Track x Track: Willo - 'watching a memory [Mixtape]'

Track x Track: Willo - 'watching a memory [Mixtape]'

Eora/Sydney-based producer takes us through her new mixtape of deep, varied electronic and indie vibes

Image credit: Jordan Kirk

It’s been nearly two years since Willo dropped her breakthrough EP Can Do This, a four track record that saw her pop up on the radars of electronic music fans across the country - and the rest of the world. Since then, she’s been busy in the lab readying what would become her new mixtape - watching a memory, a gorgeous seven track collection that packs everything from downtempo breakbeat acid to indie dance, vibesy house rollers to drum and bass - and a little bit of that all blended up together.

Featuring collaborations with longtime experimental electronic indie fave Skeleten (All Your Love) as well as dark pop queen niina (I’ve got a bf (best friend)), when it comes to the creation of the mixtape Willo explains “watching a memory stretches across two years, starting January 2022. I explored a variety of ideas and sounds, aiming to encapsulate the concept of ‘watching a memory’ by capturing the fleeting moments of inspiration experienced throughout my creative journey and life in general. The primary theme I delved into was connection and relationships - romantic and platonic.”

To celebrate the release of watching a memory, Willo was kind enough to take us on a deep dive into each track on the mixtape - have a listen and get to know:

Watching a memory is a body of work I created between January of 2022 through to February of this year. I explored a variety of ideas and sounds, aiming to encapsulate the concept of 'watching a memory' by capturing the fleeting moments of inspiration experienced throughout my creative journey and life in general, as well as the different creative phases I underwent. The primary theme I delved into was connection and relationships, both romantic and platonic. Both EP tracks, ‘Reverie (Start of Something)’ and ‘watching a memory,’ initially started as soundtracks rather than songs. My intention was to capture a feeling first and then delve into the structure and arrangement. This was a significant epiphany in my songwriting process, exploring themes of connection, nostalgia, and solitude. I knew that these tracks weren’t traditional singles; but they were still my favorite productions. So I intentionally placed them at the beginning and end of the EP to give listeners a little glimpse of what was to come before revealing it fully through the singles.

reverie (start of something)

‘reverie (start of something)’ were the early feelings I felt in a connection. I wanted to make this track feel like a journey, and have a sense of ambience at the start with simple sound design and lush chords. To foreshadow what was to come both sonically and metaphorically, I used a vocal chop from RUSH (Blush). I spent most of the time working on the drums in this song, making sure every hit was different and or had an element of modulation - I wanted the synths to feel flowy & dreamy and the drums to counter this idea and carry this sense of moving, unpredictable energy. Since there wasn’t a lot going on vocally, I thought it would be interesting to experiment with some acid sounds towards the end of the track. I wanted it to feel intense and loved how it sat perfectly over the top of the production where I usually would let the lead vocal live.

All Your Love

‘All Your Love’ has actually been sitting on my computer for a very long time. The production idea itself was made years ago and was added to a bunch of demos that my A&R sent across to Skeleten. We had a session in his studio, and I intended for him to sing over some newer ideas, but he pulled up ‘All Your Love’ and he loved it. Initially I was a bit unsure, as I didn't think the idea was that good, but I trusted the process. As soon as he got in the booth, I was obsessed, and I started to fall in love with the production on the record again. The record started to immediately pop with the extremely catchy melody he laid down. I remember the exact feeling in the studio that day; we both had this realization of "THIS IS IT."

Right before the end of the session, I randomly heard this guitar riff in my head. Knowing Skele was a gun on the guitar, I threw it to him and said, "Hey, let's just go all in." He played the melody underneath, and instantly the song felt like summer. I drove home and listened to the song about 10 times. I thought, "Damn, this is really pop… but is it too pop?" When I got home, I opened Ableton and worked on the tune until the early hours of the morning. I tried taking out the guitar, but it just wasn’t the same. It felt a bit too obvious, though, so I added a section with the guitar chopped up, acting as this new polyrhythm that kept driving the song forward and gave it a sense of movement.

We sat with the song for ages, and I just kept chipping away at multiple versions. I went in and laid down some vocals for Skele to eventually replicate, but he thought we should just keep them in there to have this nice contrast. We went back to the studio, and Skele re-recorded some vocals - we found that some of those original takes had to stay in there. He added a bunch of really candid, fun ad libs. At this point, we were just so stoked on the track and weren’t overthinking anything. Skele was just singing the most random stuff, and I was hyping him up. He said something like "take your dog for a walk," and then he laughed afterwards, and then I thought, "GREAT. Mans has a lovely laugh, and that is 100% going on the track."

I want listeners to feel like they are back 5 summers ago, at the beach or on a road trip with their friends.

watching a memory

This track was all about intention from the second I started working on it - even with the capitalisation of this track, I wanted it to feel soft and gentle and let people go wherever they needed to. I started this idea in bed after looking through some photos and videos. I thought, if I could get this feeling down really quick, the rest of the track would write itself and it did. I wanted it to be quite literal at the beginning and take listeners outside to nature and near a body of water, so I added some beach recordings I had on my phone. I went into this song with the intention of soundtracking a moment rather than making an actual song.

I started with simple sounds but added heaps of processing - delays, reverbs, etc. - and resampled them multiple times. I wanted the sounds to be almost abrasive to the ear, in contrast to the soft chords and drums. This unconventional, squelchy sound reminded me of a dolphin or something similar in the water. The intentionally off-grid delay created a beautiful unpredictability, which was genuinely exciting for me during the creation process. I aimed for the hits to evoke the sensation of little flickers, like photos and memories that pop into our minds during meditation or daydreaming.
The vocals originated from just one vocal chop, which I repitched and put into a granulator. I then played it like a synth, entirely by feeling, and once again, resampled it and added various effects. The vocals don’t really follow a melody; instead, I wanted the synths to carry the melody this time, with the ethereal vocals supported by the tension and atmosphere.

If there’s one track I want people to listen to, it’s this one. It's a song I never thought I'd be able to release, as it's so different from the rest of the tracks. But, out of all of them, it's the track that represents me the most and what I want my music to convey. I aimed to say a lot in this track without using words or lyrics. I want listeners to be transported somewhere special - back to a memory or place - to sit with it and experience a moment of gratitude and introspection.

i’ve got a bf (best friend)

niina: When Willo first sent over the instrumental to this it instantly clicked for me, I loved the coolness and playfulness of the track and I just wandered around my room singing the melody and the lyrics seemed to come naturally with the personality of the track.'

Willo: IGABF came together quickly after I rediscovered a bunch of NZ reggae/roots tunes that I grew up on. I was inspired to create a track that captured that same dub essence with some nostalgic sax. I could instantly hear it’s potential for a fun vocal overtop and knew niina would be perfect for it.

RUSH (Blush)

RUSH (Blush) encapsulates the initial feelings of a romantic relationship, playing on the idea of rush in a literal and metaphorical sense. Through its glitchy chaotic arps, powerful vocal synth stabs and driving drums, each element highlights the intense hits of dopamine. Complementing this, (Blush) is explored in the emotive, lush vocal delivery which gives the record equilibrium.

Tha Rhythm

I made ‘Tha Rhythm’ for the summer festivals I had coming up in AU / NZ. I wanted to make a heavier tune for the dance floor that was easy to bop along to. After road testing the tune and receiving a really great reception, I was able to make little changes each time, which ultimately feels like this one is directly inspired by the energy and crowds I played to. I found that keeping it simple and just honing in on the drums and vocals really resonated with the szn'.

FEEL LUCKY

FEEL LUCKY leans further into the club world with a wobbly driving bassline paired with nostalgic vocal samples made for moments of contemplation on the dancefloor. I made it after a run of shows in Australia. I was so inspired by the people I met and the special moments I had connecting with live music. It’s about coming together, feeling grateful and hugging your besties on the dance floor.

          - Willo, April 2024

Willo's new mixtape Watching A Memory is out now via Future Classic

Artwork watching a memory

Follow Willo: Instagram / Facebook

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