In Conversation with:
kahreign & Shauna
Words: Gina Bonnar | 19 July 2021
Off the back of Rhythm Lab Records International Women’s Day project “Girls just wanna..” event, Shauna & Kahreign have recently collaborated on a uplifting summer single “Underdog”. Although this is the first time they have worked together, the pair have worked together perfectly and have bounces of eachothers shared love for music. We catch up with them and discuss their influences, the collaborative process, and their advice for womxn wanting to do the same.
Hi guys, lovely to have you and thanks for taking the time to do an interview with us! For those that may not know you, tell us a bit about yourselves and what you do.
Shauna: Hey Gina! I’m a DJ/producer based in Leeds. I’m part of a collective called SISU, who aims to platform and educate women and non-binary DJs/producers. I also have a monthly residency on Steam Radio MCR with my show Liquid Orange, where I invite DJs from under-represented groups to come and do a guest mix.
Kahreign: My name is Kahreign and I am a singer, songwriter and producer from Manchester. My sounds resonates with a lot of Afropop, house, alternative pop and other electric genres.
We are loving the new release “Underdog” - it’s such a catchy fun tune and a perfect blend of both of your styles. Tell us more about this release, and how this collaboration of you both came about.
Shauna: It came about as part of Rhythm Lab’s International Women’s Day project, which paired together female artists who’ve never met to collab on a track. We’re both inspired by a lot of house music so we decided to go for an upbeat, dancefloor-orientated track that would best represent both of our styles.
Kahreign: The idea of underdog was to bring together mine and Shauna’s electric styles and create a track that infuses both our characters. Shauna and I set up a zoom call and discussed the kinds of sounds we were resonating most with at the time. We both shared a common love for Ballroom vogue house and Shauna sent the instrumental over. I was so excited about it that I started writing my verses the same night! Everything just flowed so well. I found collaborating with Shauna so natural and easy. It’s like we both didn’t have to say too much because we understood each other’s vibes so well. I absolutely would love to continue working with Shauna in the future. I think she is insanely talented and her music has an otherworldly nature to it that I live for.
Do you have any main influences when writing and producing your music - and did any of these come into play when creating this single?
Shauna: My influences come from all over the place, sometimes it’s a quote or a piece of art, or something I’ve seen that influences me rather an artist or a track. For Underdog I was listening to a lot of Azealia Banks, I was really influenced by the energy of Anna Wintour, I really wanted to channel that kind of infectious energy on our track.
Kahreign: We found that our music styles weren’t too far from each other. Although Shauna hadn’t had much experience before working with a vocalist, we managed to infuse the energy of her production nicely with my type of vocals. The track is just a boiling pot of sass. That’s echoed through Shauna’s ‘in-your-face’ production and my ‘in-your-face’ vocals.
You're both producers, tell us a bit more about your production process - is it more spontaneous and feeling based, or do you like to take a more technical approach?
Shauna: My process is very spontaneous, I never go in with a pre-conceived idea for a track. Usually, I’ll start by finding a sample that inspires me, whether it’s a vocal sample or a little synth or bass part, then I’ll fuck around with it to try and get as far away from the original sound as possible. So, I’ll put it in Simpler and experiment with the parameters or resample it. That
sample will usually become the main part of the track that I’ll then start building the rest of the other elements around. Once I have an 8-bar loop I’m happy with, then I’ll start working on the arrangement and adding automation and processing.
For Underdog, I had a completely different process.
We’d decided on the vibe we wanted to go for beforehand, so it was more about creating something that channelled that. I started with the drum pattern you hear at the beginning. That was originally part of another project I was working on, but fit the sound we were going for, so I used them on this track instead. I constructed the hats, perc, and bass around the drums. There’s not that many elements to this track, I like to keep my productions quite sparse and give each sound space to breathe.
You mentioned something that really hit home about underrepresented communities being the Underdogs of the music industry - it can be a very exclusive industry at time. Have you ever questioned your position as an artist, or had any hardships due to this?
Shauna: I get imposter syndrome all the time. I still don’t feel comfortable calling myself a producer, I just make tracks on my shitty laptop in my bedroom and I know a lot of other non-cis male producers feel the same, whereas men are so quick to claim that label. There’s no one questioning their skill or telling them that they’re not good enough, so they never doubt their
ability. If you’re not a cis man you have to work twice as hard to even get your toe in the door, and when you do you’re constantly questioning if you’re given opportunities because you’re good at what you do or because you’re filling some diversity quota. When you turn up and you realise you’re the only women on the line-up that is a shit feeling.
On a positive note, there is an amazing community of womxn that are supporting & empowering each other and it's refreshing to see. Has positive experiences such as this collaboration had an impact on your confidence and creativity?
Shauna: Definitely! It’s been ace seeing all the support for this track. I was so nervous coming into this as it was my first time collaborating with someone, but working with Kahreign felt so natural, I didn’t need to be nervous. It’s definitely given me the confidence to be more creative with my sound and experiment with other genres beyond techno.
shauna: I’m very lucky to be involved in some incredible communities, such as SISU and The Beatriarchy, that have supported me so much. Over the past 18 months especially, communities like these have been vital in what would have otherwise been a very isolating time, but having online meetups with SISU and the Beatriarchy Threads takeover have helped to maintain that sense of community you find on the dancefloor.
Kahreign: The most important thing I’ve learned from being part of the series is that often women are put against each other. But the POWER that comes from us actually collaborating is insane! I want to prioritise working with women in my future projects. I am very hyped about MemeGold as a DJ. She has been doing some amazing sets lately and I love that she’s a big Pharrell fan. Real recognise real. I’m also very excited about Sutty who is a beautiful singer, songwriter and producer. Her music gives me the feels. I’m a big fan
What keeps you motivated? have you got any advice for womxn wanting to pursue a career in music on how to keep the faith?
Shauna: A love of music and wanting to share it with people, as cliched as that sounds. That feeling you get when you do the perfect blend and you drop the track and everyone’s dancing and you can see they’re having a good time, when everything comes together like that that’s such a good feeling and what I keep chasing every time I DJ.
Kahreign: My advice for women looking into getting into the music industry is to not let anyone tear you down. Be as authentic and true to yourself as you can be and also don’t be scared to make mistakes. People fall in love with the flaws, they make you more real.
Lastly, what does the near future look like for you both? keep us in the loop of any projects you may have coming up!
Shauna: I’ve also got loads of gigs coming up over summer, including a B2B with Interpolate co-founder Ben Daddy opening for Asquith and Mixtress in Manchester on August 20th, which I’m really excited about as it’s my first B2B and I’ve loved Asquith for a while so it’s gonna be very surreal to open for him. I’ve got a few other shows lined up for that month too, including my first one in London, they haven’t been announced yet so can’t say much more, but keep your eyes peeled! I’ve also been working on loads of new tracks, with a few releases planned for the rest of the year and into 2022.
Kahreign: In 5 years time I hope to be a globally recognised artist touring the world, and infusing all these beautiful sounds from a rainbow of cultures into my music. I do want to be a star.
Don't forget to cop Underdog - Available to buy here