postmoderndisco: A Toronto artist’s path to maturity

By Jesse Sihra

Equipped with a Mac, she makes beautiful creations. She’s a musician who refuses to let what she lacks stop her from making art. She’s an artist who is passionately particular about her music; a perfectionist whose art must meet her high standards — standards to which she is deeply loyal.

I first met postmoderndisco on social media when her first EP Chasing Memories had just come out; our mutual friends shared the Bandcamp link and I was instantly hooked. I met her a few months later at a friend’s party where we bonded over a concoction of non-alcoholic fizzy drinks and our love for the late Japanese producer and DJ, Nujabes.

postmoderndisco is the musical child of a Torontonian and second generation Chinese-Canadian. postmoderndisco is her stage-name, her musical identity, her outlet for creative energy. She’s a composer, a producer, and a songwriter; an artist who strives to push herself and her musical talents even when the creative process can sometimes be a deep struggle.

I decided to interview postmodernisco at her house in Toronto to talk more about her art.

When I asked her to describe her music, she paused her dishwashing and sighed.

“Well, I don’t really like describing my music, because I create without thinking in terms of genres. But to help people understand better, I would describe the music I have out as atmospheric, electronic beats…with some East Asian influences.”

Her decision to go by postmoderndisco is a reflection of her desire to not be confined to a genre. She strives to create an identity and space where she is free to remold and redefine her music. Each piece of music is an experiment in a rich array of styles and sounds.

As she constantly pushes the boundaries of genre she is also deeply aware of how much she needs to grow as a musician before she can be where she wants to be musically.

She’s not yet “there.” When I asked her where she wants to be as an artist and musician she simply said, “That’s a surprise and also a secret.”

My impression of postmoderndisco is that she is an artist who needs to love a piece before she releases her creation to the public; she must believe in and be proud of each piece. Nothing can be forced or coerced. It must all feel authentic. If it’s not authentic, it can’t be released.

As I watched her finish the dishes, I asked her how her training at the Royal Conservatory of Music and her studies at the University of Toronto had influenced her.

“The Royal Conservatory of Music helped me to strive for excellence and perfection in my music and art. UofT, on the other hand, where our specializations played a huge role in our identity amongst our peers and professors, my label as a “composition major” helped me to start viewing myself as a composer and creator.”

I looked at her closely and asked her how her recent job hunt was going. What she told me was all too familiar:

“Job hunting is hard and sometimes I don’t want to do it. But I need something to sustain myself. I want to be practical about my life and financially support myself, starting now.”

This is the grind of the modern-day artist, and she was incredibly candid about stating plainly what many of us go through. We are always trying to find ways to financially support ourselves while seeking the time to produce art and discover creative outlets for self-expression.

“Many times, I can’t help but think that my music will remain a hobby. Many times, I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing anything worthwhile at all.”

It’s a question that we ask ourselves when we are alone with our doubts and fears. It’s a question that many of us never voice. postmoderndisco may not know where her path as an artist will take her, but she still has a goal: to continue developing her music even when doubt assails her. She may not have a clear vision of where she’s going musically, but she will only release music she believes in. The creation process is slow but she hopes this struggle will only deepen the originality and rigour of her music.

The last thing I saw from her was a picture on Instagram: three women in black dresses, eyes closed, bodies curved in ballet stances, limbs gracefully suspended. The caption read “Filming something.” The last thing she had said to me was that she was struggling to find creative inspiration. I double-tapped the picture; she was gaining creative momentum.

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