Featured Images by Spencer Kohn
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, artist Sulene moved to the U.S. at just nineteen years old to pursue her dreams in the music industry. Now the Brooklyn-based artist has been showcasing her musical inclination and unique talent ever since she began touring as a guitarist with Nate Ruess from the band fun. in 2015. From there, Sulene set out to release her own music in 2017 while working in other facets of her passions such as film and production. Her recently released EP he•don•ic is an amalgamation of vulnerable lyricism, captivating vocals, alluring rhythm and Sulene’s relationship with hedonism and addiction presented in five expressive tracks.
I had the chance to catch up with Sulene about her newest EP he•don•ic, the roots of her love for music, and her journey thus far in her career.
The first time you released music on mainstream platforms was back in 2017 with the EP Strange. How has your process for crafting songs changed since then?
Strange was co-written and co-produced with my buddies in the band RANN. It was really collaborative and I knew very little about production. I basically wrote songs on the piano and played them for the band and then they mostly arranged them and I played some instruments and guitar on some of it. he•don•ic was sorta the opposite because I pretty much wrote it all on my own (my partner Ben Talmi and friend Mori Einsidler contributed some ideas), and it was produced on my own in my apartment. I also mixed and mastered the record (first record I’ve ever mixed and mastered). Back when Strange was released in 2017, it was a goal of mine to hone my skills so I could get to this point of making he•don•ic on my own.
Do you remember the point when you decided that you wanted music to become your full-time career?
At the end of high school my parents asked me where I wanted to go to college and I said Berklee College of Music. It was the only place I applied to. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else for a career.
If you could describe your music in three words, how would you describe your style?
Gothic disco party.
Despite the pain and difficulty that the writing process for he•don•ic prompted, in what ways did it offer a therapeutic outlet?
I think “telling your truth” can be a therapeutic process for sure. Even though the record was hard to write, and I do feel a bit vulnerable now that it’s out there, it feels empowering to say the things I’ve been thinking the last year and a half. The most therapeutic part of it is when people tell me they relate to the lyrics and it can mean something to them.
The ability to express your emotions so beautifully and effortlessly comes along with being very vulnerable and open. Upon the release, were you nervous about the response or liberated by your vulnerability?
On the actual day of release I was STOKED and liberated. Then after that my feelings of vulnerability and my anxiety started to seep in. So a bit of both. It’s scary to kinda bare your soul to people. I never feel vulnerable about the songs or lyrical content when I’m on stage, funnily enough. But I feel vulnerable about it when I’m just kinda at home every day and only existing on the internet.
Before the release of he•don•ic, you released single’s “whiskey.weed.sex.candy.”, “photo booth”, and “i still think you’re so fake”. Why did you decide on these three tracks?
Hmm I think I chose “whiskey.weed.sex.candy.” because a few friends said “this should be the first single” and then I chose “photo booth” as the next because it’s my fave, and “fake” was the 3rd single because honestly I hadn’t finished mixing and mastering “identity crisis.” So we just made “identity crisis” the focus track for the EP release. I didn’t want “diner coffee” to be a single.
Your devotion to your art has led to your involvement in the filming and editing of each music video and piece of artwork. How do you go about planning and executing each music video?
I pretty much just have to dive in and not get caught up in tiny details. I usually start with programming the light show, ordering backdrops to shoot against, ordering outfits and makeup, and I look through stock footage to get an idea of the direction I wanna take. Then I block out a day or two and shoot everything, and then the editing takes about four or five days.
What is your favorite song on the EP? Why?
photo booth. I really like it’s simplicity in sound.
Is a debut album in your plans for the future? Maybe a tour?
I hope so! Just bringing five songs I really love to the finish line was quite a bit of work so I can’t imagine doing a full album right now. I’m busy writing another EP now. Maybe when I sharpen my skills and get a thicker skin I’ll be able to chisel out a full album. I very much want to tour, and will definitely be trying to make that happen in the future.
Stream to he•don•ic here.