Lena Brown: Merging genres and ideas

Lena Brown – AKA Tuff Ghost – is a Producer, DJ, and vocalist from Los Angeles. When she is not producing music in her Echo Park studio, she is playing shows around the country or working on her monthly party series “Your Mom’s House Party”. During her performances and throughout her original productions she enjoys merging genres and drawing on all her musical influences–from the chillest acoustic to the most energetic EDM bangers.

An Interview with Lena Brown:

What music has inspired and influenced your work?
So much. Growing up in SF, i was obsessed with artists like Muse, The Unicorns, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Dresden Dolls, Elliott Smith, Cat Power. Then I moved to LA and got introduced to the electronic scene and got really into Justice and all the Ed Banger artists and the electro music that was coming up at the time. I’m still so inspired by that music from my high school days as well as that whole Bloghouse scene, as well as some of the newer producers that I’ve been into recently like Mura Masa and Lido and Point Point.

What is your monthly party series and how did it get started?
It’s called ‘Your Mom’s House Party’ and it was started by me and three of my friends (three DJs and an animator). Two of us live together right across from The Shortstop Bar and basically were just really into the idea of throwing a party there. We came up with the idea of it being “House Party” themed because we just wanted to throw a fun party with silly stuff like twister and spin the bottle, and basically have the music be open format because we love jumping around to different genres and basically playing whatever we feel like. We are on our 4th year and excited to keep it going!

What is your creative process of developing a new song?
Usually I start with some sort of beat – and then I add chords or a simple bass line. Depending on how I’m feeling I’ll work on producing this idea out for awhile until i feel like trying to attempt any vocals. Then, usually once I get the mic out, I’ll basically just start singing complete nonsense to different melodies (like, not even real words, just mouth shapes). Out of those takes I’ll go through and figure out which melodies I like the most and fit words to them. After I’m reasonably happy with what I have, I’ll then go back into producing the track out.

Have you experienced challenges as a female artist in the music world?

Honestly it’s hard for me to think about it like that because I only see the opportunities that come to me–so it’s hard to even wonder about the ones I missed out on for whatever reason. There have been times where people were jerks to me or I’ve encountered certain “gate keepers” that had their own agenda – But I’ve always found that with those types of people–their power games are pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes I get a little sad when I look at certain EDM show lineups and see a lot more guys than girls–but I think that is a reflection of an older paradigm that is slowly changing as more girls are inspired to become dope producers. I have a rad community of female-identifying musicians that I’ve surrounded myself with over the past couple years and I’m just excited for us to keep pushing each other and inspiring each other to continue to grow and to be successful.

What role has collaboration played in your creative development?

I love to collaborate because above anything it inspires me to keep going on something. It forces you to not second guess yourself constantly because there is more of a pressure to move on. It can also be creatively amazing since there are multiple people contributing different ideas–you come up with things that you would have NEVER come up with by yourself. Overall it’s just more fun for me to share in the music making process and even the performance aspect. Sometimes it can be hard to explore everything you need to explore though–so it’s good to have a bit of a balance between solo music time and collaborative time.

Do you have any advice would you give to young female-identifying musicians working on establishing themselves?
Probably three parts, and honestly I think it can be applied to anybody–not just female-identifying artists.
1. Learn everything. Ask questions, if the people you are around are not giving you answers, find the answers in other ways or find people that can give you the answers. Don’t NOT do something because it seems like learning it would be too hard.
2. Put the time in. Sit down every single day for as many hours as possible and work on your music. Do whatever you can to live and breathe it.
3. Human connections are important, surround yourself with people that inspire you and support you. Never put up with situations that feel wrong because you think the “opportunity” is too high to give up. Walk away, there will always be more opportunities out there.

Moving into the new year, what’s next for you?
I intend to be releasing a lot more music this year than I ever have in the past, so I’m excited to see where that takes me! I have a couple collaborations I’m excited about as well. Overall I’m looking forward to becoming more consistent in everything I do.

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