Daphne Cerez calls the Netherlands home. She wants you to know that she’s a little shy, and would love to get to know lots more people in the IMF community.
Daphne started making music when she joined her big brother’s band at the age of 12. For over a decade, she was part of a community in her local music scene – creating and performing with other bands in her area.
When she gradutated from university and moved to another city, she thought she might be able to find and join a new community of creators, but wasn’t able to recreate her earlier experience. She turned to the internet to find collaborators, and to explore new styles, and new ways of making music, and eventually found and joined the IMF Discord.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Daphne for a conversation about our creative processes, being heard and known, and managing creative relationships over the internet.
I see on your Soundcloud that you’ve been actively collaborating with others over the internet…how has that experience been for you?
It’s been a bit mixed – some people were really communicative and social, and gave me lots of feedback during the process. Others were more like, “OK, here’s the track – please add some vocals”, and when I’d send vocals back, they’d be like “Thanks!” And I would wonder whether they actually liked what I did, or heard something that I could have done better. I really appreciate communication and a feeling of collaboration when it happens, but it doesn’t always.
I find that when I’m working with someone halfway around the world, I really need to put more energy and intention into communication, since I don’t know the people I’m working with.
Some people seem to want to put that energy into communication on their own, but not all do. I try to communicate for myself, and ask a lot of questions, but not everyone responds to that.
How did you find IMF?
I was browsing a bunch of music making subreddits, and posted several times looking for people to collaborate with. Someone responded to one of those posts and directed me to the IMF subreddit and discord.
How was it when you found the IMF discord?
It was like a warm bath. The first person to greet me was Televangeles (aka TVLA), and we immediately clicked. My first IMF collaboration was with him – we made Wishing Song together – and the experience was really great. We were both really happy with the track.
But beyond that project, it was really great to meet and interact with so many helpful people. Everyone was so generous – giving so much feedback to someone like me who was just learning music production.
Did you do any recording or production when you were working with bands, or are you just working on these things for the first time now?
Back then, I was mostly responsible for composing vocal melodies, and actually singing. The bands did some recording, and worked in the studio, but I wasn’t really directly involved in the recording or mixing process.
Where do you think you are in terms of your progress in learning compostion and production?
I didn’t have any intention to produce my own material – that was never the goal. But as I started to experience the encouragement of others, I realized that I really wanted to make music that’s just mine. I didn’t want to always be supporting someone else’s vision.
And then I realized that I wanted people to hear that music – the music that’s just mine.
Why do you want people to hear your music?
Because I’m proud of it, and because I want to learn and connect with people. The process of asking for and receiving feedback fills part of that social need I have.
For me, I really appreciate feedback while I’m working on a piece of music, but once it’s done, I avoid it. I don’t really want to be reminded of the shortcomings of my older work – I’ve moved on. Is it like that for you?
It does sometimes feel weird, even though I always appreciate it. When it’s older material that I feel like I’ve closed the book on, I don’t always find the same value in it.
I do feel the same way, but I think I do a pretty good job of hearing feedback on my older material as guidance for material I’m working on now.
For instance, I got some feedback recently from someone I respect, who said that my older material was lacking in dynamics and drama, and this really stuck with me. I’m working now on making material that is more dynamic, with more surprises.
I really hear your desire for connection as part of your creative process. Is it satisfying for you to colloborate with people across the internet? Do you feel like you’re forming relationships that way?
I’ve found a few people that I feel like I have an ongoing relationship with. I jumped into collaborations with about 30 different people – there are probably three that I talk with about things that aren’t always music.
30 people is a lot!
(laughs) I really sought out a lot of collaborations!
Who are the people that you continue to work with?
There are a few – Televangeles, Willie Dangerr (he recently released Sacrifice of Time that we worked on on together).
Also DealCooper (aka apaleblueeye)….
These are very different creators who work in very different styles, and that’s a lot of fun for me! I really enjoy finding ways to work in different musical styles, and with different people.
In February, I released the first song I made myself. It started with the IMF Playlist Pitch game – I rolled ‘Wake up Happy!’, and I thought, “I can do this!” Clear Skies came from this. I asked for (and got) lots of feedback from IMF members. And I got lots of really specific tips that were really helpful, especially when it came to mixing and mastering.
How do you make decisions about how to put effort into getting your music heard?
When I chose my artist name, and realized that I wanted people to hear my music, I immediately created social media handles on all the platforms, so that I could post all my releases there and connect with listeners. I realized that all the people who were following me on those platforms were all my friends and family, who were already familiar with my music.
But when I started sharing music with my friends, some of them told me that they were sharing songs with other people, and that people were really excited about the music. My reaction was, “Oh shit, I’m not ready for this!”
I was worried that people would discover some music of mine that they liked, and that they might find me on music platforms. Since I don’t have a lot of material there, and most of what I’ve done recently is collaborating on other people’s music, I was worried that listeners wouldn’t find more that they liked. I want to spend more time building a body of my own work.
How do you feel about rejection from playlisters or listeners? Have you experienced this? Do you think about it?
I was surprised that some of my close friends who I thought would be interested in my music weren’t. But I don’t really worry about rejection – I think I’ll be able to deal with it when it happens. I guess I’ll see…
How do you think online music consumption has changed the experience for listeners?
I read your blog post, and I was really interested in the part where you were talking about how it used to be harder to experience music. That we used to have to go to venues, and listen to fringe radio stations, and talk to people to discover new music, and then go to a store to buy it.
I studied neuroscience in university. There is neurological research that shows when a person works harder to experience something, they’ll enjoy it more. And I think about how this applies to the difference between having to seek out an artist, go to a store to buy a CD, and spend my money on it, and today’s experience, where I can just click a link and new music is playing.
I think Spotify and other music platforms are great because it’s easier for us to get our music heard by people around the world. I’m really grateful for that. But I also think I’d really prefer to have my music sitting in a store and being experienced that way. It makes it more personal, I think.
My experience as a listener is that music is just so much less sticky for me now, because there’s so much of it, and so much of it is great. And I can hear something and really love it, but then a few days later, I’m listening to something else that’s also great. And there’s always more, and I forget about most of it.
If you go back and look at music a couple decades ago, the amount of recorded music is so much less than what is being produced now – what was produced and released in a whole year back then is dwarfed by what’s being released in a week now.
Do you think about impostor syndrome? Do you worry that your music isn’t good enough quality to stand out?
Not so much. I recognize that a lot of the music I really love is obviously flawed. Recordings are terrible, vocals are off-key, whatever. If the ideas behind the music are good, they come through terrible recording and production. On the other hand, no amount of high effort production can make a great song from a bad musical idea.
I see more and more people intimidated by the level of polish of other producers, and some people are discouraged by that. But I wonder sometimes if polish is always the right strategy.
For instance, in Clear Skies, the vocals in the released track are the first vocals I recorded, and I thought I should record them better. I spent a bunch of time re-recording vocals, and kept feeling like something was missing. When I went back to the original vocals, I heard more emotion and more vulnerability, that I couldn’t re-create. And so I went with those original recordings, even though they’re definitely not perfect. And that was the right choice. And I was glad that I was producing the track, because I’m not sure that another producer would have heard what I heard.
When I’m producing someone else’s material, I’m always trying to put myself in a position where I’m hearing something special about collaborator’s material, and using my producers ear and skills at communication and mixing to bring those things out.
Yeah, this is what I enjoy about working with other people – they help me hear and know more about myself and what’s special about what I do.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’re excited about?
I do! “LIES” and “Guiding us” are 2 songs I’m working on now as part of a collaboration project – it’s an album based on Goya’s painting, The sleep of reason produces monsters.
I’m also working on a track called “A Universe Without You”, with apaleblueeye, and “The Masked Dance”, a song of my own.
All of these should be released in the next couple months.