Interview: PENNYWILD’s Love Letter to the Underground

When it comes to PENNYWILD, the sky is her limit. Between directing music videos for Zedd and RL Grime, commanding decks at globally-renowned festivals such as Coachella, and continuously refining the motion of dance, this artist is rapidly paving her way through the world of entertainment. Following her debut EP “MIDI In Motion” that was released last year, PENNYWILD is ready to unveil the next chapter.

We virtually sat down with the producer and dissected her soon-to-be-released sophomore “NIGHT PEOPLE” EP. Let us tell you, this truly is a love letter to the underground.

Pennywild
Via PENNYWILD

Hey! How are you?

I’m good! How are you?

I’m well. I apologize in advance because I just got back from Lollapalooza and my voice is gone haha.

Mine is too! But just because I’ve been out here in New York. I’m nearing the end of my trip; I’ve been here for about seven weeks.

How is it over there with COVID?

I think Los Angeles is a little more locked down from what I understand. Compared to here! But I still try and wear my mask as much as possible. It hasn’t been too bad.

I’m trying to coordinate a trip there in late August. Do you have any tips for maneuvering around the city? I’ve actually never been before, but I know I’ll be running around all over the place. I have some friends in the Upper East side and I’m trying to coordinate things in Brooklyn with my artist friends Supertaste.

Oh my gosh! Well you’re in for a treat. The Upper East side is a bit away from Brooklyn, but it’s super easy to get around on the train. Ubers and Lyfts are pretty expensive right now too so I’d suggest familiarizing yourself with the train system!

Noted, thank you! I am so happy to have this opportunity to chat with you. I loosely social media stalked (haha) and have read through the press releases… I am a huge fan of all your projects and everything that you’ve executed.

Thank you so much. That is so sweet!

Listen to her debut “Midi In Motion” EP below!

Of course. So how did you get started in dancing and what made you want to transition into music?

I started dancing at a super early age. My sister was a competitive dancer and I always wanted to do whatever she was doing. She has always been my role model. I enrolled into the dance courses and eventually it took over my entire life. It started with three classes a week and after a year, you find yourself dancing over 20 hours a week. I loved it so much that I didn’t mind the fact that it was taking up a lot of my time, some trips with my family… it was all encompassing. The dance studio had more of a theater approach since it was so close to Broadway. With that, it wasn’t just dancing. They had singing lessons and theater lessons. I quickly became interested in musicals so started pursuing those in the 6th or 7th grade. I began auditioning, got my first job with ‘The National Tour of West Side Story.” I did that for a while. After getting back to New York, I wanted to continue refining my skills in dance and along the way picked up music. I shifted my focus toward Electronic Dance Music in 2013, but didn’t make the move to LA until 2016. I had to really spend time saving money, learning music, and practicing it. I haven’t looked back since!

You know… I love how you took that leap to LA. It sounds like growing up,  dance was all that you knew. Then you found a new passion and you didn’t let the idea of something new intimate you. Did you have any mentors or artist friends help you learn the ropes of producing music? I’ve tried dabbling with music and it’s hard!

It is really difficult learning the ropes of everything. They say that learning music from scratch is similar to learning a completely different language. I didn’t necessarily have any artists friends. I was very new to the industry so I was kind of wavering through the field on my own, but I did take a class. It was at a school called Dubspot. It was a three-month course on how to produce music. It was an actual class too! You’d walk in with a pencil and notepad. From there, I understand all of the hardware, signal flow, and music 101. I don’t think I could have successfully produced music without gaining knowledge on that formal base of music.

That reminds me of a class that I took in college… I went into it thinking that I was going to absorb so much knowledge on the foundation of music and production. It was not at all like that haha. I’m so glad yours wasn’t anything like mine haha. So moving forward with music, during this entire process, what factors or artists helped you pinpoint your style?

I think my initial access point was Disclosure. An “ah-ha” moment for me was listening to “Latch” by them and Sam Smith. I was on the show “So You Think You Can Dance”… we were in Vegas and I remember listening to it and relating to it so much. This make it or break it moment. That’s when I became linked to House music.

I love that. So that is clearly a staple song in your career then. So ironically, as I’m interviewing you I’m going to admit, I suck at communicating. I am that person who depends on a song to detail how I feel. I think I’m like that because I’m very music-oriented. With you being a music producer and dancer, do you express yourself better through one outlet over the other?

I definitely feel like I use music to communicate. There is kind of this stigma with dancers… like they’re bad communicators which I get. It is beautiful though that both are a universal language. West Side Story is a great example of this. We travelled to places where the primary language isn’t English, but the show is in English. It proves the point though that people can very much communicate just off movement.

I know you have your “Night People” EP being released. This is your sophomore EP. For fans, what can they expect with this versus your debut last year?

They’re both conceptual pieces. They can exist out of context, but they’re meant to be consumed in order, in a specific way. In the first EP, all of the songs had the common theme… movement creates music rather than music creates movement. That was the thesis statement for “MIDI In Motion”. With this piece, this is more intentional. More forward-facing and a narrative piece. The story is about friends who go out and face all these bumps along the way like getting an Uber, having the wrong address to the afterparty, all of that. These are things that actually happen with me and my friends in both New York and LA. But I wanted to release this in a time where we weren’t necessarily able to go out. I want this new EP to be a solid representation of what life was like. Livelihood wise. It’s a chapter. After these will be a few one-off singles, more festival-like. For my first two projects, I wanted to build a base for fans. I want to show listeners that these are really thought-through, conceptualized. I put a lot of effort into making these.

Pennywild
Via PENNYWILD 

I think the timeline of these are perfect and the structure for building your career is perfect. Build your fan base with these two EPs. Find that intimate group, your day ones, then move forward to bigger, broader audiences. Everyone loves being the first to find someone new, but most importantly different and authentic.

Definitely. You know, I could have also gone the other route like single, single, and another single. But at the time, I didn’t have the passion for that. I wanted a message. I wouldn’t know how to start an EP without a solid message behind it.

I am so excited to hear the entire project. I know you just released “SIDE STREETS”

Yes, “SIDE STREETS” is the first single. That came out Friday. There is another single being released in late August followed by the full EP in September.

Is it safe to assume that you’ll be hands-on with any choreography that may be present in any of the EP’s visuals?

Yes! Well right now we have a print visual. I spent weeks running around LA in a 1966 Mustang Convertible. It takes you through all the events of the EP. That will be released soon too.

You have had so many awesome milestones and hit so many awesome marks like Lollapalooza and Coachella. You directed videos for Zedd and RL Grime… what would you say was a real homerun moment for you?

I think it acts more as a cumulative event. Waking up and realizing the connections I’ve made, this is my schedule now, this is where I wanted to be. I didn’t think at Coachella like this is the moment. I made it. It’s more so now my schedule is filled with things that I actually want to do. My day is quite creative. Really I could of had that “ah-ha” moment just sitting at my desk a few weeks ago instead of at Coachella or onset for Zedd. I do have to say though that was a very exciting moment particularly.

To bring things to a close, what is some advice for those looking for a career change? Someone who grew up knowing one thing, but is looking to pivot into another?

I would say, don’t be stuck on doing one thing. With the nature of education, they pound you on having to stick with one thing your entire life when that isn’t the case. People change all the time. Same idea with people who get married young. People change and aren’t the same 10 years later. That is okay. I think that I was set on doing the same thing my entire life so when I wanted to change, there was that eternal battle. Am I dropping everything that I worked so hard for? If I let the hesitancy in, I wouldn’t have gotten it together as quickly as I did. It’s not good being stuck in one thing. Be open to new experiences.

Press play on “SIDE STREETS” down here!

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