There are two sides to every story and that holds true in the case of “The Moment” (danceloudmusic.com), the debut 180-gram audiophile LP (also available via digital download) by Chicago-based queer electronic duo Dance Loud. Romantically and creatively linked, Kristin Sanchez and Desereé Fawn Zimmerman are each represented individually (and collectively) by a side on the LP. Like the best electronic music, the album features both up-tempo and down-tempo tunes, giving listeners the chance to work out and chill at their leisure. Also of note is the way that Dance Loud doesn’t hesitate to offer something to keep your brain as active as your body, as with the song “Dimes.” Kristin and Desereé were gracious enough to answer a few questions in advance of “The Moment’s” June 2020 release.
Gregg Shapiro: I’d like to begin by asking you to say something about the genesis of the name of your dance music duo, Dance Loud. Who came up with the name and why is it a good fit?
Desereé Fawn Zimmerman: Kristin used to work at a children’s fitness center. She had a boss that had to tell a coworker that she had body odor. During a meeting her boss told the coworker that she “smelled loud” and needed to do something about the smell. I thought it was a funny story and it was an inside joke between us. We started describing everything as loud, (as in) “this tastes loud.” Finally, one day we said, “Dance Loud,” and it stuck.
GS: You just released your debut album “The Moment,” which is available in a limited vinyl edition. The LP has cool cover artwork featuring a speaker, with a changing 3D image in the center of a mirror ball bursting out of the dust cap. Please say something about the concept.
Kristin Sanchez: The cover art has two meanings. It is a speaker cone with a dented dust cap hiding behind a shiny disco ball. We may appear shiny on the outside but have been dented or damaged on the inside. The speaker itself represents “Loud” and the disco ball represents “Dance”, together making Dance Loud.
GS: What can you tell me about Dance Loud’s songwriting process?
DFZ: Typically, the chord progression comes first, written on the guitar and sometimes converted to the piano/synths. I usually come up with the first basic notation while Kristin writes most of the lyrics. Everything is a joint process throughout the entire songwriting. I’ll come up with a very basic layout and then Kristin comes in, chops it all up and makes it more fun. We take turns engineering it. Sometimes Kristin will scratch my ideas and come up with better ones and vice versa. I am very anal about keeping a clean work session within the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) while Kristin is a bit more messy like a painter. If it were a painting, it would look like a little explosion on the canvas, but that’s how she gets her off kilter drum beats. We are very much opposites all around.
GS: I grew up in Chicago and when I heard the cicadas on “Travel,” it brought me right back to childhood summer nights. Please say something about incorporating the cicada’s song into that track.
KS: We had the windows open while listening to the mix on the living room speakers and realized the sound of the cicadas in the background was what was missing. We immediately packed up and went camping at Starved Rock to specifically capture a clean recording of the cicadas without the city noise. It worked out perfectly and we figured out it sounded best with just one cicada recorded about six feet away, instead of recording all the cicadas in the forest. All of them together sounded like white noise. That one cicada was sitting in the parking lot away from the forest and we were able to watch it as we were recording it. It was one of our most fond memories/moments while making this album. We are big fans of hiking and taking field recording with our Tascam.
GS: “Dimes” is not only a great dance song, but a powerful feminist statement. Please tell the readers about the inspiration for this song.
KS: The song is about being working class and stuck in an endless loop where you have a dead end job, can be replaced easily, no growth, favoritism, treated as a robot or servant, and mathematically is almost impossible to escape and/or have time to work on creativity. We chose these high stress part-time jobs in order to give us time to work on music, but in the end we had barely any music written. We were always exhausted, and the work took all our brain space with no room for creativity.
DFZ: This song hit very close to home for me being a burnt-out bartender for way too long. While tracking the vocals for most of the songs, I was too insecure to have Kristin in the room while singing. Coming from behind the drums to in front of the microphone was very scary for me. I cried while tracking this song. It represented all my feelings of being overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated. Never felt like any of my bosses really cared about their workers. If I’m making my boss millions why are they still heartless inside and only treating us as robots? We have a soul and this song is about feeding that soul not just paying the bills.
GS: “Hear Me Out” sounds like a personal song. To whom is the song addressed?
DFZ: This was the first song written on the album. We were rear-ended by a semi (truck) on a highway, ripping apart our hand-made tour bus and hospitalizing Kristin with over 15 broken bones for more than a month. We had just gotten home from the hospital and Kristin was unable to walk at that time. The accident stirred up a lot of bottled emotions within me and the words for the song just came pouring out. The taste of death made us prioritize our goals to complete an album. “Hear Me Out” was a true story about how we argued during the renovation of our home, about Kristin accepting a gig while we didn’t have running water or a practice space. The night prior to the show, I went camping for a night alone, to gather my thoughts. The song is about wanting to be with someone for the rest of your life, but sometimes you need time alone to heal, emotionally. The next day the show went on and we ended up playing one of our best sets live. I felt there are a lot of songs that talk about being in love or going through heartache, but there are not many about the compromise between. As a side note, for “Hear Me Out” the crickets (you hear) in the beginning were a field recording from the last night we were on tour in our hand-crafted tour bus, Precious. That’s why we put it in the song, it’s another cherished moment.
KS: I wasn’t physically ready to start making music right out of the hospital. Us not knowing our financial forecast built a lot of pressure in Desereé to hurry up and start writing. I feel this money pressure brought up the last financial situation when we were rehabbing on a tight budget. Desereé was fearing the moment she would have to go back to bartending, which could be suicidal for her.
GS: Being in Chicago, the birthplace of House Music, how much would you say that that genre is an influence on your sound?
KS: House is the main influence for our music. It’s structured the way house music is typically written, but we often replace the bouncy high hats with jazzy sounding ride cymbals. It is also structured for DJs to spin while keeping it somewhat close to a radio edit, like pop music. Deseree’s metal head kick drums were to make the typical four-on-the-floor house kick more intricate. We use cinematic intros influenced by Hans Zimmer and Deadmau5. [My being] born in inner city Chicago, that vibe is shown on side A. You can hear the attitude that Chicago house music portrays in most of the songs from the 90’s. Deseree’s B-side is slower and more emotional with her being from a small Midwestern farming town.
GS: Chicago has a long history of prominent lesbian DJs, including DJ Psycho Bitch and Teri Bristol. Would you consider Val or Teri to be influences on what you do?
KS: I wasn’t able to get into Crobar and Red Dog because I was too young. I used to stand outside of those clubs and dance on the streets. I do feel that the Chicago women DJs were role models for me. Other DJs like Colette, DJ Heather, Lady D and Dayhota were huge influences of mine. We were really happy when the day came that we shared a show with Teri Bristol.
GS: What role, if any, did music play in bringing the two of you together as a couple?
DFZ: I met Kristin at first in a club called Circuit where she was breakdancing in front of me. Nervously, I walked up and asked her name. Every question I asked had one-word answers from her and I felt she was not interested. That following Monday we ran into each other at school (Columbia College Chicago, where Kristin studied Audio Engineering and I went for Music Business), outside of the elevator. We had classes right next to each other and didn’t know it. Finally, we ran into each other again and Kristin asked me if I wanted to go to a 4 a.m. bar called Exit. When I got into her Jeep, she had her own song, “Take Me Home,” playing. I melted when hearing her production and thought, “OMG! I’m a musician and she’s an audio engineer. We are meant to be!”
GS: Which came first — your romantic or creative partnership?
KS: Romance came first. We started performing together by accident when Desereé jumped on the drums during my set to warm up for the following act. The crowd loved it. We were originally a romantic couple and event producers creating art events. With Desereé being a music business major, we were acting out her business plan.
GS: A recent Facebook Live post that you did featured your gorgeous dog, Mercury. What can you tell the readers about your fur baby?
DFZ: I always dreamed about having a standard poodle. My mother worked at a veterinary hospital growing up and we had a cockapoo. Once you go poodle, you become loyal to the breed. When we finished renovating our house, that was the first thing Kristin wanted to add to our American dream, a furry child. We found Mercury at a rescue in Ohio. It was so rare that she was at a rescue while having her AKC papers. We were told a wealthy woman bought her and got her fixed to prevent her from becoming a breeder mom and gave her to the rescue when she was just months old. Mercury loves house music and is our biggest fan! She sits in all our sessions and her bark even made it into our song “Hollow.”
GS: Are you planning to do more Facebook Live shows during the COVID-19 lockdown?
KS: Sure are! Just announced, we are performing for a Curve Magazine virtual concert. We recently got another offer and are currently working out the details. We just got a box that lets our DSLR camera work as our webcam and are running the audio in via firewire with a mixer. When we go forward with a project, we go all in. Quality always comes first!
GS: The pandemic is giving a lot of people the chance to dance as if nobody’s watching. What songs are you both dancing to these days?
KS: The Blaze’s “Territory,” Lorn’s “Acid Rain” and “It’s Only” by Odesza, Zyra and Rufus Du Sol.
GS: Several Pride festivals have been canceled or postponed. Was Dance Loud booked to perform at any, and if so, have you heard anything about rescheduled dates?
DFZ: Yes, we are booked for Backlot Bash (in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood), a big yearly after-Pride event. So far, it is not canceled yet. Fingers crossed!