Despite its robust presence in the streaming landscape, lo-fi music remains one of the most unheralded and overlooked avenues in the industry. A melancholic and brooding sub-species of dance music, lo-fi is EDM's ugly duckling, trudging behind the genre flock before quietly emerging as a dominant force.
You may not readily know what lo-fi music is, but odds are it is a subliminal quality of your everyday life. Subtly incorporating organic audial elements like the hiss of a cassette deck or the crackle of a vinyl player, lo-fi music is deeply enrooted in its mainstream counterparts—hip-hop, R&B, and soul—and influences much of the contemporary music we hear today. To this day, though, it remains in the shadows, eager to burst out of the murky cocoons of the vast musical genre spectrum.
With its intrinsically nostalgic undertones, lo-fi music is like a newborn baby—it can seem brand new, yet so ineffably familiar.
Just ask eevee, a Rotterdam-based electronic music producer and expecting mother who has emerged as the de facto heroine of lo-fi music. Creating hypnotic, ambrosial beats that plunge listeners into rabbit holes of drowsy rapture, eevee may be the first artist with 2 million monthly Spotify listeners who you've never heard of.
With a baby boy on the way, eevee is channeling her approach to music into her pregnancy, harnessing it with the goal of instilling a specific set of values in her son. "I feel like [the pregnancy] has changed my approach a little bit," eevee told EDM.com. "Usually I make music because I just feel like it or I have an emotion I want to express. Now I also want to make music so I can be an example to my baby boy and show and teach him that he can believe in his dreams as long as he works for them."
eevee's hopes of making sure her son know he can achieve anything arose from a lack of such a notion during her own childhood. "That’s something I missed when I was raised," she continued. "My dreams were always shot down and creativity wasn’t something that was really important or something to focus on."
Whether rosy or plaintive, nostalgia plays a major part in eevee's musical journey. Drawing from her own experiences as an adolescent, she decided to pursue a career in music partly because of her love of sampling—a paramount production technique for anyone looking to become a lo-fi beatsmith. Just like music producers pluck old samples to create new art, eevee pulls from the past to speak to her future. "I like how nostalgic samples can make me feel," she explained. "The process of making something new from something old always interested me."
"Music is my emotional output and it’s both crazy and a blessing that this has become my career," she digressed. "I really appreciate it, so if you read this: thank you. I love you."
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Imagine you're placing a giant set of headphones on the tiny, shiny head of your baby (at low volume, of course). What song would you play?
"I listen a lot to peaceful piano music and I think he would like that," eevee said. "But if I need to choose a first song, it would be "Night 24" by Ta-ku. It's a song inspired by [Japanese record producer] Nujabes. It came out a few years back and I recently started listening to it again. It is a very calm song but for me it has so much emotion in it. I’m curious how he will respond to it."
When broaching the topic of the head-scratching popularity of lo-fi, eevee shed some light on why it flies under the radar despite extremely high streaming numbers. "Lo-fi music gets a lot of high streaming numbers because many people listen to it while studying or as background music," she said. "It might just take some time before lo-fi will be more mainstream. I saw it transform the last couple years, but for me, I like that it is an underground genre. That’s what makes it good, I think."
The term "underground" is an understatement. There are very few reputable record labels dedicated to the genre and major imprints rarely sign music from its creators. Instead, many of those artists opt to produce music for mainstream stars. Take Nosaj Thing, for instance, a renowned Los Angeles-based record producer who has been a staple in the underground electronic scene since the mid-2000s. Original instrumentals released under his name are markedly arcane, likely to be appreciated only by diehard fans. However, he has produced music for Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper, among myriad others.
In some ways, lo-fi is the antithesis of popular EDM, which is typically high-energy. Considering the genre is at variance with the heavy-hitting sonic boom of today's festival music, one could argue it may never actualize the same clout it has in the streaming world. eevee, however, thinks her beloved genre's potential to break the mainstream dance music festival barrier is very much in play. "It’s a very versatile genre. It makes for a perfect opening vibe for club shows of any genre. Lo-fi music gives you a melancholy feel that electronic music can't really give you," she asserts.
"The type of music would be great for festivals who like to slow down and have a more chill vibe. Some of the festivals I’ve played were electronic music festivals and they like the switch between the electronic and the lo-fi music. At larger festivals like Coachella, Austin City Limits, and Lollapalooza they have designated side stages for chill music with a comfortable atmosphere for lounging, which is where lo-fi could get some airtime."
When asked about what a dedicated lo-fi festival would look like, eevee says it would simply be "coziness everywhere." She said it would take place in a nature reserve, where you can swim in a beautiful lake and "forget all your problems and just feel happy and free."
The same concepts of bliss and freedom are precisely what eevee wants to inspire in her son. "I hope when he sees me making music and enjoying what I do for my job, he feels like pursuing his dreams," she said.