Coming from the Red Bull Music Academy, the global institution dedicated to developing creativity in music, it’s no surprise that Sevdaliza’s whole act, from the music to the visuals, is spellbinding. She is an ethereal songstress creating mesmerising sounds, moving from catchy, sexy electro beats one minute into dark, twisted fantasy sounds the next drawing you into her tracks. Sevdaliza writes her lyrics intuitively, focusing on topics including personal relationships and how they can be affected by modern consumerist culture, with tracks like “Marilyn Monroe” and “That Other Girl” expressing common relationship woes. After her performance at the Red Bull Music Academy Stage at Sónar Barcelona, it’s easy to see why she’s such a big deal.
Originally a basketball player, Sevdaliza may not always have had her career focused on music, but it’s clear that her talent is completely natural. Despite the fact that she isn’t professionally trained, she taught herself to sing and use Ableton, and now creates masterful beats that are slow and vibrate into your core, with a heavy bassline fluxing underneath. Sevdaliza’s high-definition music videos are art in themselves, with the hyperreal animations and shots drawing you into her world and the rhythm of her videos matching perfectly with the bass beats in her tracks. Her reflective style of contemporary industrial RnB and dance-groove fusion, with all it’s unique twists and turns, keeps you hooked for every beat and every lyric.
Can you tell us a bit about your involvement in the Red Bull Academy? How it came about and what it was like taking part?
I went to Paris for Red Bull Music Academy and it was kind of like a revelation at that point. I realised that I could self-provide whatever I need for my music and it started to be a more organic process. Basically we had so much time where you could spend all night in the studio and I would definitely take advantage of that. We slept maybe three or fours everyday but you’re so on a high and you’re so inspired by these lectures. So I experimented a lot, I went out of my comfort zone. I tried new things and it definitely influenced my musical process.
It must be so incredible to have that access to the studio, too.
Yes! What I really liked about it was that it was 24/7, so I worked in the night. You can stay all the time. The only thing is that you’re missing out sleep but…
Sleep can wait.
Yeah! Sleep can wait.
Who was on your cohort at the Red Bull Music Academy? Was there anyone you really gelled with and wanted to work with while you were there or collaborate, because I know collaborating is a big part of what you do.
Not specifically, I went in more for the social and psychological aspect, the groups. I’m really interested in that. That was kind of more my interest than who I want to collaborate with musically. I was interested in the bonding and what kind of friendships would come out of it and what kind of relationships would come out of it. So that was kind of my focus point. Getting inspired. I work, I lived a very disciplined life so for me Red Bull was, it sounds weird but for other people it was very intense but for me it was more like a break, of not having to get up every day and going bam bam bam, just going with the flow.
You were a professional basketball player before weren’t you? Is that we’re you discipline and training and stuff came from?
I think it’s in my character, I love that. It works for me.
Let’s back track and talk a bit about how you got into music?
I started intuitively singing. I never had any musical background. I think intuitively I was drawn towards song writing. Writing stories and that evolved into singing them. It’s more like a spiritual and personal growth which translated in music. I see the music as a timeline of my personal growth.
You’ve got a really visual aspect, it’s awesome, how to do you come up with the creatives for those? What’s your process like?
It’s very strongly rooted in technology combined with raw emotion. So that’s basically the two pillars, and I also like to see myself as an entity on it’s own. Through making visual pieces I also look at myself in differently and find out things about myself. For instance, vanity is really big in my work. I like to contrast with that so some pieces are really made with vanity and some pieces are made with without any shame. I like to be different characters, and I like to pursue that in my visual aspect.
That must quite a good self-exploratory process
You get very confronted, with everything. The good side, the bad side. I like to be confronted.
It pushes you to grow. How are you feeling about being at Sonar?
I love it, I just arrived. I have a bunch of shows, so it’s like in and out for me. It’s great.
Who are you most excited to see?
I honestly really really focus on my own show. I’m fully trying to be zoned in.
On the growth?
Can you tell me a bit about people you’ve worked with and how that works?
It’s always very intuitive, intuition is something big in what I do. So I just randomly meet people and we either become friends or I meet them online and we start talking, out of that flows collaboration or whatever. I never try to force anything because I don’t think any forced project I did actually turned out to be any good. So I kind of take my hands of it when, I don’t push it through. I definitely hustle, but there’s a difference I feel between forcing something and working really hard for it. So in collaborations I just like to meet people and talk about our vision, our backgrounds. Everyone has a life story, and everyone has a different character, so it’s interesting to work with different people and find out about…For instance, my best friend is my photographer, and she and I collaborate so much that I started to realise how and when she’s creative. It’s different from each other, like forcing one to be part of your creative process, you both have your creative process and meet in the middle. It works so much better. That was a learning experience in collaboration in the last few years.
Just to make it really organic? I was thinking when you were talking about the internet and finding people on the internet, do you feel that is really where the creative, is the social, creative hub now? Do you think you could do what you’re doing now and meet those people without the internet?
Definitely not. I think I met almost everyone I work with through the internet. It’s crazy easy. I work with people in San Francisco and Japan and just Skype. I mean I did a 3D video through Skype. The guy literally modelled me through a Skype session. He was modelling me on his program. It’s crazy technology goes so far. It’s definitely not possible without technology.
What’s your process like when you get into the studio? Obviously you were talking about raw emotions and that kind of thing, do you have a moment where you’re like right I need to write this down, or start making things.
So I can also record at home, in my studio, and it’s growing. It went from somewhere else. I definitely let go of traditional songwriting. I just flow, and whatever comes out of it is a raw idea, and then I mold that idea. So I don’t write anymore and I don’t pre-write. I sit down, either there’s a chord progression being played or I have a melody in my head, and from there on I start to record, again like a reflecting process. Recording without writing is really scary, when you’re a perfectionist it’s scary to open your mouth without knowing what coming out. I try to find the beauty within that, in what for is ugly, because I think that’s one of the most pure emotions that you can hit. Like, what you fear of, putting that out. It feels real to me it doesn’t feel real if I…I don’t, I don’t do traditional song writing. I do song writing but I don’t do pre-songwriting. For me, the song writes itself when I’m singing it. And I think of the words whilst I’m singing, they come to me and suddenly I have an idea. Then from there on you fine tune that idea. That can take months.
You don’t really stress about stuff, it’s just going to happen.
Yeah, not even that because I do stress, but it’s more like, you do what you can, and as long as you do that, that’s it. I actually think in flow, you will grow beyond what you think you’re capable of. And when you’re pre-following your ideas you will never be better than that idea.
Because you’re containing it? What kind of music were you listening to that got you into music? Has always been quite introspective and thinking ‘I have this inside me and I want to get it out’?
That for sure, but I did listen to a shitload of music. So diverse, underground genres, alternative music, rap. I think I discovered electronic music through the early stages of dubstep. It’s funny because I didn’t grow up in a scene, so all my friends in music, they have these eras in their head, like that was a dubstep era, I didn’t know what kind of music mola was and I think after five or six years I found out the eras. I listened to so many different genres, without knowing it was a genre. To me it was all electronic music. That’s really weird because I discovered those things by myself, no one told me yeah this is cool or whatever. I started to dig online. So yeah, like Salva, and the whole slo-mo era came and casino. That’s all later, I mean before you had electronic music a lot. I just never labelled it.
What’s your favourite show you’ve done, because you said you were doing some shows recently.
To be honest I think this is going to be my favourite show. The RBMA stage is incredible.
The stage is great and it’s so dramatic.
I did play, talking about dramatic, I did play a concert hall in Copenhagen where they do classical music. That was really fucking great.
Another out of your comfort zone stage. What are you trying to create in the crowds? Or is it just a by-product of what you’re creating for yourself.
Yeah I think so, I just want to bring across pure emotion and become in a trance. Get goosebumps on stage and connect with some energy in the crowd.