Blisspop Disco Fest 2019 kicks off tonight at U Hall and 9:30, and the lineup is ace! Headliners like Chromeo, The Black Madonna and Jellybean Benitez will be joined by a variety local and/or upcoming acts, and overall, it sounds like a p. excellent excuse to dance your face off this weekend. Eau Claire (Rachel Wong) is one of the local legends on the bill, and she was kind enough to hop on the phone with me two days ago to talk a little bit about what we can expect from her set tonight. We also talked about how she got started in production, what it’s like to juggle life as a DJ and producer with a full-time job as a cancer nutritionist and getting ready for her upcoming wedding, what’s up next for her and more, so go ahead and internet-eavesdrop on our full conversation below, and be sure to catch her at U Hall tonight!
So how was your summer? You did a little bit of travel with the Goldroom High Seas Boat Tour, yeah?
Yeah! It was so fun. It’s been good to have some great connections and friends in this industry that have been really supportive of me on this journey. I’d never played on boats before, and this was two in a row. It was so fun! I almost had an opportunity to do one in DC this summer, but it was a little last minute, so I think we’ll try to work on something for next year.
Yeah, I had so much fun. Just being able to play the kind of music I like, chiller but still upbeat and fun, uptempo…it definitely works well with the boat parties, so I definitely want to keep doing that.
Absolutely! Now, how did you actually get into all this? I know you’ve been on the scene for a while, but what was the sort of light bulb moment of, “Oh, this is what I want to do!”
So it was many years ago now at this point, but I was always musically inclined because I grew up playing classical piano. I started playing piano when I was four, and then I pretty much took lessons (and even taught piano) throughout high school. When I went off to college, I kind of put music aside a little bit and didn’t continue to take lessons. But I’ve always tapped into the knowledge of music theory and how to play piano; those were things I had in the back of my mind. I didn’t know what I wanted to do career-wise, and coming from an Asian household, my mom was really, really adamant that I did something that made good money so I wasn’t scrounging around in the streets. Obviously being a musician wasn’t high up on that list, so I found a position that I actually really love as well, but long story short, after a few years of working, I was actually going through a breakup, and instead of going through the normal breakup sulking, I found a lot of inspiration from a movie I watched called Pitch Perfect. You may be familiar?
And I’d realized that like, “Okay, this girl in this movie (Anna Kendrick) used software to DJ…wait…can I just figure out what software she’s using?” From that, I kind of spiraled into DJ’ing, but then I really actually wanted to move more into music production, and that’s how I found out about Ableton. And that was like $500, so I was sort of like, “Do I want to pay that much money?” But you can get a free demo, so I downloaded that and messed around with it for a little bit, and I was like, “This is awesome.” So I ended up jumping in and buying it, and every day after work I’d come home and mess around and make sounds. It made me feel so good to be creative, to come up with something from scratch, from nothing, and to create a sound that people enjoy. From there, I pretty much continued writing music. Goldroom was one of the first artists I’d listened to when I started to get into music, and look at me seven years later, having the chance to play with him and going on boat tours in addition to doing my own thing, too. So that’s how I got into it; I naturally had the background, but I realized I could teach myself and learn on my own. I never needed to go to a school to learn how to produce, and I honestly think that to be able to create and produce on your own, learning it yourself is one of the best ways to do it.
Totally. And you must be SO BUSY. ALL THE TIME. In addition to this, you’re a cancer nutritionist, right?
Yeah, still doing that full time. I’ve also been especially busy since I’m getting ready for my wedding. But I think it’s just about time management; as I continue doing all these different things, I just need to set aside time. And honestly, it has been a challenge of mine for the last year, but it’s never been that I’ve ever wanted to stop doing music. I don’t want music to be stressful, or something I’m trying to live off, because otherwise it wouldn’t be as enjoyable. Sometimes there are going to be ups and downs, but people do need a creative break. Making time, and allowing myself to be focused when I do set aside that time to do quality production. Especially when time is limited.
Right. Now, you’ve been in the DC scene for a while now. I grew up in Northern Virginia, and I actually got started with BYT a decade ago, but I moved to Brooklyn in like 2011, so while I remember going to Fatback parties and all that, I’ve been a little out of the loop for a while. What’s your take on the evolution of the scene down there?
So in the time that I’ve been here, U Hall is one of the places I started in and is one of the places I’m always kind of continually supporting. But I’ve also seen the influx of different kinds of music, and that’s been really awesome to see. And U Hall and Will Eastman really trying to emphasize the disco events…Will has always been about disco, and it’s been really cool to see him support me, for one thing, but also artists who are really great producers of disco music and even house-influenced disco music. It’s really cool to see that on our scene as a mainstay. Different styles can come from that, but it all comes back to disco. I think it’s really great to see that we’re bringing in new artists as well, like for Blisspop Fest they’re bringing in Gilligan Moss, Crush Club from New York…it’s just really nice to be able to branch out. It’s also nice that our cities are close together to be able to offer that.
Yeah! And the lineup is like, pretty incredible. Solid female representation as well! This might be the annoying/mundane question to ask, but have you noticed an influx of visible women in the production world in recent years? Because I feel like I have, but maybe I’m imagining this? Like obviously I know women have been on the scene for a long, long time, but I personally feel like I’ve noticed a boom in the last four or five years. Do you feel it’s become more prominent?
I do! At least I’m more aware of it, anyway. Even in DC, I’d love to see more female producers and DJs on the scene. I think New York is definitely growing. I love going to New York, too; the scene is amazing. But I’m honored to be part of that in DC, and I’ve had women come to me as artists and DJs to ask about production tips, so I want to be able to provide that.
I think it’s so great. And just seeing so much more representation on lineups is amazing. Now, what can we expect from you going into this Blisspop weekend? Anything you can share?
Definitely nu-disco, but also house-influenced disco as well. And I’m really excited to share a new single that I’ve really been working hard on where I use my own vocals. I’ve really challenged myself with that, because it’s not an easy area for me. I’ve been making it a goal of mine to make more music that’s completely on my own, where I’m singing and producing from scratch, writing my own lyrics. I’ve been working on this song for a while, but I’m really happy where I am with it right now, and I want to test it out again this weekend to see how it goes, get it ready for release. And then of course after the wedding things will be easier, and I’ll have more time to dedicate to working on an EP and creating some more singles.