick other creative ladies' brains has been so inspiring for us, we hope you are getting inspired with us. Without further ado, Womanism 1.2.
Q + A With Drum & Lace for Womanism 1.2.
KG: First question –- can give us an overview of what you do for a living, what your title is and what your day-to-day is like?
SH: So, on a day-to-day basis, I am a composer. I would say that captures most of what I do, I’ve recently started performing again, so I guess you can add performer to that. I like to say performer for media because I think that encapsulates everything, but it’s primarily for fashion content, commercials and film. And I guess – I perform and do everything under the name Drum and Lace. At first, I kind of had it created to be a company or like an agency. In the past two years, I’ve reeled it back to being an artist rather than – if that makes sense- rather than being a company. So I guess my title would be composer-performer or maybe just artist. Even though artist is more ambiguous.
KG: Yeah, yeah – So did you come up with the name knowing it was going to be a creative agency kind of company or did you just think of it as being your brand?
SH: My last job, I wouldn’t say stopped abruptly, but was one of those things where I kind of just followed my gut and knew my heart wasn’t in it anymore. It was one of those things where the first week I wasn’t going into the office at the old creative place that I was working at, I wanted to choose a name because I knew I didn’t want to work in my own name. For one reason or another, I liked the idea of having an identity that didn’t relate to me. Just cause it felt like a really transitional period and I’ve always felt like working under your own name captures moments of you that you might not really relate to anymore and I was like ‘OK, I want to start fresh’. Honestly, I just had a list of 50 really bad names that I tried to come up with one morning at like 4 am [laughs]. At the time, I was very much focused on working within fashion. My whole M.O. was discovering and realizing ‘Oh my god, emerging designers can’t afford to license tracks, but then they don't have time to look for free music’. So I wanted a name that had something to with both music and fashion. I used to listen to Drum and Bass so when I came up with Drum and Lace I thought, ‘oh my god, this is great’. I originally started it thinking ‘this has a nice ring to it’ as a agency or company name, but it’s worked out great as an artist name…and people say it rolls off the tongue well!
KG: It really does! Did you see yourself going down a musical path since you were younger or was this something you discovered later on?
SH: I always – I knew I wanted to do music and went to college for music at Berklee. Originally when I got there, I wanted to be a performer just because my whole life leading up to college I’d been performing, voice is my main instrument and piano as a close second. I kind of got to Berklee and realized that – and no disrespect to the people that have done this – but getting a degree in performance was something that my heart wasn’t really in and the kind of singing I did was not something Berklee was pushing at the time. I felt like I was a big fish in a small pond back home, I got there and it was a real slap in the face, like ‘Shit, these people are really good!’ So then it was one of those things where I really loved film, I’d never composed before, but I knew I’d get a lot out of this and that was the first thing that led me to film scoring. Honestly, I never saw myself like where I am today, back in college. I feel like it’s been a lot of letting myself be vulnerable that has gotten me to this point.
KG: Nice, that’s so cool! I know you do a lot of work with your husband, Ian. The First Monday in May was wonderful film scoring by you two. I was wondering if you guys have always worked together since the beginning or how did that relationship come about?
SH: So, we started working together kind of the moment we started dating in college. I did a short film in my senior year of college called Scrivener and His Aislyn and Ian helped me in lending his ears to that. The name of that movie actually inspired our first band together, which we called Aislyn, which in retrospect, was not a good name because no one knew how to say the name and had no idea we were Irish. Now transitioning forward, he’s my go-to guitar player. I’m always singing on his projects, we really lend our ear to each other’s work. It’s only until recently that we worked on a big project together, First Monday being the first, and we just finished our third co-score which is another fashion documentary.
KG: That's wonderful, it’s a really great film so I think you have something to be very proud of!
KG: So, I want to get down to Womanism and the whole purpose of the series. What we’re trying to do with Selva Negra, the movement behind these interviews, is to find out how women are affected in their fields today and music is such a male-dominated field. How are you affected by that and do you feel sometimes there is a disadvantage because you are a woman in your field?
SH: So let me start by prefacing – the advantage I have in knowing that my field still has an issue with sexism is just because I’m married to someone who does the same thing; I feel like I get to see things that not many other female composers might not get to see. You know, stupid example, but at the premier for The First Monday in May, it was assumed almost by everyone (including live interviews on the red carpet) that he was the composer. It’s one of those things that I don’t think many other people are in the position to really see these kinds of examples. There’s definitely an issue within the film and composition world where there seems to be mistrust of women or I don’t know if it’s just something that's become the norm to see a male, especially white male, composer. It’s definitely a bit of a struggle in that any time I’m considered for a job you always have to get there ready to fight and prove yourself before you can be on the same playing field. Ian and I actually talk about this often – where male and female composers are up for the same job, the fields could be pretty even. The problem is that women aren’t really making it in the room. So, I think the biggest issue is in taking the chances. If both sexes are being considered for the same job and the male is better, then that’s fair. Women just aren’t even getting considered in general. I’m not sure if this is a completely accurate statistic, but you know in composition classes, it’s pretty split evenly between men and women but only 3% of major movies in 2016 were scored by women. Something is getting lost somewhere and I’m saying this from a place of privilege, being a white woman. If it’s hard for me it’s definitely harder for women of color. I mean, we could really go on forever about this subject!
KG: This is an ongoing conversation for women in the workplace and we obviously want this series to help shed light on and hopefully help with to some capacity, but we could talk about this for hours! Tying it back to your earlier statements – Since I’ve moved here, you have helped out so much with Selva Negra and you are one of the most fashionable people I know [shared laughs]. How does this come into play with your job currently and I know you said before it kind of inspired your Drum & Lace name. How do you play both fashion and the music side together into one in your current position?
SH: Knowing a lot about fashion history as well as current fashion, especially about emerging designers I think is important to be able to communicate well with fashion brands and the designers I work with. It has been really great to have this knowledge working with designers on things that are based on look books, or fabrics, or colors. I know the difference between how organza feels to charmeuse and different kind of stitching – that is such an advantage that I’m hoping a designer would see in hiring someone who has the knowledge to represent their image honestly. I also think it helps to stand out, as superficial as that sounds! I feel like I’ve met a few people here that have come up to me and will be like ‘Oh my god, I love what you're wearing’ or love whatever and that’s how we met. Again, it’s such a superficial way of meeting people but at the same time my style is an extension of myself as well as how I’m feeling.
KG: So you feel like it’s an expression?
SH: Yes! It’s a complete expression that maybe says to people what I’m about, I don’t know…but apart from that, melding the two, has been an easier expression of who I am especially by incorporating fashion into my job.
KG: Yes, totally! Meeting someone that comes up to you based on fashion just means that is something you two connect on. I mean, fashion, in of itself is a pretty superficial thing. Getting to bond with someone over style and vibes is a good thing – It led to a friend and branching out.
SH: Yes! I think it’s also kind of important to keep or maintain an aesthetic. I feel like fashion has definitely helped to instill that aesthetic that kind of forms the mood for the things that I do.
KG: So, what type of work are you actually getting right now outside of performing? Is it more project-to-project or are you seeking jobs that you want to work on?
SH: I feel like I’m enjoying transitioning more into long form and into film. I like the idea of music somehow giving back; helping inform a audience or at least tell a story. I just finished doing a documentary called Invisible Hands that’s about child labor within the corporate structures of big companies. It feels good to work on projects like that. I also love and will always seek out weird fashion films [laughs]. Really, clothes that are pushing boundaries or artistic tech, those are the kinds of projects I will always seek out and they usually come in the form of collaboration.
KG: You've released a couple of EP’s over the past few years, yes?
SH: Past year, yeah!
KG: So cool! How have you seen your music transition? I feel like it’s very modular, synth-heavy and emotional. How would you say your music has evolved? Where do you draw inspiration from for these EP’s?
SH: So first of all, the EP 3-to-4-song format, I love! I feel like with people’s attention spans nowadays, a full-length is something you work on for so long and then it’s like 10 songs. It’s maybe a little overwhelming to people. So I thought, ‘well, if I release like 3-4 EP’s in a year span, that kind of counts as full length’, but I’m putting it out in different chunks and that way I’m able to make each EP its own thing. The first EP was called Dark Nights and Neon Lights is very electro and disco, like something you would hear in The Drive soundtrack; something Chromatics or Cliff Martinez sounding. In my mind, each EP has a big meaning to it so that one was kind of celebrating the dark side of LA; the after dark neon-lit strips that you drive through going from Eagle Rock to West Hollywood. Do you know that weird strip right in the middle of Hollywood Forever that you’re like ‘what is this, what is out here’? [laughs]. The second EP was a little more personal, just because last summer when I put it out and when I was writing it I was going through a break-up with a friend that means a lot to me and trying to patch things up, going through stuff with my family – It just felt like I was constantly giving and taking while never having a good balance. So that one was a very emotional body of work. Then, Midnight Roses is inspired by a night out in Europe. So the way it’s structured is kind of like the after dinner and drinks, through the sunrise moment. The two songs in the middle embody the euphoric moment of being in the club, drunk and then Abyss is the dark hour of the night where you’re left with yourself; then Sunrise is like the closure to it. Each EP is very well thought out, which I think people appreciate but at the same time its a lot of pressure on myself. Now that Ive done three, the fourth one has to continue this trend. But I think very much of the reason why I love to do film scores is because I think everything should tell a story. Musically, I feel like with practice and with time, everything is hopefully sounding better over time. I have to continue working on allowing myself to be vulnerable and be at peace.
KG: That was beautiful [shared laughs]. Now I’m just going to ask a few fun questions! What’s your favorite gear right now?
SH: So, I don’t have much new actual gear but my forever favorite is my OP-1 by Teenage Engineering. I love it because it’s small and so easy to plug in. I can always get some really lush pads and sample my voice; kind of a jack of all trades. It definitely has its limitations but I’ve been using it all summer. In terms of software, I’ve been using this program called Substance by Output. Essentially, it’s a great bass sound. They have this package called the dystopian bass that they kindly gave to me that can make a bass that sounds really evil but you can also make the bass sound round and light, so I’ve been using that a lot, as much as I can! This are my favorite.
KG: Very cool! And then, what three musical artists would you sit down with for lunch to pick their brain about music, dead or alive?
SH: This one is really, really hard. This is the only question I actually prepared for this interview! So, after long debate, I think the three would have to be Prince – Ian and I’s first first dance at our wedding was Prince. I miss him a lot. Second, I’d have to say Thom Yorke just because I have so many questions [laughs]. It’s such a cliche for electronic musicians to love Radiohead, but I just have so many questions. The third was a toss-up between Suzanne Ciani, who is this amazing pioneer in modular synthesis/ all around amazing human, and Björk. I think Suzanne would take the cake just based on her interviews. I got to see her do a talk in Berlin last year and I would love to just hear what her journey has been.