AAC Sound Series Mix #26: Swaya

For our 26th AAC Sound Series mix, we bring you a brand new mix from Massachusetts-born and Brooklyn-based artist, producer, and audio engineer Swaya. Listen to the mix and read our interview with Swaya below.

Interview with Swaya

Firstly, tell us a little bit about what inspired the mix
This mix is a reflection of the rocky transition I’ve been having from summer to fall this year. Between my chaotic work life, having COVID-19, and dealing with my studio flooding, I’ve had to accept the lack of control I have over things at the moment, a reality that was initially very frustrating. 

With seasonal change usually comes the desire to reset and refocus, particularly in the Fall. For most of my life Fall signaled a return to school and consistent routine, and the feeling is still ingrained in me. I wanted to capture the slowing down and darkening I feel as we move towards colder months but filtered through the chaos I have been experiencing. 

The mix moves seamlessly through various tempos and rhythms, getting slower and darker before speeding back up again in an effort to disorient our understanding of time. When I look at the calendar it is truly hard to believe that it’s already October and I wanted to capture that feeling of time slipping away from me in this mix. 

Although this mix is not necessarily ambient, I chose tracks that leave space for introspection, even the dancier tracks here don’t exactly feel like they are meant for the dancefloor but more for enjoying alone.

Who are you listening to lately?
L’Rain’s new album Fatigue, Nidia, Biskhit, Tems, Jam City, Fireboy DML, the new Tony Seltzer tape, Abyss X, Fatima Al Qadiri, and listening way too much to music I’ve been working on.

How has returning to NYC during the pandemic changed your work? How do you feel the NYC music scene has evolved?
I actually moved here last August during the pandemic (before that I was in Boston). I will say that the pandemic has affirmed my appreciation for the studio as a space of refuge, I found a lot of comfort there. But it can be stressful working in person in a small space. I have to assume risk to do my work–people can’t rap with a mask on. 

The music scene shifted from seeing people mainly through going out to small gatherings at each other’s studios, so I found myself spending a lot more time with specific people and deepening those creative relationships.

How has working as a sound engineer informed your practice?
In the most concrete sense it has improved my ear, my technical skills, my work ethic, and the trust I have in my skills. I’ve learned a lot about creativity and confidence by working with artists too, witnessing how doubt and overthinking can ruin a song, understanding why some artists seem to have a never-ending fountain of creative ideas and why others might struggle.

When thinking about the passage of time and seasons, how does music help you explore or articulate this?
My experience witnessing the changing of the seasons while living in Montreal had a pretty deep effect on me. It really quickly would pass from lovely summer weather through a few weeks of crisp cold fall and then into a very dark winter. That quick transition always felt like transitioning into a completely new world, like time slipped away from you and you couldn’t hold onto the warm summer weather any longer. I think musically I want to capture that feeling of things getting darker and slower and time slipping away through non-linear mixing and playing around with the tempos of songs. The fall still has glimmers of warmth too so I want to allow those to exist as well.


ABOUT

Sophie Sawaya MacArthur, better known as Swaya, is a Massachusetts-born and Brooklyn-based artist, producer, and audio engineer has spent a lifetime exploring the possibilities of storytelling and meaning-making through sound.  Raised by Brazilian and American parents, she spent her childhood studying violin before becoming disillusioned by the lack of creativity classical studies offered. She found her musical home on the internet becoming obsessed with hardcore punk, hip hop, and experimental electronic music. A graduate of Communications Studies at Concordia University, she spent 5 years in Montreal where she was an active member of the music scene, performing her music at MUTEK, Pop Montreal, Slut Island, Never Apart, Datcha and more. Since she began posting her music online in 2016, Swaya has released 5 EPs and countless tracks, edits, and mixes, consistently pushing and reinventing herself with each release.

Beyond her personal artistic work Swaya is also an established producer and audio engineer, currently working with Brooklyn producer Tony Seltzer at his studio Seltzer Sounds.  She has worked with the likes of Zelooperz, Babyxsosa, Key!, Hawa, Marti, Mercury, Michael Christmas, Magella, and more.

Read more from Swaya in Also Cool’s interview, A Liminal Conversation with Swaya.