Interview: Los Angeles’ Soltera On Building A Community Out Of Furiously Animate Dance Music

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Soltera by Marla Lutz

For the last five years, Soltera — the moniker of Granada Hills-raised artist Tania Ordoñez — has been not so quietly establishing herself as a producer of fiercely kinetic dance music. She’s released two exceptional EPs to date: her debut Sin Compromiso, and the newly unveiled Todo O Nada Vol. 1. But it’s not just her ability to create dually hypnotic and emotionally molten soundscapes. From Soltera’s live shows to the visceral expression that’s visualized in her music videos — itself a core piece of her artistry. We had the opportunity to pick her brain about some of the stories, beliefs, and inspirations that have driven Ordoñez since she first started experimenting.

Editorial and Interview by Steven Ward


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What were some of the musical inspirations or influences for Todo O Nada Vol. 1? Are you still drawing as much from punk or do you find yourself now fully immersed in electronica, techno, and the world of dance music?

Musically I feel like the inspiration for all my EPs really is just dance music. I love house and techno — that’s like the music I typically listen to and DJ — so those are kind of like my recreations of that. But I’m self-taught, you know? So I don’t make it sound exactly like those tracks. Vocally, it’s very influenced by powerviolence, doom, metal, and punk. I love that they’re so raw — and the screaming and the anger that’s involved in it. But also the pedals that people use too on their voices. At least contemporary music like that now, I know that when I was younger it was a lot of just raw vocals but now people are like using different voice modulators and pedals. Yeah, I never sing raw, it’s always manipulated by other sounds. I always tend to blend both. I’m still very heavily influenced by Dystopia or Despise You, vocally. And then musically, of course, I just love making beats and making pretty sounds on the synth or dark bass lines.


You started making music to process profound grief. What was the driving force behind this EP — emotionally and thematically?

I guess a big theme about it is that the difference between [Sin Compromiso] and [Todo O Nada Vol. 1], was that the first one was the [first ever] stuff I’d done with Ableton, first ever using a program like that. So now this is me at a more advanced stage with it, being able to use it better. So that’s the emotional impact behind it: that I’m just growing stronger and stronger as a self-taught producer and a femme producer. And also I guess vocally too, or lyrically, I always have this political stance of feeling very angry towards the industry and how the industry is very male-oriented. I spent the last year performing a lot and dealt with a lot of shitty situations with men and people in higher-up positions. That’s kind of always my theme as well, uplifting friends that have to overcome that. I don’t know, those are like big themes in it — just feeling frustration towards the industry and continuing to do it underground and DIY. And just keep doing it even though there are so many things that get in the way.

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You mentioned in another interview that the music on this EP is some of the fastest you’ve made, was that intentional or representative of anything? Or just a byproduct of experimentation?

I think that — I’m growing more comfortable with the program so I’m able to work with different BPMs. Versus the first EP where I kind of stayed at a similar BPM just to kind of — it’s easier to produce with slower music, I guess — I don’t know how to explain it. I also do have this dream to eventually make a powerviolence album or EP. So this is kind of like my way of merging the both because powerviolence does have like a — I think like a 160 to 180 BPM. So I would eventually love to get to that point. I was really inspired by this band that I played with in Long Beach, they’re from Olympia they’re called Cyberplasm, and they merge powerviolence with jungle. So yeah, I’d love to just blur the lines a little bit because I used to think of them as very different. But then the more I thought about it, I was like ‘Well, both are really fast. Both have really heavy bass lines; both involve screaming or can involve screaming.’ It’s a little bit of merging my influences and also just the accessibility and capability of being able to do it now, knowing more about Ableton.


Your shows have a reputation for being generators of wild energy and intense emotional catharsis. Looking back are there differences or evolutions, from your first live show to your latest, that have shaped your approach or philosophy regarding performing live?

Yeah, they’ve changed for sure, in the beginning when I was just doing like, backyard shows, I was definitely always trying to hide more than be seen. And now, in the past years of performing a lot, I’ve grown just more and more into myself. I used to be the type of person that even speaking in front of people would make me go into a nervous breakdown and just be sweating and shaking. But now I feel very brave and more just in my body — or, I don’t know, yes and know — because I will say when I perform I do disassociate a bit. I do feel like I have this out-of-body experience. And also what’s different too is that in the beginning, I was performing on my own, alone. Now I’ve expanded it — it’s in a transition phase — but for the past year I was with my friend who was DJing my tracks and blending them and making her own kind of versions of them and doing some backup vocals, and now I have my partner who is going to start to doing some beats. Like us playing old songs but then also new material with — it being live in-person, everything’s live, beats will be made live, my DJ will be on the synthesizer and do backup vocals. So yeah, going from it being just me singing on top of a back-track now it’s going to be all live instruments. So that’s going to change it a lot too. I’m still going to remain a vocalist, you know, so it’ll still feel chaotic. I think they get crazier and crazier just because I start to feel more and more confident with my friends onstage with me too. 

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One of the appeals of the punk culture you grew up around in Granada Hills was its ability to shape a community out of live music. Do you see this as a goal for your own foray into music and performing?

I grew up in Granada Hills but there wasn’t really much of a music scene there. It was mainly Sylmar, North Hollywood, Canoga Park, like those areas. And I will say I never really felt a sense of community — I was part of the scene, meaning I’d go to the shows and hung out with people who were in bands, etc. — but it was very male-centered and I was always excluded. I was never motivated to, or no one ever included me in anything. So now that I have Soltera and the collective that I run with Pacoima Techno, Casa/Teca, that’s our way of forming communities. We include our friends in music videos, we make music videos for them — that’s kind of my version of including people and uplifting each other, and it being more queer-centric. At my shows I do feel that sense of community, I feel — shows that I’ve played in L.A. specifically —  all the shows are super POC, queer, femme. And I feel like people do resonate with what I’m saying and what we’re representing. It’s always my goal to make everyone feel included in some kind of way and to come up together. 


Since you’ve started making music you’ve begun hosting a monthly show that highlights underrepresented artists and you’ve helped create a label with a similar goal for underground artists of color. Can you elaborate on the importance of these projects? 

I guess both of them are similar and different in their own ways. Casa/Teca was founded by me and Pacoima Techno, before the pandemic hit we were just performing a lot. Pacoima Techno was throwing parties, we decided it would be cool to form our own label since no labels were trying to sign us — and we also didn’t even have music, so it was kind of our way of motivating ourselves to release music and to release it whenever we wanted to and however we wanted to. And then it also motivated us to make more videos and film, so it was also another motivation to release videos. That’s kind of how it started and then my collaborator/DJ, whose part of my band now, Estefanía, who also goes by Langosta, joined it and another friend.

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So we’re just kind of altogether forming our own universe. We have friends who are photographers and we consider them part of it — or friends who are writers and consider them a part of it. It’s kind of this multi-faceted, not really just music-centered, but any type of artist. It’s just very DIY, it comes from a place of feeling exiled too. We were all really exiled in our own way, we never really fit into a certain type of scene. And also the way that the industry works is that you’re either extremely wealthy, white, or extremely attractive — or you just know somebody. We’re just not really about any of that, it doesn’t really morally follow what we believe in. Casa/Teca is this universe where we can do whatever we want and it doesn’t have to — we don’t have to think about all those other things that don’t mean anything to us.

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Basically, Todo O Nada is a record label that was formed in the 90s in L.A. It was called T.O.N Records and they would release grunge and shoegaze, and my dad, he was a Colombian immigrant, he was just coming out of prison and he was in his 30s, and he discovered — he did a lot of drugs so he was just always at music shows — Tone Records just from going to shows in like the grunge and rock en español scene in North Hollywood. And just learned how to record his own music and was very DIY himself. He was a person who never got recognition for any of his music and did it his whole life until he passed, just doing it DIY out of his garage. So “Todo O Nada” is a homage to him about how I’m kind of taking on where he left off and kind of just following the dream he had. And the music that I play on there is representing local artists or even globally, underground artists who are unsigned, who are just doing it themselves.


Can you talk about the significance of your moniker Soltera?

Names are always really hard to pick and that was the first one that came naturally to me because I started making music after my dad passed. I would hang out with my mom a lot and she just started using this word “soltera,” and I had never heard her use it like I knew the word, but I’d never heard her refer to herself as one my entire life because she was married to my dad. She just started using it so much, like ‘Me and my soltera friends we’re going to go dancing,’ or ‘Me and my soltera this’ or ‘I’m a soltera.’ It just had so many different meanings, whether you’re a widow, or whether you’ve just been single your whole life, or whether you’re just a lone wolf. It just had such a powerful meaning to me and during that time I was grieving my dad, and I was also feeling extremely lonely and heartbroken. So I really resonated with that name and it just felt like it was a really empowering name for women too, I love all the women in my life who — I feel like every friend I have is a soltera and identifies with it. It really felt like it reached to many people and I never changed it even when I involve people because I feel like I’m Soltera. We all have our own monikers, Soltera is the band now but Langosta is still Langosta, and Pacoima Techno is still Pacoima Techno, and I’m still Soltera.


You’re a self-taught, Colombian-American woman making music in a genre and industry that unfortunately skews far too often as white and male. Drawing on your own journey as an artist, what words of advice do you have for marginalized individuals who, like you, might’ve just started experimenting on their computer or bought their first synthesizer, and are feeling the daunting weight of an industry that lacks representation?

You know when I started I didn’t have what I have now — I’ve built it — and it took many years. I don’t know, I don’t know. Music saved me and for people who don’t see themselves, and they’re just constantly seeing like the other that is always praised, just remembering all of our biggest influences in all these genres that we’re all inspired by were created by brown and black folk — and people who didn’t come from wealth. A lot that inspires me too is that the more I started befriending people who’ve been in the scene have all talked about how it could take up to ten years to get any slight recognition. So it sounds daunting to think about it in that way but for me it made me feel hopeful that it’s just a process that takes longer — kind of like any art practice does. And also viewing it differently, like what you expect out of it, right? I don’t expect — I don’t see it in a capitalist way. I do this because I love it and it helps me survive, and of course, I would love to have a career and make money, but I felt like in the past year when I started to think too heavily about it in that perspective, it started to corrupt it a lot for me. So I just kind of had to step back and really think about why I was doing it. And in the end, it wasn’t because of money it was because I was finally feeling seen. I would just say it takes time and to not set so many expectations about it.


In a lot of ways, Soltera represents a new generation of artists from historically marginalized groups that are both reckoning with and seeking to change the long-held industry standards of how to “make music.” And although she’s still learning how to navigate those uncharted routes herself, the willingness of Ordoñez to help others also find their way is a reminder of how necessary communities in music are. That they should be founded on more than just a shared desire for profit, but rather on a love of art or an appreciation and celebration of black and brown voices.

Visit Soltera on their Bandcamp to stay updated on new releases and tour announcements.

Listen to Todo O Nada Vol. 1 the new EP from Soltera below!

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