Interview | Eau Claire
Rachel Wong aka Eau Claire is a Washington DC based producer who is known for her eclectic remixes and original tracks that feature her signature blend of house, nu-disco, and indie dance. In 2016, she kick started her own Feed Me Disco music label where she supports releases for up-and-coming nu-disco and house music artists.
It felt like a breath of fresh air to speak with Rachel. She radiates positivity with a laid-back demeanor. I’d consider her an influential scene starter who is engrossed in the ever-evolving DC dance music scene: while balancing her family, friends, and work in an oncology unit as a registered dietician.
Despite this laid back demeanor, she’s hyper focused and detail oriented when it comes to tackling music production. Lately she’s taking her music production to the next level and is presently in the final stages of creating her second EP which is set to be released this fall. She has shifted her focus from remixing tracks to working on cultivating her own original music. I am eagerly awaiting her upcoming performance at 9:30 club on Friday, August 31 for Blisspop Disco Fest alongside other iconic disco artists: Charles Feelgood, Francois K, and Claptone (purchase tickets to the show here).
So last time we talked with you for Blisspop in 2016, we covered how you were working in an oncology unit at the time.
I still do that! That’s my day thing. It’s steady money, which is good. But yeah I love it! It’s my passion in life along with music.
Is your focus being a nutritionist?
Yea, so I am an oncology dietitian, so I do nutrition counseling for people with cancer. It’s really a rewarding job actually. It’s kind of messy sometimes, but it still makes me happy being able to help people. I’ve been doing it for a long time now, about six years. Time flies!
As you’re helping people through these recovery stages in your patients’ lives, are there any takeaways for you in terms of self-care? Are there any self-care habits that you’ve picked up from being in your role?
No one’s asked me that before! It’s really important for me for not just what I teach people but for myself too. My mantra is to have balance and moderation, even with my diet. As a dietician, I don’t tell people that they have to really cut out things in life. It’s all about balancing and being able to incorporate things within moderate amounts and not overdoing things.
I think that can apply to many different aspects of your life too. It doesn’t have to just be food. But like, diet-wise and health-wise, I think that in order to be able to be creative and have longevity with music or whatever you’re passionate about in life, I think it’s important to be able to take care of yourself and have good health. So for me, it’s super important to exercise. I try to keep up with running and cooking.
Are you a meal planner kind of person in your day-to-day?
Every day! Yep!
I love cooking! It’s literally why I haven’t been as much on social media.
What are your thoughts on social media? Do you think it’s overrated? Is it a means to an end?
I am not a big social media person in the first place, but I got more into it as I was working on music but then I realized it kinda consumed me. It’s all about moderating your time using it.
Right! It’s part of that balance in life.
You can start being too engrossed in social media and not be with your friends and family. I think family and people around you is so important. But yeah, social media is important with music and connects you with your fans. I want to have some social media presence but I don’t need to be on there 24/7.
How do you find balance in your musical projects?
For balance, I allow myself to be involved in certain things versus stepping away from certain situations where I don’t think it would be healthy for me. For example, I love playing and performing but even in the last year or so I realized I was getting overwhelmed with everything going on with my day job [and] personal life with stuff going on family-wise. So it became difficult to even find time to do music. I was really losing my motivation. I realized I can’t do everything. I was also spending every waking free moment I had working on music. Ideally I would love to do that but I was realizing I was losing my sight of other aspects of my life that make me healthy and help me to write music well. If you’re exhausted all the time, then you can’t really be creative.
What’s your turnaround time on tracks?
At one point I was doing tracks probably once a month? I’m not like a super fast producer. I am really meticulous. Probably a little too much! I’m very detail oriented.
That’s what I love about your tracks! I do like that there’s meticulous things you do on percussion. It’s not just the standard four on the floor loop. You might have that in there, but I notice you’ll throw in fills which seems more organic to me. It takes time to do that!
Yeah, I try to add more variety. I am working on this song that I’ve been working on for like months! It’s my new original single that I would like to get out but like I literally have changed it so many times that I’ll come back to it and try to make it better. It’s the little details, like the percussion. Percussion isn’t my strong suit, so it takes me a little longer to get it in. I could easily just do four-on-the-floor and just leave it at that. But I like to create variety and have more ebbs and flows with the music. So yeah, that’s why it takes me longer.
What do you consider your strengths as a producer? Would you say vocals or keys? What things in the studio are you gravitating towards?
I’m not afraid to say I am really bad at vocals but I try to do them on my own. Haha! But I’m really good at piano. That’s what I really get into. Chords come naturally to me! I have my little keyboard in front of me and I’ll be plunking down parts as I produce.
Nice! Is that an m-audio midi keyboard I see in your studio?
It’s just a little portable midi keyboard! I was traveling on the train a lot and it fits into my backpack. So I can easily practice different notes. Sometimes I’ll use the computer keys too, if I am really not traveling light. But yea! The keys and the melodic parts come more naturally to me, but then I find myself overdoing it sometimes so then I need to scale back a bit. Keep things simple or switch it up and work on percussion. It’s easy to work on something that you are familiar with but the percussion part for me is the harder part so I know I need to push myself to spend more time on that.
Any tips to build a newer musical skillset?
I think there’s always room to improve! For me, I’ll find some songs that I like from other people and I listen to certain sections on repeat to try and grasp what they made. I’ll even bring in a good drum section and use it as a model, trying to recreate it using a drum rack.
It takes a long time but it helps to understand where the notes are. I use Ableton and I can drag and drop things, so I can kind of understand how it’s being syncopated.
The thing is, there’s not a standard way of doing it. I just kinda picked up things over the years. For any producer, there’s not one right or wrong way to make music. For people that teach themselves to produce, they find unique sounds and that’s how people become more known because they have their own way of doing things that doesn’t sound like everyone else’s music.
Have you defined a genre for your style of music? Or are you more agnostic about what style you produce?
I have a disco/pop/house style. That’s what naturally comes to me. I don’t try to write that. But that’s what I know. What I’ve learned as I go through the years, it does help to have a bit of your own branding so that people know you for your music. Like if ODESZA started writing trap music, people would be like, “What the heck!?”
I would be interested to hear him try his hand at it! I heard this Deadmau5’ latest album Where’s the Drop? I had no idea this was Deadmau5 when I initially heard it. It totally surprised me when I found out it was him. It definitely departs from the style of his prior work and incorporates more chamber music. He’s doin’ the Trent Reznor thing now I guess?
RAC, who is one of my role models, has been composing songs for orchestras. That’s so cool! He’s not putting it out for mainstream. That’s probably very difficult to do that kind of work.
Oh yeah! It requires the ability to score and arrange parts. In a similar way, you kinda do that as an electronic producer. Do you ever bring in session musicians to play on your tracks?
For my song, “Room,” I had a saxophonist. The way we did it is I sent him the track and he wrote the saxophone line cuz he wasn’t living in the same area as me. I had this female singer on this new track. I had her come over and record it in my room studio here. That’s the song I am working on now. Hopefully I’ll just wrap it up!
Do you know when you’re going to drop it? We’ll be all over that!
I would love to release it before Blisspop Disco Fest. But if not, I am hoping to do a two track EP — maybe add another Feed Me Disco track.
How did you get started with the Feed Me Disco label?
It started off as a party. Then all my music stuff went into it. I’ve learned and grown from it over time. But I honestly didn’t know initially how to run a label. I’m still learning how to. But I am working on new releases from other artists. But I am working with a producer from Germany trying to help him to release his new EP. Hopefully once we get some vocals on the track. And once I finish my stuff it will be on there.
Is your goal to help advise and cultivate artists’ careers?
The goal is to help provide a forum to release new music but also to build this brand of Feed Me Disco. For a long time, I had a hard time finding an outlet to release my own music because it’s not deep house. I realized I should create my own platform and work to grow it over time.
With your perspective as a successful female producer in the industry, have you ever witnessed some sort of preferential or tokenization treatment as an electronic producer, specifically because of your gender?
One time in the beginning there was a situation where I was asked to do a show. I was expecting an opening fee. When it came to be two weeks before the show, I checked in with the booker. Although we had not talked about a fee, I let them know what sort of compensation I needed to play the show. The promoter was like, “Oh, this is pro-bono show.” At that moment, I realized I had to speak up for myself, so I politely declined the show. I’m not sure if this is exactly what you’re asking and I am not sure if this situation happens more to men or women, but it’s something I was dealing with.
But to answer your question, I am aware of it. I hope to encourage other girls and women to be in the music industry. I do bring this up because I want more women in the industry. I also don’t think it needs to be in your face. Just because I am a woman does not mean my music is greater than yours.
This is relatable for anyone pursuing music. It’s important to set your standards.
I think it’s important to definitely speak up for yourself. Just because I am a girl I shouldn’t expect any special treatment. But I do feel that it helps to have some variety: with not just all men on the lineup. I do love it when I see other girls performing. It’s really nice to see! I would speak up if I saw a woman being talked down upon. If being a woman was affecting an artist from performing somewhere: that is something to not let go of.
Who are some of your favorite artists you’ve shared a lineup with? I saw the show you did with Flight Facilities recently at 9:30 Club.
That was fun! I really enjoyed that! It was a great come around show because the first time I played a show with them was 3-4 years ago. It was fun to be back on that stage. Goldroom is always a favorite of mine. I’ve had many opportunities to play with him and every time it’s really awesome. Hopefully I’ll have more opportunities to do stuff with him in the future.
The local crowd is great! I love Will Eastman and Julius Jetson. I don’t get to play with them as much because our genres are so different, but it’s great being able to do things musically with them and see our community grow. [Another] local artist I enjoy is Michael aka Noce. He is doing really well right now. He’s musically in the disco/nu-disco genre. I do enjoy when he plays for my Feed Me Disco shows.
In terms of shows though, I am really looking forward to the Blisspop Disco Fest! I even changed my flight for that show cuz I am going on a two week vacation with my family.
Oooh! Where are you going?
I’m going to be in Canada for two weeks! I’m from Canada.
I didn’t know that!
But I lived most of my whole life in the US though. I’ve lived here [in DC metropolitan area] for about ten years. Before that, I lived in Connecticut, and before that, Canada. I love Canada! I am going to see my grandparents and family [on this trip]. It’ll be good because I’ll have time off work so I can focus on working on music too.
I feel like I write better when I travel. But I have been working so much on my day job that I really haven’t had that much time. So when I travel on a plane, that’s my ideal time to create.
That’s such a good idea! And the fact that you are keeping it portable is a good call. I hope you have a great time on vacation!
Yea! Thanks! I hope to put out a new Feed Me Disco mix to put out in the next couple of weeks and then hopefully finish up some of the tracks for either Blisspop Disco Fest or for the fall for sure…
This Blisspop Disco Fest is a perfect opportunity for that! I think it’s an honor to play 9:30 Club. So congrats to you for reaching that point in your musical career!
It is! Every time I play there I get nervous. It’s a big place!
What do you think of these new venues popping up on the DC Waterfront? Is it helpful for you or do you think it is gentrifying the city in some way?
I think it’s great! I think DC has a growing scene and I want it to flourish. I haven’t been to Union Stage but I’d like to go there too.
Yeah! I saw Moon Boots’ live set and it was incredible! I had a blast! It was on a random Wednesday but it was poppin’! I was pleasantly surprised that they did dance music there.
Was it more of a live music venue?
The stage is big enough for a full band. It’s bigger than a DJ booth for sure.
Is it like Black Cat size?
It’s close to it! I think it can get up to 500 people. They could easily carry DJs, but it worked out well for a live performance. Moon Boots was incredible though: there were like ten musicians on stage at one point. At least three vocalists! Would you ever take your music live?
I would love to do that! I would need to quit my day job to make that happen. But I thought about that a lot. That would make me so happy! But for now, I’m going to work on writing music.
Churn it out! To wrap it up, is there anything Blisspop should be on the lookout for this year?
My goal is to have my second EP out this year. The vocals are from Sydney Franklin. So you can keep a look out for her. She’s a great voice! I met her at SXSW. That’s going to be on one of the singles. I am working on what I am going to choose for my other single track. That and just getting more original releases done and keeping up with the Feed Me Disco mixes every season.