kelly sylvia

It seems that everywhere I look these days I see something that has to do with female DJs or female producers in the electronic music industry. Females in the music industry have always been a point of interest (or lack thereof) but, recently, something is certainly in the air! As a female artist, I find the industry to be scarce in the female role model department. One must really go through with a fine tooth comb to find them but, they are out there. You just have to dig a little deeper to find them.

I’ve had my eye on a few females in the electronic music circuit for quite sometime now. Kelly Sylvia (soundcloud, twitter) is one of them. She’s been causing all sorts of commotion lately with her sophomore EP release, Musae. Co-founder of She-Jay, a forum and collective for female DJs and artists to unite, Kelly has also had quite a DJ career rocking dance floors from all corners of the globe. She has taken her career to the next level by starting her very own imprint, S*mplified Recordings. This lady has been busy and she was kind enough to catch up with me and dish on what she’s been up to.

So, the last time I ran into you was literally in the Shore Club bathroom in Miami during the Buzzin’ Fly party, three years ago!! LOL! I remember you mentioned that you weren’t really getting over to the States much. So, what HAVE you been up to?

I’ve been in hiding for a little while… locked up in the studio focusing on my productions.

I understand that you are a New Englander transplanted in the UK. London to be exact. What brought you across the pond? How long have you been living in London?

This year will make 11 years in London. I’m actually now a dual British-American citizen. Guess you could say I’m culturally schizophrenic – an east coaster in my soul but a Londoner in spirit.

I mentioned to you a while back that I had a growing love affair with London. I didn’t quite like it much the first time I went. After several times, I just fell in love with the city. I spent a lot of time there in my early to mid 20’s. The nightlife was just amazing! London became one of my favorite cities to go out in. How would you describe the electronic music scene there now? What has been your favorite night or day out in London? What has been the best place that you have ever played?

The scene is in London is always moving and changing. It’s a reflection of the transience of the city. Right now, things are going back underground. A lot of super clubs have closed or their popularity has decreased in recent years. People are interested more in live performance. But it’s not a dead scene by any means… it’s just going into smaller, more underground and “trendy” venues and it’s a bit more gritty and more, younger producers and DJs are sprouting up. This is better because it’s being stripped right down to the music again, it’s less about the party or being seen as it has been in the past.

My favourite night for a while was Need2Soul and Secret Sundaze, best place I’ve DJ’d is Fabric.

I’ve had my eye on your career for quite sometime now. I remember the days you were going by the DJ alias Kellilicious rocking dancefloors worldwide for SheJay. What’s been happening on the SheJay end of things?

We’re going through a bit of a structural change at the moment. A lot has changed over the years with regard to our industry: music & female DJs; and also with us (the founders) on a personal level, with family bereavements for both me and Mona… We needed to take time out to heal and now reset. We’re gearing towards a little revamp to reflect how we’ve grown and changed both as a brand and how our members have as well. The site is still going strong as ever with members joining every day and the bookings as well are steady as always… but we hope this little refresh will take things in a slightly different direction. This will be happening in the coming months….watch the usual space.

Name your most memorable moment DJing.

There are many that I have but my favourites were probably DJing to 3,000 people at sunrise Croatia and DJing in the Far East of Russia, where the crowd were just so into the music. The energy was intense.

Your new EP Musae is truly outstanding! Very techie compared to your first EP The Rain. I’ve enjoyed both of your releases. Musae seems to have really put you on the radar with support from industry heavyweights. Very happy to see that! It’s very inspiring for other female artists aspiring to produce music. I understand you sing as well. Are those your vocals on the track? 🙂

Yeah those are my vocals. Wouldn’t call it singing but I just wanted to experiment a bit with my own vocals. When making your own tracks it’s so hard to split into two heads : producer and vocalist, so I’m kind of taking baby steps with that. This EP is definitely a bit on the techier side. I’m really not into genre tagging or being pigeon holed, I go with what I feel … and just kind of hope that people can detect the common thread in what I do that and they can say yeah that’s “her sound”…. whatever that may be!

You’ve always been an advocate of supporting female talent (i.e. SheJay). What is your perspective on being a female artist/DJ in such a male dominated industry? Have you found it to be harder or easier being a female trying to establish yourself? Any advice you’d like to give to any aspiring females out there trying to get in the game?

This is the age old question, I can’t really say if it’s harder or easier. It’s just all down to personal experience I guess. The whole reason Shejay was started was just to give girls a feeling of solidarity for going into this type of industry since back then it was more male dominated. It was never intended as a men vs women thing at all. Shejay just gave these women a place to meet other females doing the same thing and establish as sort of sisterhood. I guess it’s a bit similar to the way girls all go to the bathroom together (lame comparison, but you get what I mean). We tend to just like to hang out together …

There are more and more women doing their thing these days and I’m proud to have watched a lot of these girls blossom from early on in their careers. We all have supportive male counterparts that we work or DJ alongside and in my personal experience, I’ve always had support and respect from men and women alike. I would say for those girls just starting out, just to believe in what you do, work hard and follow your instinct the whole way and it will all pay off.

The female energy seems to be in full swing right now. Lots of great talent emerging and making their way into the spotlight recently. Quite a hot topic as of late. Have your eye on any ladies that have you turning your “knobs” so to speak?

Yeah there are so many girls that have been out their doing their thing across a spectrum of music who deserve a shout. It’s hard to name them all but a fair representation of both up and coming and established and prolific names are: Nomi, Kim Ann Foxman, Julietta, Monika Kruse, Steffi, LaFleur, Maya Jane Coles, NERVO, Simonne Jones… I could go on for a while….

I understand that you have started your own label called S*mplified Recordings. I have been observing a fair share of artists starting there own labels as opposed to getting signed with existing labels. Please indulge us with the manifestation of S*mplified and your motivation for starting your own label.

I started the label to give me the freedom of releasing my own stuff, like most other producers. As I’m still new to producing, I didn’t want to be stifled by worrying about who I should be pleasing in order to release my music, and I didn’t want the pressure of working to someone else’s schedules or preferences. It also gives me the opportunity to work with other people of my choosing and to find and work with new talent more easily. I’m sure I will release stuff elsewhere at some point, but for the moment I enjoy being creatively independent.

What are you currently listening to in your Ipod?

Lots of different stuff. … Bat For Lashes, Hercules and Love Affair, Adele, Janelle Monnae, Esthero, Lykki Li, Jose Gonzales, Feist, Oh Land, James Blake.

Who or what has been your biggest influence in your life and in music?

My brother and my Dad. My Dad for encouraging my creativity and believing in my abilities. My brother for giving me a discerning ear by teaching me how to seek out music that’s emotive and not just obvious – to focus on intelligent rhythms, lyrics and not just settle for catchy-ness without substance. He taught me that good music is good music no matter what genre. Those are the best gifts I could have been given.

And, I always have to ask… Overseas music vs. Stateside music? What is your perspective being an American living abroad?

That’s like apples vs oranges. It’s really hard to say. There is more and more music being exposed from every corner of the world – thanks to the whole digital “revolution” – more great stuff is seeing the light of day. I have to say there is a different sensibility with European music that I feel comes from having a lot of neighbouring cultural influences and with that breeds some real original, fused and intelligent stuff. On the other hand, there is a lot of honed talent in the US and a lot of competition and a need for progression which elicits fantastic output from so many different artists. Every place has its own thing going on, one just as good as the other.

Interview by Erica Baran