Photo courtesy of Yarlen.
Remixing music, genre, and identity, electronic music producer Yarlen can enter a room and immediately get attention. The Cuban ingénue demands all eyes and ears, whether it be for her electrifying beats, fresh and forward sentimentality, or killer bright red lips.
And once she has them, she holds them tight.
“I’m a girl and my music definitely doesn’t sound like it was made by a girl,” the 28-year-old artist tells BTR. “When people listen to it first and don’t know I’m a girl, that’s when their reaction is best.”
Such false assumptions may stem from the tenacity and intrepid wave of bass Yarlen creates to blast through speaker boxes, a trait not typically attributed to a woman’s musical style. But whatever, says Yarlen, she finds it amusing.
“Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I sing and dance,” she remarks.
The Miami-based musician began like most audio professionals – as a fan and obsessor of the craft. Her schooling originated in the enclaves of South Florida’s alternative rock and electronic scene, where the super weird and naturally cool flocked to mingle in niche environments, listening to eccentric tunes as they browse art installations, dance in afterhours clubs, and mess around on various sound systems. Convinced it was meant to be, Yarlen began creating her own music on high-tech software programs, and eventually pulled in some friends to guest on her work. The stars aligned and the sound popped, and pretty soon she was fashioning herself into the worlds of electronica, dance, and hip hop.
In fact, she would have done it a lot sooner had her parents been a little more convinced.
“I wanted to be a DJ, but my parents wouldn’t get me any DJ gear,” Yarlen recalls. “My mom wanted me to be a cheerleader or a girl. The next best thing for me was getting software, and that’s when I started playing around with music.”
Despite what may have been a counter offensive at home, Yarlen believes she was placed in the near perfect spot for a new artist to develop and curate her sound. Miami’s got the vibe, the influence, the wave of talent and the cultural synch to enhance the crescendo she was already building on her own. She lists her influences as a range from Flying Lotus and Dr. Dre to the local superstars of her borough, and she works with a similar diversity of artists on her songs. Her music varies from the slick vernacular of rap’s cleverest to the experimental technique of trance artists on the block, all linked together with her synth-heavy bass-line.
What’s most important, says Yarlen, is an open mind and a freedom to challenge every line of standard.
“You have to be ready to be looked at like you’re from another planet because people don’t get it, especially in the hip hop scene,” she points out. “I get dissed a lot. In the experimental scene, people are down to hear whatever, but in the hip hop scene, it’s harder, especially for the hard core fans that live and breathe it.”
“There is a specific formula and sound that when you switch it up, they don’t like it,” she adds. “They brush it off and don’t acknowledge it.”
Yet some of Yarlen’s best tracks to-date feature rap emcees, including “Everythang” with DaVincci, “Space Wolf” with Soarse Spoken, and “Sidewayz” with Johnny Magnum. She’s released an EP titled Drive Home, and is currently at work on her debut album, which will co-star some of Miami’s hottest underground acts and a potential collaboration with West Coast hip hop artist Ras Kass. The sound will be inspired by the ideas that strike her fancy on any given day, and the stream of consciousness that blows through the winds of the good life on the eastern shoreline.
For the young beatmaker, it’s all happening just right. No rush, no stress, only one minor hurdle to deal with –stage fright. She says she used to conquer it with a few cocktails, but has since given up alcohol to keep focused on the craft, and has had to turn down gigs because she wasn’t prepared to tackle the situation. Now, however, she will face it head on.
“I feel like I want to be on top of my game, and I can’t if I’m tipsy and I’m a mess,” Yarlen notes. “It’s hard being taken seriously as a girl producer, and then as a drunk girl producer?…I have to work really hard…I’m just gonna have to get on a stage, get over it, suck it up and do it….And hopefully not fuck it up too much.”
Be sure to listen to your favorite BTR shows all week long for music from Yarlen. You can also check out her Bandcamp page by clicking here.
Follow BTR Writer Courtney Garcia on Twitter!