FROM a Canadian duo: it is to a hot American artist…
who has an exciting and original sound. I was eager to speak to Disco Shrine about that name (for a start...) and how she came up with the single, Up in the Air. She discusses her Iranian heritage and what it's like being based in L.A.; which artists and sounds drove her to go into music; some of music’s new artists making her stand up and take notice – how busy the next few weeks/months are in terms of touring.
She gives me a glimpse into her plans and goals; whether there is more material coming our way; why he family and roots play a part in everything she does; how that unique sound comes together; if we can see her play the U.K. this year – how she detaches and chills away from music.
Hi, Disco Shrine. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi! I'm great! I just had my single release-show at School Night and it was beautiful and magical - and so many people were there. I couldn't have asked for a better way to start the week...
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hi. I'm Disco Shrine. I'm an Indie/Electro-Pop artist from L.A.
Up in the Air is your new track. What is the story behind it?
Up in the Air is a song I wrote that was inspired by my parents immigrating to America after the Iranian Revolution. It's about finding the strength to leave your whole world behind in search for a better one.
I know there is a very personal relevance to the messages – immigration and your parents fleeing from Iran to America. Is their struggle something that motivates you to create music? Has it driven you in any way?
Absolutely. One thing my mother always taught me was that I can accomplish anything I want if I work hard for it: that's such a beautiful possibility to have. Unfortunately, there are so many people in other countries that don't always have that luxury. Every time I'm on stage, I remind myself how blessed I am to have the freedom to be on that stage following my dreams - and how different my life would be if my parents didn't make that possible for me.
How does it feel knowing they had to flee?
I think it's extremely bittersweet.
So much of me clings to the Persian part of me, but I don't have a lot of the actual context of what it means to live in a world where Farsi is the primary language and the things I eat and cultural traditions I practice aren't weird – quirky, things my American friends make fun of me for.
So, in some ways, I secretly wish I could have experienced life in Iran. But, at the same time, L.A. is definitely my home…and I wouldn't change that for the world.
Is there more music coming down the line? What are you working on?
Yes, definitely! I've spent the last year locked up in the studio writing – so, it's time for all of the gems to come out this year.
Your name, ‘Disco Shrine’ is a bit cheeky. I notice playfulness in your music. Do you feel it is important to balance humour and the serious?
Haha. I love that you describe it as ‘a bit cheeky’. But, yeah; the name is meant to be an oxymoron because, on one hand, you have a ‘Disco’ which is a very fun, loud and energetic vibe. Then, you have a ‘Shrine’, which is quiet, peaceful and passionate - and promotes inward reflection. This was definitely purposeful. I knew I wanted Disco Shrine to be fun, upbeat Dance music - because life is too short not to dance. But, at the same time, there are so many important issues in the world and to have a platform where you can bring these issues to light and not use that platform is just a waste of a voice.
L.A. is where you are based. How promising is the city regards new music? Is it somewhere you feel settled and understood?
Yes, yes, yessss. It's funny because everyone in L.A. hates L.A - especially people who grew up here. But I am a born-and-raised LA Valley Girl (hair flip) and I like totally love L.A. Like, I'm in love with L.A. I've lived in other places but, something about L.A. always pulls at my heart-strings. I think a big part of it is that my musical and creative journey started here. I remember, as soon as I got my driver’s license at sixteen, I was always going to concerts and open mics - and started becoming a part of these small D.I.Y. music scenes in L.A. where everyone was so supportive of each other’s music. That's when I picked up guitar and banjo and, basically, started playing music.
I used to always write songs in the car and sing to myself when I was stuck in traffic. (It's the only thing traffic is good for!). I also think there's a very strong and diverse music scene in L.A. There's something for everyone here: you just have to know where to look. But, the great thing is that it’s always changing and there's always new people moving to the city - so it never gets boring and you're always on your toes!
I believe you used to host traditional Persian jam sessions! You bonded with guitar and banjo and would entrain friends and family. When was the moment you transitioned from bedroom-recording artist to a proper L.A. artist – where ‘Disco Shrine’ was born?
It was after I graduated from College. I went to UCLA and, at the time, I was working in entertainment publicity and had a bunch of different jobs lined up for me once I graduated. But, music was always a huge passion of mine and something I always found myself going back to. So, I decided that a desk job would always be there but, if I didn't pursue music, I would regret it forever.
That's when I decided to take music seriously and make it my main priority.
Can you tell me a bit about the music you grew up with? Which artists made an early impression on you?
I actually grew up on some pretty classic Rock artists. My mom was obsessed with artists like Bruce Springsteen, Jonny Cash; Tom Petty, U2. (Fun Fact: my mom took me backstage at a U2 concert when I was a baby and Bono kissed my forehead.) So; Classic-Rock is, weirdly enough, where my roots are at. Something I love most about these artists is their songwriting abilities: the way they paint a picture so vividly through their words and sound. It's so inspirational. At the same time, though; I had my older sister feeding me Madonna and Kurt Cobain in the 1990s - so my music taste is all over the board.
IN THIS PHOTO: Chela/PHOTO CREDIT: Gina Nero
If you had to choose the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
This is the hardest question ever - and I don't feel like I can fully answer it - because different albums mean the most to me at different times in my life. So; here are a few albums off the top of my head:
U2 - The Joshua Tree
This album was, basically, the soundtrack to my childhood.
Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation
It got me through a really hard break-up.
Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
I just love her so much and love the messages she preaches.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up? Will the U.K. be part of your touring plans?
Yes! I'm going on a mini-tour! Nothing planned for the U.K. at the moment - but it's definitely a possibility:
2/5: Los Angeles, School Night (single-release party) * live show
2/16: Seattle, Beyoncé vs. Rihanna D.J. set
2/17: Seattle, Dance Yourself Clean * live show
2/23: New York, Dance Yourself Clean * live show
2/24: New York, Candi Pop D.J. set
3/15-3/18: Austin (Texas), SXSW
3/30: Washington DC, Beyoncé vs. Rihanna D.J. set
4/6: Boston, Beyoncé vs. Rihanna D.J. set
4/7: Chicago, Beyoncé vs. Rihanna D.J. set
4/13: Phoenix, Beyoncé vs. Rihanna D.J. set
Looking back on your time in music so far; are there favourite memories that come to mind?
I think the best memories I have are when I'm playing shows. I recently just played at The Troubadour and that was a huge shocker moment for me - just because the first-ever show I went to was at The Troubadour - and so many amazing artists have played there.
It was definitely a ‘wow’ moment.
How do you spend time away from music? Any hobbies or favourite ways to chill?
I'm always still going to concerts, supporting my other musician friends or dancing! Love dancing. I still write sad Folk songs that will never see the light of day (for fun). I love going to parks and relaxing in the sun.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Chela - Bad Habit (smiles)
Follow Disco Shrine