Making a name for one's self in the music business is a dream many have, but few achieve. For some reason or another, the stars just never seem to align. But for a very select few, they have all the right stuff to propel them to the top. Such is the case for LA native SOHMI, who's seen a rapid trajection from newcomer to releasing on the mighty Astralwerks in just months. Admittedly, we are a bit biased when it comes to artists from our home town, but SOHMI is, without a doubt, something special.
As a producer, singer, songwriter, and DJ, she elegantly combines her favorite genres into what she calls minimal pop techno. Think ZHU meets late-night warehouse vibes. Her latest record, 'Want U 2 Love Me' has just been released on Astralwerks, and so we found it only fitting to invite her to break the process down for the latest installment of How It Was Made.
Words by SOHMI
While I’d describe most of the music I make as ‘minimal’ and vocally-driven, with this record I wanted to push the vocal aspect further and write more of a song rather than a club track; like what would my take on a ‘dance/pop’ record sound like?
The song almost wrote itself within an hour or two, once I found a sound that I liked for the bassline. I used a native Ableton plugin called Chariots, and I messed around with the arp sequencing and other parameters like the attack and distortion until I got the tone sounding just right. I wanted something that felt dark and plucky at the same time, with enough body on the low end to really carry the song but some pretty resonances on the high end as well. To bring those resonances out and also create some moodiness (I call them ‘cave vibes’), I have the bassline track going through a reverb send.
After I wrote the bassline, I started adding in some minimal drum layers to capture a groove. I recorded them in manually using a Native Instruments S49 keyboard, which I use as my MIDI controller on all my tracks; being a pianist, I find it most natural to play all the parts in on something tactile like a keyboard, whether it’s the drums or a bassline or synth leads and chords. Initially, the drums were just meant to be placeholder “so I could have something to write the vocals over”, but they ended up staying in the song as the real thing. The way they come in sort of one layer at a time is basically me improvisationally writing them in that way in real-time, and I think because I approached them this way I was able to keep them super minimal but still effective. There are only 6 tracks total for the drums, sort of your bread and butter elements including a kick, claps, closed hat, and reverb-drenched snaps. The snaps are probably my favorite part of the drums because they immediately take me back to 90’s R&B, which I draw a lot of inspiration from (think of the snaps in Mariah Carey’s Honey, one of my favorite songs of all time).
After the bassline and drums, it’s really just the vocals carrying the rest of the song. I didn’t use any other synths or melodic elements, because I really wanted the vocal melody and lyrics to play against the bassline and also stand on their own. I layered four of my best takes together and messed around with reverb and delay automation on the different layers.
As far as the writing and recording process goes, I wrote, laid down, and recorded the entire vocal topline in less than 2 hours in my bedroom (where I make all my music) on the same $90 Samson condenser mic I’ve had for over 10 years. I’ve thought about upgrading my mic countless times - especially as a vocalist - but I feel like I just know how to sing so in the pocket at this point on this one that it’s hard to part ways! I’ve also recorded vocals for people like Claude VonStroke on this mic as well as vocals for my own upcoming releases on some exciting labels, so it’s a nice reminder that you don’t necessarily need the most expensive or state of the art equipment to make great music.
Want U 2 Love Me is available now on all major platforms.