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The Director's Cut: QRTR - Drenched

QRTR explains how she made her new album 'Drenched' and the trappings of viral fame.


Brooklyn-based electronic producer, DJ and cat mom, QRTR has released her debut full-length album Drenched on Dome Of Doom. The album title comes from the idea that waves and dance music have a lot in common. They both are built around repetition and can suck you in for hours. Her father was born in Puerto Rico and her mother was born and raised in Madeira, a Portuguese island off the coast of Morocco, so her connection to the water is felt in her bloodline. As she says in a press release, “to be drenched, you must allow yourself to submerge completely, while being careful not to be consumed."

While it is a good idea not to get consumed by the ocean, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to get drenched in this new album from QRTR. Drenched is melodic, refined and intricate with just the right amount of percussion to steer it along. We asked QRTR to break down the album for us in a new Director’s Cut feature.

Stream the album as you read the explanations for each track. Get a copy here.

1. I Gave Up

All of the track titles ended up changing on the album because I wanted the track list to read as a poem. This track was initially titled “Drenched,” which inspired the album name. I knew immediately after writing the beginning synth elements that I had realized the world I wanted the album to live in - melodic, yet driven by percussion and bass; deep, yet bright. My favorite kind of dance music takes you to an emotional place, then forces you to let go through movement. 

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I remember before I wrote the final bassline, laying on my studio floor and looking up at the ceiling for a half hour, watching the studio lights shift from blue to pink to red, trying to figure out why the song made me so sad. I was dwelling in the deep bits, and needed to find a way to keep the depth without wallowing in it. Then something clicked and I wrote the bassline, tweaking percussion to help settle it in. Once I couldn’t help myself from bobbing my head when the bassline hit, I knew the song was done and the album had a sonic and conceptual anchor. 

I wrote the majority of this song while juggling a 60-hour workweek at a day job I didn’t love. I had no time for friends or much of anything besides my music and I couldn’t see or feel anything except for the noise in my own head. All the tracks on the album are really close to me, but this one specifically feels like a window into how I felt this past year. Allowing myself to drown in thought, so that I might make something beautiful one day.

2. All Of My

I started working on this song in 2017 and made over a dozen versions before it evolved into what it is now. It was around that year that I started to develop an obsession with outer space. There’s this YouTube video of sounds captured by NASA spacecraft as it passes by Jupiter, vibrations of electromagnetic particles being slammed by solar winds. It was atmospheric and a bit haunting, but carried such beautiful harmonics and at the time, I was unknowingly trying to recreate those sounds in my music. While producing it, I programmed an Ableton effects rack that features a lot of reverb, grain delays and a guitar amp that I ran synths and samples through to design the track’s Jupiter-esque soundscape. I ended up using it on every song on the album. Despite having heard it hundreds of times, it still makes me feel like I’m in a space ship when I listen to it.

3. Little Pills (feat. Blake Skowron)

I started producing this track for a joke YouTube video tutorial and then I actually really liked it... I wrote this one loop that I could not stop jamming to, but was hitting a wall and refused to throw it in the infinite forever-WIP folder. Wylie Cable (head of Dome of Doom records) suggested I collaborate with someone on it and he put me in touch with Blake Skowron. It was honestly one of the smoothest collaborations ever. Blake added some more weight to the track and I riffed off of his additions to create this pretty little water-level bop.

4. And Still [Interlude]

Sometimes I’ll block out studio time and leave with a bunch of new track ideas. Other times, nothing comes out and I feel like I’m wasting time. I wrote this after spending hours in the studio, feeling completely uninspired and beating myself up for it. I started playing these notes on my synth, and I couldn’t stop. It was like I was in a trance, high off of the repetition. It felt like staring at ocean waves.

5. You Won’t Return (Nunca)

My mom is Portuguese and my dad is Puerto Rican so I grew up speaking three different languages and really wanted to bring that into the album somehow. Conceptually, I wanted the album to represent conflicting ideas - deep, yet bright; intense, but dreamy. This song is really explicit in its contradiction. The Portuguese lyrics translate to “I’ll never go there, I never wanted to go” and are followed by me covering some of my favorite lyrics from New Young Pony Club’s song, “Ice Cream” - “I can make you ice cream, we could be a sweet team.” I liked the idea of using a different language to create an opposing idea in a track. One part of me doesn’t want to risk it, and the other wants to risk it all. NYPC’s “Ice Cream” reminds me of driving my Dodge Neon through suburban streets with my high school crushes, music blaring. “You Won’t Return (Nunca)” is a song about nostalgia and my intimate and wary relationship to it.

6. My Calls

I somehow made this track at some point in 2017 and completely forgot about it. It underwent a huge transformation when I worked out the last half of the song and at that point, it felt like a good fit for the album. The rolling bassline reminds me of Marilyn Manson’s “Tainted Love” music video. I really can’t explain why, but I just think of those girls with the big bunny mascot heads on and then the breakdown happens around 2:30 and the song turns into something more sentimental. To me, this track embodies the feeling of being a performer. Prepping for the show, anxiety eating you alive and then you’re there and you just fucking rock it. The last half of the song is the part no one likes to talk about: the quiet ride home when no one is cheering for you anymore and you’re not sure what happens next.

7. My Bad (I See)

The lyrics in this track are “I see the road, and I don’t want to be here no more.” This track is about confronting yourself when you’ve been riding a wave too long and you know you need to make moves before it all comes crashing down on you. Of all the other tracks on the album, I really wanted to let this one breathe and build into a final crescendo. It feels like the perfect bookend to the first track. We go from synths dripping with reverb to the synths in this track, automated with low pass filters to create the feeling of swimming through waves, ears dipping beneath the water with each stroke. To me, it’s the part of the album where you can finally see the shore after having been submerged for so long.

8. A Sunday Morning Meditation (feat. ambientkitty)

The internet is such a weird place. I posted a video of my cat sitting on my Ableton push after I customized a patch that was actually meant to be used in “My Bad (I See).” I figured the video would be a hit, but absolutely did not think it would be seen 24.6 million times on people’s Twitter feeds. I remember opening for Tiga at Elsewhere’s rooftop in Brooklyn, finishing my set and checking my phone to see hundreds of notifications. It was complete madness. Strangers found my number; I was getting calls and texts from people asking me to sign contracts to license my dumb cat video.

I wanted to use the hype to my advantage, but I was too overwhelmed and muted all my notifications for a while. Because social media has been engineered to make us desire those satisfying little chirps when we get new notifications, we’re programmed to engage with and post the things that will make people notice us. We have metrics at our disposal that tell us how many people are noticing us and whether they “like” the things we care enough to post about. So by that logic, a lot of people may reasonably believe that “going viral” is an end game - the grass roots, public indication that you are worth being noticed.

I can let you know firsthand, as someone who didn’t even go viral for something embarrassing or horrible, it kind of sucks. Suddenly, hundreds of people either believe you are or want you to be just one thing - a niche content creator, not a human being and especially not an artist. It can be constricting when you are only using the internet as a means to an end and suddenly, you’re thrown a curveball. Honestly my ego aside, that video made so many people super happy. There were artists that I really look up to talking about my fluffy friend and the cool sounds that she made (through a patch I made!) It took some time, but eventually I took it as an opportunity to make more soothing sounds with my cat and hopefully make a bunch more people happy with my ambientkitty side project. I’ve always loved talking about the way we have evolved as people through social media and going viral was the ultimate case study for seeing how I’ve been impacted by it myself. 

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