HOT GIRL UTOPIA

“A duck quack sample? Yes.” Singular singer and songwriter Terra sat down with Swarm to talk her (and Kewu's) new album, fashion as big part of her artistic expression, how algorithmic “dopamine chase” forces artists into exaggerated and grotesque social media self-promotion, and more.

What do you want to bring to the world as a singer? 

A piece of the hot girl utopia that lives in my mind. 

In what ways do you believe staying true to yourself as an artist can be challenging in the era of social media dominance?

Due to the rate at which people consume media these days it’s becoming harder and harder to get them to stop and really listen. As soon as you fail to give them a dopamine hit from the get-go – you’re done. 

I think this “dopamine chase” forces artists to become caricatures of themselves. You convince yourself you’re not interesting enough as you are because if you were, you’d get more likes, follows and streams. You create an exaggerated version of yourself hoping people will notice you this way. You become obsessed with your social media, detaching it from your true personality, pushing forward a fake, oftentimes annoying persona you don’t even recognize and later grow to despise. For a while it works… and then you find yourself at a crossroads. You either accept this sellout as your new self or burn out and jump right back to where you started. 

As long as this dopamine race marches forward, I’m convinced the masses have no interest in an artist’s “true self”. Then again, are you doing this for commercial success or for the passion?

Do you have any rituals when searching for inspiration?

I keep a note called “” in the Notes app on my phone full of random sentences and phrases I or other people say. It makes no sense, half of it is extremely cringe or downright stupid but this note serves an important role in my lyric writing. When I’m working on a concept for a song, I like to open this note, look through and pick out phrases that sit right with me at that time and use them as a jump-off point for the final lyrics.

What was the creative process for an album together with Kewu? Could you talk us through it?

Kewu and I really clicked the first time we met. He was looking for a singer he could produce for and I was looking for a producer who would really understand my vision. We got in the studio, started working just for the fun of it and never stopped. 

Kewu produced the beats as I sat beside him and wrote my lyrics. Sometimes I’d come up with a different kick pattern, sometimes he’d pitch in a lyric or tell me to sing something a certain way but we’d stay out of each other’s hair for the most part. The magical thing was that we never really needed to tell each other what to do – we just knew.

Is there anything you want people who listen to the album Sugar & Sleaze to take away from it?

The self confidence that’s present throughout all of my lyrics. God knows I’ve got more than enough. 

Fashion is also a big part of your visuals. Can you tell us about your relationship with fashion? 

What I wear is a big part of me. I’ve taught myself how to sew and make patterns back in middle school and really enjoy making my own clothes still. I follow loads of small designers, fashion influencers and love dissecting campaign photoshoots of my favourite brands. 

Naturally, fashion has to be a big part of my artistic expression as well. Getting to wear the newest Jean Paul Gaultier collection in our “Dizzy” video in Paris or the craziest shoes by the amazingly talented Valérie Jurčíková in our album photoshoot really brings me joy. I’d really love to delve into the fashion world more as time goes on. Matter of fact, I’m looking for a stylist… so hit me up.

Our last question pertains to our current childish theme, SEED OF PEACE. What role does the kidlike sense of wonder play in music for you?

The amount of possibilities in electronic music production really makes us both feel like little kids when working. A duck quack sample? Yes. Scream into the mic and run it through a vocoder? Sure. Make 50% of the lyrics “bitch”? Why not. We’re really just big kids playing with computers.

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Bio

Terra initially became an artist out of spite. After being told her single “Hazy” is “a cute pop song, but has no real chance of winning” the Czech Radio Startér contest by one of its hosts live on air, she decided there’s no other option than to prove him wrong – and she did. Just five weeks later, she took the title of “Czech Radio Startér 2020 winner”, amassing a record breaking number of public votes and subsequently has been named a “pioneer of hyperpop” by Forbes and Full Moon magazines alongside her long time collaborator Kewu. Nowadays, she’s based in Berlin, studying at the world renowned Catalyst Arts and Technology institute.

Kewu is a Czech-born, 1⁄2 Tunisian DJ, producer, and radio host. During his early teenage years, Kewu discovered alternative dance music through labels such as “Night Slugs,” “Fade to Mind,” and “Hyperdub.” His travels to the UK further fueled his love for this genre, leading him to seek similar musical events in his hometown of Prague. He’s been a resident DJ at the famous Prague club “NEONE,” worked alongside “Nobodylisten” on Prague’s well-known “Addict Rave” night, had his DJing skills featured on MixMag and is affiliated with the European ballroom scene as a DJ and beatmaker and part of the Czechoslovak Kiki house of Velvet.

Their long-anticipated debut album “Sugar & Sleaze” is, as the title might suggest, sweet, immature and playful, yet sleazy and aggressive. The topics Terra and Kewu explore range from revenge, sex, partying and ego-boosting to sexual assault and substance abuse. It’s a sincere account of their lives, past experiences and world view. The album is also accompanied by two music videos – one for the album single “Dizzy” featuring French producer “Housewife 9”, shot in Paris late last year, and one for the title track “Sugar”, shot in Berlin this spring. Both music videos express their sense of humor – one being an over-exaggerated witch hunt for Terra’s enemy and the other a queer love story between Terra’s crush and her best friend.

Credits

Artists / Terra @terramssc and Kewu @kewukewu

S&S photoshoot

Photography Natálie Kubenk @natytheninja

HMUA Phil La Noiraude @phillanoiraude

Styling, set design Tereza Ravera @rafferina

Cover art @velvyslanecmestaohrobec

Dizzy video

Photography and cover art Bintang Utomo @bruhetoile

Styling, HMUA Terra @terramssc

Video Luthfi Darwis @luthfidarwis

Sugar video 

Video by Seeya Creative @seeyacreative

Producer: @simon_sebek

Directors: @stary.vojta & @terramssc

DOP: @stary.vojta

Edit: @stary.vojta

Production: @serafimaaaaaaaaaaaa

Photographer: @natythechild

Styling: @bibi_thebrand

Jewellery: @ondrej.stara

MUA: @nonpersonia & @elle_ar33s__

Actors: @terramssc , @kewukewu , @elle_ar33s__ , @laerkebille , @uana.y , @ilja_vr , @fluff_piece , @monkimonx

Photography Natálie Kubenk @natytheninja

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Interview / Kateřina Hynková

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