Weaving lines, joining dots, melting moods… LA-based Woven Thorns is entrenched and entangled in a thick web of inspirations and influences that flex from hip-hop to doom metal.
The results have been cooking for six years, lurking under the radar via a number of previous aliases. Since arriving at the Woven Thorns moniker, her creations have resonated at such a volume they’re impossible for any dubstep fan to ignore.
Marinated in emotion that’s part melancholy, part macabre, all brooding with a dark swagger, Woven Thorns’ tracks have been featured on various platforms, from her debut EP with Locus Sound, to DUPLOC VA compilations such as DUPLOC War Dubs and DUPLOC Selections. Next month she’ll land on With The Sonant, a four-track VA on Sicaria Sound’s Cutcross imprint.
Her track Loveless rubs shoulders with tracks from the likes of Epoch, zns and Soukah, once again compounding her place at the forefront of an exciting new generation who are dominating the 140 ranks, sculpting new sounds and a fresh energy. Intrigued, we called her up to show some love for Loveless and hear about her journey so far.
You used to do interviews and write articles… Always cool to interview and interviewer! How did you get into that?
It was part of my journey of getting into music and a necessary step towards finding music production. First, in high school, I was a fan and wanted to go to every show. Then in college I learnt to DJ and was playing a lot of parties and started to talk to promoters, just trying to get involved in every way I could and interact with music in more ways than just listening to it. I loved it so much. It snowballed from there and I kept finding these ways to get closer and closer to the music. I was writing and doing interviews for multiple blogs, working with promoters, I started my own blog and was DJing and doing all these things and I thought, ‘Why don’t I feel close enough to the music I love?’
Then I realised that I needed to actually make it. So it was all stepping stones. I graduated from college, and I thought ‘Okay this is the path’. It’s a scary path, it’s quite intimidating. But ultimately I was like, ‘Okay you’re an adult now, no more classes, how do you want to be happy in life?’
Amazing. So you’ve been making music for six years so far. As Kali first, prior to Woven Thorns…
I had some other names but Kali was the first one that stuck. I was doing a religious studies class and we were learning about the different gods and goddesses. When we learnt about Kali I was like, ‘Holy shit she’s cool!’ The goddess of death and everything. Where has she been all my life?
But I eventually changed the name because it wasn’t unique or personal enough. I knew that if I wanted to make a real attempt at doing this right, I didn’t want to confuse people. There were other people with the same name, and the lines over the ‘a’ and ‘i’ were hard for branding and searching online. Things you don’t really think about when you’re first picking a name. With Woven Thorns there’s meaning and significance for me, but also no room for confusion. That’s super important to me.
There’s a great poetry to the name. Quite bittersweet. There’s a strong sense of macabre in your palette isn’t there?
Definitely. Aside from wanting the name to be super clear for fans and listeners, I also thought about words I liked that conveyed a certain feeling or vibe. That nostalgic feeling. Bittersweet is definitely a good way to describe it. I definitely like the darker imagery but it’s a bit deeper than just the aesthetic. It’s a nostalgic feeling or a yearning. Something emotional. It’s not like, ‘Ooh dark, Halloween, spooky!’ You know?
It’s way more personal than that…
Definitely. I want it to be an outlook for my expression. All the bits and pieces of my life, all the things I’m attracted to in different movies and music and art. Something unique to me that’s as layered and as deep as possible for other people to grab onto. Being someone who’s loved music my whole life I love it when someone is speaking to me personally with their music. It’s miraculous.
Absolutely. I got goosebumps! Who was the first artist to do that to you?
It’s kinda embarrassing, but let’s go there… When I was super young I loved Britney Spears. When I was like 3 to 5 years old she was my ultimate. But then as I got older this developed into a love of more alternative and emo music. Growing up in the States on the east coast, there was that whole Warped Tour festival that was huge for me. It was emo and alternative and super new to me at the time.
So that was really the first moment when I was in my early teens that really spoke to me. That kind of music wasn’t on the radio, it wasn’t spoon-fed to you on the TV, it was super thoughtful and really poetic and interesting. Coming from a suburban small town, going to catholic school my entire life, you’re not really exposed to alternative things much. You’re not exposed until you start digging.
When I got introduced to alternative music it was like, ‘Holy shit these people understand me and they’re saying things I wish I could say.’ It resonated on a whole new level. From there I got obsessed with digging. I’d go on Limewire, YouTube, I’d torrent everything, I’d put together CDs and obsess over the order of the tracklist. DJing before I was even DJing, you know? It felt special.
Was your switch into electronic music a similar epiphany?
Oh yeah. In the middle of high school I was introduced to dubstep and it blew my mind. Mt Eden Sierra Leone was a huge tune for me. I remember driving at night and cranking it. My taste was on the brostep-leaning side at first, but I made my way down the rabbit hole from Skrillex to Truth and then worked my way from there. I feel like I’m supposed to say, ‘Oh I got raised on dubstep by Deep Medi and DMZ’, but I have to be honest, it started with Skrillex.
It did for sooooo many people! He brought in a generation and from there you chose your direction…
That’s right. You start somewhere and you take it upon yourself to dig and find what’s right for you. If you told 10 year old me that I’d love metal and I’d have it on repeat for months and months at a time I would have been confused. The journey of figuring out your own sound as a musician, and the journey of how your tastes change over time is fascinating. Like even now, the things I listen to today are different to where I was five years ago.
It gets even madder over time as you have more time to look back and join the dots
Yeah! Actually I’ve done this recently with doom metal. When I first heard it, it sparked something in me. A really similar feeling to dubstep. Back then I didn’t understand why these two worlds of music had the same effect, but it’s only now that I’ve understood the relationship with how it makes me feel, the shared elements between the two, and how I’m able to incorporate doom metal influences into my own productions. I would never have joined those dots until recently.
I love joining dots! Let’s talk about Loveless… Feels like you’re finding your sound and honing in on what Woven Thorns can be…
Definitely. I feel like I’m getting closer to where I want to be in terms of sound. I’m still trying to find that balance because I’ve only been doing it for five and a half years. I can’t expect to be exactly where I want to be at this point, but I’m trying to balance influences from dubstep, bass music, doom metal and sludgier, slower music with elements of hip-hop and trap. It’s a case of trying to find a balance and how I can bring all these worlds together.
Having super heavy music that’s dark and brooding with drums and percussion of hip hop and trap gives it this whole dark swag which is ultimately what I’m trying to convey. Obviously in different ways – every song is different and has a different balance of both. Also at the same time, trying to add in the emotional bittersweet nostalgic side. Loveless is definitely the heavier darker vibe of what I’m trying to create.
I love the sample… What other songs do you think the devil listens to before he falls asleep?
Great question! But I don’t think about the sample at face value; it’s deeper than that. The darkness I convey in my music is more like the personal darkness. Battles and struggles. So it’s more like the devil in your head.
Oh wow okay! Yeah he turns the volume up at night time!
Exactly! It’s that mental mindfuckery in your brain. That’s the angle I was working on. But if it was music, what do you think he’d play?
I was going to say Vengaboys but I think your interpretation is better!
Ha. So another way to interpret it musically would be like this song I’m obsessed with. King Woman, Morning Star. She’s singing as if she’s the devil and she’s telling the story of what happened to the devil and how he got banished from heaven. She offers a way to relate to him with the verse ‘It could have been you’.
You could relate to the devil. He was in a good place, now he’s not. You might have done the same thing in his position. We’re taught things are either bad or good, right? But we have devils in our head. We’re all much closer to the dark things more than we like to think we are sometimes.
We have these things about us which are past experiences, past mental struggles or present experiences and struggles. We’re told to move past these things and be this happy shiny whatever, but I don’t think I’d be the same person if I hadn’t gone through the experiences I had. I wouldn’t have written the same music I write or have the same ideas I do. So it’s a case of realising and accepting the darkness as part of you. It’s interesting to play with and think about, especially musically.
Yeah totally! I wanna highlight the With The Sonant EP you’re part of. You’ve been on a few VAs lately and it seems like you’re very much part of this new movement and generation of artists in dubstep and bass music. Are you feeling that?
Yes and no. I recognise that I’ve definitely got more attention and people have reached out to me in support and things like that. I feel respected and appreciated, and people resonate with things I‘m creating more than before. But I also get caught up in feeling so far from where I want to be at times.
I’m looking at the real long game in terms of where I want to be. I have huge goals and dreams and knowing I’m here and not there… It’s like yes and no. It’s the devil in my head again I guess! Essentially I just want to make music every day and I’m glad people resonate with it. I feel I have a lot of work to do and a lot of time and years to put in but I’m glad to be associated with this new movement.
And I have to say that being on a release with Epoch alone is unreal and 2 Door Subaru has been a dubplate I’ve coveted for years so that’s a nice feeling. I appreciate how Cutcross and other labels are digging deep and finding people from all over the place and bringing us all together, across all levels. It’s super cool and everyone is doing so much unique shit and it’s inspiring to see how receptive people are to things.
You think people might not be as open to things that are different and weird but when someone makes something that sounds like nothing else and is super cool it’s not going to get ignored. That’s inspiring.
Totally! I think the US at forefront of that at the moment, more so than the UK.
It’s interesting. I think a lot of that is down to festivals, where at one point you’d hear the trippier bass music stuff, and over the years more underground dubstep artists are now on the bigger stages. Festivals are places where people are there to have a good time and if they catch something that’s interesting they’ll stay and absorb that. It’s nice that the dubstep scene has been given that opportunity to see a bigger crowd in that way.
Are you playing a lot more shows now? Do you have a busy summer?
For better or worse, not really. I’m playing June 18 in LA with Widdler, Pushloop and Notlo then there might be a few more gigs popping up here and there, but I haven’t been syphoned into that cycle, being booked into festivals and having a team of management and agents. I’m on the side of this tornado and being sucked in every now and again and that’s fine by me. I’m content making music and wrapping up an EP I’m excited about. The shows come when they come, and when they do I always try to make the most of them.
Tell us about the next EP!
That’s in the works but it won’t be released this year so don’t get too excited! But in terms of the content I’m really proud of it already, even though it’s not finished. I take a lot of time to do stuff until I get it right. There’s a song I wrote for the EP that took me two years to make because I wrote the instrumental aspect then I thought about putting my vocals on it, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.
I’ve been into singing but have always been super shy about it. I was in the choir in grade school and took voice lessons. I played guitar and sang in my room in high school and it’s always been in the back of my mind since I started producing. Taking a stab at writing lyrics and then recording it, it’s all pretty scary at first. But I eventually recorded it… Then I hated it. Then I moved to LA, re-recorded it and it got finished. So that’s a special part of the EP and hopefully other people will like it. It’s been a real labour of love.
Amazing. Looking forward to hearing it. Is there anything else the world needs to know about Woven Thorns right about now?
Probably not. The less you know, the better. Go and buy the Cutcross record and play it out.