From the opening lines and brutal analog synths of “Hey Trouble,” the first track off Louisahhh’s inaugural record on her own label, it’s clear you’re in for a challenging listen. The NYC-born, Paris-based producer and DJ’s work thus far, which many were first exposed to during her time amidst the now-defunct label and crew Bromance, often leaned on shadowy moments. Few techno tracks, for example, have as aptly captured the dark bliss of a heaving, late-night dancefloor than her 2012 collaboration with Brodinski “Let the Beat Control Your Body.”
But on her new record A Trap I’ve Built released in December, the energy spread throughout the five tracks is unhinged in a way that might seem different to fans of certain strains of techno, as well as her earlier releases. If her earlier work on Bromance leaned towards the hyperactive, yet linear, rapture of a techno party, her current offering sounds more in line with the chaos of a messy punk night. Still, as a DJ, and one who’s been playing out the new tracks alongside Maelstrom throughout a series of all-night sets around France, Louisahhh’s finally gotten the chance to witness the crowd’s reaction to her new work from the DJ booth.
“It’s like being punched in the face with noise,” Louisahhh said about crowd reactions thus far to her new record. “It feels like a really live energy that’s definitely not a 4×4 kick…[the tracks] shake up sets.” While she wasn’t able to leak too much about these potential future plans, she hinted that the tracks might eventually find themselves played out during a live set, something she’s dreamed of having spent much of her life playing guitar, and as a lifelong fan of groups like Nine Inch Nails and the Smashing Pumpkins. “I’ve been thinking about it like the hero’s journey,” she said. “But I’m a bit terrified. When you get presented with the thing you’ve wanted your entire life…screaming on stage.”
Recorded over the span of two long years, the record marks her debut solo release on RAAR, a label she launched with Maelstrom in 2015 as an “art project” that strives to be disruptive of the music industry, especially that part of it associated with certain strains of dance music. “The only question we’re asking ourselves [with the label] is ‘is [the music] challenging, beautiful, different, and new?’” she said. “If it’s all those things then we can unanimously get behind it. It’s kind of a beautiful thing to have an outlet like that.”
During her time on Bromance where she was the only woman in a male-dominated crew, Louisahhh was a regular name on festival bills and club lines across the United States and abroad. She helped shepherd the label’s sinister club sound to the masses, and also garnered acclaim for lending her low-slung vocals to a variety of the label’s most notable tunes. Today, her focus seems far more introspective and individualistic, though she still values the creative comradery she experienced during her time with the label and cherishes how it contributed to her artistic story.
“I think a lot of the penants of the Bromance ethos stuck with me,” she said. “The biggest thing being part of that crew meant to me—and made me—was the mentality that ‘we won’t ask you to be anything but who you are, but won’t let you be anything less than what you can be,’” she continued. “That was really powerful.”
With the release of her new EP helping to usher in a new chapter in her career, she seems to have distanced herself in ways from her past life and sound. “Part of an evolution means shedding skin,” she said. “That doesn’t mean the skin was never part of me and I’m not grateful to have worn it for some time, but I feel like to grow and move forward.” At this point, she said, that means “much less LED walls and confetti cannons,” and a focus on the darker and more brutal. She also described a new type of artistic freedom she’s experiencing with her RAAR release, an imprint that she and Maelstrom handle the A&R of solely between themselves.
“There’s nobody to please besides Maelstrom who I trust implicitly,” she said. “The only thing he’ll ever say isn’t ‘will people like this?’ but ‘is this challenging enough?’ So the direction now is a little less comprising.” And while she said she still receives and is touched by requests to play her Bromance tracks, moving forward she plans to play out in a different direction. Nevertheless, she recognizes that many will have been led to her new record as a result of her work on Bromance, and hopes that what she put out with the label will be something of a gateway drug to her newer work.
While many of Louisahhh’s older anthems leaned on the hedonistic vibe of late night in the club, thematically, her new work is charged by more serious—and timely—themes like rape culture and addiction. “I felt like as opposed to subverting those feelings as I might have before, it was important in this moment in time to reveal them,” she said. “If you make something out of these themes then there’s an opportunity with identification and healing. A lot of the bands that I talk about as influences did that for me as a kid. They let me know that this stuff is going on, we’re talking about it, and that it’s important,” she continued. “That gave me a lot of courage especially as teenager to survive.”
Louisahhh also touched on how she hopes some of the lyrics and underlying messages within the record can help contribute to conversations like the #MeToo hashtag, for example. “The worst thing we can possibly do with that is to shame people,” she said. “Hopefully [the record can] help fuel progress instead of pretending that everything’s ok… that’s a kind of the social disease we’re all addicted to.”
With the long-awaited drop of what sounds like her most personal record to date, Louisahhh seems to be at her loudest and most fearless as a producer — and she’s not afraid to shake shit up along the way. “The desire to be an upsetter is at the forefront of my creative process and if people like it that’s cool, but that’s not why we’re doing it,” she said. “I support the fact there is a mainstream because it allows there to be a subculture, but, I also think that dance music is a little too safe, commercial, and easy.”