South African born but now Brooklyn based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Sulene has been consistently pouring out songs that not only deliver on, but exceed all expectations. Her new single, ‘We Go Hard’, is no exception to this rule.
Her name might not ring any bells to start with, but she’s definitely someone whose work you’ve heard, having written music for TV shows like, ‘Ray Donovan’, and ‘The Affair’, as well as soundtracks for ads for companies such as Nike, and Dior. She’s also performed pretty much everywhere, from the White House down, and has been noticed by the best music mags and blogs in the world, including Rolling Stone, Billboard, Buzzfeed, Earmilk, and oh, Essentially Pop – you can check out our interview with Sulene further down.
Sulene’s new single, ‘We Go Hard’, sees her amping on the side of industrial music – a sound she herself refers to as “gothic-disco-party music”. There’s drum machines and droned-out synths, and over all of them we hear her crying out, “I do what I want. And what I want is to dance”. And she dances…and dances hard. Don’t you just want to get up and dance with her!
Watch the music video for ‘We Go Hard’ below.
Hi Sulene, thank you for talking to us! We’re listening to your new single, ‘We Go Hard’ and you really do go hard! It’s really hard to classify your sound – it’s several parts industrial, yet other parts are pop, while there’s some rock aspects to it. How would you describe your sound? Do you feel any need to put limitations or descriptions on it?
I definitely don’t feel the need to put limitations on it, that’s how you come up with something new and exciting (at least new and exciting to me haha). I guess I’d call it “industrial pop” for short. Whenever people ask me what my genre is I say that. For influences on the sound… I’d say NIN, Sky Ferreira, older St. Vincent, older Lady Gaga. Hopefully combined with someone new I plucked out of the air.
You’re no stranger to anyone who’s listened to music over the past few years, even if they don’t realise – you’ve written music for television shows such Ray Donovan, and The Affair, as well as ads for the likes of Nike, and Dior. You’ve even performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and at the White House during the Obama administration. And yet, you’re still not even 30! How have you managed this and what could possibly top what you’ve already done?
Haha yes indeed… not… even… thirty haha. Omg so many things would top it! That’s the fun part of music, there are so many new places to continue to explore. I’ve ended up composing for shows and movies and playing for bands and doing all sorts of stuff I never thought I’d do. What would really top it now, for me, would be to tour and play to an audience that’s into my music. That’d be so special.
How has the Covid-19 Pandemic treated you, and have you made any changes in your life that you see being permanent?
While Covid was really awful in many ways, I did come out of it learning some new things about myself for sure. I actually moved into working full-time in music in 2020… something which had been a goal of mine for like forever haha. Over the pandemic, until there was a vaccine, I stayed in my one bedroom apartment with my partner and we wrote a TON of music for sync (which gets pitched for TV, film, and commercials). We ended up having a really successful project and it changed both our lives in a big way. Super, super grateful. When the pandemic hit we both were like “oh shit” and lost a ton of work. But with our backs against the wall we made something happen.
What lies ahead for you and your music? Can fans see you perform live soon, and if so where?
It hasn’t been announced yet but I will be performing plenty in 2022. Mostly east coast of USA. An EP is in the works too…
What’s been the best advice you’ve been given over the years, and what can you pass on to others who are either just starting out in music, or who could otherwise still benefit from your experience?
I think it depends on what you’re pursuing in music. I think the best advice I ever got was from a professor in college who said “hit a home run every time” which sounds really obvious and simple but it’s actually really hard to do and I think people forget. What that means is when you get an opportunity, whether it’s big or small or unpaid or paid or whatever, just kill it. Like do your very, very best. Answer every email, be ON TIME, fuck that be early, be prepared, be reliable, don’t make excuses, and give it your best work, always. You will honestly be miles ahead of the game just with these simple things. People will recommend you and you’ll always have work.
What are the top 3 songs or artists you can’t get enough of at the moment and why?
Remi Wolf! She’s so unique it blows my mind. Her voice is unreal as well. Jon Hopkins. So relaxing, so beautiful. And Andy Shauf. Such beautiful songwriting, an ultimate story-teller.
Finally, what question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does?
What’s my favourite episode of King of the Hill and why?