Ian Maleney spoke with LA producer & Brainfeeder recording artist Tokimonsta about her recently released EP ‘Creature Dreams‘, her classical training in music, and why there are so few other female producers.
Jennifer Lee is a pretty unique figure. Combining old time soul grooves with cutting-edge electronica, the young producer has been honing her particular sound to wondrous effect over the past year or so. The inimitable style shown on her two releases from 2010 has earned her a place on Flying Lotus’ highly respected Brainfeeder label and the LA imprint has just released Lee’s newest work, another EP entitled Creature Dreams. The seven-song record is a masterpiece of lush, woozy romanticism, with every element contributing to the overall sugar-rush of blissed-out beats and soulful synthesizers.
The record marks a serious development in a short period of time, coming across as a real concentration of intent since last summer’s debut EP and album, Cosmic Intoxication and Midnight Menu. Creature Dreams is at once more cohesive and more open ended than its predecessors, capturing a particular moment in a young artist’s development. With talks of another full-length on the way at the tail-end of the year, Tokimonsta is a very busy woman, but she found the time to tell us a little about Creature Dreams and her plans for the future.
Can you tell me a little about the title of the new record?
I think I’m just a total nutcase late at night. There are a ton of pretentious write ups as to why I titled it “Creature Dreams.” To be honest, I thought of the name while listening to my EP and thought it sounded perfect. I’m not specifically sure why, but I stuck with it.
Creature Dreams seems too long for an EP, though maybe not long enough for an album. Was there any reason you chose to release it as it is? Instead of waiting to add a few more songs to it, for instance.
I think I needed people to hear it. Some of the other material I released right before it seemed dated and misrepresented where I am with my music. A lot of the other releases were created ages ago, but ended up being released more recently. Since the aesthetic of Creature Dreams is a big jump from my other work, I thought I should introduce the EP then later in the year do a full length.
Your sound seems very particular within the Brainfeeder oeuvre, do you think this is the case?
I think Brainfeeder as a crew and label strive to maintain a sense of individuality. In that sense, I feel as though my musical aesthetic sets me apart, but I believe that there is an approach and mentality we all share that ties us together.
How do you think your sound has developed over the past few years?
I believe my music has grown to become much more personal and more musical. There is no part of me that strives to create repetitive loops of beats, I find it dated.
Do you think being classically trained helps with the way you make music now? What kind of tools do you use now and do they require a different mindset for you to work with?
I think it’s always helped with how I make music. Well, in the beginning it helped and was also detrimental. When you are classically trained, you feel inclined to stay within the bounds of “music theory” and it boxes you in. At this point, I take the aspects of my training I value and leave the aspects that I find limit my musical perspective. Software and analogue sequencers definitely change my approach. Also, my synthesizers have a whole set of parameters that can change music and sound beyond notes on a piece of paper.
There seems to be very few female artists making the kind of music you’re making, or at least getting noticed for doing so. Do you think there’s any particular reason for that?
I get asked this quite often, but will never have a secure answer. I’d like to think that there a ton of women producers that are simply getting neglected, but the reality is that this is probably not true. There aren’t many females (in comparison to men) seriously pursuing this style of music. Perhaps the idea of approaching software and tech-based production is less intuitive and more daunting than what is required to create other styles of music, but that should be no excuse. On the bright side, there are more and more females entering this realm of music, I see it increasing.
Do you think your Asian heritage influences your sound at all?
I think it does in certain ways. Sometimes I make it more obvious (using Asian instruments or percussion), but sometimes my heritage just inspires me to create.
You’ve worked with Shaunise and Gavin Turek on your records, as well as Flying Lotus in a live environment, do you enjoy these collaborations and do you have anybody that you’d really like to work with in the future?
I love these collaborations, or else I wouldn’t have agreed to them. It’s amazing what other people can do with your music. In the future, I’d really love to work with more live instrumentalists and well as other vocalists. I shouldn’t say specifically who because it might very well happen and I’d want it to be a surprise.
Do you have a tour plan for the rest of the year? What could people, who haven’t seen one, expect from a Tokimonsta live show?
I will be touring Australia in July and will probably be back in East Asia / EU / UK as well. I would say they should expect some good tunes and some fun times.
Do you work a day job? How do you like to relax outside of music?
No day job (THANK GOD!). I usually cook, dine out, watch movies, play video games, sleep, pretty much anything typical to relax outside of music.