South Africa-born and Brooklyn-based, multi-instrumentalist Sulene’s flavor of pop comes with exhilaration, triumph, and hope, mixing a dark, gothic essence with bumping beats and melodies that will have trouble leaving your head once you hear them.

She’s written music for TV shows like Ray Donovan and The Affair, and commercials for big names like Nike and Dior, but she’s taking time to embrace her own sound and artistry, having recently released the EP he*don*ic along with a handful of covers of classic, ’90s pop jams.

She’s just released her new single and video, “We Go Hard,” which flexes the heavier, underground, industrial side of her sound. “I do what I want, and what I want is to dance,” she asserts, and it’s hard not to dance along with her.

We caught up with Sulene about the new track, building her unique sound, and the music that inspires her.

Hi Sulene! First, I wanted to talk more about “We Go Hard.” What struck me immediately was that it’s clearly a fun pop banger, but there are so many interesting production and genre-bending moments that surprised me. What were some of your musical inspirations behind the track?
I think was I probably inspired by Nine Inch Nails when making the synth tones and the chords … Also, for the guitar tones, I was also thinking about older St. Vincent with the gnarly fuzz tones. The vocals were more inspired by autotune pop vibes, hahaha.
 
I’m also curious what inspired the content of the song? What does “going hard” mean to you?
For me, going hard is a mindset. It’s not about being badass or cool or edgy; it’s about being confident in what you love and what moves you … who you really are. I think “going hard” is literally about being authentic. That’s why the music video portrays very “not hard” things … like a tea party or sleep over. I’m showing that going hard is in your spirit. The is also a conduit to talk about being myself as a woman, not caving in to what is expected from me by others re: what I do or how I look.
 
I also loved the video! What was the process of making it like, and did you have any specific aims in the visuals you embraced?
Making the video was a blast. I just got to hang out with best pals and two ADORABLE Brussels Griffons pups. We shot it all in one day. The cakes didn’t taste great, though; they’re made for dogs (no sugar). So it was funny trying to eat them and be like “Yummmmm!” The dance sequences were tiring, naturally, because we were ~going very, very hard~ in them.

The video for “We Go Hard” is basically the idea of doing things that are perceived as very “not hard” juxtaposed with the song saying over and over, “We go hard!” I wanted to portray a badass girl gang (three ladies and two doggos) who are just going off while having a beautiful tea party and a pink, flowery sleepover. The video features fellow artists Miiranda (musician) and Molly Gaebe (comedian), as well as doggos Kurt Brussel and Violet Von Griffon.

The video’s message is that going hard is in your being, in your spirit, and not based in how you look or what you do even. Going hard is a mindset.

I’m obsessed with the phrase “gothic-disco-party music” when describing “We Go Hard,” and I can definitely hear that same essence in your other songs. Are there other genres that inspire you, or that you could see embracing or merging with your sound in the future?
Yes! Lately I’ve been obsessed with Doja Cat and Lil Nas X. I can see some of those elements of pop and hip-hop making an appearance. I also love comedy in general, so a lot of my upcoming songs are very tongue-in-cheek and over the top.

You’ve been in the biz for some time, performing for fun.’s live band, writing music for TV, big name brands, and more. I’m curious, now that you are branching off with more solo tracks, what does that look like in comparison to your history in the business?
Basically these days, I only work on my own music, and I write music for commercials and TV. It’s a balance I really enjoy because when I’m writing for myself it feels very … kinda serious and weighted? And emotional for sure, and rewarding. When I wrote for commercials or TV, it feels more like I’m flexing my production skills and “solving a puzzle,” which is rewarding in a different way. For those gigs, I work with a team and write to a brief or even the actual commercial or show.
So, each of these endeavors are using different parts of my brain or emotions. I don’t really do the side-woman thing for shows anymore; I’m focusing on my own shows these days.
 
I loved listening to your covers of pop songs like the Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There” and Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name.” You really put a fun, electronic, and experimental spin on it. I’m curious how pop music, especially iconic songs of the past, influence you as an artist or relate to your craft?
I loveeee pop songs. I mean, if someone can write a GREAT pop song ,that is a massive achievement. It’s really, really hard to do. Whether it’s my own music or music for TV, etc., I’m always thinking about how to make a memorable hook. Pop is the best. I grew up listening to Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child.
 
What do you hope listeners get out of your music, and what has been the response so far?
I hope that get the message that it’s OK to be dynamic and weird and yourself. Like, I hope they listen to it and wanna have fun and just embrace where they’re at in life. Especially the newer stuff coming out, I hope people can hear the humor in it. You know, I don’t wanna take anything too seriously; I just wanna enjoy myself. I hope others get that out of it too.
 
Following the release of the he*don*ic EP and singles, what’s up next for Sulene? Anything you can spill?
Many EP’s and albums and hopefully tours! Nothing concrete I can share yet.
 
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I hope anyone who is reading this can remember that nothing is too serious and to enjoy the moment they’re in. Yay!

Watch the video for “We Go Hard” here:

For more from Sulene, find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her official website.

Photo courtesy of Sulene and Spencer Kohn/SK Studio

Author

Keegan Williams is a freelance journalist and artist. Keegan is based in Los Angeles, CA and lives quaintly with their hairless cat, two model skeletons, and Furby baby.

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