“The music I discover every day and the feeling of being present playing records in front of people, that’s my biggest motivation.”
DJ and producer Lis Sarroca has been, like the rest of us, finding ways to get through lockdown. She’s been getting better acquainted with her studio gear, buying more records, going through her records, playing her records, thinking about her records… such is the lockdown life of the DJ.
An accomplished producer, Sarroca has released what she calls her “danceable, energetic, deep and warm”music on Kerri Chandler’s Madhouse and Mobilee, has put out three excellent EPs on Hot Haus, *sinnmusik and House Cookin Records this year and her sombre deep house piano track Parquime has just been included on a Seven Villas compilation.
DJing came first for Sarroca, who began gigging in 2007 but only started producing in 2014. Since then she has developed a classy, sophisticated house sound. Her synths are expansive: broad pad sweeps, bold melody lines and interlinking chimes and pad tones all work together in her cleanly produced tracks. There’s plenty of Detroit references in some of her synth sounds – one of her earliest productions, Melograph from 2018, matches a killer acid bassline with some unselfconsciously Detroit stabs to superb effect – and while some of her tracks are definitely in that tradition, her beats often take their cues from the classic US house template.
No Longer from earlier this year is a good example. Its intro sounds as though it could be a late 90s Strictly Rhythm record; then. through the gradual introduction of lightly phased chords, a jazzy keys solo and enveloping fluffy chords, it morphs into a contemporary hybrid house tune. Moody Wax on the other hand from March 2020's Shelter EP is a swirling concoction of rich Motor City chords and arpeggios with a distinctly old-school rhythm track.
Sarroca chatted with iDJ from her home in Barcelona, a city tentatively coming out of lockdown, about how she creates her house music…
Thanks for your time today! For readers who don’t know, please can you tell us who you are and what you do?
"Thank you for the kind invite! I’m a DJ and house music producer. I was born in Barcelona, but raised in Mexico. I’ve been back in Barcelona since 2016. I spend my time curating, producing and releasing music. I usually play around Spain, Europe and Mexico."
How is your lockdown going?
"Lockdown is going well, I've just been taking it easy, day-by-day. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to have time for myself; it is more interesting as it’s been a different and very introspective time. Also, getting into summer has definitely improved it, as we can enjoy more of the daylight and the weather feels great."
What have you been doing with your lockdown?
"I’ve been immersed in my DJing, listening back to my records, buying new ones, discovering new artists and playing around with some gear. It’s been great therapy to get distracted and to get richer in sounds and in my music collection. I’ve been talking to my closest friends and family, watching lots of movies and taking care of the things I can control."
And how is the situation in Barcelona generally now?
"We are almost in the last phase of the recovery, so most of the things are allowed with a limited amount of people, apart from nightlife and big events such as sports and music festivals, which is such a shame for the industry and for my work. The government is activating the city faster than I thought and that’s good as we get back to our lives, but it all still seems unreal for me, I think."
Tell us how you got into producing house music in the first place?
"I wanted to create something more unique by expressing myself in that way, bringing in my knowledge and life experience."
And how would you describe the music you make?
"Danceable, energetic, deep and warm."
Do you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve when you start making a track?
"I have one or two ideas at least and always try to be as simple as possible, combining elements or sometimes I also experiment from zero."
What inspires you to make music? And what motivates you to make music, or are these the same?
"My day-to-day life gives me inspiration – my past and my present. Sharing thoughts with friends helps me to create new ideas, too. What motivates me is the music I discover every day and the feeling of being present playing records in front of people, that’s my biggest motivation."
Is there one piece of studio kit or software that you couldn’t do without?
"My Roland TR-8S."
Which of your own tunes is your favourite?
"My favourite is Melograph, which was released in 2018 on the Oblack label."
Do you think living in Barcelona affects your sound, or would your productions sound the same wherever you lived?
"Yes, I take a lot from record shops and connections I make with other DJs and producers. Barcelona is always fresh with music and you can always search for any genre."
What kind of a link is there between your DJing and your production? Do they inform each other, if so how?
"They are very connected: I produce music based on ideas of tracks I like to play. I don’t consider myself as a pure musician, but as a person who can make music based on practice and theory. So, I get inspired by musicians I love to listen to."
Do you think of yourself as a DJ who produces, or a producer who DJs? Or something else?
"I would say I’m a DJ who produces music. I started my DJ career in 2007 and have been producing music since 2014. Although for the last two years I’ve been focusing on production more than ever, I enjoy both things differently: DJing is my passion and first love, and production is something more magical with endless learning and discovery."
Do you play your own productions when you DJ?
"Sometimes I do, more often nowadays, but it always depends on the situation and environment."
What kind of a person are you away from house music – what interests do you have outside of music?
"I love to have fun, to laugh. I’m relaxed, calm and sometimes an introverted person. I love to travel. If I am not doing something related to music, I’m probably doing sport, like tennis or swimming, hanging out with friends or taking care and having time for myself."
Where do you want to go next, musically? Do you have a vision of what you’d like to achieve musically in the future?
"I want to develop my sound even more, bring new sounds to it and reflect this on my own label. I want to start a label soon and make a lovely tribe and community."
Finally, what else is going on for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"There is an upcoming EP on Vicario Music, Soul Of Hex’s record label, which will be released later this year on vinyl."
Words: Harold Heath