Photo: Lillie Wojcik
When Dorian Electra arrived at the NEST HQ office, they were hard to miss. Rocking destructed black pants, a yellow baseball jersey, and their signature “They/Them” pins, Dorian is the kind of person who makes a statement simply by walking into a room. The forward-thinking pop artist has come a long way since their humble beginnings creating educational music videos regarding sex and landing a spot as the featured artist on a Charli XCX single.
Dorian’s colorful discography dates back to 2016 when you search their artist page on Spotify, and you’ll find a collection of pop music like you’ve never heard before. Dorian caught my eye through their one-of-a-kind social media presence before anything else, but exploring their extravagant music videos and undeniably catchy singles reeled me all the way in. Following the release of their single and music video for “Flamboyant,” Dorian Electra has their foot on the gas and isn’t stopping for anyone. I invited Dorian to the NEST HQ office to find out where their unparalleled artistry comes from, what it’s like to work with their tight-knit team of creators, and how we can all achieve that same no-fucks-given attitude towards expressing yourself.
What’s your earliest and most notable memory of making art?
When I was 12 years old, I remember me and my cousins all dressed up as the band U2 and I was Bono, obviously, and we performed the song “Vertigo” and used my stepmom’s eyeliner to draw on beards and stuff. We used these inflatable guitars that were from somebody’s Bar Mitzvah and performed for the whole family. I don’t know if that’s called art, but definitely performance.
Yeah, I mean, I would say that. Can we talk about how your art has evolved from when you started making music up until this point?
I was 14 and I started making music on GarageBand, like recording with the onboard mic and just a crappy Yamaha keyboard that I’d had since I was eight years old. I did not have any patience for learning to read music or anything like that, but I was just trying to listen to songs that I liked and play them by ear and stuff. And then I would do covers of songs that I liked, but then do them as book reports. Like, I would have to do a summary of a book, but instead I would just put it into a song and that would be what I did throughout high school a lot of the time.
Nice. And then when you think about it at this point, you know, do you still have some of those same techniques that you used to use back then?
Definitely. I also used to do other educational music. Like, the first gigs I got out of college were making these original pop songs about the history of sexuality and gender for Refinery29. It was the history of the clitoris, the history of drag, the history of vibrators. So yeah, I’ve always had this idea of starting with an idea in mind even if it’s not educational, but distilling that down into something that could be a catchy concept for a song. Not just a catchy melody, but trying to think of what’s the whole concept, what’s the visual, what’s the picture, and all of that. I try to think of that with everything I do.
Okay, so we have to talk about the styling in your daily life and music videos, specifically for “Flamboyant” because it’s incredible. I just love all the different outfit changes. What’s the process like when you’re coming up with outfits for a video like this versus everyday life?
A lot of times I will look online for different things, like I’ll go on Amazon and just look at what’s available. Even sometimes pulling from cosplay or literally Googling a pirate costume and then you can just take certain elements from those things that are less costly and then put them in something else. And then the juxtaposition creates something interesting, hopefully. I’ll just text a lot of my stylist friends and be like, “Hey, do you have any ideas for this? You have anything for this?” But usually I do style a lot of stuff in my daily life and for my shows myself.
I did some digging and I saw one of the videos that you made for Refinery29, which was “Our Musical Ode to the Clitoris.” How did you come up with this? Where did that start? I mean, I just can’t imagine the production value of all of that. And the song itself is just so good.
Well, I had been doing educational music videos for a little while and then I had a friend that worked there who showed it to her boss and then her boss was like, oh, let’s get this person to do something for sex ed month. And I was already pretty interested in all that stuff. I’d studied history of science and philosophy in college, so I was interested in the history of how we understand sexuality and all of that. And I thought, “What’s the most shocking thing that nobody’s talking about? What’s still something that’s pretty radical or still freaks people out to talk about?” And then I thought of the clitoris and I started researching. I was like, oh my god, the history is so fascinating and there’s so many aspects of it I didn’t even know about before looking into it. So I thought that that would make a really shocking pop song.
Yeah, I just can’t even believe how great that video is. Did you also have a part in the styling?
I styled the whole video. I worked with Signe Pierce to do the art direction to give it that kind of vaporwave vibe, and then my partner Weston and I directed the video. We thought we could do a set-up like ancient Greece and that’d be perfect for it. Like vaporwavey, Greek bus with the checkered floor, you know. All the visuals came into my mind at the same time as the concepts did, if that makes sense.
Crazy. I feel like your presence on social media and even in real life is inspiring to many of us who have yet to find our voice and how to express ourselves. What advice can you give to anybody who’s struggling with that?
I would just say don’t be afraid to be goofy, or dorky, or yourself, or nerdy, because there’s so much of trying to look cool and like you’re detached, you know. Even the way that we smile in photos (and I’m obviously very guilty of that), like looking all detached and blank-faced and everything. But I feel like people are actually really sick of that because they realize that it’s just a two-dimensional representation of a person and people want to see real people online. I think my favorite people to follow online are people that are just really out there and almost a caricature of themselves, but in a fun and authentic way, too.
I love that. I need to do that more. I want to say not only are you an impressive creator in all aspects of your career, but you seem to have a team that backs you 100 percent as well. How did you all find each other and what’s the dynamic like between all of you?
The two main people in my core team, Weston Allen, who’s my partner and creative partner, and then Mood Killer who I met in 2009 when we were both 17 years old at this NYU summer high school film thing. We also were working together on videos in roughly 2013 when we were in college. And with the two of them, we’ve just gone through every stage of my career from the educational videos to everything I’m doing now. They also both have their individual careers as musicians; Mood Killer and Weston both have projects and the three of us will collaborate on directing and producing and editing. Weston does all the editing for all videos for all of us along with styling, and we all just switch off. And then also the unglamorous things of, like, helping us return the leaf blower to Home Depot or cleaning off the floors of the studio. We’re just there for each other and always sending feedback on our music, visuals, and everything to each other.
I love that. Inspiring. I know that you’re working on new music and you’ve got to keep it mostly under wraps, but what can you tell me about what’s in store for the future?
I got a lot. I’m working on my debut album and I have another single coming out pretty soon, and then I’m also going to be doing my first headlining tour of the US and also playing in the UK and Europe this year, too.
Wow. What’s influenced the latest work that you’ve been doing?
A lot of medieval baroque music and also just some really hard crazy stuff, too, and mixing those vibes. I grew up around a ton of classical music. My mom had a store and she would strictly play baroque, sometimes opera, but mostly just straight-up baroque era music. That definitely really influenced me and in a way, getting back to those roots and some of the harder rock roots that come from my dad, things that I just loved as a kid that are really an authentic part of me. And then mixing all of those things with pop. I’m trying to make pop music that’s mixing those worlds.
Do you have a hidden talent that people don’t know about?
I can do this but this is pretty gross [Dorian moves their knuckles back and forth].
I can’t wait to figure out how to write that. [Laughs]
I mean, I do so much behind-the-scenes stuff and so much of the business stuff, even down to legal stuff. I know enough legal language to revise contracts that are sent to me and things like that. The majority of my day is spent not on the creative stuff, but also on the business side, booking shows and doing all of that. And I do feel very proud that I can do that as an artist even though I also love my team and I’m always looking to expand my team so that I can focus more on the creative. But yeah, the business side is probably my biggest hidden talent.
I mean, when I think about you, I think of a DIY creator. What kind of hardships have you had to face as a DIY creator? You and your team really have this ‘do it yourself’ mentality that I love, and I can just imagine that there have been bumps in the road or times where you felt like you can’t do this on your own.
Yeah, there’s definitely obstacles to not already having an ‘in’ in the industry. But a lot of the artists that I respect the most also started from completely outside and then just made a huge splash and then became a big deal after the fact, you know, not from having industry support from the ground up. And I feel like those obstacles and challenges have actually made me work harder because I never expected anyone to take care of anything else for me. I never expected anyone to be booking shows for me before. Never expected anyone to be playlisting my music or anything, you know, so I think that once you have to face those struggles, it just makes you work harder and then you become a better artist and business person.
And then when you do get that support, you’re already further along because you already have that initiative to really make more opportunities happen from the connections you do get.
What can we expect at this Friday’s release party for “Flamboyant?”
You can expect a lot of flamboyant outfits. We’re going to be recreating some of the sets that were in the music video so that people can come in and take photos in it and be a part of that. We’re gonna have some delicious canned wine provided by Electric Sky Wine Company. I’m going to have some live music and DJs and dancing, I can’t wait. I’m so excited.
And it’s free!
And it’s free. So everyone’s invited and all ages welcome.