Back in high school I didn't really listen to hip hop. The only "hip hop" I was exposed to was the highly visible commercial rap devoted to promoting materialistic values and degrading women. So, I wasn't about it. Then, one day, my friend Matt played me some XV and everything changed. I quickly made my way through the starter pack rappers and, before I knew it, became buried deep into the underground. I look back now wondering whatever happened to my ability to enjoy bands like The Eels or Passion Pit? I don't think I have even listened to a "band" in years. That all being said, I am pleased to present to you Diaspoura. While she may perform with a band when doing live shows, she is not a band, so I still got that streak going for me. She is, however, certainly outside the realm of hip hop making this interview a momentous return to my wonder years (I peaked in 11th grade).
Diaspoura is a young creative living in Charleston, South Carolina. A minority in many respects, she spends much of her free time working to better her community (which is not to say one need be oppressed to fight the oppressors, that just happens to be the case here). After a draining day of fighting the formidable "man" she heads to her bedroom studio to debrief and recharge for the next by making music. Her genre of choice is hypnotic electronic music she calls DIY Sleepy Pop. Because of the activism she is involved in, the subject matter of her songs is generally interested in investigating social issues and deconstructing ugly norms. This creative process, however, is political resistance in and of itself as it prevents the oppressors from depleting her energy and reducing her to hopelessness.
Her debut project, Demonstrations, is a nine-track meander through a dreamscape where oppressors are powerless and melodies are bountiful. As ethereal as it is, there remains an ominous undertone throughout. Her music may have a healing quality, but it is far from comforting as haunting vocals are paired with minimalistic instrumentals to create a hollow reminder that we are far from done progressing as a society. The following interview pairs nicely with the album, so I'll leave it here for you. As far as drink pairings, I would suggest a Hendrick's Gin and Tonic.
If you had to essentialize the content of the essays included on the flash drive about the making of Demonstrations, what would you say they consist of?
Diaspoura: The essays are a much much closer look at Demonstrations as a personal project and self-practice. They're narratives of my past and present and ideologies that I developed during the making of the album, which took basically 2 years.
Tell me about how you landed on the name Demonstrations.
Diaspoura: Well, during the time I was writing the album, I took a lot of short hiatuses as I became more heavily involved in community organizing and direct actions. As I got back into music, I used my music as a way to heal and get space from the social work I was involved in, and started to see my own self-preservation as an act of resistance in itself.
OK-Tho: If your own self-preservation is an act of resistance, what is it resisting against?
Diaspoura: So demonstrations became a pact to take care of myself as political act, because one way oppressing forces keep marginalized people down is by running their energies low and using fear and loss of hope to their advantage. The thought went against my whole way of life, thinking more and more work is the only way to stay afloat. I was just really tired all the time.
What is being consumed and what is being resumed?
Diaspoura: Consuming lots of media, lots of loss, lots of ignorance. And resuming the work that needed to happen anyway. Resuming without considering all the damage it made on us.
Walk me through the process of creating a song from start to finish.
Diaspoura: Hm, well it's always kind of messy. Usually I'll have inspiration to write down lyrics, jot them down in my phone or somewhere, find another common writing or concept journal I did and then pair it with a particular track I produced separately that conveys the same emotion. The music usually comes when I'm down and want to cheer myself up, and the words come when I'm pissed off about it later.
You say your music has a "healing sound" which I agree with, but I would like to hear you articulate what exactly that healing sound is. Or perhaps how you think it’s manifested.
Diaspoura: Well the tempo always ends up kind of in the middle of mopey and danceable. I don't know how. And the harmonies are pleasing and enveloping. They're meant to be lifting and listened to loudly.
Why is “Track 7” named “Track 7?”
Diaspoura: Well I had the hardest time trying to name it, and it kind of seemed awkward naming a track that wasn't a song and also wasn't mine, so I left it alone
What’s life like for a hypnotic, electronic music maker in South Carolina?
Diaspoura: It's a little lonely out here but I get to play some cool eclectic shows. I met my backing band when I played on the same bill as their punk band Sweatlands. We don't play together all the time, but it's been really fun when we do.
Who are you inspirations for this project?
Diaspoura: The first people I can think of as inspiration are all the mentors and role models I've had through my time beginning to organize.
What are your all-time top five albums in any genre?
Diaspoura: Matangi by mia, 'everybody else is doing it, so why can't we' by The Cranberries, Paracosm by Washed Out, Room On Fire by The Strokes, and maybe honestly Blood Orange's new album.
Which track was the most difficult to share with the world?
Diaspoura: "Migrations" definitely took the longest for me to make, because it had to be perfect. I couldn't settle with it.
OK-Tho: Why not?
Diaspoura: I definitely couldn't settle with any of them since I'm probably the most meticulous person ever, but I had another level of personal shit to delve into when I began to write that one.
OK-Tho: Did you resolve that personal shit?
Diaspoura: I had a lot of complicated feelings to express, having to do with ignorant questions, ancestry, heritage, and I'm still figuring out how I identify with "where I'm from."
OK-Tho: Where are you from?
Diaspoura: Please no. Not at this hour. TBA
What about your music deserves the masses attention?
Diaspoura: Well it's a mark of brown queer resistance in the south, something we don't have enough documentation on. And it's food for people who can't embrace parts of themselves because they don't follow the dominant narrative. We all need that affirmation. An affirmation to be whole despite the Reddest landscape.
Diaspoura: I identify as queer. Queer meaning not straight.
OK-Tho: What do you mean by Reddest landscape?
Diaspoura: Red meaning conservative. Sorry I'm being too poetic for my own good.
Diaspoura: *poetic snaps*
What is next for you as a person and as an artist?
Diaspoura: Well now that this major personal reflection is completed, I might be venturing for new concepts and attitudes. I'll still be trying to grow in self-producing but I'll be more available to collaborate with other artists. I just kinda had to take care of this on my own first.