PENNYWILD is a tenacious soul who knows exactly what story she wants to write, using her voice to inspire others to relentlessly pursue their quest for liberation in self-expression. With more than enough optimism for everyone, PENNYWILD has created an extremely vibrant community that focuses on a free mindset. Using her cheerful but stimulating perspective, the multi-talented artist constantly pushes the boundaries of her projects. Having recently published his latest project, NIGHT PERSONS, she takes listeners back to a cherished period in her life that sparked her entire career.
She sat down with SPIN to talk about the inspiration behind this EP, the things she learned along the way, what it’s like to direct for some of the biggest names in music, and well Moreover. Flux NIGHT PERSONS here and dance the night away with her SET below.
PENNYWILD is a music producer / DJ and director / choreographer living in Los Angeles to New York – and she’s still figuring it out. I’m all for inclusiveness, pushing boundaries, creating your own success, and always being curious.
Tell us about your sound – where does your style come from and what have been your biggest visual, social and sound influences?
Some of my biggest sound influences include Paul Johnson, MikeQ, Nile Rogers, Masters at Work, Robyn, NVOY, Disclosure, Gorgon City, and Azealia Banks, among others. I have also been influenced in one way or another by the following creators from various disciplines – Stephen Sondheim, Hiro Murai, ATRAK, Parris Goebel, Tennyson, Grimes, Kendrick Lamar, Keone & Mari Madrid, etc.
Was there a turning point in your success? When did you realize the magnitude of your impact within the industry / community?
Because I discovered electronic music at an older age than I would have preferred, I didn’t have years of experience bringing the sounds I was hearing in my head to the DAW. Having practiced music theater exclusively until I was about 23, I didn’t really have any musical production skills. It forced me to approach things differently – in the way that was most accessible to me at the time in the settings of what I could do. I approached musical creation from a dancer’s point of view and conceptualization from a theatrical point of view. This resulted in some ‘atypical’ electronics projects, and although it was quite daunting at the time, I am now very grateful for my niche goal. Logistical borders have brought creative abundance.
You have just released the infectious NIGHT PERSONS, which is described as “a love letter to the underground”.
During my forties, I found myself strangely nostalgic for my “glory days” (aka 2016-2019, when I was exploring the queer / electronic music scenes in New York and LA). I caught myself watching a half-fleshed out project in Ableton, and all I wanted to do was add some crowd noise, random adlibs, and field recordings of sound clips from friends I had collected at the over the years. This clarified one thing: like most other people I knew, I missed dancing; I failed to go out. Frustrated by the lack of cohesion of the sounds I was playing with, I decided to start from scratch and capture some new chatter based on very specific prompts / concepts. I would “interview” friends on Zoom and ask them to role-play different stages of our shared evenings. This resulted in 3 GB of dynamic, interesting and hilarious liners from friends. I spent a lot of time rearranging them to make any kind of narrative sense, and the sound texture of NIGHT PEOPLE was born.
Which song from this EP do you feel most personally connected to?
I really like each track like it’s my first born, but I think I can favor “SIDE STREETS”. I’ve always wanted to find a way to honor the sacred ritual that connects the pre-game to the main event, because I love the organic camaraderie and excitement that anticipation brings. Whether it’s driving from Manhattan to Brooklyn or Orange County to Los Angeles, this time inside the car / Uber always makes me dizzy. I think “SIDE STREETS” sums up this experience well.
Tell us about a crucial learning moment when creating this EP.
Contrast = interest. If you don’t color your creation with a dichotomy of dynamics, there’s nothing to be surprised or titillated about. Opposition and change can be very effective.
You are a complete creative, being a dancer / choreographer who has choreographed for big stages and also a director who has partnered with Zedd & RL Grime on music videos – how have those perspectives bled into your work as a producer?
I think directing and producing have a lot in common. Ultimately, in both roles, you are a decision maker. These two titles allow you to create among a group of experts in their respective fields and to put everyone on the same page to present a singular vision. While the director’s “experts” are various creative specialists (choreographers, costume designers, HMUs), the music producer’s “experts” are instrumentalists (singers, pianists, the synthesis instruments of your DAW). The vision should be clear and morale should be grounded and positive. I like these roles because they are extremely collaborative.
In what ways have you pushed yourself beyond the existing self-imposed limits?
In 2015, I dropped out of college where I was feverishly studying musical theater, and moved to Los Angeles with the aspiration of becoming a musician. I had no formal training in music, but quite a training as an actor, singer and dancer. “Throwing away” all the skills I had worked so hard to acquire in the first 20 years of my life was a tough pill to swallow, but I knew that if I didn’t follow my newfound passion for music production I would ‘ I never forgive myself. Electronic music had drawn me in in a way that Broadway had all those years ago – so I knew it was the real deal. I remember receiving quite a bit of judgment from my peers back then: “What is she doing in LA?” “Does she want to be a DJ?” etc. Despite the questionable decision for some, I am grateful that I followed my heart and took the plunge.
What’s next for PENNYWILD?
I’ve spent the last few years working on conceptual / cohesive works (MIDI In Motion, NIGHT PEOPLE, etc.), so I’m really excited to release a number of standalone singles that aren’t attached to narrative works anymore. important. . 2022 is all about singles, and I’m really excited to have fun with their accompanied visuals / general rollout. I’ve never given myself permission to release music just for music, and now is the time! Additionally, I will be directing / choreographing video / visual clips for other artists whom I greatly admire which should spark some incredible collaboration. Stay tuned!
What do you wish for the future of electronic music? In what ways would you like to see it evolve?
Generally speaking, I would like to see more art on stage. I think the set / light designers, dancers, actors, visual artists, etc. are incredibly underused in those festival DJ sets on the main stage. It would be really exciting to see more immersive performances – sets that take you away from a true three-dimensional experience. I would love to see artists take more risks!
A final word for the SPIN verse?
Thank you, SPIN, for amplifying the voices of artists – especially the marginalized! Black lives matter; Trans lives matter.
Check out PENNYWILD’s electrifying SET below! Want more SETS? Head over to SPIN TV to follow all of the latest and greatest DJs / producers breaking into the electronic world.