#CREATORTALK is a series of articles and interviews, with a focus on the creative industries and the talent working within them. In this edition of #CREATORTALK, we speak to musician Meryl S. Kavanagh – the driving force behind Eyeshadow 2600 FM.
PW – Hello Meryl. How’s it going?
Pretty good, been spending my weekend revisiting Mass Effect. Hope all’s going well on your side!
PW – Can’t complain. So, first things first: how would you sum up who you are and what you do?
Well, probably the first thing people notice about me in online profiles is that I’m a trans woman, and it’s true! I began my transition in 2012 and although it’s been rocky, it’s been an improvement of stuff and things in general.
Outside of that, I currently make music with FL Studio as my main DAW [digital audio workstation] and honestly had no idea I’d even be doing this at any point until 2017. In my 20s I attempted to be an author but, you know, sometimes life takes you in different directions.
PW – What attracted you to the kind of music you make now?
I used to be really big into this virtual world called Second Life, basically a lot of people see it as a 3D chat simulator and for all intents and purposes, that’s mostly what it is. But I met a girl through SL who introduced me to synthwave/retrowave through the NewRetroWave YouTube channel, and a Shoutcast station she was running. And I listened to it every single day, sometimes for the entire day and I couldn’t stop listening to it. It got to the point where I felt like I just needed to figure out how to do all of this myself, because it’s just that good.
PW – Why do you think that retrowave and similar styles have become so popular over the last few years?
I think it’s become as popular as it has for a lot of reasons. Some people might say, because it invokes a sense of nostalgia, even for an era where they may not have even lived. For some I think it has an arcade video game appeal, or an action movie appeal, a cyberpunk appeal. All of these things are really popular and it’s about dang time actually, considering just how dominant anything fantasy themed has been like, what? The past four decades? Ha ha.
PW – There seems to be a strong sense of community and support among artists in your field. Why do you think this is?
I think it’s partly because of how the music scene has shifted over the years leading up to the giant popularity of retrowave. Back in the 90s you didn’t really have PCs with widely available DAWs and stuff that you could just download in the blink of an eye and just be an artist (I am of course speaking from the perspective of someone who was a child in the late 80s and 90s).
Now, here in 2019, you could have a PC or in some circumstances even just a smartphone with a synth hooked up to it, or any multitude of paid or free DAWs available all over the internet. You don’t need to dump thousands of dollars into instruments and gear, and twelve PCs and a gigantic home studio. All you need is a PC, some hands and some ears.
And I think because of this surge of people who can finally do what they’ve probably been wanting to do for a real long time, and didn’t think they could do for so long, and because of how special retrowave is, I think this all comes to form a sense of comradery, you know? Like, ay, we’re all here doing this, why not help each other out and take the whole scene to the top, or whatever. It’s real cool.
PW – Which artists would you say have particularly inspired you?
I would definitely say artists like d.notive, Perturbator, Mega Drive, Powerglove, Dynatron, Dance with the Dead, and that’s just to name a handful, whose tracks I’ve gotten stuck in my head from probably a year of nonstop listening.
PW – Which other artists would you recommend people check out?
Specifically in relation to people I’ve either worked with or spoken to personally, I’d say go check out Bytemapper, Synthwave Redneck, Miles Matrix, Jaylyn Snow, Levinsky…and that’s just a tiny sampling really. There are so many cool artists out there and I could recommend them all but I’d be sitting here until the early morning typing them all out lol.
PW – What’s your studio set-up like? What tech do you use?
If you can call it a studio, I’m using the PC I bought in 2014 as my production PC, and that’s it. Like that’s totally it, outside of a pair of decent headphones a friend got for me on my birthday a couple years ago. Upgrading and/or getting more tech (or any lol) is one of my number one goals, because I’m serious about this and sooner or later, it’s gonna have to happen. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous seeing how cool literally everyone else’s setup is.
For the first year or so of doing this, I had this really strong idea about how I didn’t want to sell myself short, I didn’t want to give the appearance of not valuing what I do. But I took a step back and I looked at the music scene in-general and realized this isn’t what ‘pay what you want’ or ‘name your price’ means at all.
I looked at how music is spread around, and you know, I kinda realized that sorta just letting people pay if they want, and offering it to anyone and everyone regardless of whether or not they have the ability to pay, is really the best way I feel to get heard and to grow a fanbase. I’m not trying to say, “You shouldn’t have a pricetag on your music.” Do what you feel is best. But after a lot of observation and thinking, I feel like this is the best for me. This is how people are going to hear my music, and this is how I’m going to do it from now on.
PW – You recently revamped the reward tiers on your Patreon page. What are you offering, and what advice would you give to other creators who may want to start their own Patreons?
Well, before I revamped the tiers a little bit, I felt like they weren’t really distinguishable from each other and in order for people to feel like they’re getting something, outside of all the stuff I make (and those exclusive EPs lol), I wanted to offer something here or there.
So I set up the one dollar tier so you could just jump on and grab everything. The five dollar tier so you can be in the credits of every album post-ReKall, the ten dollar tier for a photo submission to be used as actual, or in actual album art, the twenty dollar tier for a literal custom made track (within my ability) and the fifty dollar tier for a personal thank you in album credits, along with everything else available. All of this also comes with Discord access and roles (the 50 dollar tier offering up moderation), although I’m still pretty much working on building the Discord into being an active community.
If you’re starting a Patreon, or thinking of making one, I would definitely try and offer something for each tier. Give people an incentive to want to subscribe outside of just having all of your music as soon as it’s done. And don’t leave it without an update for an entire month, even if you don’t have anything new to offer, at least give people an update on what you’re doing and where things are headed. This can also of course be supplemented with videos, something I’ve yet to do (because I’m not much of a video person lol).
PW- This site focuses heavily on creativity and the real people behind the art. How does creativity affect you on a day to day basis? Does inspiration typically strike you out of nowhere; or do you have very specific ideas and goals for any project you decide to work on?
I would say that I’ve been trying to work with specific ideas lately (especially in regards to ReKall), but as far as inspiration goes, on any given day, something could just hit me out of nowhere. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, but when it does I absolutely must stop everything and either talk about it, or put it into motion through at least the beginning of a project.
It’s really chaotic, and that’s why you’ll see me go a few days without any updates about music, and then suddenly I’m dumping FL Studio recordings on Twitter. Because if the inspiration isn’t there and nothing’s hitting me in a singular moment, I’m more or less just forcing myself and it never works out well that way.
PW- What are your ambitions for the future?
I wouldn’t say that I want to be rich or anything but I hope to grow enough of a listener base that I can partially rely on my work in music alone to sustain what I need and what I want in life. Like I said earlier in all of this, it’s been rocky, sometimes extremely tough. And to make this music and to maybe even go places with it, that is the dream, a dream I never even thought I’d ever be working with. And hell, looking into the future, and where I’m at now, the music I make may even end up being a life saver at some point. You never know. But that’s why I just keep on going.
That aside, my immediate ambitions are to acquire more or new hardware and just keep doing what I do.
PW- In this kind of economy and industry, it can be tough to feel like you’re moving forwards sometimes. How do you battle these feelings when they come up and do you have any advice to other people who might be struggling in a similar way?
I would say most of all, don’t give up. Sometimes things can look really bleak, believe me, I know. I know that most of all in the darkest hours of the night when I’m fighting to distract myself with things like Mass Effect, or The Sims 4. But don’t ever give up. Even if you have to take your ambitions elsewhere, or at least partially elsewhere, just keep going.
Things are rough out there, and for some of us, it can be scary too. But you gotta hold on to the idea that the future can and will be better, cause the alternative isn’t good for your health.
PW- And final question. Actually it’s more of an invitation. Feel free to use the next few sentences to self-promote the hell out of what you’re up to.
Well, for this last bit, I’ll say that currently I’m working up the inspiration to start another exclusive EP for my Patreon and Bandcamp subscribers, and after that I’ll be starting another new album that I’ve decided to label Afterlife (some might know where this inspiration is coming from lol).
With that aside, you can find me in these places, and thank you for doing this! It’s been an honor to speak here.