Olivia Meek is a Canadian producer who, perhaps contrary to your preconceived notions, has been steadily releasing music since the beginning of this decade. With her Regularfantasy project, Meek has been dialing in a potent blend of hypnagogic vocal house for years, even if she has only just begun to acquire the kind of wider support and gigging opportunities that, in this industry, are often reserved for each week’s “hot new thing”.
Though opportunities have indeed seemed to follow her in the wake of 2018’s Sublets and Sunsets, Meek has stayed true to a signature style since at least 2013’s Slow Release—a release born of a time when many now-dormant 100% Silk artists were receiving more acclaim for similarly flavored work.
Her recent work, like the rest of her catalog, shows a fluidity of approach often present in the work of close friend D. Tiffany, but her singing is what really separates her from her peers—in a “genre” often geared toward texture and vibe, Meek has continued to frequently deploy her voice as the focal point of her idiosyncratic sound. Meek spoke with us about her evolving approach to track-craft, her relationship with VST’s, and the creative value of rice cakes in a frank, sincere interview featured below.
You’ve been putting out music for the better part of a decade—how has your approach to making music changed since you started out?
When I first started making music, I came at it from a song writing perspective – the structure and lyrics and so forth. Now it’s kind of a free-for-all, I think I have internalized the song structure method and I feel the vibe. Overall, one may notice that my songs have a lot of parts that don’t need to be there, but that’s just life and life is insane. I also collaborate with a lot more people now, which changes the flow, you end up picking up on someone else’s process. In the early days, I used an MPC2000XL. The sample time was very limited, and also all my samples I have to record into the machine. My setup was limited with the gear I had. I used a lot of samples that I made with only a few minutes of sample time so that affected my sound. Now I have lots of sample time with the MPC1000 and software. I find it a lot easier to organize parts on the MPC, otherwise I get too carried away. My best process is still based around finding samples and then working with that, but I’m trying to discover new methods that don’t make me feel overwhelmed.
What’s your recording setup right now?
My recording set-up is at home right now. I’ve got a small audio interface connected to Ableton, mainly for recording multi-tracked audio. Currently in the studio I have the Akai MPC1000, Mutable Instruments Shruthi, MicroKorg, Roland Juno 106, Roland JP8080, and Waldorf Blofeld, and a microphone. I have more drum machines, but I’ve mostly sampled them so I put them away.
I route whichever synths I’m using on their own audio channels. In the olden days I would record just stereo tracks with the whole (synth) family, which would be uneditable, so this is much better. I usually try to separate out the drums, so I can adjust the levels. In Ableton I can edit the separate tracks and take out some parts, but still when using the MPC it’s hard to do that. If I’m not using the MPC I will write MIDI in Ableton, send it to the synths, record it back into Ableton and use the recordings to build up a song. I have spent a long time collecting synths and using them, so it helps with the flow rather than going full digital (which I am not opposed to). I just bought some VSTs (I know, I should have pirated them), and, with a wave of regret, I was like “Wow… seven synths and takes up no space in my room! What have I been doing this whole time?”
How did you prepare this Bolting Bits mix? How is preparing something like this different from preparing for a live gig?
It’s kind of like making a mix CD, I chose the tracks and then arrange them and calculate how long it will be. I think mixes can be a place to explore different vibes than on the dancefloor, I usually like to imagine some laundry and house cleaning. With mixes there’s time for epic breakdowns and weirder music. When I prepare for DJ sets I like to have more track options (for improvising, obviously), and it’s a little more turnt up. There are some songs in my collection that are dancefloor only. I don’t find it very practical to DJ a party with a full playlist in mind because it’s a conversation with the dancefloor, but with a mix, you can prepare more in that sense, and have full control of where you want to go.
What’s the best feedback you’ve ever gotten from a fan of your music?
Oooooooo……. I love any feedback. I usually like some sort of deeply personal experience (who wouldn’t). Someone told me they listened to my music on a watershed road trip with their mom, and I thought that was touching. When people tell me that they’ve listened to my music and enjoyed it, I’m always really heartwarm’t. I feel like if people have a personal experience with my music then we could be friends.
What’s your favorite gig you’ve ever played?
I have a soft spot for grass roots partying. I played a few basement parties at this house in Tacoma, Washington (thanks to my friend Xander and some other people involved down there). IT was just so much fun. 11PM peak time, university students partying, Kylie Minogue and Basement Jaxx. Low ceilings and people making out. The novelty of America. Tacoma (the Tacoma Dome!) was always this city I would hear about on the radio stations that we would pick up in my hometown, Victoria. So it was like a myth come true to actually go there and people be into dance music. Shout out to the Alder Arts Walk!
If you had a few snacks in the studio with you, what would they be?
Rice crackers (of any sort), dried mango, roasted nuts or nuts of any sort, organic dried plums (aka prunes). Mostly dry and non oily stuff so I don’t get fingerprints on everything. I recently tested out eating Cheese Puffs with chopsticks to avoid oily fingers.
You’ve sung on many of your tracks historically—do you have a warm-up routine you do before recording a track? Ever taken lessons?
Recently, I had a few singing lessons to get back in the habit of singing. Lately, before recording or performing I try to do some vocal warm-ups recorded from my lessons, or a video from online. It helps quite a bit. Sometimes I do YouTube karaoke before a show, to amp myself up, and get warmed up in a fun way. When I was younger I was in choir, and R&B band, so that helped with ear training and range. During university I couldn’t really muster the discipline/cash to go do more extra-curricular activities other than the basics like real karaoke, making my own music, learning to DJ and playing in a friend’s band.
If you could change one thing about the process involved with releasing records and playing gigs, what would it be?
Probably lessen the amount of time spent on the computer. It’s kind of ironic, I love dance music because I love dancing but I spend so much time on the computer I usually feel like a crumpled up piece of paper. But don’t get me wrong I love hanging out on the computer.
You’ve obviously incorporated a lot of different approaches across your releases—where do you plan to take/expand your sound in the immediate future?
I feel like right now I want to do two things. I want to make music that is influenced by what I like to DJ – filter house, pop remixes, trance female vocal stuff, tribal rhythms, Eurodance (to name a few). But also try to get back in touch with a laidback song writer-ey vibe to help me write lyrics for other tracks.
I took a hiatus from writing lyrics and singing, and it was mostly just because it’s such an intense thing to do, and felt pressure to have something to say. I didn’t really have anything to say–I just wanted to be instrumental, but now I am missing that part of expressing myself. I feel like there’s such a difference between some of the music that I have made and the stuff that I DJ, which makes perfect sense because music has it’s different functions, but I’d like to merge the two practices somewhere along the line. I have an affliction for cheesy remixes so I’d like to make more of those so I can DJ them in my sets.
If you were a Game of Thrones character, who would you be?
Game of Thrones is too scary for me!
Bonus : If you haven’t check yet, here is the new video made by Regularfantasy!