By: Shayla Lee
Gothic-pop is the perfect two word description of So Below’s music. Now if you’ve never heard So Below’s music (pro-tip: you should get on board now), you may be thinking, what does gothic-pop sound like? Well, it’s the type of music that will make you want to wear black lace, paint your nails black, and drink red wine. Okay, fine. That’s probably just me. In all seriousness, her music is layered while being ethereal, pretty, and dark all at the same time. It’s the kind of music I listen to when I feel like darker music but not dark dark.
Besides giving Nasty Gal a rundown of what goth-pop is, the New Zealand native was also featured as one of Buzzfeed’s ’18 Emerging Artists To Watch In 2018′ alongside some badass chicks like LPX and Luna Shadows. So Below (whose real name is Maddie North btw) was cool enough to answer some questions for us and chatted about everything from the influence New Zealand had on her music to how it felt opening for The Naked And Famous.
FEMME RIOT: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What inspired you to become a musician?
So Below: I have always wanted to do music, and for a few years before I actually started doing music properly I would make little demos on garage band. Eventually I had a few producers friends who were like “let’s write a song together!” And that’s how it all started.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
I usually say dark electronic pop or something like that? I’m not very good at categorizing music haha
Where do you draw inspiration for your music? Do you have any musical influences?
Yeah lots of different bands but my favorites would be moderat and maybe Radiohead?
Do you have a favourite lyric that you have written?
Yes but the song hasn’t been released yet! I usually think my lyrics are lame or not that creative but one song I wrote called ‘Clear’ I think the lyrics really paint a cool picture in your head so I’m proud of that one.
I spent a year in Australia (and Christmas in NZ- loved it!) and one of the things I loved most was the amount of exposure both countries give their musicians. The indie music scene in both countries is really thriving and I found such great music while I was there. How does the music industry in New Zealand compare to the industry in the US? Did growing up in New Zealand impact your music?
Yes it is and it isn’t in a weird way, I don’t really know anything about the US music industry but my music and a lot of my friends music is in this weird middle ground where it’s not alternative enough to be played by the college radios in NZ and not pop enough that the main radio stations play it either. I mean it does get some plays which is cool but I do wish there was more support there from radio to play NZ music.
On the other hand NZ gives out lots of grants to musicians for music videos and other things which is super cool as not a lot of other countries do that.
I assume growing up in NZ impacted my music, if Id grown up somewhere else I’d be a completely different person hahaha
If I had to describe your latest release ‘Close’ to someone, I would say it’s a “gothic bop”. You wrote this song with Sam McCarthy and Chelsea Jade (we’ve been loving her music lately!) What was it like to collaborate with them? Can you tell us a bit more about this song?
Well I wrote half my original EP with Sam so I’ve been working with him for a number of years! Chelsea I started working with her over a year ago, I wrote ‘Ruin’ with her also. They’re great to work with super talented peeps and we all have the same sense of humor which is definitely a plus haha
The music video for ‘Ruin’ is absolutely gorgeous- LOVE the red and blue hues. What was the process of creating this music video like?
Thanks!! well my friend Sam Kristofski is another New Zealander and that’s all him really, he’s such a talented director! I just said I wanted something with pace and for it to be dark.
As I was looking up the lyrics for ‘SGL’ I realized that I had both Now, Now’s and your versions of the song saved on my Spotify. The song just hit 250k plays on Spotify- congratulations! It’s amazing to hear to completely different takes on the same lyrics. How would you describe your take on ‘SGL’ as compared to Now, Now’s?
I just like doing covers that aren’t the same as the original so I at least make it my own. I did one for Naked and famous a while ago for a small reunion. And I have a Muna cover coming out soon too 😀
For the Now, Now one I wanted to make it moodier and darker but it ended up sounding quite cheery hahah
Besides writing with Aaron Short, you also opened for The Naked And Famous (ahhh! ‘Girls Like You’ is in my top 10 favourite songs of all time). Did you feel any pressure opening for such a big band? If so, how did you overcome it?
Well Aaron and Jesse from TNAF are actually in my band also hahah so that was funny for them. It was nerve wracking but the strange thing is it’s almost easier when it’s a bigger crowd. It’s much scarier when it’s like a room of 50 people u know, coz I guess they know the real to you!
Have you faced any adversity being a woman in the music industry? Do you have any tips for other female’s experiencing adversity in their lives?
Nothing that I really noticed at the time, but looking back on certain situations perhaps my opinions and suggestions even when it came to my music weren’t taken as seriously as perhaps a guys would have been. It’s also taken me a long time to feel comfortable or feel useful in the studio. But I’m definitely at the point where I have a strong opinion and voice in regards to my own music.
I would say be confident and knowledgeable, for me having more knowledge with music and production has really helped me a lot.
What can we expect from you this year? Hopefully we will see you in Vancouver soon!
I’ll hopefully be touring soon! I have an album coming out at some point this year which I’m super duper excited about 😀
What 3 songs are you currently listening to?
I had a lot of fun playing Pretty Much in my car last night haha
Any New Zealand artists that should be on our radars?
My friends from Broods just did their own solo projects which are pretty sweet
The cover photo for this piece was provided by Maddie and taken by Nina Jordan.