A young girl walks into a smoky downtown venue for her first 18+ show; the year is 2011. The seemingly small space slowly fills as the smell of spilled beer mingles with the haze of cigarette smoke. The headliner, Washed Out, is her favorite artist and weeks of excitement have led to this moment, to this fulfillment of (in her mind) a rite of passage.
However, the openers also amaze and enrapture, particularly an artist whose mastery of synths borders on magical and whose melodies resonate long after the show has ended. The artist responsible for those dreamy sounds was Emily Reo and that girl experiencing her first taste of the joys of live music was me.
In 2009 Reo released her first album, Minha Gatinha, which featured a collection of ethereal lo-fi songs like “Metal on Your Skin” and “I’ll Never Live By the Coast” and showcased Reo’s haunting vocals. On Minha Gatinha the songs evoked enough warmth to conjure up beloved images of tranquil night drives and lazy days spent with loved ones. After a brief hiatus that involved moving from Florida to New York and then LA, Reo released the much awaited Olive Juice in 2013.
Olive Juice, while a more polished effort, still remains a whimsical journey complete with sweeping synths (“Peach”) and hypnotic melodies (“Rainbow Road”). The following year, Olive Juice Remixes was released with each of the twelve tracks reimagined by twelve different artists, one even featuring a cameo from Princess Peach of Super Mario fame.
During live sets, Reo crafts each layer with watchful care and precision while creating a fun, welcoming atmosphere that begs the listener to hold someone close and get lost in the music. Each loop is filled with bright tones and Reo’s lovely voice beckoning you further into the ever-expanding dream-verse her songs create.
“When I moved to New York, I needed to start playing shows on my own, so I had to get creative with electronics to fill the space I wanted to make live. I feel like taking songs I hadn't spent much time recording the first time around and re-working them for my live set helped me establish a more complete sound with new gear and new intentions,” said Reo.
While Reo writes and produces her own music, she also utilizes her production talent for other artists. For example, she has worked on tracks like Badges and Para True for fellow artist/friend Yohuna.
However, statistics show that women represent less than 5% of music producers and engineers, which speaks to the progress that has yet to be made in the music industry surrounding gender equality. In an interview for The FADER, Reo expressed how the lack of diversity in the production industry affects the creative projects of women.
When asked how this can be changed Reo said, “Since power starts at the top, it would be great if both labels and high profile artists took a little more time and consideration when selecting producers, and reached out to talented women instead of cycling through the same ~10 men that are responsible for most of what you hear on the radio (also a good look for the general diversification and progression of pop music). [Also] profiling talented female producers and engineers more frequently is a start. Profiling women in the music industry without the qualifier of "female" would be great, since female isn't a genre.”
For all things Emily Reo, including cute drawings and mesmerizing videos, check out her website.