Incorporating aspects of lofi, organic and atmospheric sounds, the latest release from D•LINGS brings together a delightful mix of downtempo electronica and dreamy melodic soundscapes.
Please tell us about yourself in a few words (who you are, where you’re from, what you do etc.)
I’m Matt from Hertfordshire, UK, and I produce electronic music as D•LINGS.
What’s your earliest memory of writing/producing music and how has that developed over the years?
I remember getting a free music software CD in cereal box when I was a kid. It was a really basic program, with a simple arranger window and loads of loops, but it had me totally hooked. I wish I remembered what it was called… Anyway, off the back of that I got a copy of Cubase which opened up a whole world of new sounds and recording possibilities. Everything just grew from there.
All musicians have their own unique take on approaching a new track, but what approach suits you best?
I write best when I’m at home, alone, in my pjs – probably having just woken up. I have to be really relaxed with a clear mind and no real sense of purpose. Mornings off (my day job) seem to be perfect for that. Although sometimes I find myself dropping everything to record an idea when it hits me.
I don’t really have a set start point with tracks, but I always begin with a blank Ableton project and loop sounds from my synths, or patterns from my OP-Z. I just layer and layer until I can arrange it into a song.
You’re quite the fan of studio gear! Give us a rundown of your current studio setup.
I think most people would call it a problem… but I do love hardware!
Everything centres around my old iMac with Ableton which I use to record, arrange and mix. I have a core set of plugins that I use. My favourites come from Soundtoys, UAD, Native Instruments & Fabfilter. I also use Ableton Simpler, Drum Rack and Granulator a lot in my tracks. I also love Labs from Spitfire Audio.
Initial writing usually takes place on my teenage engineering OP-Z, as well as an OP-1 for some extra sound design & FX. I’ll record those straight in and supplement them with my other synths. I have a Roland Juno 6 and Dave Smith OB-6 which make up the majority of my bass and pad sounds (Juno chorus is sooo lush.) I also have a Eurorack setup which creates a lot of the ambient layers and FX. I play bass and dabble in guitar too, so I add those in the mix from time to time.
For extra flavour, I run some of these sounds through my Sony reel-to-reel tape machine. This thing is in dire need of service, but I find the worn out character it adds is really awesome.
You can go down the rabbit hole thinking that you need a lot of equipment to make electronic music, when in reality it can stifle you creatively. I’m probably a good example of someone who never listened to that advice!
Do you have a favorite piece of studio gear? Past of present?
I think it’s got to be the teenage engineering OP-Z. It’s changed the way I write in a significant way. It’s super flexible without paralysing you with too many options. I find that a lot more of my OP-Z ideas eventually turn into proper tracks. So, if I could only have one piece of gear, it would be the OP-Z.
How would you describe your latest EP release ‘Dream Echoes’ to those who haven’t heard your music before?
It’s a mix of lofi, organic and atmospheric sounds that tie together as 4 downtempo electronica tracks. The whole thing is pretty chill, but there’s also a lot of emotion that I wanted to convey without any lyrics, and I hope it translates.
The last year has been tough for a lot of musicians and artists alike to find inspiration. What’s helped you through a difficult year?
The past year has been pretty tough for me creatively, as I’m sure it has been for lots of people. I thought it would be great having more time to focus on my music, but too much time is just as much of a creativity killer! I found that sharing my ideas more openly with friends and other musicians has really helped with my motivation. Feedback, positive or negative, seems to drive me to keep going. Also, digging through old ideas has helped to inspire me by harnessing my creativity from before lockdown.
Do you have a particular piece of music you’ve written that you’re most proud of?
From the EP, I would say Ebb & Flow. It has been in my library of ideas for the longest. I’ve held it back for ages because it didn’t fit in with what I was doing at the time. It’s always had this free form feel to it, especially during the intro & outro. I always liked how the short guitar loops I recorded create this really interwoven layer of sound. Reworking it for the EP was the turning point for my motivation year, and as a result it sparked the other 3 tracks.
How about collaborations, are there any artists out there you’d like to work with?
I love working with other people! My previous releases all include collaboration, particularly with vocals as I’m not great at singing. I don’t think I have anyone in particular in mind right now, especially as I want my music to stand on its own. I wouldn’t mind working with Ell (eight.ears) on something again. She did the animation and EP artwork by the way! But yeah, I’m always up for working with other artists, even if it’s to produce their own music with them.
What’s on the horizon for you musically?
More releases hopefully! I have some ideas I’m working on now. I’m also thinking about prepping my tracks for live performance. I haven’t had a live show yet as D•LINGS, mainly due to the global pandemic, so I want to make it happen when events start again. I might test the water with live streaming first, but I’m far more interested in getting out into the real world after being locked down for so long!
Any advice for those looking to start producing electronic music? Is there a particular setup or process that may help those artists?
Look at making finished tracks as your primary goal, and start with one instrument or piece of gear which will help you to achieve that – whether it’s a computer with a DAW or a Groovebox. You can go down the rabbit hole thinking that you need a lot of equipment to make electronic music, when in reality it can stifle you creatively. I’m probably a good example of someone who never listened to that advice!
Other than that, I would say keep in touch with other creatives that will build you up, even if they work in a different genre of music, or another art form entirely. You will provide each other with feedback, motivation, fresh ideas and collaboration opportunities – all of which help you grow as a musician. It doesn’t work for everyone but I found it helps me to keep going!
And finally, what are three singles you would recommend we definitely check out?