I was lucky enough to run into Sara during Miami Music Week - pounding away to thumping techno at 6AM with a smile on her face ear-to-ear. Take a listen to the EP above while you read this article. Ms. Landry's perspective and dedication to her craft are clear, and the warm, round, uplifting sounds contained within are right at home in the mau5trap styling.
As a true believer and propagator of the genre, Sara is here to get shit done - we're looking forward to seeing her sound and career evolve.
To get us started, where are you from? What was the early life of Sara Landry like?
I’m one of those people that’s from a lot of places. I was born outside of San Francisco, CA, then moved to Boulder, CO when I was three and spent my childhood there. After my parents got divorced, my mom moved my brother and I to Austin, TX, where I went to middle school and high school. I moved to NYC at 17 to start school at NYU and then moved back to Austin (where I currently live) to take a job when I was 22. I credit NYC and my experiences there with shaping me as a person and allowing me to discover what I want out of life, but most of my growth as a musical artist has happened in Austin, since that’s where I’ve lived for the last few years while I’ve been building my career.
What has the last six months been like in the life of Sara Landry, as a person and as an artist?
I’ve been busy playing shows, writing music, and doing a lot of self-work growing my spiritual practices. I’m still early on in my career so things aren’t super glamorous right now; I’m not currently on a world tour, but I know I will be traveling more soon so I’m making the most of this time by making as much music as I can.
My life is a lot of sitting in my studio for 5+ hours a day (longer on weekends) writing tracks and working to get my tracks where I want them from an engineering standpoint so that I can shop them to my dream labels and sign more music. I do all my own engineering and mastering, and I’ve been working on those skills a lot (techno is all engineering and space design) which involves focusing intently on the minutiae. It’s been like this for the last 18 months or so. I’m also working on my merch and looking for management and an agent, so I’ve spent a chunk of time figuring out all those business details as well. I know that a lot of people are hoping for a more glamorous answer, but this is the reality for a lot of artists that are working on getting their name out there; every release is the product of years of work behind the scenes that the fans often don’t witness.
The other thing that’s helped a lot in the last 6 months is the growth of my spiritual practices, which are rooted in meditation, sound healing, and other such activities. I’ve been working on building my ability to stay grounded/rooted in the self regardless of what is happening around me, which has had massively positive impacts on my mental and emotional health. As such, my life has been kind of “boring,” but I’m grateful for all the progress I’ve made and proud of my work product and the strides I’ve been able to make because my attention has been so focused on growth.
What is the role that techno and music has had on your life? What’s your earliest memory of deeply connecting with electronic music?
I love this question! Music has always deeply comforted me and provided an escape from the stressors and mundanities of reality. I’ve always been incredibly musical; my ear and I just understand and feel music, even without classical musical training. I would go so far as to say that music taught me how to feel; it’s always been my primary way of connecting with other people and sharing feelings, and it has irrefutably shaped my growth and development as a person.
I’ve been deeply connected to music in general for my entire life, but my early tastes were filtered through the lens of what was around me (CDs I’d pick up at the bookstore, what my parents listened to, etc.). It wasn’t until I got a computer (and Limewire, let’s be real) when I was 12 that I was really able to dive in more deeply. I started going to concerts when I was 14 and saw a lot of musical acts like Ghostland Observatory, Bassnectar, Rebelution, and STS9, but it was the first time I saw deadmau5 when I was 16 that really dropkicked me into house and trance.
I connected deeply with deadmau5’s music more than anything else at the time; Random Album Title and For Lack of a Better Name ("Strobe" in particular) were the score of my mid to late teen years, and I credit Joel with being one of the first people to captivate me and turn on my ears (though we’ve never met so he doesn’t know this). His music was the first music I heard that wormed its way into my brain like that. I had listened to tracks off those albums hundreds of times by the time I graduated high school and I still have so many experiences and memories attached to them. From there my tastes continued to evolve until I found techno, which moves my body in soul in a similar, yet completely different way. I am completely obsessed with it and can’t get enough.
What was the first moment you realized you wanted to take music/production seriously?
I had tried to learn to produce in Reason 5 when I was 16 and heavily into my UK dubstep phase, but it never really stuck at that point. My freshman year of college I started going to a lot of shows in NYC and writing for a friend’s blog. Then I moved into the club scene in NY as both a patron and a promoter. I was there so much that I made friends with some of the resident DJs and was allowed into the booth to watch them spin. One day I was like “I can do this” and bought my first controller to learn to beat match on. About a year after I started DJing I told a friend of mine that I wanted to do this full time and he told me I needed to produce, so I started learning in Logic.
I was frustrated for about a year, and then I switched to Ableton Live in 2016 and completely fell in love with it. Producing is the perfect activity for me and my ADHD brain. I love that music production combines musical ability with sound physics and programming, and that there’s ALWAYS more to learn, regardless of how much you think you know. Plus, my natural skillsets have always been tailored to things that combine math and creativity, so it was just a fit for me. I don’t know who I would be without my daily practice of writing music; it is one of the few things that brings me joy.
How did mau5trap find you, and what’s your experience with the label been so far?
I had met a bunch of the mau5trap artists at a party in Austin during SXSW in 2018. I hit it off with Monstergetdown and he ended up taking some of my music back to Mario (the label manager) at mau5trap, who reached out to connect with me and hear more of what I was working on. Mario stayed in touch and then he reached out the day before I left for Burning Man last August asking if I had a track for the compilation (We Are Friends 008), and I sent him a weird deep techno track I had been sitting on for a while ("Bird Ghost," a collaboration with 6058). After "Bird Ghost" came out, they signed the Wait EP and here we are.
It’s been cool! The coolest thing so far has been the artist community that we have at the label. I have a ton of new producer nerd friends that I can chat with on twitter/discord/reddit and it makes me feel like I am a part of a community. It’s a nice feeling, especially given how much time I spend alone working on music. I’m super grateful for all the new friends I’ve made and fans I’ve gained since signing to the label.
You were running around and hustling HARD at WMC/UMF/MMW - any favorite moments from that weekend?
Hahaha! Yes! I was very busy in Miami that weekend. It was my first WMC/UMF/MMW so I really wanted to make the most of it and soak in the entire experience (especially since it seems that Ultra will be moving out of Miami next year). I had a lot of fun supporting my friends and hanging out with them, but the moments that stand out most for me were the experiences I had at label parties. I connected with some awesome artists at both the Octopus and Suara parties and it was really nice to dance and nerd out a bit.
The Drumcode party at Space really stands out to me because the music was incredible and I had the most fun I’ve ever had at a show. It was awesome to attend my first Drumcode event and soak in the talent and the energy that Adam cultivates. It really deepened my interest in their roster and label and I found myself very inspired when I returned home to my studio.
Today is the day of your first multitrack EP - what do you want people to feel when they hear your music?
This is my first cohesive release that clearly demonstrates my musical style, so I’m very excited to be sharing this with the world and my fans. The EP means a lot to me, since it is the crystallization of years of learning and hard work. Overall, the EP is lighter for me - it’s got a little more melody and I intended it to be more uplifting.
I wrote these tracks when I was on my way out of my worst depressive phase in recent memory (my depression waxes and wanes), so they come from a hopeful place. My newer stuff (my next EP that I’m about to start shopping) is darker than the Wait EP and is focused more on surprising the listener and wrapping them in unexpected body feelings, so I can’t wait to finally have that signed and released as well.
I never really have a specific intent for what I want people to feel; I know that music affects different people in different ways, so I like to give the listener space to feel whatever comes up for them. I feel like I’ve done my job if my music provokes an emotional response of any sort. It’s interesting though, because sometimes I’ll get feedback from fans where they’ll pick up on something I thought was hidden or describe something in a way that captures my feelings without me saying anything. Those are always cool moments for me, because it reinforces my belief that music is a universal language that we all speak that unites us. All in all, these tracks come from a personal place for me, so any time anyone tells me that they’ve really connected with something I get all warm and fuzzy inside.
What is your creative process, and where have you found inspiration for this release?
Usually, I sit down to start a new track and pick a key and build the drums in a new Ableton project. Then I’ll turn to my Sub 37 and my Push 2 and my VST synths and do a sound design session where I work out some layers and melodic lines over the drum groove I’ve created. Then I’ll take all that material and arrange it, removing what I don’t need and adding additional elements or sounds as I see fit. If I’m going to add a vocal, the lyrics will usually show up in my head out of nowhere, and I’ll process them and add them. Once the track flows nicely, I’ll take a break and come back later to mix everything down and then master it.
I find a lot of inspiration from my experiences and nature. If I’m feeling stuck, I’ll take a walk and see what comes up. I know for Wait I had been super inspired by a vocal chop that said the word “wait” so I put that in as a placeholder and later went back and recorded my own original vocal that included me riffing on that word. It’s almost hard to describe a specific inspiration since all of my musical impulses come from deep within me and I try not to reference other artists’ work (aside from mixdown referencing) since I don’t want to copy anyone else. I just get ideas in my creative flow state and go from there!
Any specific games or pieces of media that stood out in your formative years?
I wasn’t able to make a ton of progress on gaming since my younger brother took the PS2 and the XBOX hostage shortly after they were given to us. I did log a little bit of time with Halo 2 (still a gorgeous game with incredible scoring), and I had an early love for Guitar Hero and used to crush it at "One" by Metallica, but that was another game that I never had 24-hour access to.
My musical journey started on the computer more than anything else, but I was very much into classical music as a child and was always very moved by modern composers like Hans Zimmer. It’s been incredible to see how the gaming industry has grown, and I would do sound design for a game in a heartbeat. That sounds like it could be super fun.
You mentioned when we first met that you’re deep into internet culture - how has that helped mould you, and this release?
Love this question! The internet in general has had such a massive effect on me and my generation. Growing up with the internet allowed me to cultivate an auto-didactical set of skills in that I got used to doing research to answer my own questions and learn new things. Everything I have ever learned I taught myself, so I’m not surprised that I was able to self-teach a lot of my musical and engineering skills to build on the foundation provided to me by a few mentors.
The internet is interesting because it has created a culture that isn’t rooted in in-person interaction; a lot of what is understood and disseminated is understood by people who have never actually met, but have bonded through a shared interest over the internet and cultivated a relationship based on that shared interest. Internet culture is great for me, as an introvert, because I can interact and engage from the comfort and safety of my own home. I personally use memes and humor to make friends, so the explosion of meme culture has helped me a lot. I’m also active on reddit and the music/engineering forums on reddit, from which I have learned and grown a lot. The best thing about the internet is that is has allowed me to connect with friends that are far away (like a lot of the mau5trap homies) and exchange ideas with them. That sort of feedback and support has been incredibly helpful to me as I’ve grown as an artist.
Hit us with some closing thoughts.
Big shout out to mau5trap for giving me a platform for this release. Other big shout outs to industry friends I’ve worked with over the years—collaboration helps a lot and I am grateful for you all for coming and sharing space and rocking out with me in studio.
Big shout out to Claudius for being the first person to tell me that I could 100% do this if I put my mind to it, and to Francis Preve for mentoring me and providing a solid sound design foundation. Another shout out to the Austin community (Yorkie!!) that has supported me from the beginning.
For more Sara Landry, check out her soundcloud and website.