A crafty and prodigious producer in her own right, Los Angeles based DJ, producer and vocalist Amanda Darling has one of the most unique sounds in the industry at the moment. The inventive synth-based melodies and ingenious beat-work that outline her production have quickly marked out her style as being lush with emotive energy and her ability to supply vocals to her production does push her work an extra mile above others in the industry today. Having already released two albums – ‘Earth Tones‘ was released in 2016 whereas ‘Exist‘ followed a year later – she is now looking to make 2019 with some great plans for her upcoming shows.
When it comes to talent, the sheer variety of productions on the two Amanda Darling albums make for a great example. While ‘Earth Tones’ relies more on the ambient substance that back the tracks – usage of lengthy, sustained notes with charismatic vocals being a recurring feature for the release, ‘Exist’ is a sumptuous Trance package through and through. This diversity is, among the many other things, that she prides and comments upon in this exclusive interview with us. Read on to find out more about Amanda Darling’s origins, influences, her latest track ‘Daydreaming at Night’, her views on the industry, the performances at Avalon Hollywood and Exchange LA and what the future holds for Amanda Darling in 2019.
How long have you been a producer/DJ for? Tell us about the origin of your music. What inspired you to pursue your career as an artist?
I have been a professional DJ now for almost 10 years, but it really all began when I was a child and I first became enthralled with the concept of creating mix tapes (cassette tapes). I made music compilations for my friends and VHS music video compilations as well. I started collecting 80s vinyl around age 12 and I would obsessively dance to my favorite albums alone in my room like a hyperactive space elf. It was the whole experience that intoxicated my senses, from the feeling of the ridges in the vinyl to the cover art to the anticipation what would be found inside each time I obtained a new (vintage) album. From the depths of my 80s new wave addiction, I got in touch with my nu-retro style, which occasionally made me the subject of ridicule in high school, but I didn’t care. I tried to emulate the stars of the 80s (which was a bit strange growing up in a small town in the 90s); it was my own form of counter-culture and empowerment. I began to think of myself as an artist, being a singer, pianist and avid collector of music. I just felt like most of the 90s music I heard on the radio was shallow in comparison to the gems of musical profundity I discovered in my parents’ collection. I prided myself on my musical prowess, and I felt every time I watched an 80s music video it opened a portal into another time, a futuristic golden age of fashion, glamour and incredible music. From this and being heavily involved in my school’s musical theatre department, I morphed into an early prototype of my current self.
Who do you consider to have been your biggest influences throughout your career that have made an impact on your productions?
The biggest influences I had early on were artists such as David Bowie, The Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, Pat Benatar, Tears for Fears, Cyndi Lauper, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga and so on. The list was long. I became a San Francisco (CA, USA) raver in my late teens, and with starry eyes I had the extreme luck of becoming friends with several of my favorite DJs, including Christopher Lawrence, Armin Van Buuren and Markus Schulz, all of whom became mentors for me at different times throughout my life. My productions were heavily influenced by the pioneers of Complextro such as FTampa and Alex Mind who later became friends of mine as well, and I suppose it was from these three main areas of interest that my sound was born: 80s New Wave, Trance and Electro House.
Tell us a bit on your latest release ‘Daydreaming at Night’. What was the decision behind remixing it? Could you describe us the process of making it? What were the inspirations and main idea/s behind it?
Daydreaming at Night, my new single, was created out of experimental curiosity and imagination. The drums were actually inspired by Duran Duran’s “The Reflex”, and from that foundation I gave birth to a new sound that was both nostalgic and modern. The concept is as follows: the record starts out with completely vintage 80s sounds, and then takes the listener into a daydream of the future, where the middle of the song is very heavy and slick, with hard Electro House drops. The Keytar solo on the bridge was performed by me after many tries to find a guitarist who could play what I had envisioned in my mind, destiny had it that I was meant to play on the final recording. The song actually went through many incarnations, at several shows it was performed with a full band, finally evolving to the form you hear today.
What are your feelings on gender inequality within the dance music industry? Do you feel that being a woman can hold artists back in their musical careers?
I don’t think gender should matter. I would say being a woman is both a blessing and a curse in the DJ world. On one hand, you could say I was given special opportunities, but on the other, I was also not taken seriously. Often times people assumed I couldn’t write music or didn’t know what I was doing because I had a uniquely feminine name (Amanda Darling), which is my birth name. Inequality exists in the DJ world and bias, where I still see the majority of female DJs being cast in one of these two categories: models or playboy bunny types who primarily perform in bikinis. I used to allow myself to be marketed in an overtly sexual way when I was younger, but deep down I always saw myself as one of the boys and I wanted to be a boss. I don’t think gender should matter. Respect should simply be given to the best entertainers, period. Partly why I started to DJ in a suit was my desire to be perceived as someone aggressive, business-like, and professional. I think being a woman could be a setback for some, but I always strive to see an advantage from every disadvantage, and to make my most unusual qualities my greatest assets.
You have played at iconic venues such as Avalon Hollywood and Exchange LA, opening for the likes of BT and Hardwell. How has the journey been so far? What challenges did you face throughout your career and how did you manage to overcome them?
The journey thus far has been a spine-tingling roller coaster, the most terrifying and wonderful ride imaginable. Following an artistic dream in its purest form is not for the faint of heart. To strive, to fall, and to discover oneself in the public eye is both vulnerable and humbling. To walk onward even when members of your own family tell you not to, or to reinvent yourself and stand strong in the gaze of those who doubt you, to believe in yourself when so many around you have given up, all of these experiences have defined me and driven me forward. When I first moved to LA I used to go to Avalon and dream of seeing my visuals on those screens and hearing my music on the main stage, and I still can’t believe that great dream of mine came true. I’m so thankful to be Avalon’s resident for over a year now and to have played ULTRA and EDC, it’s still a fantasy that I’ve met and opened up for so many of my heroes. In another sense I truly feel blessed and I just can’t wait to see what’s next.
Looking at your musical catalogue, both ‘Earth Tones’ & ‘EXIST’ albums are very different in their sound. How do you manage to variate your style yet keep a signature sound intact?
My musical releases have been diverse, as I was always reflecting my truth at each stage of development. My first album “Earth Tones” was an ambient vocal album, as I was still learning to produce, I found ambient music was the most free form canvas I could use to express myself. “EXIST” was a Trance/Complextro fusion concept that I put a lot of passion into. My new direction is more Synthwave influenced, but in all of my works you can hear the echo of subtle uplifting undertones and my vocals. I’ll always create Trance no matter what. There is an unspoken spiritual element that lies just beneath the surface in everything I touch, and I’d say that is my signature sound.
Topping off the last question, what’s the best piece of advice you have that you would give to aspiring producers?
My advice to aspiring producers out there is not to give up. Also, do not listen to the naysayers who try to belittle your work. Remember, artistic creation is always, at the heart of it, an act of self-expression and a simple connection with the divine. An act of pure creation should be made simply for the joy of creation itself. It should have nothing to do with the opinions of others. Do not be discouraged when you have your ups and downs along the path. Keep your eyes set on the horizon and focus on putting one foot in front of the other. If you have a clear destination, one day you will get there. Always be open minded and willing to learn. Remember your thumbprint upon this universe cannot be replicated. Stand strong in your own musical vision and work hard. Open up Ableton (or whatever DAW you use) daily; practice piano daily even if it’s just 20 minutes at a time. It all adds up.
What does 2019 holds in store? Any hints that we could get about future productions or collaborations? Any interesting gigs in the pipeline?
I’m ecstatic about what’s to come in 2019! I plan to start pushing the envelope of what’s possible in the DJ world. Through storytelling, unique visuals and live instrumentation, I’m adding an element of musical theatre to my shows. I’m playing a big event this weekend (March 16, 2019) at Avalon with the world premiere of my music video, “Daydreaming at Night”, and I’m showing up in an actual DeLorean time machine for my set. It’s going to be one of the biggest moments in my career so far. I’m traveling to Miami for the first time later this month for Miami Music week, and I have plans to tour Europe and South America later this year, with rumors of Japan in the works as well.
My greatest dream is to create a theatrical DJ show unlike anything that has ever been seen, using the power of my imagination and bringing to life my own original Sci-Fi story-world. I have already started writing a book that will be the basis of this great endeavor; more will be revealed in time. I see so much untapped potential in the format of today’s DJ performances, and I intend to manifest in ways that will redefine the art form. In conclusion, allow me to quote the words of David Bowie by saying: “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”
You can purchase Amanda Darling’s ‘Daydreaming at Night’ on iTunes here.