This month we talk to Sofia Hultquist, a composer that writes and creates music for film, fashion, and media, of LA based band Drum & Lace. Hailing from Florence, Italy, Sofia's childhood was filled with a love for the classical arts. Read about how this shapes her sound in her film scoring and current project, which just released, an EP called Midnight Roses. Be on the lookout for an audio/visual gallery show in Los Angeles scheduled for late April/early May and follow along on social media @drumandlace to stay up to date!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Florence, Italy. When I was young, I was really lucky that my paternal grandmother was a lover of classical piano, so she essentially signed me up for classes as soon as I started junior school. Because I grew up in a city known for its visual art and history, definitely not for being very avant garde, I think that it inspired me to find music that was different as a way to do something that wasn’t as classic as all the art around me.
Where did you spend your "coming of age years?" How did that influence you as an artist?
I spent my early ones still in Florence, until I left to go to Boston for college. The art that I grew up around has definitely affected my aesthetic so much more than I give it credit for. I think that as much as Florence wasn’t very music-friendly, it forced me to start experimenting things on my own and, in a way, didn’t box in my creativity. Also, going clubbing on the weekends in high-school definitely instilled a sense of dance music from early on that I still carry with me today.
Did you have any formal study with learning to play?
I started playing piano around seven and started taking voice lessons a few years later, after years of self-training. When I hit high school, I speedily traded in the piano for a guitar and drums and have continued jumping around since then.
Who were your main early influences?
There were so many, both great and regrettable. My first two CDs were Jagged Little Pill and Magic Kingdom and they were so formative. I also went through a huge 60s/70s rock phase (Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Who, Rolling Stones) before discovering The Bends, OK Computer, and Homogenic, and that changed everything.
What was your first instrument?
I was lucky enough to have a piano at my grandmother’s house, but my first instrument, I think, was an old-school Yamaha electric keyboard, the type they have in schools. That was the first of many keyboards and instruments. Right now, I have a mix of all sorts of things that help me with my scoring and composing. In terms of MIDI, my go-to these days is the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49. That has been great both in the studio and live. We have a ton of analog synths in our studio that serve different purposes, but my favorites are probably the Prophet 6 and Tempest (drum machine) both from Dave Smith Instruments. Lately, I’ve also been using the OP1 from Teenage Engineering, and the Future Sonus Parva to fill out my sessions. In terms of guitars, my (also composer) husband is the guitar player of the house, and has an array of guitars including a ’62 Gibson Barney Kessel and ’62 Fender Custom Shop Jazzmaster Reissue.
What is your favorite recording setup like?
My recording setup has been pretty constant lately. I’ve been using and loving the Focusrite Clarett 8Pre as my main interface and it’s been great, so far. Although I’m guilty of using a lot of plug-ins, the studio also has a bunch of great preamps, like the Neve Portico 5017 (super portable too) and other outboard gear like the Kush Electra. Microphone-wise, on the lower end, I always have my portable Zoom H4N for field recordings, and an SM57/58 around for general recording. Lately we’ve been able to borrow a Flea M49 from a friend that has made vocals, strings and, more-or-less, anything else sound fantastic. All of the above was just used on an EP I released last month called Midnight Roses.
Do you have an opinion regarding analog vs. digital recording? What is your stance on it?
I feel like I hold equal love and respect for both. If I had the time to always work with analog, then that would be wonderful. But because so many projects I work on have fast turnarounds, and very often various revisions, it just makes sense to work with digital. When it comes to synths, analog is the way to my heart.
What is your favorite studio?
My two favorites have to be Little Twig Studios (our studio) and Diamond City Studio (once called Gigantic Studio) in Tribeca, NYC. Little Twig is where nearly all of my recording nowadays happens, and what’s great about it is that my husband and I essentially built it together from scratch, and it’s in our backyard making it super convenient! Diamond City Studio is a really wonderful space that sounds great and feels really cozy and familiar. I wish I had more excuses to go to NYC so I could record there.
What is your writing process?
I get extremely inspired by visuals—these can be anything from a mood-board, to a color palette, or video. This is one of the primary reasons why I love working with fashion and with film, as they are both very visual and, in fashion’s case, tactile mediums. The writing process is slightly different every time. Most of it is also dependent on whether I’m writing something for myself, or if I’m writing for a specific visual project, and in that case, whether there is something available to write for.
What are you currently working on / any new releases in the works?
I released my latest EP of my own music, Midnight Roses, last month, which I’m really excited about as it allows for me to ground and grow my own personal sound and aesthetic. In terms of scoring and fashion projects, I just finished a sound design-based score for a short movie for Opening Ceremony that touches on LGBTQ Muslims in NYC, directed by Lee O’Connor.
What is in your record player today?
A friend of mine took me to a Brazilian record sale a while back, and I found some really amazing old Brazilian Samba and folk records that have been on pretty heavy rotation lately as they have such a great energy and vibe.
Where's the best place people can find more information about Drum & Lace?
The Five Minutes With series is brought to you by Stephanie Nicole Smith, a visual artist and make up artist in Los Angeles, CA. You can find her work at stephanienicolesmith.com and follow her @stephanienicolesmith.