An Interview with LIMBO
“It can be super overwhelming! I’ve been doing it all myself for six years,” laughs Limbo, a producer who has a knack for creating dreamy bedroom pop anthems that can take a kaleidoscope of emotions and lyrics written with humorous double-meanings, and distill them into a collection of sounds with the end result being deceivingly simplistic and catchy songs.
The singer, having taken the name from an age in her life when physical and emotional limits struck her as being in a fluid state of limbo, as well as a childhood skill she had growing up around two musical brothers, has taken the DIY ethic and model seemingly to an extreme.
“I’ve been producing and recording my own music, mixing everything myself, booking my own shows and tours, I make my own merch, I make my own vidoes for the most part.”
Having played music more in a singer songwriter vein as well as DJing at events, at some point Limbo decided to merge the two.
“I first started the Limbo thing as a DJ. Somewhere along the way I just wanted to make people dance to my own music, not to songs that I was just DJing.”
But before she could get to the stage of recording and releasing music herself, she first needed to teach herself how to write the music she wanted to play.
“I really look up to Grimes, she inspired me. There’s not a whole lot of female producers out there who are doing all their own stuff. She produces her own stuff and makes her own album artwork. In the beginning she inspired me to really do it all myself.
“I watched videos on how to produce on YouTube. I just watched a bunch of tutorials.”
Now, being in her late 20’s, Limbo is firmly of a generation who was able to use the internet’s full potential of information to really create, refine and correct her musical and technical abilities to essentially launch a music career.
The prevalence of information has led to her innovating a bit as well. Aside from the typical streaming platforms and a DIY vinyl release, Limbo has created limited edition USB drives for each of her albums.
“I was inspired by one of my friends, he would actually physically create these USB cards that were about the size of a credit card. They’re really beautiful USBs that you plug into a computer. I was going to work with him to create some for my first album but we didn’t have enough time. So I eventually Googled how to create a USB album and ordered a bunch of blank ones. Every album that I’ve come out with now have had USBs. I pack them with songs that are on the album, videos explaining the songs and random pictures. I like to make limited runs, usually 50 to 150 copies.”
Needless to say they tend to sell out pretty quickly.
Perpetually adorned in a cat mask, her DIY efforts were furthered with a bit of chance.
“I kept getting messages from people in China who said, ‘you’re really popular here, you’re very famous in China’. I didn’t know what was happening. I kinda dug more into it and people were saying my song went viral on an app called Tik Tok. This is when nobody in the US knew what Tik Tok was. So I downloaded it and found out some huge Tik Tok’er in China had used my song for some dancey lip synching video and it kinda blew up from there.
“People say sometimes getting famous happens overnight, and in this case it literally happened overnight for me. After years of trying to make this project work, that song, Airplane Mode, took off on Tik Tok and gave me an actual career! I didn’t understand it at the time, but it has been amazing.”
Whimsical and playful art has remained an influence on her music. From a fascination with anime and Japanese culture to finding inspiration in the sonically poppy songs of bands like The White Stripes, to a childhood cat mask that has become synonymous with her appearance.
“When I was about 13 or so I bought my first cat mask on Ebay. My older brother was a DJ, and at the time I would think, ‘I wanna be a DJ and wear the cat mask. It’s gonna be so cool!'”
Cut to age 21 and being booked for her first DJ gig in San Francisco.
“I was like, ‘where’s that cat mask at?’ I wore it to the gig and people loved it. It just kinda stuck. I like being anonymous, and it represents being more about the music and the sounds rather than the appearance.”
Though she’ll admit that choosing to keep the costume turns out to have some drawbacks…
“I can’t drink water when I perform!” Limbo laughs.
“It’s harder to breathe onstage. It makes playing insanely difficult, and I’m trying to find ways to make it easier.
Building her music, image and merch by herself eventually progressed to taking on the work of organizing and booking her own performance tour.
“I booked my first tour myself last year. At the end of it, that was definitely one of the moments where I was like, ‘I can’t believe I did that myself!’
In the planning stages for taking on such a large project, she returned to a familiar source…
“I searched YouTube… again… for ‘how to book your own tour’!
“It was really hard and felt really excruciating at times, but since then a lot of friends have come to me for advice, even though they have tour managers and booking agents.”
Such an accomplishment has brought with it a small sense of satisfaction.
“I think it’s really important for experienced women to mentor younger girls. Music is a very male-run industry. Sometimes it’s discouraging being surrounded by so many men in the industry. As a female it can be hard to find your place.”
However with millions of album streams on Spotify across more than 60 countries, all of the self-teaching have paid off.
“I had a manager for around two months right after the Tik Tok thing, but then I realized I work better representing myself.”
At this point in here career, Limbo’s words border on excitement, and it appears that if all of the effort has been working, there’s no little reason to change that now.
“Six years now I’ve been doing it all myself. It can be overwhelming and exhausting, but there’s nothing else in the world that I’d rather be doing.”
Limbo’s recordings – Cloud Nine, Mixed Feelings, and Holo – are available on all music streaming platforms (and if you’re one of the ones lucky enough to end up with a coveted USB album, don’t forget us at xmas time)…
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/youknowlimbo
Instagram – @youknowlimbo
or head to KWNKradio.org to listen to Nocturnal Transmissions and other freeform programming for the Reno area.
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